23 January 2018
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Ambassador's Notebook: On Human Rights

The Russian Embassy website recently published Russia's Foreign Ministry report on the human rights situation in the EU. One of the subscribers to our official twitter account commented that Russia does not have the right to be “lecturing EU on human rights.” The point made is the familiar position of some of our critics here in the UK and some other EU countries.

Although nobody denies the facts, one can, and even ought to ask, why our counterparts almost religiously believe that they have the sole right to monitor the human rights situation in other countries. The answer is not so easy.

Let's have a look at what is happening in the EU, and the UK in particular. A lot of respected human rights activists and international human rights organizations are expressing concern over the fact that, in recent years, the protection of basic rights, freedoms and democratic standards in the EU has been problematic.

The existing system for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms in the EU is not flawless. Neither the existing EU judicial mechanisms, nor the newly created office of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights cover all the systemic challenges in this area that the European Union faces today.

Both the institutional and legislative aspects of Human Rights protection in the EU leave much to be desired. EU institutions do not have any way of delivering an active response, or prosecuting those responsible for violations.

In recent talks with our European colleagues, we pointed out that the EU lacks supranational mechanisms to encourage respect for human rights among its member states, while the European Commission is chiefly focused on assessing the human rights situation in third countries.

The British Government strives to maintain its image as a leading nation in the observance of human rights. However, according to a number of high-profile NGOs, numerous human rights violations for which the British authorities are responsible, are recorded both within the country and beyond its borders. Both British and foreign nationals fall victim to these violations under UK jurisdiction.

Given the particular nature of the country’s legal system, international conventions can not be applied directly in British territory. One prominent exception is the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 1950, incorporated through the Human Rights Act of 1998. The UK has yet to ratify a number of significant human rights instruments.

Unfortunately, over the past 50 years, unilateral rather than universal approaches to human rights issues have become common in international practice, leading to the politicization of this area and the application of double standards. We have consistently opposed this practice. We believe that it is crucial to pay more attention to things happening in one’s own backyard, before criticising others.

Nobody is perfect, and no state in the world is free of human rights violations. These problems are often cross-border in nature, and in many cases global. The search for solutions should be a collective effort. Improvement can only be achieved through international cooperation, on the basis of equality and mutual respect. This is precisely one of the missions of the OSCE and the UN system.

So it is not about lecturing, nor looking for signs of decline in the Western democracy. Put simply, these are tough times; we are going through a momentous transition, in which the old models of societal development must be adjusted to new realities. But economic difficulties, and other factors, should not be allowed to roll back the past century’s human rights achievements, for which so many paid so dearly – in the tragedies of two World Wars, and the Cold War.

Having considered our objections, our critic agreed that we all need to sit around the same table and discuss the issue.


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.

12.09.2017 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's remarks at the exhibition opening (“Scythians: Warriors of ancient Siberia” 12 September, British Museum)

Today the British Museum and the State Hermitage of Saint-Petersburg are once again proving their unique world class by bringing a whole new civilization to London. Ancient, and almost mythical, but creative, powerful and very different from what we have all known about antiquity – the Scythians.

14.07.2017 - Letter of Consul General Mr Andrey Pritsepov to the Herald newspaper, published 13.07.2017

I NOTE a rather questionable article by Mark McLaughlin (“Russians lurking near Faslane to eavesdrop on nuclear submarines", The Herald, July 11). Do you really believe that 145 million Russians would elect a leader who would command his nuclear submarines to chase someone's sole and lonely operative U-boat which is firing missiles in the opposite direction or Type 45 destroyers with faulty engines or an aircraft carrier without aircraft on it, all of them being located in Scottish waters?

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