Business and people will pull us closer – Russian ambassador to UK

Bilateral relations are giving place to global issues, like climate change or international security, in modern policymaking, taking up to 70 per cent of the agenda, revealed the new Russian ambassador to Britain, Aleksandr Yakovenko.

­The media and information technology have changed diplomatic work a lot over the last few decades. TV channels and websites are efficient sources of fresh information, but the role of embassies remains very important. It is constantly to be in touch with top officials – presidents, foreign ministers etc. – of the host country and get precise, “certified” information about the state of things from proven and fully reliable sources.

Relations between London and Moscow have been rocky of late, with many unresolved issues still lingering between the two, and the task for diplomats is to establish good political relations between Russia and the UK, believes Yakovenko.

“We have thousands of Russians doing business or simply living in London and, what is more important, the economic relations are going on very well,” Yakovenko acknowledged, recalling the recent Rosneft-BP deal.

But the level of the trade remains the main indicator. “We had a maximum US$23 billion before the crisis. Now we are around US$14 billion and we’re moving very fast to restore that level,” he says.

“Great Britain is the fifth largest investor in Russian economy. That means that sometimes you’re reading in the newspapers that the [economic] climate is not so good, but if you look at the deeds, you’ll find that the big business is really interested in big deals,” the ambassador says.

Russia’s ambassador to the UK has to pay attention to all areas of bilateral relations because “this is economy, this is technology.” Russia and the UK are co-operating on innovation technology because, while Russia is building its scientific center in Skolkovo, Great Britain is conducting a similar project not far from London so “we’re basically talking about modernization, and they [British] are talking about co-operation based on knowledge.”

Russia pays great attention to the improvement of the visa regime with Great Britain, because this is important for establishing new contacts between people of the two countries.

The Russian ambassador believes that the British media, both internet- and print-based, are global and provide citizens with adequate and full information on world events – including those in Russia.

As for the UK harboring people wanted by the Russian Prosecutor General’s office, people like Berezovsky and Zakayev, Aleksandr Yakovenko believes Russia must follow legal procedures, because every case is specific.

“We have positions on these matters and I think we should continue the dialogue between the two countries and, of course, this dialogue will go on a level of political and legal authorities.”

He also expressed hope that the British side would hear the arguments of the Russian side. “That is very important for the dialogue,” he concludes.