RUSSIAN EMBASSY WEEKLY #123
Vladimir Putin received letters of credence from 23 newly-appointed foreign ambassadors, including the US Ambassador John J. Sullivan.
Vladimir Putin: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to welcome you in the Kremlin at this ceremony to present your credentials and to congratulate you on officially commencing your diplomatic activities here in Russia.
You have an important and serious mission: to promote the development of comprehensive relations between the countries you represent and Russia. We proceed from the fact that you will be responsible for expanding our political dialogue and trade and economic ties as well as deepening cultural exchanges and promoting people-to-people contacts. And we are sincerely interested in making your embassies’ work in these key spheres successful. <…>
Global peace and security largely depend on the state of relations between Russia and the United States, as well as on their stability and predictability. We are convinced that these relations should hinge on the principles of equality, respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. We are ready for detailed dialogue with the American side, including on arms control and strategic stability, the fight against terrorism and the peaceful resolution of regional crises. For us, it is absolutely obvious that resuming constructive bilateral collaboration meets the interests of Russia, the United States and the entire world. <…>
Vladimir Putin held talks in Sochi with President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who came to Russia on a working visit.
The two presidents discussed current issues of Russian-Belarusian cooperation, including in the context of integration within the framework of the Union State.
The last time they met was on December 20, 2019 in St Petersburg, where Alexander Lukashenko arrived for a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council.
The two leaders discussed in detail the current situation on the global hydrocarbons market and confirmed their willingness to further coordinate their actions in the OPEC+ format to ensure stability on the global oil market.
Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan held an in-depth discussion on the developments in Syria and expressed mutual concern over growing tension in the Idlib de-escalation zone.
On February 5, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held talks with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla during a stopover in Santiago de Cuba (Republic of Cuba) in the course of his trip to the Latin American region.
During the meeting that took place in a traditionally friendly and trusting atmosphere, the ministers had a detailed exchange of opinions on global and regional issues, as well as on expanding cooperation between Moscow and Havana in the political, trade, economic, investment, cultural and humanitarian areas. They confirmed mutual determination to comprehensively strengthen Russia-Cuba strategic partnership.
Sergey Lavrov also visited Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in Santiago de Cuba to pay homage to the leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro as well as the outstanding fighter for Cuba’s freedom and independence, Jose Marti.
On February 6, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paid a visit to the United Mexican States and held talks with the country’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón .
The ministers analysed the current status of Russian-Mexican relations, outlined the main areas of their further development, and focused on the tasks to intensify political dialogue, diversify cooperation in bilateral and multilateral formats, expand trade and economic ties, step up cultural-humanitarian exchanges and streamline the contractual-legal framework.
The parties confirmed their shared intention to closely coordinate both states’ positions on key international matters, while honouring generally accepted norms of international law, strengthening multilateral diplomacy and the UN’s central coordinating role in global affairs. They conducted an in-depth exchange of opinions on matters concerning arms control and the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as well as efforts to combat new challenges and threats.
They conducted a detailed discussion of the global situation, the acutest regional problems and the development of integration processes in Latin America and the Caribbean. The sides expressed their mutual interest in expanding Russia’s dialogue with regional countries, including within the framework of regional associations.
We have very close relations at all levels. Our presidents meet regularly. The last time they met was in Moscow in October 2019, where very important decisions were made to further develop our partnership. New approaches and mechanisms for our cooperation were agreed upon that were designed to protect economic relations between Russia and Venezuela from the illegal interference of the United States, which attempts to dictate its terms to other states and spread its legislation extraterritorially.
Idlib governorate, the last stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria, saw a surge of violence by radical jihadists who have no desire for a peaceful resolution to the almost nine-year-long conflict, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. Most of the attacks are carried out by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the latest iteration of al-Qaeda in Syria.
The area was proclaimed a de-escalation zone under the Russia-Turkey agreements. In mid-January, Russian and Turkish forces tried to impose a ‘regime of silence’ there, but the attacks only escalated.
In December 2019 there were over 1,400 terrorist attacks staged from Idlib, with some operations seeing the use of armor and even tanks. The scale of violence remains high, with over 1,000 attacks recorded in the last two weeks of January. Hundreds of Syrian civilians and government troops have been killed, as well as Russian and Turkish military specialists.
“The relocation of some armed groups out of the de-escalation zone to northeastern Syria and later to Libya has boosted the concentration of radical extremists over the boiling point,” the ministry said.
"We are reacting to this with a serious concern not because we see a threat to the security of our country - this security is reliably ensured as a result of the efforts that were taken with regard to the armament and with regard to developing advanced weapon systems, but from the viewpoint of doctrines and concepts, which the Americans are using in the nuclear sphere. This is very alarming," the senior Russian diplomat said.
The deployment of low-yield charges on US strategic delivery vehicles suggests that "the pronouncements made by the American side in the declarative form about the possibility of deploying such means in a hypothetical conflict are already being embodied in the metal and items," Ryabkov said.
"This indicates that the US is really reducing the nuclear threshold and admits of a limited nuclear war for itself and the victory in that war," the deputy foreign minister said.
In this context, Moscow’s proposal to "confirm again the commitment to the well-known formula that there can be no winners in a nuclear war and it must never be unleashed" is becoming especially important, the high-ranking Russian diplomat said.
Russia formally handed over this proposal to Washington back in 2018, he added.
"All the developments in their entirety and all the signs I am speaking about set us up for the need to double efforts in order to try to contain the US further drift in the dangerous direction and Washington’s further slide into the planning of absolutely inadmissible catastrophic scenarios," Ryabkov stressed.
<…> The investigation failed to answer the main question: did the inspectors at fault present true facts showing that the issued report was politically biased and designed to confirm the version of the chemical attack by government forces with a view to justifying the missile attack on Syria carried out by the US, Britain and France on April 14, 2018 without any investigation and in violation of the UN Charter and universally recognised norms of international law. <…>
We regret to say that the situation around issuing visas to Russian officials travelling to the United States on business is not improving but continues to deteriorate. Despite our multiple requests to remove obstacles, US visa refusals are occurring on a large scale. This is Washington’s deliberate and intentional policy.
Back in 2017, diplomats leaving for the Russian Embassy and consulates general in the United States, and the permanent mission at the UN met with difficulties. Later, the Russians sent to the United Nations Secretariat in New York were on the line. Last year, many of those who were supposed to take part in the plenary sessions of the UN General Assembly and its committees were denied entry.
Refusals continue, including for employees of the Foreign Ministry sent to work at the UN Headquarters. Delegation members travelling to UN events and other international forums cannot enter the US. The situation has become absurd: visas are denied to senior officials from Russian agencies and experts whom the Americans have officially invited. <…>
Sergey Lavrov: <…>We exchanged views on the security situation in the Baltic Sea region in detail. We apprised our partners of our concern about NATO’s rather provocative actions, which is increasing its military activity and presence near Russia’s borders. Russia does not see a single problem either in the Baltic Sea or the north in general that would need a military solution. We mentioned Russia’s recent initiatives aimed at reducing tension and strengthening mutual trust, including in the military area. In this context, Russia considers Sweden’s traditional non-alignment policy to be an important factor in maintaining stability in northern Europe. <…>
The military leaders exchanged views on issues of strategic stability, the situation in crisis regions of the world, and also discussed practical steps on the military line in order to prevent incidents caused by the military activities of the parties.
"During out contacts with US official circles and the business community, we are trying to explain the essence and ‘added value’ of the proposal, put forward by our president [to organize a summit of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5)]," he said. "But it’s not my task to comment on whether something fits or not into the pre-election agenda and the political schedule of [US President] Donald Trump."
Antonov said that he has so far seen no reaction to the initiative from "the administration, lawmakers or other members of ruling circles."
"This might be due to the domestic political events in the United States that dominated ithe media landscape in the past weeks," he suggested.
Russia’s ambassador to the United States named Russia, the United States or ‘neutral territory’ as possible venues for a meeting between Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev and US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien.
"Contacts between security councils of Russia and the United States are an important platform for addressing bilateral and international problems," Ambassador Anatoly Antonov told TASS. "Previous national security advisers, Herbert McMaster and John Bolton, spoke to us about their consultations with Patrushev only in a positive way."
"I’m sure that we will preserve the continuity of dialogue, aimed first of all at stabilizing the Russian-US relations. By the way, O’Brien recently spoke of the need to improve them. We assume that new meetings between the heads of security councils can take place in Russia, the United States, or on a neutral territory," the Russian diplomat went on.
However, he added that "at least an invitation from the accepting side is required" in order to start preparations for Patrushev’s visit to the United States.
Russia continues to analyze the situation surrounding the arrest of its diplomatic property in the United States, the ambassador told TASS.
"We keep analyzing the situation. We are assessing all possible outcomes of the case. Of course, we will take action only if we are absolutely sure that it will bring us positive results," he said.
"During the Russian-American consultations on strategic stability that took place on 16 January, an agreement was reached on the continuation of bilateral dialogue on this issue in the near future … Currently, the particular dates of an upcoming meeting on strategic stability are being worked out", Antonov said.
Antonov said that Russia is ready for further joint work with US partners aimed at "reducing tensions in the sphere of international security and reaching a mutually acceptable agreement on arms control and other strategic stability issues".
The Russian-US advisory business council
"The efforts to form the composition and the agenda of the consultative business council continue on both sides. Both Russian and American businessmen are showing interest in working in the new format. In fact, they are the driving force behind the process. We hope that a certain formalization of the mechanism will take place already this year," Antonov told Sputnik.
" ... Putin and Donald Trump again, in sufficient detail, touched on the topic of economic relations in Osaka last summer. And, of course, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Viktorovich Lavrov discussed it at the White House as part of the presidents 'agreements. It is worth noting that the head of the American state personally attaches great importance to this issue," Antonov told Sputnik.
According to the ambassador, some of the topics that could be discussed within the new framework are new projects in the chemical and food industries, the creation of medical equipment and medicine production, as well as information technology.
"These are the areas that have not been affected by US sanctions. At the same time, it is worth noting that direct dialogue between the two countries' businesses never stopped," Antonov told Sputnik.
The Russian ambassador recalled that multiple US delegations were present at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Eastern Economic Forum, as well as other business formats.
"Washington's restrictions are equally hindering the business community in each country. However, businessmen have been able to adjust thanks to their pragmatism. This is evidenced by the growth of bilateral trade registered for the third year in a row," Antonov told Sputnik.
He pointed out that as of the end of 2019, bilateral trade surpassed $28 billion, which was half a billion more than a year earlier.
"This is happening because of an increase in purchases of American companies in Russia. In addition, the US is still among the leading investors in our country," Antonov explained.
Ambassador Antonov has expressed his support for the proposal to develop bilateral relations through ‘hockey diplomacy,’ put forward by the US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan.
"We support any initiative to develop interstate contacts, between official representatives and agencies, between public organizations and between citizens of our states," the Russian ambassador said.
Antonov said that three years ago, Russia invited US teams to participate in an international children’s EuroChem Cup tournament in the central Russian town of Novomoskovsk (Tula Region).
"And we noticed that this had indeed produced results: children, their parents and fans have found new friends in Russia and discovered our country," he continued.
"We can only wish success to Sullivan and confirm that ‘hockey diplomacy’ really works, just like any other sort of diplomacy aimed at producing a positive and mutually beneficial result," the diplomat added.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov laid flowers at the tomb of his nineteenth century predecessor, Alexander Bodisco, who is buried in the US capital.
The ceremony took place at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown on Friday to mark the upcoming Diplomats' Day.
"On the eve of this holiday we remember the great Russian, Soviet diplomats who devoted their lives to serving the motherland," Antonov said. "Alexander Bodisco was a great person... He spent quite a lot of time here - 18 years, difficult years. He was, probably, lucky. Back then, the relations between our countries were much better than today. We interacted. He managed to establish excellent relations with the political establishment. The American president was at his wedding - Alexander Andreevich married an American woman."
Antonov pointed out that the years since the formation of the United States and up to the middle of the 19th century was a time of rapprochement between Russia and the United States.
"The trade actively developed. In 1840, the largest military steamer of that time, Kamchatka, was launched from the New York shipyards for the Russian Empire. To this day, we are grateful to the American volunteer doctors who assisted the Russian soldiers during the Crimean War," he explained.
"We highly value Alexander Andreevich Bodisko for his contribution to strengthening relations between Russia and the United States," Antonov stated. "We urge our American colleagues to remember that we must leave a higher level of relations for future generations and work for creative purposes.
This is what the descendants will consider to be our achievement, and not the attempts of Washington politicians to make 'dubious' money through a confrontation with Russia which is portrayed as a new geopolitical enemy."
Nevertheless, he added, it is pleasant to recall those glorious pages in the history of both countries when they were united by warm and open relations.
"I have no doubt that our so close - neighboring - nations will face the future era of friendly and partnership interaction," the ambassador said. "Since the days of A.A. Bodisko, the main task of our Diplomatic Mission in Washington has not changed - the development of a constructive dialogue between our countries. This task, as well as upholding the interests of Russia, unites us with our predecessors, obliges us to follow the best of them, gives strength and confidence in success."
Bodisko was the envoy of the Russian Empire to the United States in the middle of the 19th century, during the rapprochement between the two countries before the Crimean War. In this position, he worked for 17 years. Bodisko died in 1854. Due to his funeral, the US Congress stopped its work for a day, which was an unprecedented event. President Franklin Pierce and all members of the government attended the mourning ceremony.
Diplomats' Day is traditionally celebrated in Russia on February 10 and honors Russian diplomatic staff of past and present. The holiday was created in 2002 by a presidential decree and references February 10, 1549, the date when the Posolsky Prikaz, Russia's first foreign affairs agency, was first mentioned in official chronicles.
Over the course of 27 years, relations between the US state and the Leningrad Region have been successfully developing.
Guests of the event were able to try Russian treats and enjoy Russian folk dances whithin the program of the event.
Russian sailor Nikolay Demidov had been assigned to the flagship Almaz, the same ship on which the eighteen year-old recent graduate of the Russian naval academy, Rimskii-Korsakov, sailed.
While the ship waited for warmer weather to return to Russia and Northern Europe, the sailors on this good will tour "wandered through Annapolis’ streets.”
Demidov tragically died in Annapolis on February 4, 1864.
The Russian Embassy in Washington was promptly notified and the Maryland legislature, which happened to be in session, appointed a committee to investigate the incident. President Lincoln personally telegraphed Maryland Gov. Augustus W. Bradford, requesting the full details surrounding the shooting.
Demidoff was buried on Saturday “after the manner of the Greek Church” as reported in the Baltimore American newspaper. The funeral service began in the chapel of the United States Naval Academy which was crowded.
Igor Butman Quintet and Moscow Jazz Orchestra delighted the audience at the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, while emphasizing the important role that music and musicians play towards helping to create greater cultural understanding, cooperation and dialogue between peoples of different cultures and backgrounds
The Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States Anatoly Antonov sent the following message to the audience in honor of the occasion: “It is always an honor for our Embassy to host concerts by Russia’s greatest jazz musicians – Igor Butman and the Moscow Jazz Orchestra. Their masterful and creative performance of musical pieces from around the world proves that jazz has no nationality; it is a universal language uniting artists and audiences, a bright example of cultural diplomacy.”
With standing applause the audience of the Jazz concert greeted the guest of honor - Steven Melnikoff, U.S. Army veteran, Sergeant of the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Division. In November 2019 the veteran celebrated his 100th birthday anniversary. He participated in the D-day and was one of those American soldiers who met with Soviet troops on the Elbe river.
In May, Mr. Melnikoff is invited to take part in the celebration of the Victory Day on the Red Square in Moscow as part of the delegation of The Greatest Generations Foundation.
“Jazz across borders. It is for everyone. It unites nationalities” – That is one of the main purposes of music, according to Igor Butman. The famous jazzman believes that good relations between Russian and the United States could be established through a common love of music, common interests, and deep conversations that would help to gain a better understanding of each other.
Currently Igor Butman and Moscow Jazz Orchestra are conducting another U.S. tour which includes performances in Miami and Boston.
Igor Butman is Russia’s most famous saxophone player and the organizer of many annual jazz festivals in Russia. Among them are Triumph of Jazz in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Aquajazz in Sochi, Skolkovo Jazz, and more. Butman grew up in the Soviet Union, but moved to the U.S. in 1987 where he studied at the Berklee College of Music. In 1993, he returned to Russia and became a jazz bridge between Moscow and Washington, D.C., playing in Russia with the likes of Eddie Gomez, Lenny White, John Abercrombie, and Joe Lock.
On February 4, 1945, the leaders of the USSR, the US and Great Britain – Josef Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill – met in Yalta in the Crimea to work out the plans to completely defeat Germany and to discuss the international situation and the post-war future.
The Russo-Japanese War began 116 years ago with the sinking of the cruiser Varyag, whose crew chose death over captivity by taking on a vastly superior Japanese force. This brave sally against the odds gave birth to a patriotic myth in Russia which lives on today. But the real story of the cruiser is no less heroic and extraordinary.
This 200-day-long spaceflight is the longest so far for Alexander Skvortsov – yesterday he was welcomed by his friends and relatives, colleagues, as well as Roscosmos and Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center management, representatives of other enterprises and media.
During the ISS-60/61 mission Alexander Skvortsov worked with Skybot F-850 humanoidrobot that docked to ISS onboard the Soyuz MS-14 spacecraft on August 27, 2019. Prior to its docking, Alexander Skvortsov redocked his spacecraft in manual mode from Zvezda module to Poisk smaller research module of the Russian segment of the ISS.
‘Alexander Skvortsov showed the high level of training we provide to get them ready for any unexpected situations. Commander’s endurance and calmness guarantees completing the flight program. I’ve spoken to him after the landing, he is in good physical health after a 200-day spaceflight. I think the rehabilitation process won’t take long and be a success, and Alexander Skvortsov will be ready for future flights. He will also take part in the postflight scientific experiments for the perspective deep space flights and interplanetary flights’.
A special bus took Alexander Skvortsov to the preflight training and postflight rehabilitation complex where he will be supervised by medics. He will share his impressions, results of his work at the International Space Station and future plans at the postflight press conference on February 10.