29 March 2017
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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

13.12.2016

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for The Daily Mail (full text)

1. Question: Does Russia hope for better co-operation (both political and military) with the UK and how can this be achieved/ what would this look like?

Answer: Unlike MI-6 Director Alex Younger’s portrayal of Russia, I can assure you that Russia doesn’t view Britain as a strategic adversary, and it just cannot be. There is nothing strategic for us to contest. We hope for real cooperation, not war of words, primarily in the fight against terrorism, including military and special services cooperation, in political settlement in Syria and other international issues.

As to how a normal relationship would look like. Over the past two years and a half the Embassy has been traveling the length and breadth of Britain to present the Ushakov medal, our naval honour, to the 3300 surviving British veterans of the Arctic Convoys. It helped us reach out to thousands, if not dozens of thousands of people from all walks of life. Our impression is that there exists an unbridgeable gap between the British people at large and the officialdom in their view of Russia. Overall, people just don’t understand policies that are not sustainable in the short run and do not make business sense.

We have been allies in two world wars. Given Brexit and the fact that the Cold War and post-Cold War were time warps, we are again on the same side, this time on the side of the global small “c” conservative revolution of common sense, which reaffirms time-tested traditional values, including those of international relations. There is nothing more to wait for. All the things that matter in global politics have already happened, prepared by a steady accumulation of problems and contradictions within Western societies. The Brexit and other events of this year plainly make those things obvious to all. That’s why we are hopeful.

2. Question: What is the Ambassador’s view on the condemnation of Russia’s air strikes in Aleppo by UK politicians such as Boris Johnson and Michael Fallon?

Answer: A year or so ago I met the then Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and officially requested cooperation in targeting in Syria between our militaries, which would take possible British concerns into account. It was met with a decisive “no”. On Aleppo, we have also formally requested the Foreign Office to provide the proof that supports those allegations of Boris Johnson. We have received none. Any reference to images or photos published in social networks is not serious. We have always welcomed an independent and impartial investigation of incidents, including the one on 19 September with the UN humanitarian convoy. Otherwise, it is propaganda pure and clear.

It should be borne in mind though, that our Air Force stopped its operations in East Aleppo almost two months ago. And what is relevant is the inability of the American partners to deliver on the promise to ensure that “moderate opposition” disengage from outright extremists and terrorists. One cannot fight for a secular democracy in Syria under the banners of “Al-Qaeda” or “Islamic State”. It is a clear case of the biblical truth of separating the wheat from the chaff. Maybe, somebody doesn’t want Russia to succeed where they failed, given the disastrous experience of the West in Iraq?

Over the past few days our military helped over 80 thousand civilians leave the contracting area of Aleppo, still under the control of the jihadists, mostly foreigners, who intend to fight to the bitter end. I can assure you that Russia will never walk away and leave the business of fighting terror unfinished. Like we didn’t stop on our borders fighting Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany. About 2000 ‘rebels’ laid down arms.

3. Question: British jets and ships have scrambled several times over the past few months to “intercept” Russian jets and ships flying close to UK airspace/ through the Channel. The UK MoD has said they are keeping a “watchful eye” on the ships. What is the Russian response to claims that these are acts of provocation?

Answer: the British MoD has also emphasized that Russian military aircraft and ships never violated UK sovereign airspace and territorial waters. Therefore, there’s no grounds for conflict. The Russian planes and ships fulfil their assigned tasks of patrol or transit, while the UK side has a right to “keep an eye” on them. One should not forget that Russia is a major military power and we have got to keep our military in a good shape and that means flying and sailing past the British Isles. That is pure geography.

By the way, when our warships passed recently through the Channel many considered it a good opportunity to watch our navy. Some time ago we received a letter from a headmaster of a British school with the request to ensure that our strategic bombers fly past Britain on a certain day of a school festival in order that all could watch British fighters scramble from a nearby airstrip. Of course, we couldn’t oblige, but I think, that is a very British attitude.

4. Question: There have been suggestions of a new Cold War/ possibility of World War Three – is there any truth in that?

Answer: None at all. The Cold War was an ideological confrontation between the West and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is gone and the historical West is going, too. We are witnessing the end of ideology, which offers a unique opportunity to mend Europe’s divide and put in place a truly regional system of collective security for all. It could be done by way of further institutionalization of the OSCE, strengthening its military and political components. Of course, the past 25 years have been wasted in that regard, but better late than never.

Unfortunately, our partners opted to expand NATO eastwards and to bring the alliance’s territory and infrastructure closer to our borders. This is the essence of the systemic problems that have soured Russia’s relations with the United States and other NATO members. For us, NATO provides the US with a strategic space in Europe to deploy its military assets, including ballistic missile defense.

But most of the problems, if not all, are due to the lack of trust. Once mutual trust is restored, they’ll be resolved with an unbearable lightness.

5. Question: Are NATO and Britain’s membership of the alliance a threat to Russia?

Answer: Russia has never considered NATO and Great Britain as a threat. It is the NATO’s response to the Ukrainian crisis that is alarming. Its eastward steps contribute to deterioration of the current situation. It looks like NATO is getting prepared for a major war in Europe, but still doesn’t know how to handle such eventuality, which will require a decade-long arms race. All these confrontational measures make us respond by ensuring that our defenses are strong enough in case of any contingency.

6. Question: Could Brexit improve Russia-UK relations?

Answer: Brexit is a purely internal affair of the United Kingdom. Russia strictly complies with the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries. Though it’s true, that fundamentally Brexit is about independence and sovereignty, which are essential for democratic accountability and legitimacy. Here we are on the same wave length. It is also true, that economic sustainability should be first achieved within national borders, and free trade should be a function of domestic economic strength. As a matter of course, it was Gordon Brown who coined the term ‘deglobalisation’.

France on the eve of WWI is a good example of what happens to a nation when in invests abroad rather then at home. It leads to underdevelopment. We, in Russia, have been doing our best to use our own sources of economic growth, partly thanks to Western sanctions and the drop in the price of oil. So, we are better prepared to compete abroad.

7. Question: Will there be any impact on Russia/UK relations when the new Arctic shipping route is fully opened up?

Answer: If you mean Russian efforts to develop the Northern Sea Route (NSR), then, first of all, I would like to stress that it provides a potentially attractive shortcut linking Europe to Asia, and has many advantages over traditionally used Suez Canal. For instance, it is 30% shorter by distance that leads to substantial cost savings in terms of fuel (up to 45%), it is much safer since there is no pirates along the route. We’ll ensure security along the way.

This means that European citizens, including those in the UK, will benefit from cheaper prices on goods made in Asia and European companies could make their products more competitive in that region. Great Britain is a traditional a free-trader and the NSR will help to boost international trade and contribute to global growth.

8. Question: What does the Ambassador envisage for the future of UK/ Russia relation? Will Trump have any affect on this?

Answer: In recent years, out bilateral political relationship has been quite volatile, saw abrupt changes from relatively good to overt hostility, including freezing by the British side of all our inter-governmental contacts and cooperation two and a half years ago. This appears to reflect the general state of our relations with the West. Moreover, unable to give up its claim to universal truth in international affairs, London has, quite short-sightedly, positioned itself on the cutting edge of such complications, in other words, has been shaking the speare. Was it wise?

The only way to put the relationship back on track is to engage in a dialogue based on mutual respect and recognition of honest differences. Russia is ready to restore its relations with the UK insofar as the British Government is willing to do likewise. We will take reciprocal steps if the British leadership decides to change its stance towards Russia. As I have already said, and that is the view of 
The Economist (I mean their recent cover), Britain, the United States and Russia are again on the same side, hopefully, the side of history with a good prospect of others joining in. And this holds the promise of bringing the great post-Cold War misunderstanding between Russia and the West to an end. Just imagine what it was like a hundred years ago minus war, empires and ideology, plus common sense, the common experience of the XXth century and of the first 16 years of the new one!




LATEST EVENTS

17.03.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko about learning Russian: talking points for BBC interview

Foreign languages are an essential skill in the modern world. For example, in Russia, English is taught in all schools, mostly as primary and sometimes as secondary foreign language (2 foreign languages are now mandatory). Russian, the language that has most native speakers in Europe, is equally important for economic, cultural and political reasons. Learning Russian is in high demand in Asia, including China. Today you don’t even need to physically attend classes – online education is available, in some cases even for free, by Pushkin State Russian Language Institute, Moscow State University and RT TV channel. In UK, the demand for Russian is high: 21% of British employers are looking for Russian-speaking staff – this is no wonder since 600 British companies are working in our country, and the prospects are good: GDP is expected to grow between 1 and 2 percent this year.


15.03.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's speech at Valentina Tereshkova concert (March 14, Ambassador’s Residence)

It’s an honour and real pleasure for me to welcome a legendary woman – Dr Valentina Tereshkova, Russian cosmonaut, engineer, politician, mother and friend. You are a real Russian star, our pride and a true example of patriotism.


12.03.2017 - Ambassador Yakovenko's interview for Sunday Express

Q: As a precursor to Boris Johnson's visit to Moscow in the coming weeks, what is your understanding of the nature of the visit and the purpose of the invitation - given that he will be the most senior UK Government official to visit the Kremlin in a good number of years? What message does Russia hope that the visit will send to the rest of the world? A: It is going to be the first working visit at Foreign Ministers' level in our bilateral relation over the past three years. We hope that it means that our British partners are interested in resumption of political dialogue.


28.02.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's speech at Defender of the Fatherland Day reception

On 23 February, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation celebrate their main holiday - the Defender of the Fatherland Day. This day is important not only for those who wear or used to wear military insignia, but also for all those who care about the words "Motherland" and "duty". Peace of our homes is guarded by those who serve in the country as well as abroad. Throughout history people in Russia respected military, which, according to Peter the Great, was "the first of the worldly affairs as the most important for the defense of the Fatherland". As the history teaches us – the stronger the army is, the safer is the world.


14.02.2017 - UK – RUSSIA YEAR OF SCIENCE AND EDUCATION: THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL RELATIONSHIP? (Robin Grimes, FCO Chief Scientific Adviser, Part of Global Science and Innovation Network)

At the end of the classic film Casablanca, Rick says to the Chief of Police “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship”. So, as we embark upon a year of UK Russia Science & (Science) Education events, what do we expect our scientific relationship to look like 12 months from now? There are some crucial points to bear in mind.


10.02.2017 - UK worried about its place if US-Russia ties are repaired – Russia’s UK envoy (Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for RT)

Hacking, destabilizing Western states, building up its military might, and weaponizing information – Russia is hitting the headlines and seems to be to blame for all of the world’s problems. One of the loudest anti-Russia voices is the United Kingdom, condemning Moscow’s actions and calling for economic sanctions against it. Most of the accusations are far from proven – so is there still room left for cooperation on vital issues between world powers? And now that the UK’s ally the US may be ready to change course and start making deals with Moscow, is there a chance for a change in tone? We ask Russia’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom – Alexander Yakovenko.


08.02.2017 - Ambassador’s Alexander Yakovenko speech at the opening of "Revolution: Russian Art 1917-1932" exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts (February 7, 2017)

It’s an honour for me to be here at the opening of this impressive exhibition. The best Russian museums have provided masterpieces from their collections which give a fascinating insight into the drastic and violent transformation of culture and society in Russia 100 years ago. Our revolution was a complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon, a direct result of our common European catastrophe, which was WWI.


30.01.2017 - Alexander Kramarenko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for the “International Affairs” magazine (Moscow). Unaccomplished mission of Alexander Benckendorff and its lessons.

11 January marked 100 years since the death of the last Ambassador of the Russian Empire to the UK count Alexander Benckendorff, who was buried in the catholic Westminster Cathedral in London. This anniversary was a timely reminder of his unaccomplished mission in London, where he arrived in 1903. What was it and why is it still relevant now?


25.01.2017 - A visit to Syria by an independent group (31 August - 7 September).



05.12.2016 - Ambassador Yakovenko answers to media question regarding Russia’s efforts in Syria

Question: What is Russia’s position on a draft UNSC resolution on Aleppo recently presented to the Security Council? Answer: We believe that the introduction of this draft is utterly counterproductive. In the coming days experts from Russia and the United States are to begin their work on the withdrawal of all fighters from the eastern part of Aleppo and achieving an agreement on routes and timing of their exit from the city. After that the ceasefire will come into force.



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