​‘Russia-UK economic relations degrading over politics, policies & perceptions’

Ambassador's view
Dr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Deputy foreign minister (2005-2011). Follow him on Twitter @Amb_Yakovenko
Economic relations between Russia and Britain are suffering due to politics, lack of dialogue, Western policies, and hardshell perceptions of Russia as an aggressor in the Ukraine conflict, Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko told RT.

The policies of British Prime Minister David Cameron are ruining economic ties between London and Moscow, the diplomat said, adding that the UK's hostile approach is reflected in Western media.

RT:Western media seems to be portraying the Ukraine crisis in one angle only, which is that Russia is the aggressor in the whole situation. Do you think Russia is not doing a good enough job in portraying its message to the world? Or what is the problem?

Alexander Yakovenko: I think this is the problem with the policy and the perceptions. Because there are two key elements in representation of the position on Russia. The first one is “Russia is the aggressor because it annexed Crimea.” Here in the media and also on an official level, there is a replacement of the facts, because nobody is talking about the two referendums that happened in Crimea – one is for independence [back in 1991] and the second one for joining Russia. So basically, the people of Crimea chose Russia for their future. But here we're only talking about annexation and the aggressor. This is one story.

The second example: When I [go] to the Foreign Office, they are always telling me: “Oh, Russia should fulfill the Minsk agreement.” But I'm trying to explain, this is just repeating every time, I'm just trying to explain that the Minsk agreement is between Kiev and the east, not between Kiev and Russia. But every day, this is the story. So of course this is a policy.

RT:The Litvinenko murder case seems to be in the spotlight at a very curious time. Do you think there is any significance to this? Or is this just a coincidence?

AY: I think this is sort of coincidence. What do we have with Litvinenko? The death happened in 2006. But we don't have an investigation which is finished, we don't have the facts offered to the public, and the whole investigation was secret, not available to the press, not available for us.

We proposed to the British side our full cooperation in this investigation. Basically nothing happened, and the British side should somehow finish this case. And once again, we have a problem. You know this investigation is going on secretly, and that is a major problem for the British side. That is why the conclusions will be, quite, how to say it mildly, difficult to accept.

RT:We know that British Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly told the Russian president back at the G20 summit in Australia that the relationship between the West and Russia is at a crossroads because of Ukraine. Where do you think this whole situation is headed?

AY: I’d say the Ukrainian situation is a very important factor in international life and international relations. But of course world politics is much broader. But since we’re dealing today with Ukraine, and Ukraine is the hot subject today, we have to reach some results in our meetings and somehow try to arrange first the ceasefire. It is very important, you know. Between Kiev and the east, this is first. The withdrawal of heavy weapons, this is second. And of course there needs be direct contacts and direct negotiations between Kiev and the east. That is very important.

But even more important in the future, or maybe right now, is to start talking about constitutional reform. And of course the regime in Kiev should start doing something about the economic situation in the country, because the people are suffering. So, all these questions, they are on the agenda of Kiev and nobody will do this for Kiev.

RT: Do you think the West, and Western media more specifically, understand that it is not in Russia's interest to see the kind of situation that has been unraveling in Ukraine? Or are they pretending not to understand this?

AY: Of course they understand. But we have to go back as to why it happened. And we know there was a coup in Kiev and absolutely different people, not legitimate people, came to power and after that everything started. I mean the whole crisis in Ukraine. So the West is understanding that, but the question is how to find a way out of this. And I think the more solutions the West would offer to Kiev and the east, the better it would be for the solving of the situation.

RT: Britain is a very active supporter, to say the least, of the anti-Russian sanctions. Where is the relationship between Russia and Britain, Russia and the EU headed right now?

AY: I would say the relations are degrading, it is quite clear. We have a lack of political dialogue. And of course trade is going down. And of course the policy of this government is not very helpful for Russian–British economic relations. But if you take the position of the business circles, you would find that all of them are interested in developing economic relations; they are interested in contracts with Russia. And they are basically sitting and waiting there for better times. And they are keeping all the channels open. And if you take big energy companies, they are working as they were before. And I would like to say this is the right way of proceeding. But of course economic relations are suffering from politics.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.