17 March 2018
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Russia – EU relations: between sanctions and broader European integration (by Ambassador Yakovenko for RT)

There are three main questions that experts usually ask with regard to the sanctions against Russia. Are the restrictions fair and do they conform to the UN and WTO rules? Do the sanctions help attain the declared political goals? And finally, are the sanctions welcome by the Russian people as the country’s economy focuses on import substitution and strengthens business ties with the East? The answer to all these questions is no.
Russia’s position on economic sanctions is well-known. We oppose them as an instrument of foreign policy, especially bypassing the UN Security Council and international trade agreements. Russia’s policy to restrict agricultural imports from a number of countries is solely intended as a countermeasure. We are ready to revise it as soon as the Western countries lift their sanctions. The sanctions negatively influenced business interests of our foreign partners, including British companies operating on the Russian market.
In spite of an ongoing sanctions pressure and a fall in oil prices, Russia’s economy has managed to adapt to the new reality. Ironically, the current slowdown helped to boost such non-oil exports like wheat. Since exchange rate of the ruble has adjusted along with the country’s financial system, a weaker currency has made wheat purchases from Russia very lucrative. As a matter of fact, while Russian industry witnessed an approximate decline of 3.3 percent last year, the agriculture grew by 3 percent.
The fall of the main macroeconomic indicators has stopped or decreased to the minimum level. During the first half of the current year the amount of Russia’s international reserves has risen from $368 to 394bn as Russia’s corporate debt has fallen significantly. We are now entering a period of stabilization, a clear sign of which is a recent lowering of the key rate by the Bank of Russia. Major international forecasters see the Russian economy bottomed in 2016 and rise up to 1.5 % in 2017.
All of this has been possible thanks to the government anti-crisis programme, which included optimisation of expenses, promotion of import substitution, support for the banking sector. Significant attention is given to helping small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as reducing regulatory burden on the economy.
A great number of leading international experts also recognize that the Russian economy has managed to adapt, for key indicators have dropped much less than expected. It appears that the Russian economy has weathered the sanctions and low oil prices well, while the government has succeeded in implementing systemic changes needed to secure a sustainable long-term growth.
Europe’s geographical closeness to Russia offers huge economic benefits and more cooperation with Russia would be a natural choice. A Eurasian alliance would bring the EU closer to Russia, Central Asia and China economically. Such a Eurasian economic community, based on mutual respect, fair conditions and structural support for poorer states and regions – with no political strings attached – would also lead to a greater security for Europe and might become an important contribution to a peace in 21st century.
This is why Russia strongly supports eventual economic integration between the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the EU. Common goals, such as political stability, social justice and economic prosperity make the EAEU and EU natural partners. We believe that there are no contradictions between the two models of cooperation, since both of them are based on similar principles and norms, including those of the WTO. The two Unions could effectively complement each other. Direct dialogue and practical cooperation between the EAEU and the EU would contribute to the resolution of many urgent global and regional issues. In a volatile world with uncertain global development scenarios, regional integration based on pragmatic principles of a trade, customs and market union presents a most prudent and successful way to promote our common interests in the new global environment. So, there are positive choices in Europe, especially at our time of multiple crises. The outcome of the British referendum points in the direction of simpler forms of integration that are more easily understood and accepted by people, and have democratic legitimacy on their side.


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.

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.

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