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SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

26.02.2014

Reinvigorating, Refreshing and Reviving Relations With the UK-Russia Year of Culture (by Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to UK, for Huffington Post)

Two weeks ago, an estimated three billion people around the world tuned in to watch the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics. Like Danny Boyle's acclaimed ceremony for London 2012, our event gave a whistle stop tour through our nation's proud history and culture, albeit with a little less British humour. The popularity and indeed scrutiny of these events is a powerful reminder of the importance of culture and history in shaping both a country's own national identity and its understanding and appreciation in the international community.

The UK and Russia are nations that have both been blessed with rich cultural heritages with great artists, composers, writers and performers known throughout the world. And alongside this history, we also have vibrant contemporary cultures which is why I am delighted that this year, starting on 24 February, has been designated the first UK-Russia year of culture.

Organised by the British Council and the Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs the scope of the festival is ambitious: Over 50 major events will take place across the UK alone including a Kazimir Malevich show at the Tate Modern, the Maslenitsa Festival in London's Trafalgar Square, tours of Maestro Yuri Bashmet and the Eifman Ballet slated for the London Barbican and performances throughout Britain by the Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra and the Sretensky Monastery Choir. In April, the British film director Peter Greenaway will open a multimedia exhibition showing 400 works of art from Russian museums such as Moscow's Manege Museum.

In Russia, British imports will include a look into the world's most famous spy, with the Barbican's Designing 007: Fifty Years of Bond Style at Moscow Multimedia Art Museum. A major exhibition of the Young British Artists at the Ekaterina Foundation will also take place and touring stage performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Young Vic and Shakespeare's Globe will be presented across the country.

But what does this blaze of culture mean for the two countries?

Relations between our two great countries do not always run smoothly and we would be mistaken to think that a cultural festival such as this is the answer to all the challenges we face. I do, however, believe that it signals a way in which relations can be reinvigorated, refreshed and revived. Indeed, even during the most testing moments in our recent relationship, cultural exchanges have continued. In 2008, months after diplomats had been expelled from our respective Embassies, the Royal Academy hosted an exhibition of paintings from Russian's four principal museums - the first time works from these museums had been gathered for a single exhibition.

This is important because there are many things that we share culturally. But it is equally important because it helps us recognise and appreciate our differences in a way that builds understanding about each other as well as ourselves. I think this can manifest in two important ways.

Cultural linkages and connections lead to more creativity. From Dostoyevsky to Shakespeare, Pushkin to Dickens, the Romanovs to the Tudors, Thon to Wren - great artists, architects and writers have enriched the dialogue between our countries. This cultural interaction and sharing helps us question the simplistic stereotypes that programmes such as the Fox series - Meet the Russians - all too easily shape.

The second important factor is that cultural linkages lead to better business and trade ties too. In recent years Russia has become an increasingly important trading partner for the UK. The country is the UK's fastest growing export market and in 2012 British exports to Russia increased by 15%, reaching £5.5billion. With trade comes cultural interaction too. Deeper cultural links are the vital grease that oils the cogs and without it the great potential for further business growth could be missed.

And we should not forget the importance of the creative industries to the economies in both our countries. In the UK, the sector is one of the fastest growing industries, contributing 6% of GDP and employing over two million people. In Russia, cultural and creative arts hubs in St Petersburg and Moscow are gaining momentum and filtering into the fabric of these celebrated cities. Greater cultural ties between our countries have the potential to be a catalyst for more growth and collaboration in these sectors too.

In a year when we have opened our country up to the world through the biggest winter sports event ever seen - the Winter Olympics, I strongly hope that by building our cultural and creative links through this cultural Olympiad, our nations will find further understanding, new opportunities and greater awareness of what brings us together rather than what divides. I believe that this can be the legacy of the UK-Russia year of Culture and I for one cannot wait for it to start.




LATEST EVENTS

27.09.2018 - Remarks by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the UN Security Council meeting, September 26, 2018

Mr President, Colleagues, In the modern world, an efficient fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is becoming increasingly important for global and regional stability and the reliable security of all states without exception. Constructive cooperation in this area is an important component of the efforts to shape a positive international agenda. I think everybody agrees that the UN Security Council resolutions that outline specific measures against violations of non-proliferation must be strictly observed. Resolution 1540 remains the basis for this and contains obligations for the member states to take specific measures to prevent non-government agents from accessing weapons of mass destruction and their components. The UNSC decisions taken in pursuance of this resolution are particularly important as they include sanctions for handing over any types of weapons to terrorists. There have been incidents of such handovers and they must be thoroughly investigated.


07.09.2018 - Remarks by Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, following the UNSC meeting on the incident in Salisbury

Q: Do you expect British sanctions on Russia soon? A: We are not expecting or afraid of anything. Taking to the account how things have been developing during the recent years we do not exclude anything. This discussion and yesterday’s speech by the British Prime-Minister in the British Parliament are not coincidental. I think that’s looks like a prelude to a new political season. Q: So, Ambassador it’s really coming from the highest level in the UK. A: It always comes from the highest level. Last time when the incident took place it also came from the highest level. Q: But it seems that you are not taking it seriously. A: We are taking it very seriously. We were saying it all the time. Why we’ve been asking for cooperation with the UK from day one. Only few minutes ago Ambassador Pierce was referring to an ultimatum that Boris Johnson made in his letter to the Russian Ambassador in London when the incident took place presented as a request by the British site to cooperate while in fact it was a demand to to accept the gilt. At the same time our requests which we sent to British authorities constantly through OPCW and bilaterally were ignored.


06.09.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at Bolshaya Igra (Great Game) talk show on Channel One, Moscow, September 4, 2018

Question: Today we have a special guest in our studio, one of the main participants in the “great game”, someone the future of the world really depends on in many ways: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. We are happy to welcome you in the Great Game studio. Sergey Lavrov: Thanks for inviting me.


22.08.2018 - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's comment on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's anti-Russian claims

At a joint news conference following talks with Foreign Minister of Serbia Ivica Dacic Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt's urges to European partners to slap their own sanctions on Russia in connection with the Salisbury incident.


16.08.2018 - Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Salisbury Journal"

The Russian Ambassador said he stands together with the people of Salisbury in a meeting with the Journal last week, as the United States announced new sanctions against the country. Speaking at his official residence in Kensington Palace Gardens on Thursday, Alexander Yakovenko said: “We are together with the people of Salisbury.”


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.



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