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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

23.01.2014

Why Russia cares about human rights in the West (by Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to UK, for Russia Today)

Erosion of Western human rights standards runs counter to the interest of building a common democratic space in the Euro-Atlantic.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has recently published its annual report on human rights in the European Union. The paper provides a thorough analysis of the human rights situation in EU countries, focusing on systemic problems such as the growing xenophobia, racism and aggressive nationalism, or else violations of children's rights, police abuse, and the situation in penitentiary systems.

The reaction to the report in the EU, including in the United Kingdom, has been a nervous one. Some people simply discarded it as a kind of a “revenge” by the Kremlin for Western criticism of the human rights situation in Russia itself. Others, in a similar spirit, were asking why Russia actually cares about human rights in the West.

The answer to the latter question is simple: Whatever the media or politicians may claim, Western Europe is the birthplace of the very idea of human rights, and it very much remains the world's leader in human rights promotion and protection. Russia subscribed to universal human rights standards during Soviet times, but it was after the end of the Cold War that our society and our government sincerely embraced that idea as something that we have in common. The new Russian Constitution adopted by referendum in 1993 proclaims that “the human being, his or her rights and freedoms are the supreme value” and that human rights “determine the essence, the content and the application of laws, and the activities of legislative and executive authorities.”

Ironically, after the Iron Curtain was lifted, the claim of the West to be the beacon of democracy and human rights has been steadily eroding. The end to the competition of the two social systems resulted in a perceived Western ideological monopoly and, to continue the economic parallel, monopoly tends to lead to decay and deteriorated standards. CIA “flying prisons”, torture of inmates, widespread child abuse, or the recently revealed Orwellian-scale surveillance practices are among the examples of something that everyone had thought the West had been immune to. And the new economic and geopolitical challenges have brought an unprecedented wave of immigration producing all kinds of xenophobic attitudes, a problem that the West hasn't been able to properly address. Hence the references to pre-WWI nationalism and the authoritarianism between the two World Wars.

There is no Schadenfreude here. The idea is not to point a finger at the West's problems in an attempt to limit criticism aimed at Russia (we do acknowledge our domestic challenges and always welcome constructive criticism and friendly advice). Rather, the strategic aim is to ensure that the West keeps up the torch. If not, then the message will be that human rights are situational, at least not for bad economic times. We care because this impacts the very idea of a common democratic and humanitarian space in the Euro-Atlantic. Is it like post-anything - post-industrial, post-modern - and now post-democratic, or is it an absolute value?

We are witnessing not only a deterioration of human rights standards in the West, but also an extension of the human rights ideology into areas where it borders on challenging other centuries-old social institutions, such as the family. One may recall how early Russian Communists, driven by the idea of a perfect society, decimated the Russian Church and the Russian village, the two cornerstones of our pre-revolutionary society. Today, the human rights ideology is headed towards the same mistakes. Yet the culture of tolerance, inherent in the idea of democracy and human rights, cannot be imposed by intolerant means.

These are the questions asked in Russia, and not only by the authorities, but in society at large, including by those who identify themselves with Western values. That's why we strive to have a balanced, principled yet friendly debate with our Western partners on human rights issues. After all, it is about our common future.

All articles for RT




LATEST EVENTS

24.06.2018 - Greeting by Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko for the Znaniye school Family Day (Ealing, 24 June 2018)

Dear friends and guests, I am delighted to welcome you at a Family Day celebrating Russia and the World Cup. Today, Russia is the place to be for the whole world. It is a great pleasure to hear fans from all continents appreciating Russia’s hospitality, friendliness and openness to everyone. Right now, people from virtually every country see the 11 host cities, from the Baltic Sea to the Urals on the border of Europe and Asia, and realize how diverse and beautiful our country is. We’d like to bring a bit of Russia and the excitement of the World Cup to Ealing, for those who couldn’t make it to the tournament. By the way, so far both our teams are doing very well, and let us hope they keep up this good work. We cheer for both Russia and England but I’m afraid this can change if both teams meet at the semi-finals.


20.06.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks and answers to questions at the Primakov Readings international forum, Moscow, May 30, 2018

Mr Dynkin, Colleagues and friends, Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for a new opportunity to speak at the international forum named after Academician Evgeny Primakov, an outstanding Russian statesman, academic and public figure. It is indeed a great honour for me. I consider Mr Primakov, with whom I worked at the Foreign Ministry in the latter half of the 1990s, my senior comrade and teacher, as probably do the majority of those who crossed paths with him at one point. Holding this representative conference under the aegis of one of Russia’s leading academic institutes – National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) that also bears Primakov’s name – has become a good tradition. The Primakov Readings have earned a reputation as a venue for serious dialogue of authoritative specialists on the most pressing issues of international politics and the global economy. Today, there is no lack of buzzwords used by politicians, experts and scientists to capture the current moment in international relations. They talk about the crisis of the “liberal world order” and the advent of the post-Western era, “hot peace” and the “new cold war”. The abundance of terms itself shows that there is probably no common understanding of what is happening. It also points to the fairly dynamic and contradictory state of the system of international relations that is hard to characterise, at least at the present stage, with one resounding phrase. The authors of the overarching theme of the current Primakov Readings probably handled the challenge better than others. In its title “Risks of an unstable world order’ they provocatively, and unacademically, combine the words “unstable” and “order”.


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.



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