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AMBASSADOR'S ARTICLES

28.04.2016

"Shakespeare and Tolstoy – the best rescue team for Russia-UK relations" (By Ambassador Yakovenko for RBTH)

“Two households, both alike in dignity, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny” – applying Shakespeare’s words to the current state of relations between London and Moscow wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration. Still, another poet, the Russian Sergei Yesenin, noted that “When face to face we cannot see the face, we should step back for better observation”. And while we have stepped back politically, we now have a clearer vision of the mutual cultural attraction. With diplomatic and economic contacts stalled, we realize the importance of the humanitarian dimension, people-to-people contacts which help get over whatever adverse geopolitical weather outdoors.
This year has seen the centenaries of WW1 events that fostered mutual understanding, like the Anglo-Russian Hospital, Russian Flag Day or the trip of Russian writers to Britain. And 100 years on, our Governments have had the political foresight to declare 2016 a Russia-UK Year of Language and Literature. While the Russian programme in Britain officially started on 25 February, the grand opening of the Year in Russia happened a few days ago, with the launch of a National Portrait Gallery exhibition at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery and coinciding with the Shakespearean anniversary.
Meanwhile, the parallel exhibition of the Tretyakov Gallery at NPG has been a huge hit from its start on 16 March, attracting up to 900 visitors a day. What is amazing is that the paintings now on display in London are not creations of the leaders of the Russian avant garde, well known in Britain – but rather of painters who may be household names in Russia, and are only now being discovered here: Repin, Perov, Serov and others. Unlike those who sat for them, including Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky and Akhmatova.
This is one of the main points this cultural season is to make, i.e. to go beyond the canon to discover the riches of literature and art. This is why Russian writers come to the London Book Fair: both in print and in person, among them Andrei Gelasimov or Guzel Yakhina who have their novels translated into more than 10 languages. We aim to widen the horizons of the sophisticated British public on Russian literature, old and contemporary, theatre, cinema, art and history. And obviously want to encourage more Britons to study Russian, which is already as popular at A-levels as German. But still below the Cold War numbers, when, oddly enough, many people who started learning the language for reasons we’d rather forget ended up falling in love with the Russian culture and people.
No introduction is needed for the Bolshoi Ballet (coming in July) or the Boris Eifman Ballet (in December). The Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra will give concerts virtually in all the major cities in October. It is refreshing to see new British takes on “War and Peace” on BBC or “Crime and Punishment” at Open Air Theatre near Tower Bridge this August. Our world views, as reflected in our cultures, differ but still, time and again, we feel like sharing each other’s.
We are confident that the better we know each other, the better is the understanding. Over the last five centuries Russia and Britain have been able to understand each other more often than one might think. There are many pages of common history to learn from - from Peter the Great to the Arctic Convoys in WW2. Researching them is an important task for scholars and volunteers from the recently formed “Russian Heritage in UK” committee. With assets like these, there is no doubt that when the time comes, we’ll have an overall relationship that our two great nations, sitting together in many world councils, deserve.




LATEST EVENTS

09.08.2018 - Letter from Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko to the Guardian’s editor

In response to the Ambassador Beruchashvili’s letter, offering not so much a recollection of the August 2008 events in the Caucasus, but rather a misleading reiteration of the Georgian claims against Russia I have to refer to some of the universally recognized facts and consequences resulting from those tragic events.


24.07.2018 - Eastern Economic Forum: the East is bright (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko)

When talking about Russia’s Far East, you invariably remember its stunning natural beauty, abundance in natural resources and vast territories. But when one thinks of its investments prospects, you also invariably remember its harsh climate, low average population density and the lack of transport and other infrastructure. But now the situation is changing fundamentally. The region is undergoing a huge and qualitative revival. The development of the region has been declared one of the national priorities for Russia. In the last 5 years 18 advanced development zones and 5 free ports have been established in the Russian Far East. Long-term tax exemptions have been provided for large investment projects. Paperless e-visas for visitors of Vladivostok are available for citizens of 18 countries.


03.05.2018 - SALISBURY: A CLASSIFIED CASE (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko)

On 4 March 2018 two Russian citizens Sergei and Yulia Skripal were reportedly poisoned in Salisbury, Wiltshire with the toxic chemical named A-234 under the British classification. On 12 March Foreign Secretary Johnson summoned me to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and said that Russia was “highly likely” responsible for the attack. He invited us to respond by the next day, whether this had been a direct act by the state or Russia had lost control over this nerve agent. The incident had international repercussions, including expulsion of 150 Russian diplomats from 28 countries, notwithstanding the fact that the charges were based on assumptions and unverifiable intelligence. The Western countries lost the same number of Moscow-based staff. Meanwhile, the British government provided no evidence either to the public, its allies or Russia. Subsequent events revealed that no proof of Russia’s involvement existed. On 1 May, National Security adviser Sir Mark Sedwill confirmed that (despite a number of previous leaks) no suspect had been identified, a statement that speaks for itself.


14.02.2018 - The international community needs a unified legal base to combat information crimes (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

Amid the rapid advance in technologies we face a growing number of cyber-crimes: in 2016, these offences caused damage of $445 billion and by 2020, according to experts, this figure can reach up to $3 trillion, exceeding the overall income received from the Internet.


26.01.2018 - UNGA: Glorification of Nazism must stop (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

In December the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the traditional resolution on “Combating the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. It was supported by an overwhelming majority of UN Member States: 133 states voted for this document, 57 became its co-sponsors, and only Ukraine and the United States voted against.


29.11.2017 - Afghan opium production jumps to record level (by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for RT)

According to the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey released by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in 2017 opium production in Afghanistan increased by 87 per cent to a record level of 9,000 metric tons. The area under opium poppy cultivation also grew by 63 per cent to its highest level of 328,000 hectares. Afghanistan is the world's top cultivator of the poppy from which opium and heroin are produced. The 2017 record levels of opium production and poppy cultivation create multiple challenges for the country, its neighbours and many other countries that serve as a transit for or a destination of Afghan opiates. The significant levels of opium poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan.


19.10.2017 - Why to fight with memorials (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The campaign in Poland against World War II memorials to Soviet officers and soldiers, who had liberated the country from the Nazi occupation, is gaining momentum. Warsaw has created a legal framework allowing the disposal of Soviet/Russian memorial objects or taking them out of public sight, including the most widespread monuments of gratitude to the Red Army. Why?


18.10.2017 - Syria: collective humanitarian efforts, not sanctions, are needed more than ever (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The situation in Syria is undergoing serious transformation. Due to the de-escalation process, it has now become possible to drastically reduce the level of violence, to improve the humanitarian situation as well as to fight terrorists more efficiently. The ISIS-controlled territory is shrinking. On 14-15 September, at the international meeting in Astana all four de-escalation zones were finalized.


05.10.2017 - What You Have to Know about Status of Crimea (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

The coup d’état in Kiev in February 2014 backed by the West tore up the constitutional space in Ukraine. The legitimate President of the country was overthrown. It was marked by a severe lack of democracy and violence that posed a direct threat to the well-being of Russian-speaking population of Crimea. Citizens of Crimea faced the choice of becoming an oppressed minority or severing their ties with the hostile regime to secure a future for themselves and their children. The decision to hold a referendum was made by legitimate local authorities. The independence of Crimea was proclaimed and an appeal to enter the Russian Federation was made based on the indisputable results of the popular vote. Standards of international law were fully observed as the right of nations to self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter was exercised freely by the Crimeans. Crimea was recognized as an independent and sovereign state by Russia and on 18 March 2014 in Moscow the two countries signed a Treaty of Unification, under which the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol became two new regions - subjects of the Russian Federation.


05.10.2017 - NATO increased military presence in Europe: road to nowhere (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

As part of the implementation of the conclusions of the NATO Summit in Warsaw, four multinational battlegroups have been deployed in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia with the total number of troops exceeding 4500. The idea of creating similar rotating units in Bulgaria and Romania in 2018 is being widely discussed by NATO members. If put together, these battlegroups amount to a motorized infantry brigade with heavy weapons.



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