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318 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     310 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities



Speaking notes of Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko at the Preview Reception on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition "Houghton Revisited: The Walpole Masterpieces from Catherine the Great's Hermitage" 25 April 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to welcome you at today's preview reception on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition "Houghton Revisited: The Walpole Masterpieces from Catherine the Great's Hermitage."

This exhibition is dedicated to the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage in 2014.

The acquisition of Walpole's art collection in 1779, described by his contemporaries as "the most celebrated in England", was a major event in the history of the Hermitage - the Imperial gallery was expanded by outstanding works of European masters of the 17th century.

Its founder Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford was the First Prime Minister of Britain during the rule of Kings George I and George II. Sir Robert Walpole entered Parliament in 1701 at the age of 25 and became Britain's Prime Minister in 1721. He held office through to his retirement in 1742 and served in the House of Lords until his death. An outstanding political and public figure, he was one of the most significant European art collectors; the collection of Sir Robert Walpole perfectly reflected an early 18th-century English collector's taste. Originally the numerous artistic treasures were kept in Prime Minister's London houses, including the official residence in Downing Street. After his retirement, Sir Robert moved best part of his collection in Houghton Hall, his country house in Norfolk.

Rebuilt in the Palladian style after the plan of Britain's leading architects - Colin Campbell and James Gibbs - the house was specially designed to accommodate this art collection. The interiors and decor created by William Kent have been preserved to our time.

Robert Walpole's younger son, writer Horatio Walpole saw conservation of his father's collection for the nation as the purpose of his life. In 1752, he issued a comprehensive catalogue of the collection, which was extensively annotated. However, strained circumstances of the descendants played a key role in the collection's destiny. In late 1778 an immediate heir, grandson George Walpole, burdened with debts, offered his collection for sale to Catherine the Great. Russian Envoy to London, Alexey Musin- Pushkin, reported to the Empress the matter in the following manner: “Prime Minister took all the opportunities his long stay in office presented to make the gallery as beautiful as complete. His grandson, Lord Orford, takes the liberty to bring it in full or in part to the feet of Your Imperial Majesty. All art connoisseurs agree that it deserves to belong to the world's greatest sovereign.”

The news of George's intention to sell the famous collection of his grandfather to the Russian Empress caused a great scandal in the English society. Members of Parliament suggested purchasing "one of the most beautiful collections in Europe" and establishing National Gallery on its basis. Yet, MPs failed to put the idea into practice – Decree of Her Imperial Majesty Catherine the Great authorising the purchase followed shortly in February 1779. The whole collection, of 204 paintings, with the exception of family portraits and sculptures, was bought at a cost of 40,555 pounds. The paintings packed in boxes were delivered to St Petersburg in autumn 1779 by "two best ships" under the guard of a frigate.

The Walpole collection brought some significant, large scale works of the 17th century masters into the Imperial gallery of Hermitage.

Catherine the Great, and, indeed, Sir Robert Walpole, realised that art collecting is a matter of state importance that enhances the prestige of the country and improves its international image. Thanks to the effort and knowledge of her envoys and her personal passion for collecting from the time of her ascension to the throne in 1762, the Empress successfully purchased a number of outstanding European art collections.

The purchase of the Walpole collection had as paramount importance for the establishment of the Hermitage gallery as was the acquisition of Baron Pierre Crozat's collection. Russian art historian Vladimir Levinson-Lessing, the author of an outstanding study on the history of the Hermitage Museum, described the purchase of the Walpole collection as "a major event in the life of the Hermitage".

At present, 126 works of the Walpole collection are reposited in the Hermitage Museum. 15 canvasses are kept in Moscow's museums, 21 of them are in various museums of Russia and Ukraine, while yet another six canvases were sold abroad in the 1930-ies; part of the paintings, which had been kept in St Petersburg suburban palaces, museums, was lost during the Nazi occupation during WWII. The fate of 36 canvasses from the British collector's gallery remains unknown. The portrait of George I by Godfrey Kneller and John Wootton, which had been kept in the Great Gatchina Palace near St Petersburg and was considered missing, was returned to Russia by the German government in 2002.

I wouldn’t dwell on particular works comprising the collection. You’ll see those for yourselves. What is important, however, that is the cultural and historical connection between Russia and Britain this story came to symbolize. That is what we are making now. That is what, I am sure, we’ll last till the end of time. Thank you.


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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