Embassy’s statement concerning Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London

We have taken note of Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London on 12 November, of which a significant part was dedicated to Russia. Unfortunately, we did not hear any “new approach” to Russian-British bilateral relations, mentioned in the British media a day before. A number of unsubstantiated accusations against Russia were again put forward by the Prime Minister, ranging from “attacks to undermine international security” to the “use of a chemical weapon on British streets”. The statement that the UK “remains open to a different relationship with Russia” was, in line with the traditional British style, made conditional on a number of categorical demands.

For our part, we have been pointing at the unsatisfactory state of bilateral affairs for a long time. Russia and Britain are in an urgent need of genuinely equal, mutually respectful and result-oriented cooperation, befitting two Permanent Members of the UN Security Council sharing a special responsibility for global affairs.

However, the task of building such relationship is being hampered by a number of key issues, in which the two countries do not simply differ, but face fundamental disagreements coupled with Britain’s refusal to conduct dialogue or even acknowledge Russia’s right to have its national interests and express its own opinion. Unfortunately, there is a whole range of such issues, including the following:

1. The conceptual vision of the modern world order based on International Law, with the UN Charter being at its heart. Instead, the UK is consistently promoting the idea of a certain “rules-based world order”, which includes arbitrarily chosen “rules” suiting the West, even if not agreed by the wider international community at the UN. As a result, the world has witnessed the bombing of Yugoslavia resulting in the disintegration of the country, the invasion in Iraq, the destruction of statehood of Libya, missile strikes against Syria. All those actions were performed in circumvention of the UN Security Council.

2. Attitude to European security, including UK’s active role in NATO’s military build-up along Russian borders, its reluctance to give an objective assessment to the situation around the nuclear arms control, including the INF Treaty (Britain supports US plans to withdraw from it), as well as boosting military expenditure under the pretext of a “Russian threat”, and provoking incidents with Russian aircraft and ships.

3. Interpretation of the circumstances that led to the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014 and of the situation in eastern Ukraine. UK’s persistent refusal to take account of the interests and aspirations of the people living in those territories, its disregard towards the democratic will of 97 percent of Crimeans, the endless portrayal of the abovementioned events as “Russian aggression” and “annexation”, the refusal to impartially assess the situation in Ukraine, including the extent of far-right extremism, are preventing London from conducting a dialogue with Russia and have sidelined the UK from the negotiation process on Ukraine.

4. UK’s persistent position in favour of deposing the duly elected President of Syria, encouraging radical opposition forces that rely exclusively on a violent takeover of power, the direct support for the provocative activities of the “White Helmets”, and making the perspectives of the Syria’s restoration conditional on the direction of a political process.

5. Britain’s voluntarily chosen role of the leader of international (i.e. Western) efforts to “deter Russia”, the persistent aggressive and insulting rhetoric of British officials towards Russia, encouragement of anti-Russian media hysteria, formulation of various groundless accusations (concerning cyberattacks, meddling into democratic processes, etc.), promoting the proliferation of sanctions.

6. The anti-Russian campaign orchestrated by the British Government following the incident in Salisbury, together with a refusal to provide the public with credible evidence in support of the official accusations, or to cooperate with the Russian side, as well as UK’s unwillingness to observe international law and its obligations under consular conventions and agreements on legal assistance, and politicization of OPCW threatening the authority and integrity of this invaluable international organisation.

7. Britain’s refusal to cooperate and classification of materials concerning high-profile incidents with Russian nationals on the British soil, including deaths of Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Berezovsky, Alexander Perepilichny and Nikolay Glushkov.

The first prerequisite for these and other deep differences to be overcome is a respectful dialogue. We are yet to see Britain ready for one. Moreover, an impression grows that the Conservative Government has embarked upon a policy of consistently destroying the fabric of our bilateral relations and putting forward political ultimatums.

What talk of British readiness to normalize relations can there be when the UK is unable to deliver on the minimum requirement for such relations, namely the normal functioning of the Russian Embassy in London? Expulsion of 153 Russian diplomats by 28 countries under artificial pretext is presented by the British leadership as a huge diplomatic achievement. This sounds particularly odd given that Moscow reciprocated by expelling 153 foreign, including 23 British diplomats, at the very same time when the need to step up British global diplomatic presence is widely acknowledged in London. Other basic problems of Russian Embassy’s everyday life have been ignored for years, including issuing of visas to staff and ensuring the Embassy’s security.

We hope that the British authorities, with their “Global Britain” ambition, will stop their destructive Russia policy and live up to their own call for a dialogue. Pragmatic cooperation between our countries is in the best interests of the British people.