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Push for peace and Road to Damascus (by Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to UK, for RIA Novosti)

The G-20 Summit in Saint-Petersburg became the scene of debate on the Syrian crisis by leaders of major nations of the world. It was an opportunity not to be missed, at such a critical juncture in world politics, to push for a political settlement in Syria. Political process, though talked about for the past two years, has been and still is the key missing piece of this conflict’s puzzle. The cumulative effect of the past experience, in particular over the last two decades, be it in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya, explains the lack of enthusiasm in many countries, the Euro-Atlantic making no exception, for unilateral use of force, i.e. outside international law. Moreover, the Syrian situation, not that much different from the previous cases, puts spotlight on the fundamental issues involved. They are two, but both of them pertain to the very foundation of the existing post-WWII international order.

First, use of force is only allowed in self-defence or by explicit decision of the UN Security Council. Otherwise it is illegal. The UN is the unique source of international legitimacy. Those who decide to act on their own not only do so at their own risk and expense, they undermine the very UN-centered system that benefit the entire international community, big states or small ones, strong or weak. This is an international projection of the national rule of law. True, certain actions may be outsourced to groups of countries, but upon express mandate of the UN Security Council.

That is the point, American scholars Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro make in their recent article in IHT. In their view, on Syria a UN vote isn’t optional. Acting outside UN “will endanger the fragile international order which is World War IPs most significant legacy”. It wasn't disposed of in the Cold War. It must not now that a multipolar world is emerging. That is why giving peace a chance in Syria and, consequently, to the entire region is not only the position of Russia and other BRICS, but also of the EU, UN Secretary-General and many others.

Secondly, meddling in domestic affairs of sovereign states. Yes, it is a Westphalian principle, but it has served the world well, including the case of the Civil War in America. IHT of today cites Sir William Harcourt’s opinion of the time. According to him, military intervention is like revolution: “its essence is illegality and its justification is its success”.

One may juggle with words, resort to all sorts of euphemisms, like the ones the financial sector used over the last 30 years, but it is impossible to defy laws of nature. That is why it is difficult to believe in a “limited” or “surgical” strike. It will still be fraught with unintended consequences for which everybody will have to pay. My hunch, as that of many people, is that things are not simple, and if they are presented as such, it provides grounds for suspicion. People may give the benefit of the doubt to their government, but internationally, especially given Iraq and Libya, there exists due process that ought to be followed and it leads to New-York.

So, it may well be not by chance that the road to Damascus presents itself as an opportunity for conversion into the faith of international rule of law. Primus inter pares is compatible with it. Better to convert before using force of arms rather than in its wake.


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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