14 August 2018
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London: 14:16

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Russian Embassy comments for Russian media (ITAR-TASS Agency) on the state of Russo-British relationship (30 July, translated from Russian)

QUESTION: What would you say on the present state of our relationship with Britain? It looks like after the May parliamentary elections our countries resumed contacts at political level, if we take the phone call of Prime Minister D.Cameron with President V.Putin and Ph.Hammond and S.Lavrov's meeting in Veinna. Still, the same very tough rhetoric by official London at all levels against Russia over the Ukraine crisis is striking. I mean the statements on 'Russian aggression' etc, and all of it in company with the 'Islamic State' and hacking attacks. Where are things moving, and are there changes for the better?
ANSWER: Indeed, the said single contacts did take place. The same is true for working level contacts. It is also true that the openly hostile rhetoric towards Russia does not abate. That is why there are no grounds to talk of changes for the better. There are rather reasons to say that mutual trust, as a result of it, practically stays at nil. London does confirm that its position on 'freezing' the work of all the structures of inter-governmental cooperation and political dialogue stays unchanged.
You are right. Russia is mentioned as part of the said 'troika' of threats to Britain's security on a regular basis, as sort of exorcism. Moreover, this is reflected in the electoral manifesto of the Conservative Party (the election were held on 7 May), thus elevated to the status of a party programme. It has to be noted, however, that London, unlike Berlin and Paris, stays on the sidelines and does not make a tangible contribution to the search for a settlement in and around Ukraine.
For some reasons that are difficult to comprehend, the anti-Russian sanctions related to Ukraine are being extended onto media. In early July the Barclays Bank, without any prior notice, froze the account of the London office of the MIA 'Russia Today'. And though the British Side denies any involvement in the Bank's decision, the issue has been since in limbo somewhere between the Bank and the Treasury. Extending sanctions into the media is tantamount to censorship and an attempt at making them shut up, when there is a lack of argument to support one's position. That took place against the background of EU talk of the 'need to counter Russian propaganda'. Here, our British partners were the first to step forward. But the question is what about free speech as an absolute imperative. Anyway, the famous phrase by Voltaire, as well as the Age of Enlightenment as a whole, are clearly at odds with the ideologised context of the British policy.
It is incomprehensible why Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond at the National Day reception at the French Embassy on 14 July, didn't limit himself to mentioning a 'threat of Russian aggression' and referred to the allied relations with France in the Crimean War in mid-19th century. It is not only that the French got the British involved in this adventure, as they would do a hundred years later in respect of the Suez affair. Historians widely agree that this war was 'unnecessary'. Having destroyed the collective security system in Europe, designed at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the Crimean War created conditions for the wrong type of German unification, i.e. as a Greater Prussia, thus starting the count-down to the First World War. It is worth noting that it was the British Government that insisted on the humiliating provisions of the Peace of Paris (ban on Russia's military presence in the Black Sea, including fortresses and Navy).
It goes without saying that we cooperate within the existing multilateral fora, including the P-5 in the UN Security Council and nuclear powers. A good illustration is provided by the recent success of the talks with Tehran on the Iranian nuclear programme. But at any rate, this is multilateral cooperation, which never ceased, is based on community of our national interests and pursues a broader interest of international community at large.
The overall picture of our bilateral relations has, thus, contracted to a sort of micro-agenda, consisting of technical, mostly visa, issues. These, in fact, consume all our effort in official intercourse with the British Side. Of course, we are active on other tracks: cultural ties, contacts with business and expert communities. We have turned to journalism, making use of our information resources, including the Embassy's web-site. We maintain contacts with British citizens on the entire range of issues they raise with us. Here we are quite successful. For example, the other day Ambassador A.Yakovenko wrote a letter to David Smith, a former teacher, who expressed concern over the state of our bilateral relationship. It turned out to be a very substantive response. We asked the Chatham House to put it at their web-site as our comments on their recent report the 'Russian Challenge', which is steeped in age-old anti-Russian prejudices, not to mention a complete lack of self-criticism. The Chatham House responded, but only after we had placed that material at our web-site.
As to the official contacts, it appears that the British Side, in violation of its obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations of 1961, has focused on putting artificial obstacles in our work. In particular, it is a matter of delays of up to 5 to 6 months in issuing visas for our newly appointed personnel, both Foreign Office and Home Office taking advantage of staffing differences as regards our respective official missions (embassies and consulates-general). They don't discriminate in terms of the positions concerned. They do it as a matter of principle. As a result, the waiting list of our personnel is 3 times bigger than that of the British, with the British Side issuing visas to the number of our staff which meets the number of their staff they need post to Russia at a given moment. They call it reciprocity in action. So, we have to extend terms of posting of our staff already in place, or they depart without replacement. In addition to all that, the British Side has undertaken to set maximum limits of terms of our personnel posting, which in fact, is a threat of expulsion and contravenes its international obligations.
One may conclude therefrom, that the British have no interest in maintaining normal diplomatic relations with Russia. What is behind that is difficult to say. Maybe, some cultural disconnect. There exist good English words that come to mind, including the word 'bloody-mindedness', the charge the British and the Americans have the habit of exchanging of.
It is hard to tell for how long it is going to continue. The Embassy is not in the business of psychoanalysis. We are told that all depends on a satisfactory resolution of the Ukraine crisis. But it is easy to destabilise a country. To bring it back onto the track of stable development is by far harder. Ukraine is at an early stage of its crisis. Nobody will tell when everything will come back to normal. Thus, our relationship with Britain is turning into a function of vicissitudes of the crisis in Ukraine. It means that we and the Russian public opinion have to be patient.
However, everything is serious enough, and we are compelled to look for ways to bring our visa asymmetries with the British to a common denominator. It would mean some hurting response on our part, where the reciprocity principle goes our way. Actually, they want to humiliate us. What for? To feel themselves standing tall at somebody else's expense? This reminds us NATO generals who being unable to wage war on us, engage in word-, rather than sabre-rattling.
Under the circumstances, some remarks of our compatriots in the past on the British establishment come handy. Ivan Tourgenev in one his letters after visiting London in 1858 wrote that 'the English respect force including that of money, more than anything else'. By the way, now they increasingly talk of London as 'Number 1 off-shore'. Even the 'New-York Times' writes that London is comfortable and beautiful, but it 'smells' of dirty money. The authorities admit that. But wouldn't extradite Russian citizens wanted in Russia for economic crimes. The reason may lie somewhere else. The 'Financial Times' some time ago quoted John Le Carre (David Cornwell), who, presumably knows it by his own experience, when says that 'intelligence services are spiritual home of the British political elite'. Nobody dared refute him.
This notion makes one reflect on the reasons for suspending by the British authorities the Coroner's inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 and launching, instead, a 'public inquiry'. The latter, unlike the former which is completely open, provides for secret hearings and a verdict that may be partially secret. It may sound bizarre in our time, but those who call the tune in our bilateral relationship, are most likely the ones who make such decisions aimed at covering up their own incompetence, if not outright stupidity. Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun were issued British visas at Litvinenko's request for they were his buddies. It was done in violation of the British official policy of refusing visas to former officers of Russian special services. It appears that they were allowed to enter Britain only to be accused of the murder of their friend, who, as is now known, collaborated with the British special services and even did something analytical on Russia for them. For lack of argument, at the final stage of open hearings the presiding judge decided to engage in commedia delVarte of scandal, which may be good for the tabloid press, but bad for our bilateral relations.
In any case, it is for the British Side to make the choice. We are not in the business of imposing ourselves upon anyone. We are always willing to talk even if we know that nothing could come out of it. The source of huge satisfaction is our contacts with the British at large, including the Arctic Convoys veterans in the course of ceremonies to present them with the Ushakov medals. In the final count, the British suffer no less than us from the habits and instincts of their political elite, rooted in distant history. In the meantime we are working for a positive future of our relationship. Sure, it will come sooner or later.


24.06.2018 - Greeting by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for the Znaniye school Family Day (Ealing, 24 June 2018)

Dear friends and guests, I am delighted to welcome you at a Family Day celebrating Russia and the World Cup. Today, Russia is the place to be for the whole world. It is a great pleasure to hear fans from all continents appreciating Russia’s hospitality, friendliness and openness to everyone. Right now, people from virtually every country see the 11 host cities, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals on the border of Europe and Asia, and realize how diverse and beautiful our country is. We’d like to bring a bit of Russia and the excitement of the World Cup to Ealing, for those who couldn’t make it to the tournament. By the way, so far both our teams are doing very well, and let us hope they keep up this good work. We cheer for both Russia and England but I’m afraid this can change if both teams meet at the semi-finals.

20.06.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, May 30, 2018

Mr Dynkin, Colleagues and friends, Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for a new opportunity to speak at the international forum named after Academician Evgeny Primakov, an outstanding Russian statesman, academic and public figure. It is indeed a great honour for me. I consider Mr Primakov, with whom I worked at the Foreign Ministry in the latter half of the 1990s, my senior comrade and teacher, as probably do the majority of those who crossed paths with him at one point. Holding this representative conference under the aegis of one of Russia’s leading academic institutes – National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) that also bears Primakov’s name – has become a good tradition. The Primakov Readings have earned a reputation as a venue for serious dialogue of authoritative specialists on the most pressing issues of international politics and the global economy. Today, there is no lack of buzzwords used by politicians, experts and scientists to capture the current moment in international relations. They talk about the crisis of the “liberal world order” and the advent of the post-Western era, “hot peace” and the “new cold war”. The abundance of terms itself shows that there is probably no common understanding of what is happening. It also points to the fairly dynamic and contradictory state of the system of international relations that is hard to characterise, at least at the present stage, with one resounding phrase. The authors of the overarching theme of the current Primakov Readings probably handled the challenge better than others. In its title “Risks of an unstable world order’ they provocatively, and unacademically, combine the words “unstable” and “order”.

21.04.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's talking points at the Press Conference, 20 April 2018

Since we met last time a lot of events took place: - Military strikes of the United States, UK and France against Syria in violation of the international law - Mission by OPCW inspectors to Douma - Speech of Prime Minister May in Parliament in support of the British aggression against Syria - Special meeting of the OPCW Executive Council (18 April 2018) - New developments in the classified case of Salisbury poisoning of Skripal family - No meaningful developments on the Glushkov case - and Cyber security threats I plan to comment all these issues. And I will be happy to answer all our questions, if you have any.

17.03.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Mail on Sunday" (full text)

Q: Bearing in mind that the US, France and Germany have said they agree with Britain that all the evidence suggests the attacks in Salisbury were the responsibility of the Russian state, what credibility can be placed on the denials issued by the Russian Government? A:We don't know if UK presented any evidence to US, France and Germany - highly likely none - but if they did, why not present it through the channels outlined in the Chemical Weapons Convention? Universal legal principle is presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof lies with the British Government. Its record includes the Iraq WMD dossier - you will remember that at some point doubting US and UK claims was considered a wild conspiracy theory. It is not any more.

26.01.2018 - Main foreign policy outcomes of 2017

In 2017, Russian diplomacy addressed multidimensional tasks to ensure national security and create a favourable external environment for our country's progressive development. Russia maintained an independent foreign policy, promoted a unifying agenda, and proposed constructive solutions to international problems and conflicts. It developed mutually beneficial relations with all interested states, and played an active role in the work of the UN, multilateral organisations and forums, including the G20, BRICS, the SCO, the OSCE, and the CSTO. Among other things, Russian policy has sought to prevent the destabilisation of international relations, and this responsible policy has met with broad understanding in the international community.

17.01.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the unveiling of memorial plaque in Sayes Court Park

Dear Mayor, Dear Councillors, Lady Joan, Ladies and gentlemen, It is now 320 years ago that a truly remarkable man set foot in Deptford. As you know, the Russian Tsar Peter, later named the Great, visited Western Europe in 1697—1698 under the nickname of Peter Mikhailov, with his Grand Embassy. He was eager to find out about the latest achievements in science and technology and create new diplomatic alliances. Of course, England couldn’t escape his attention. He mostly studied shipbuilding at the famous Deptford Dockyard, but he also met King William III, and, reportedly, Isaac Newton. Peter’s landlord, the famous John Evelyn, was also a respected scientist – a founder member of the Royal Society.

13.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, I am pleased to welcome you to the Russian Embassy at the Presentation of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia by Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee. It’s a common knowledge, that football is the most popular game in the world. It is an honour for us to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the history of our country. I believe that those who come to Russia to support their national teams will leave with unforgettable memories.

08.12.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the Roscosmos "Sputnik" exhibition launch at Rossotrudnichestvo (7 December 2017)

25.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the reception at the Embassy dedicated to Russian Film Week (24 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends First of all, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding Russian opera singer Dmitri Hvorostovsky who passed away this week. In 2015 he gave a concert in this very hall. I am delighted to welcome you at our reception dedicated to the Russian Film Week and the environmental causes it champions. This year their charity partner is World Wide Fund for Nature, which runs many projects in Russia in coordination and with support of the Russian Government. Russia has a unique, fascinating wildlife. A number of this week’s films show the natural beauty of our land and are sure to raise awareness of how fragile this beauty is. We appreciate the WWF effort in Russia and worldwide and call on everybody to become a supporter, especially this year, marked as Year of Ecology in Russia.

20.11.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the launch of the Russian Film Week (19 November 2017)

Ladies and gentlemen, It is a pleasure for me to be at the opening of the second edition of the Russian Film Week here in London – which this year also spans to Cambridge and Edinburgh.

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