23 May 2018
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Alexander Yakovenko for RT

Russia and the United Kingdom - these two powers, for centuries, have been tied into the most complicated relations: enemies at one time, and yet allies and cooperators at another. But now the temperature between the two is steadily going down, with Britain leading the anti-Russian sanctions and, just recently, coming out with allegations of Moscow’s involvement with a death of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko. What’s pushing London to make such statements? Does the Cold War-like vector of Cameron’s policy resonate with public opinion? How much is this public opinion is shaped by the voice of mainstream media? And, finally, is there a hope for a thaw? We ask the Russian Ambassador to the UK. Alexander Yakovenko is on Sophie&Co today.

Sophie Shevardnadze: Russian Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, thank you very much for being with us today. It’s great to finally have you on the show, so - ambassador, the latest report that accused President Putin for the killing of the former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko was far from conclusive, only hypothetically pointing to Moscow’s direct involvement - and we heard words like “probably”, “possibly”, “allegedly”. I mean, they are dominant throughout this document. If this report was largely based on assumptions, why did it receive so much hype in the UK?

Alexander Yakovenko: Basically, the investigation lasted so many years, and the only thing that we read in the press, this is some thoughts about that without any facts. The concluding investigation was secret, it wasn’t for the public, and of course, not for the press. We wanted to take part in this trial, but unfortunately, we were refused. So, our representatives, the representatives of the Russian government couldn’t participate in these hearings. We didn’t have a chance to read the papers and listen to the witnesses. For us, it’s difficult to accept, because it was secret, as I said, and, of course, everybody wanted to know what was the reality with that. All of us know, and that was said by his wife, that he worked for the MI6 and some other secret services, but today, unfortunately, this is the case. You rightly mentioned that in the judgement, it was said “probably”, “maybe” and so on - and that means that the judge wasn’t sure on the conclusions. It was secret, but he wasn’t sure on the conclusions which were made by the court. From my point of view, it’s absolutely unacceptable and this is, probably, the first such kind of trial in Britain. From my point of view it's’ a shame.

SS: The British PM David Cameron said the UK would have to have some sort of relationship with Russia, but said it would be “now done with clear eyes and very cold heart”. Were relations at different before?

AY: After the Litvinenko case we had difficult relations for all this time. There was a sanction regime… There were two elements there: there were restrictions to the visits of the Russian officials to the UK, the Russian officials who were taking part in different events, they couldn’t get the multiple visas and the period of their stay was limited just for a few days - this is first. The second one is that the British, they closed down any cooperation in fight against terrorism, so anti-terrorist cooperation was shut down. From point of view, that’s a big loss for the relations between two countries, but this is just the fact of life. Later on, we had some other restrictions from the British side, but of course they’ve got the reciprocity, and this is just the fact of life and here we are. But, the British side wisely said that they want to keep all the channels open and of course, we support this, and we believe that Britain should drop this policy with Russia…

SS: How so? Do you feel like British officials and diplomats are even able to look at Russia with clear eyes? Without the Cold War perceptions?

AY: I don’t what they mean by “clear eyes”. I would prefer them just look at us pragmatically.

SS: Commenting on the Litvinenko case, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it “regrets the politisation of the criminal case”. Who do you think is responsible for that - the government or the media hype surrounding the case?

AY: Basically, the media was very hostile, and the media wrote different stories. Of course, the regular people in the UK, they are just reading this, and of course, the media created a very negative atmosphere around Russia. We tried to object, but of course, the overwhelming number of the stories, they were anti-russian. This is first, and, by the way, when I was summoned to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the Litvinenko case and had a conversation with a Deputy Minister, they just forgot about the words “maybe”, “probably”, they said that Russia did this. From my point of view, this is absolutely unacceptable and of course, we didn’t accept that.

SS: So you had the revival of the Litvinenko case, we have corruption allegations against Putin in the BBC news show, and a movie portraying the outbreak of the World War III, instigated by Russia, also a product of BBC as well - literally happened one after another. Some in Russia believe the timing was planned. Do you think there’s a chance this is a mere coincidence?

AY: I don’t think this is coincidence. This is part of the big campaign against Russia that we see for years. I think the reason for that is the differences that we have in some big political issues - first, on Syria, and of course, in Ukraine. This is sort of a pressure on Russian policy. It doesn’t work, but this is just the fact of life.


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.

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.

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