18 March 2018
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Russian Embassy on the Times editorial

To: Letters Editor, The Times


Dear Sir,

Your editorial, which accompanied Ambassador Yakovenko’s interview (26 October) is full of grossly misleading statements on Russia’s foreign policy. May I set the record straight before your readership?

1. International law. Nato violated it in Serbia in 1999 engaging in a futile bombing campaign for 72 days, ending up asking Moscow to help extricate it from that embarrassing fix diplomatically, which we did. Then came the disastrous and illegal campaign in Iraq. Tony Blair has just admitted his part in this adventure that cost the lives of at least 100 000 Iraqi civilians, who I assume hadn’t been warned in advance of the time and venue of bombing. In Libya Britain stretched the UN mandate, as always, “for a good cause”, which turned out to be dangerous in terms of both terrorist threat and migration onslaught on the EU.

2. Do we still have to talk of lies in high places and to international partners? Shall I say that anything done in circumvention of the UN Security Council is illegal and unilateral, irrespective of the number of members in coalitions of the willing. What about $500 mln used by the US Administration in its ‘train and equip’ program that produced 4 or 5 moderate combatants on the ground? And what about the letter of 50 US military intelligence analysts on doctored intelligence reports on effectiveness of the coalition bombing of Isis?

3. As to ‘the annexation of Ukraine’, people in Kiev will be surprised to read that. The people of the Crimea chose freedom from a nationalist rule. We never doubted Ukrainian sovereignty over south-eastern regions of the country. The Minsk-2 agreements are explicit on that. By the way, even the Chatham House experts admit that they meet Russia’s interest. The Minsk-2 is a credible recipe for a political solution as opposed to a military one conducted under the Orwellian newspeak of ‘anti-terrorist operation’. Whatever Russia did, the point has been made that the crisis doesn’t have a military solution. Overall, our critics
in the West cannot come up with evidence to support their allegations, or probably, they don’t know how to manage their perceived truth.

4. As to destabilizing Europe, perhaps, the war in Iraq did precisely that. Not to mention, that Britain helped the US Administration sell it to the Americans. Zb.Brzezinski cannot forgive that British disservice to the ally.

5. As to Nato. Will you ask Nato people to explain how come that Nato membership turns out to be a source of insecurity, rather than the other way around?

6. As to ‘shattering the basic laws of war’, we have already responded to that, although some evidence to support that allegation would help. So far there is none. Like in the case of the ‘public inquiry’ into A.Litvinenko’s death. Why is the Coroner’s inquest not good enough? After all, the death of Boris Berezovski, another Russian national who died strangely in Britain when he was contemplating return to Russia, couldn’t be explained by the inquest which put up with an open verdict. Since you raised the issue, I’d like to state once again that Russia will never accept a decision other than passed in open court with adversary scrutiny of the evidence. Now the British secret services brought the case of the strange death of GCHQ officer a few years ago to credit our account. I wonder how many more there are in their closets to dispose of in the thick fog of the current freeze of our bilateral relationship. This, too, reminds the outcome of the Dutch inquiry on the Malaysian MH-17 disaster. Too little evidence and too much of it pushed aside, lots of indulgence towards Kiev, who refused to provide airtraffic control recordings.

7. Our strategic bombers, according to your military, never violated the British airspace, and their training flights have nothing to do with Britain. It is part of our strategic stability equation with the US.

8. In his interview the Ambassador didn’t bemoan the lack of political dialogue with Britain, nor was offensive in any way. It was just a statement of facts. Naturally, it is unfortunate. We don’t impose ourselves as interlocutors or partners upon anybody. We manage the Ukrainian crisis with our French
and German colleagues. On Syria, neither suspicion nor prejudice prevents us from being in touch with everyone in the region. We would welcome any positive contribution of Britain to this effort. It is not us who has frozen themselves out of the real debate on real issues.

As to our ties, we have a lot to do in areas of culture, people-to-people contacts. That keeps us perfectly busy. It was Sir Winston Churchill, who famously defined fanaticism as inherent inability to change the topic. We have done it and feel happy enough to keep in touch with a broad cross-section of British society. As to our work with media, it falls within modern definition of diplomacy for public opinion matters both back home and in a country a diplomat is accredited to.

9. In Syria we intervened militarily only after a year of the coalition’s campaign, which was ineffective, ambivalent, to borrow from Henry Kissinger’s recent article in WSJ, and looked like a cover for letting Isis put pressure on Damascus, while serving as a recruitment vehicle for Isis. He, by the way, deems our intervention in Syria as ‘a classic balance-of-power maneuver to divert the Sunni Muslim terrorist threat from Russia’s southern border region’. What is wrong about it?

Our Air Force operation is small, effective and quite affordable (see FT of 26 October for that). It is fully to the point. Our military is doing their job. There is nothing phoney about it. Certainly, we are worried that our Western partners cannot provide intelligence on Isis infrastructure and contact numbers of FSA, especially in view of the previous talk of substantial polarization of forces on the ground.

Hope, you’ll read Jimmy Carter’s piece in ‘New York Times’, where he calls for an agreement between the US, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey on a political settlement of the Syrian crisis. He believes that Russia’s intervention ‘has helped to clarify the choice between the political process in which the Assad regime assumes a role and more war in which the ‘Islamic State’ becomes an even greater threat to world peace’.

May I also refer you to Frank Neale, who in his letter to the FT
(26 October) suggested that ‘Nato should welcome the Russians attempts to have a go, given the West’s singularly unsuccessful attempts to achieve peace in the region over the past 60 years’. Russia did have a go against Hitler, why not Isis, which is, as all of us agree, absolute evil.

It looks like a Munich moment to us. It is still possible to stop Isis, if everybody gets serious about it. Appeasement of Nazi Germany passed that point in the fall of 1938, with its military potential hugely boosted and the trust further eroded between the governments who would become allies in the final event. Have we learnt this lesson of European history?

Your analysts overlook the fact that the single most important factor of the current mess in Syria were naïve expectations on the part of opponents of the Syrian Government that the West would intervene militarily, like it had done in Libya, and on the part of the Western capitals, that the regime would fall apart just because they wished so. The West deluded itself and misled others. What does Russia have to do with that?

10. On ‘inverting the facts’, please, be more specific. If you don’t like what the Embassy does media-wise, that is another matter. But we are quite successful in that. We just enjoy the debate, which is very British. I don’t know how British it is to give your own Government the benefit of the doubt. Hope, you remember the widely quoted phrase by Samuel Johnson on patriotism.

And finally, in my humble opinion, Britain’s problems, domestic and Foreign Policy ones, are all home-grown. They cannot be blamed on Russia.

Sorry for a long letter. But your editorial was long on allegations and short on facts. We want our correspondence to be about winning the argument.


Yours truly,

              Konstantin Shlykov,

Press Office of the Russian Embassy



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.

16.10.2017 - Unpublished letter to the Editor of The Times (sent 12 October)

Sir, If British MPs are free to speak out, wherever they wish, on any issue, why try to block their freedom of speech (“Helping Putin”, 11 October)? If a TV channel wants (and is legally bound) to present different points of view, why slam those who express these views? If the mere act of giving an interview to foreign media amounts to high treason, why does The Times interview Russian politicians without fear? And finally - while MPs critical of Russia are welcome guests on the Russian TV channel RT, does your paper give the same treatment to those critical of the paper’s owner? Konstantin Shlykov Press Secretary of the Embassy of the Russian Federation

25.09.2017 - PRESENTATION by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk at the Christian Future of Europe Conference 22 September 2017, London

Your Eminences and Your Excellencies, dear Mr. Ambassador, conference organizers and participants, I cordially greet all of those gathered today at the Russian Embassy in London to partake in this conference dedicated to the question of the future of Christianity in Europe. This topic is not only not losing any of its relevance, but is resounding ever anew. Experts believe that today Christianity remains not only the most persecuted religious community on the planet, but is also encountering fresh challenges which touch upon the moral foundations of peoples' lives, their faith and their values. Recent decades have seen a transformation in the religious and ethnic landscape of Europe.

23.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at presentation of the book "The Mystery of Repentance" held at the Russian Embassy

I’m glad to welcome you here to a discussion of two prominent hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Church of England, on Christian future of Europe.

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