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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

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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