Information Bulletin of the BRICS Trade Union Forum

Monitoring of the economic, social and labor situation in the BRICS countries
Issue 7.2024
2024.02.12 — 2024.02.18
International relations
Foreign policy in the context of BRICS
Russia's BRICS Chairmanship as a Way to Break International Isolation (Председательство России в БРИКС как способ преодолеть международную изоляцию) / Poland, February, 2024
Keywords: expert_opinion, political_issues, chairmanship

Pulaski Policy Papers nr 4, 16th February 2024

On 1 January 2024, Russia took over the rotating chairmanship of the newly expanded BRICS. The Russian government has already planned a comprehensive range of activities across domains such as politics, security, economy, culture, education and sports, culminating in a summit scheduled for October in Kazan.[1] As Moscow has repeatedly emphasised in the past few weeks, its presidency aims to increase the global influence of the BRICS nations.[2] Also on the agenda are, first and foremost, issues concerning the development of a common trade settlement mechanism for member countries and the continued accession of new members. Significantly for Russia, this involves breaking Moscow's international isolation.

Russia in the Era of an Enlarged BRICS

At the 15th BRICS summit held last year in Johannesburg, the accession of six countries was accepted. Egypt, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Argentina joined the format. They became official members in January 2024, excluding Argentina, which ultimately rejected the membership offer after Javier Milei won the presidential election.[3]

The group's expansion officially aims to build a more "inclusive and equitable", which means less dependence on the Western liberal democracies, and international system. The accession of new members strengthens its political and economic clout, as well as the group's international influence. The enlarged BRICS comprises approximately 46% of the world's population and 29% of global GDP. With Saudi Arabia's and the UAE's accession to the bloc, the expanded BRICS accounts also for approximately 43% of the world's oil production[4]. However, the situation is more nuanced and complex as BRICS members have divergent foreign policy objectives (as BRICS makes decisions based on the principle of unanimity, it will become even more challenging with the addition of new countries). Internal conflicts among individual members are also a significant issue. India and China, along with longstanding territorial disputes, have been in strategic economic competition for years. The relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia also are far from being stable, as both continue competition for influence in the Middle East.

From Russia's perspective, the expansion of BRICS is highly beneficial and demonstrates that Moscow is not as isolated as the West might wish. Some countries want to maintain friendly relations with Russia, and Putin is very keen to capitalise on this (Putin's visits to e.g. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in December 2023). Russia also tries to build an impression that the BRICS expansion is shifting the dividing line in the world, moving from the previous East-West divide to a confrontation between the countries of the affluent North and the developing Global South.

New Leadership and Russian Aspirations

On 1 January 2024, Russia assumed the presidency of BRICS. Putin announced this presidency will be held under the motto "strengthening multilateralism for equitable global development and security." Russia plans to cultivate partnerships in three areas: (1) politics and security, (2) economics and finance, and (3) cultural and humanitarian contacts. Putin also intends to enhance the coordination of member countries' foreign policies and undertake a „joint search for effective responses to challenges and threats to international and regional security and stability." The security threat in which Russia is currently showing great interest is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Putin seeks to use this war to undermine the Western-led world order. By adopting a pro-Palestinian stance and hosting a delegation from Hamas in Moscow, Russia aims to win over countries in the Global South that stand in solidarity with the Palestinians. Russia has also offered to become a mediator in the conflict and host a foreign minister meeting. Such actions are intended to diminish the global role and influence of the US, which Putin blames for the outbreak of the war, arguing the war is a result of Washington's policy. So, while BRICS has not and likely will not produce any concrete peace proposals or new stability formats for the world, Russia's involvement in the Middle East conflict is a challenge to Western countries. It gives Moscow a platform to use in reaching a global audience and gaining credibility in the eyes of the part of the international community. Putin seeks to shift the world's attention from the war in Ukraine to the one in the Middle East, stating, „When you look at the suffering and bloodied children (in Gaza), you clench your fists and tears come to your eyes".[5] Such words, being a reflection of hypocrisy (while at the same time, Russian rockets destroy apartment blocks in Ukraine), are intended to draw the world's attention to the suffering of Palestinians so that it forgets the war in Ukraine more quickly.

Other Russian plans for its presidency include the implementation of the BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy for 2025 and the Innovative Cooperation Action Plan for 2021-2024.[6] The BRICS Economic Partnership Strategy 2025 aims to enhance trade and economic cooperation among member countries. The document talks about reducing barriers to mutual trade in goods and services, improving supply chain connectivity, and strengthening investment links.[7] Significantly, the actions referred to in the Strategy could help Russia circumvent sanctions imposed on it by Western countries. Strengthening financial cooperation within BRICS can help Russia access capital and financial instruments, despite the restrictions imposed by economic sanctions. By increasing the number of trade agreements, Russia can also gain alternative trade channels and access to new markets.

Another task the Russian government has begun working on is the expansion of BRICS climate cooperation. According to Putin's order, the Cabinet of Ministers is tasked with submitting proposals for projects monitoring greenhouse gases and measuring the carbon balance of ecosystems by 3 June 2024— these will then be presented to the member states. Moscow's plans also aim to lay the groundwork for BRICS members to jointly develop scientific and technological solutions for mitigating human impact on the environment.[8] These initiatives may come as a surprise, as Russia is not a pro-environmental country (it is responsible for 4.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, ranking in this regard fourth after China the United States and India).[9] Nevertheless, Moscow recognises the growing climate-related problems in the South and wants to address them. For example, at the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai, Russian officials claimed that Russia was exploring whether some of its gold reserves that Western countries had frozen could be used to help the Global South fight climate change.[10] This is also a part of Russia's effort to seek new allies and emerge from international isolation.

One of the more high-profile topics that have been discussed for some time is the BRICS countries' goal to create their own currency for international settlements,[11] However, it is doubtful that significant progress was made in this regard.

Moreover, according to Putin's December 2023 press conference, Russia will dedicate its chairmanship of BRICS to building a fair world order, being an alternative to the Western one. Currently, nearly 30 countries are willing to join the bloc. These include Algeria, Bolivia, Indonesia, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Comoros, Gabon, and others for whom BRICS represents an alternative to the global institutions dominated by Western countries.[12] Belarus and Kazakhstan will be given membership priority because they are among Russia's closest partners.[13] In addition, Putin announced "the development of rules for a new category of BRICS partner states."[14]

In total, Russia plans to host more than 200 events at various levels, including political, cultural, and sporting events. For Russia, the BRICS chairmanship is, first and foremost, an opportunity to overcome its isolation on the international stage. One of the steps towards this goal is cooperation with Egypt, where Rosatom is constructing the first El-Dabaa nuclear power plant. On 23 January 2024, Putin and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attended an online ceremony to commemorate the pouring of concrete into the foundations of the fourth power unit.[15]

Bypassing International Sanctions by Russia

Another way for Russia to address its international isolation is to consistently navigate around the sanctions imposed by Western countries following Moscow's aggression in Ukraine. Initial export restrictions disrupted Russia's trade, forcing Moscow to search for loopholes. For example, after restrictions were imposed on the supply of US telecoms equipment and Cisco (a U.S. tech provider) halted sales, the Russian company Convex found a roundabout way to obtain the needed equipment. It utilised an e-commerce site called Nag, which circumvented international trade restrictions by purchasing US components through a network of suppliers in China. In this way, Russia managed to acquire basic telecommunications equipment, monitoring devices, microchips for advanced computers, weapons systems, and drones.

Another way to circumvent sanctions was through the use of transhipment. Countries like Morocco and Turkey received goods from global technology production centres at their ports and loaded them onto ships bound for Russia. Russian officials regularly exchanged information in emails about which ports they would use to transship goods or where they could repair their ships. Another electronics supply company, ProSoft, maintained a supply of Western technology through a little-known scrap company registered in Casablanca, Morocco. These included „nearly 300 products containing Intel chips, as well as components made by Nvidia and a computer chip optimised for artificial intelligence designed by Google".[16]

Russia also circumvented sanctions imposed on it by Taiwan. The restrictions, which have been in place since 2022, covered high-tech and dual-use (civil-military) technology goods, including semiconductors, aerospace and computer technology, lasers, and sensors. Despite the sanctions, Taiwan has become the main supplier of machine tools— the backbone of the manufacturing and military industries— to the Russian defence industry, as those purchased in the West have been restricted. Taiwanese electric discharge machines have also been supplied to Russia's Lebedev Physical Institute, which is subject to U.S. sanctions. Supplies of Taiwanese technology to Russia were routed through third countries such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The Economic Department of Taiwan's International Trade Administration reported a 16-fold increase in fines for supplying prohibited goods and technology to Russia and Belarus. The authorities also announced tighter controls on the supply of Taiwanese technology to Russia through third countries.[17]


  1. The decision to expand BRICS aims to create a "more representative" international system that is not as dominated by the West. It increases its potential politically, economically, and geopolitically on the international stage. At the same time, however, it should be kept in mind that BRICS is not entirely anti-Western, as some of its member states, such as India and Saudi Arabia, wish to maintain friendly relations with Western countries.
  2. Despite potential benefits, the expansion of BRICS poses new challenges for the group. The lack of formal character of the organisation and the differing foreign policy objectives of the members make decision-making and consensus-building difficult. Attaching so many different countries to the organisation could destroy it from within, causing it to lose its original identity. Additionally, internal conflicts among individual members may limit the effectiveness of the group's activities.
  3. The expansion of BRICS is seen as beneficial by Russia, as it enables Moscow to maintain friendly relations with member states and shifts the dividing line in the international arena. It also demonstrates that Russia is not isolated and can actively participate in global initiatives, which can be used as a tool to strengthen its position in the world.
  4. Russia is employing diverse and creative methods to circumvent sanctions imposed by the West. This allows Russia to maintain access to key technologies and prevent its isolation on the international stage. Increasing cooperation with BRICS countries and accepting new members is a way to avoid sanctions and isolation.
Author: Karolina Olszowy, external contributor

[1] 'Обращение Владимира Путина в связи с началом председательства России в БРИКС',, January 1, 2024,

[2] 'Russia assumes one-year rotating chairmanship of expanded BRICS from January 1', Tass, January 1, 2024,

[3] 'Argentina pulls out of plans to join Brics bloc', BBC News, December 29, 2023,

[4] 'Visualizing the BRICS Expansion in 4 Charts', Visual Capitalist, August 24, 2023,

[5] 'Russia's Putin tries to use Gaza war to his geopolitical advantage', Reuters, November 17, 2023,

[6] 'Обращение Владимира Путина в связи с началом председательства России в БРИКС',, January 1, 2024,

[7] 'Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025', BRICS Information Centre, November 2020,

[8] 'Правительство РФ проработает вопрос расширения климатического сотрудничества в БРИКС', TV BRICS, January 26, 2024,

[9] 'GHG emissions of all world countries', European Commission, 2023,

[10] 'Russia studying allocation of frozen gold reserves to Global South for climate change', The Kyiv Independent, December 10, 2023,

[11] 'BRICS Currency to Facilitate International Settlements: Glazyev', Telesur, October 24, 2023,

[12] 'What is BRICS, which countries want to join and why?', Reuters, August 22, 2023,

[13] 'МИД РФ: Москва уделит особое внимание Беларуси и Казахстану при расширении БРИКС', Анадолу, August 25, 2023,мир/мид-рф-москва-уделит-особое-внимание-беларуси-и-казахстану-при-расширении-брикс/2976084

[14] 'Обращение Владимира Путина в связи с началом председательства России в БРИКС',, January 1, 2024,

[15] 'РФ и Египет запустят новый этап строительства атомной электростанции', TV BRICS, January 23, 2024,

[16] 'Chinese Traders and Moroccan Ports: How Russia Flouts Global Tech Bans', The New York Times, December 19, 2023,

[17] '《報導者》獨家調查:台灣工具機流入俄羅斯軍工業和核子物理研究所', The Reporter, January 23, 2024,

                Institutionalizing BRICS: a treacherous path (Институционализация БРИКС: коварный путь) / Russia, February, 2024
                Keywords: expert_opinion

                Institutionalizing BRICS: a treacherous path
                Against the backdrop of a sizeable expansion in BRICS membership, debates have intensified over the expediency of the bloc's institutionalization to cope with the rising complexity in its operations. In particular, calls have been voiced on the desirability of a permanent secretariat and headquarters to be established so that BRICS becomes a full-fledged international organization that operates in continuous mode rather than a network platform that focusses on the BRICS annual summits. And just like the expansion of the bloc, BRICS institutionalization harbors opportunities as well as notable risks. Arguably, the most important near-term goal for the BRICS needs to target the full use of the networking and aggregating potential of the current agile platform. This, however, calls for innovative approaches to building economic linkages within the BRICS+ circle – mere imitation of rigid and outdated institutional frameworks is fraught with lower development momentum and inefficient use of resources.
                In some respects, there may be a case for greater institutionalization of BRICS via creating a permanent secretariat and administrative bodies that ensure a continuous coordination of economic and financial policies of member countries. Thus far, BRICS key meetings center on the annual summits of the member countries' leaders with one of the very few tangible institutional platforms to support continuous economic/financial cooperation being the New development Bank (NDB). Furthermore, the recent case of Saudi Arabia signaling ambivalence concerning its entry into BRICS highlights the risks of a framework that is at times too flexible and not quite as rigorous in outlining and enforcing the rules of the grouping. On the other hand, the downside of a concerted move towards institutionalization is the pile-up of the "bureaucratic overhang", lower agility and flexibility in decision-making, greater scope and costs of tensions amid expanding membership.
                But before member countries grapple with the risks and opportunities offered by the bloc's institutionalization, it may make more sense to focus on deriving maximum benefits from the flexible network that is in operation currently. To be sure, thus far there has been limited headway in exploiting the opportunities for creating new economic platforms and generating network effects across the BRICS+ space. This is particularly the case with respect to regional platforms that across the developing world have already amassed sizeable resources and capabilities exceeding those of the global multilateral institutions – within the BRICS+ context such regional platforms may include:
                Platform for regional development banks (RDBs)
                Platform for regional financing arrangements (RFAs)
                Platform for regional integration/trading arrangements (RTAs)
                There is also scope for other types of platforms with powerful network effects in finance:
                Platform for sovereign wealth funds (SWFs)
                Platforms bringing together the exchanges and regulators of the BRICS+ circle
                Energy sustainability platform to coordinate policies on sustainable development and energy production/use
                Pooling existing BRICS+ resources is superior to creating new institutions, funds and organizations. Firstly, pooling lowers the risks of duplication and the inefficient use of resources – rather than struggling to dole out additional funds from their (at times ailing) budgets, the BRICS+ economies may simply resort to directing their existing regional and national development institutions and reserves towards priority economic objectives. The recent proposal to create a new BRICS Investment Fund is a case in point[1] – while there may be merits in having a stronger institutional framework for BRICS+ investment cooperation, such an initiative risks duplicating some of the functions of the New Development Bank (NDB), while also requiring additional budgetary allocations from members. A platform that brings together the SWFs of the Global South would generate far more resources with lower if any costs.
                The pooling of regional resources and reserves across the Global South may be instrumental not only in forming platforms of financing priority development tracks – such a strategy may also enable BRICS economies to address some of the key gaps in the economic development of the Global South. These "anomalies/disconnects/paradoxes" include the notable degree of under-trading (below potential as indicated by gravity model estimates) among the leading BRICS economies and their respective regional partners, the sizeable under-trading (again in line with gravity model indications) in South-South trade; the Lucas paradox (capital flows largely flowing from the Global South to the developed world rather than vice versa). Bringing together existing regional undertakings of BRICS economies may also deliver an important impulse to further developing these regional platforms and rendering South-South economic cooperation in trade and investment more structured and balanced.
                In the end, imitation always produces a sub-par version of the original. Rather than merely following the route charted by international organizations and traditional alliances led by developed economies, the BRICS need to innovate in making use of the opportunities offered by platforms that pool existing resources with strong network effects. After all, the current trends in the global economy are characterized by the rise of platforms that prove to be more agile and competitive than traditional corporate structures. While greater institutionalization may be something to explore in the longer term, the near-term exigencies have to do with bringing together the main economic building blocs from the Global South (most notably the regional integration arrangements and their regional development institutions) into closer cooperation with each other. Otherwise, excessive and premature zeal in forging ahead with institutionalization harbors the risks of BRICS and BRICS+ veering off-track into self-aggrandizement and inefficiency.
                              Investment and Finance
                              Investment and finance in BRICS
                              BRICS nations to see highest surge in millionaire count over the next decade — exceed the rise in G7 countries (В странах БРИКС в ближайшее десятилетие ожидается самый высокий рост числа миллионеров, что превысит рост в странах «Большой семерки») / USA, February, 2024
                              Keywords: economic_challenges

                              • The BRICS economic coalition of emerging markets is about to see an 85% surge in millionaire count over the next decade, far exceeding any other group of nations.
                              • The Group of Seven (G7) is expected to see the number of millionaires in the region increase by 45% over the same period.

                              (L to R) Brazil's President Michel Temer, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, China's President Xi Jinping, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi pose for a group photo during the BRICS Summit on September 4, 2017.
                              Wu Hong | Afp | Getty Images
                              Millionaire population in the BRICS countries will see a substantial surge over the next decade contributing to the largest increase in wealth across any group of nations, according to a recent report by Henley & Partners.

                              Millionaire count in the BRICS countries — which together hold $45 trillion in investable wealth — is forecast to rise by 85% over the next 10 years, the investment migration consultancy noted in its report published in partnership with global intelligence firm New World Wealth.

                              The BRICS bloc, which is composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, has expanded to include Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates this year, with Saudi Arabia also set to join the bloc.

                              Currently, there are 1.6 million individuals with investable assets of more than a million in the group.

                              The 85% forecast for BRICS will be the highest wealth growth of any bloc or region globally.
                              Andrew Amolis
                              WEALTH ANALYST AT NEW WORLD WEALTH
                              "The 85% forecast for BRICS will be the highest wealth growth of any bloc or region globally," Andrew Amolis, wealth analyst at New World Wealth told CNBC.

                              In comparison, the Group of Seven (G7), which held $110 trillion in investable wealth as of December 2023, is expected to see the number of millionaires in the region increase by 45% over the next decade, data provided by Amolis showed.

                              The G7 is a coalition of the world's advanced economies, comprising Canada, France, Japan, Italy, the U.S., United Kingdom and the European Union.

                              ″[BRICS is] challenging the world order and establishing itself as a powerful rival to the G7 and other international institutions," Henley & Partners' Managing Partner and Head of Southeast Asia, Dominic Volek, said during a webcast presentation.

                              India is leading the charge in wealth expansion, with an estimated 110% jump in wealth per capita by 2033, followed by Saudi Arabia, where per capita wealth is forecast to expand by over 105% across the same period. UAE is poised for a 95% growth, while China and Ethiopia's wealth is expected to grow 85% and 75%, respectively.

                              In the past decade, China's private wealth expansion led the charge among the BRICS countries with a staggering 92% growth, while India came in second at 85% expansion over the same timespan. The UAE followed in third place with a 77% wealth growth.

                              Other members in the BRICS coalition, such as South Africa and Iran, have seen a decline in their millionaire populations since 2013.
                                            Egypt will urge trade in national currencies within BRICS: Sisi's representative to bloc (Египет будет призывать к торговле в национальных валютах в рамках БРИКС: представитель Сиси в блоке) / Egypt, February, 2024
                                            Keywords: economic_challenges

                                            El-Etreby indicated that dealing in national currencies would alleviate the rising costs of using foreign currencies as a result of the high global inflation.

                                            The ambassador said he has been directed by the presidency to promote industrial, agricultural and service cooperation between the bloc's nations.

                                            El-Etreby is the assistant foreign minister for international and regional economic affairs.

                                            Global economy at crossroads

                                            He highlighted that the global economy is at a crossroads in light of the severe and successive international crises over the past four years, which have had unprecedented repercussions on the economies of developing nations.

                                            Egypt officially became a member of the BRICS bloc of major emerging economies in January. This year, Russia is chairing the alliance, which now compromises 10 countries following its expansion during the 15th BRICS summit last August.

                                            The BRICS states are actively seeking to deepen trade among themselves in local currencies to avoid dollar exchange rate fluctuations.

                                            Last August, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called for creating a common BRICS currency for trade and investment.

                                            Egypt has long maintained strong trade relations with many BRICS countries, including Russia, India, China, and Brazil, the founders of the bloc.

                                            BRICS also includes South Africa, Ethiopia, Iran, and the UAE.

                                            Official data from 2022 and 2023 shows that Egypt's trade exchange with BRICS members, including both founding and new members, amounts to $46.673 billion, which is more than one-third of the country's total external trade.

                                            Engaging in G20 meetings

                                            El-Etreby also assumed responsibility as the personal representative of the Egyptian president at the Group of 20 (G20).

                                            During the G20 meetings, Egypt will seek to highlight the priority issues in Egypt, Africa, and other developing nations, El-Etreby stated.

                                            Among these topics will be enhancing food and energy security, developing international debt governance, ensuring international financing for development, and reforming the multilateral financial, monetary, and trade system.

                                            El-Etreby said that the members of each of the G20 and BRICS believe that Egypt has a clear vision and contribution to ensure multilateral economic reform.

                                            In December, the Brazilian government invited Egypt to participate as a guest in all G20 meetings during Brazil's presidency of the group, which started in December and will last for one year.

                                            Egypt's participation in the G20 meetings is the fourth of its kind since the establishment of the group and the second in a row after Egypt participated in the previous G20 meetings upon an invitation from the Indian presidency.

                                            The 2024 G20 summit will take place in Rio de Janeiro's Museum of Modern Art on November 18-19.

                                                          Political Events
                                                          Political events in the public life of BRICS
                                                          Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks and answers to questions during Government Hour at the State Duma of the Federal Assembly, Moscow, February 14, 2024 (Выступление и ответы на вопросы Министра иностранных дел С.В.Лаврова в ходе «правительственного часа» в Государственной Думе Федерального Собрания, Москва, 14 февраля 2024 года) / Russia, February, 2024
                                                          Keywords: ergey_lavrov, speech

                                                          Mr Volodin,

                                                          Members of the State Duma,


                                                          I am glad to once again appear before you during Government Hour.

                                                          Staying relevant and up to date is essential for the Foreign Ministry, our staff and for me personally. We need to be keenly aware of what is going on in Russian society and feel the aspirations of the people you represent in the Russian parliament.

                                                          The core mission guiding our efforts remains unchanged. It consists of creating favourable and secure conditions and enabling the country to steadily advance, while also strengthening its sovereignty and improving the quality of life for our people. Approved by President of Russia Vladimir Putin in March 2023, the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation sets forth this objective.

                                                          The Foreign Ministry maintains a regular, meaningful dialogue of genuine camaraderie with the Federal Assembly, its chambers, committees and commissions. In December 2023, I took part in yet another Government Hour and addressed the Russian senators. On January 31, 2024, I attended the joint meeting of the State Duma Committee on International Affairs, the Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Contacts with Compatriots, as well as the Oversight Committee, here in the building on Okhotny Ryad. Working closely with you and getting this kind of feedback makes Russian diplomacy more effective and helps us maintain a uniform foreign policy as defined and inspired by our President.

                                                          The Foreign Ministry remains committed to assisting the Russian parliamentarians in their international undertakings. We will take part in the International Inter-Party Forum of Supporters of Combatting Modern Practices of Neo-Colonialism, to be held on February 15-17 in Moscow at the initiative of the United Russia party.

                                                          As for our overall assessment of global developments, you know our main approaches quite well. President Vladimir Putin has articulated them with total clarity, most recently during his interview with Tucker Carlson. What we see is escalating tensions, but the Russian Federation did not initiate this. The tensions are primarily the result of the stubborn refusal of the US-led collective West to give up its claims to global dominance and exceptional status, and its attempts to impose an unviable unipolar world order on the international community.

                                                          Through its short-sighted policies, the Western minority is actually waging a hybrid war against everyone pursuing foreign and domestic policies that are based on their national interests and international law, and reluctant to obediently integrate into the "rules-based order" invented by the West for the purposes of neo-colonial domination.

                                                          The choice made by President Vladimir Putin, supported by Russia's political class and the entire nation, in favour of defending Russia's vital interests, has placed our country at the forefront of the struggle for a better future for the entire world. Washington and its allies continue to seek to inflict a strategic defeat on us. However, lately, seeing the Russian army's progress in the Ukrainian theatre of operations, the West changed its rhetoric to "not letting Vladimir Putin win" rather than winning themselves. But the essence remains unchanged.

                                                          In our work, we are guided by a belief that Russia's security, including that of the new Russian regions' population, the life, honour, dignity, rights and interests of our citizens will be reliably ensured, and the goals of the special military operation will be achieved.

                                                          As President of Russia Vladimir Putin stressed in his interview with Tucker Carlson, we remain open to a political and diplomatic settlement based on our legitimate interests and the developments of the past years that have led to the present situation. Given the lack of serious proposals from those who declared war on us, and their unwillingness to consider our interests or the realities on the ground, reaching an agreement at the negotiating table remains unlikely. There are no viable options.

                                                          The United States is taking the same destructive approach to the Middle East as the Ukrainian issue. Their long-term attempts to monopolise the role of mediator in the Middle East have caused the situation there to spiral out of control (as we are witnessing now), a sharp escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip, and a very real threat that this strategically important region will be destabilised.

                                                          Unhealthy trends are also observed in the Asia-Pacific region, where Washington, with the help of its satellites, is trying to impose not only a logic of bloc-based confrontation, but also NATO infrastructure. By destabilising region after region, the Americans are trying to "control chaos," but they don't really know what they are doing. As President Vladimir Putin noted at the plenary session of the World Russian People's Council on November 28, 2023, "We can frankly say that the dictatorship of the sole hegemon is becoming decrepit.… It is getting out of control and is simply dangerous for others." We see confirmation of this every day.

                                                          We are joined by our numerous foreign partners in the belief that the West's attempts to perpetuate its one-sided privileges in international affairs do not stand a chance. For many decades now, the main trend in global development is the development of a multipolar and fairer world, which will ensure the realisation of the nations' natural right to a free choice of their future and development paths. This trend is evident in the rise and growth of new centres of power in Eurasia, on the Pacific and in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Individual states and their associations have highlighted their independence by implementing their decisions. They stand for making international relations more democratic and for ensuring that the whole of humankind rather than the "golden billion" alone and its Western elites take advantage of the material and intellectual resources of our planet.

                                                          In the context of growing mutual understanding with regard to the image of the future with the Global South and East, it is logical that the Western minority's plans of isolating Russia and creating a sanitary cordon around it have not materialised. Even the initiators of these anti-Russia plans had to admit this. However, it is obvious that the potential of their hostility has not been exhausted by far, and that they will continue to increase pressure on us and our allies, using not only the Kiev regime for this purpose but also a broad range of hybrid war instruments in the economy, finance, media, culture and sports. We can see this every day.

                                                          We must have a clear view of our ill-wishers' intentions and related challenges for our country. We will rely on our Foreign Policy Concept to carry on a sovereign foreign policy, which has proved its viability, primarily when it comes to effectively defending our national interests and promoting a really mutually beneficial international cooperation in a number of different formats.

                                                          The hostile policy of the collective West is not only creating threats but is also creating additional opportunities for our activities in various regions based on the importance of strengthening multilateral ties with our closest neighbours and with the Global South and East. These sentiments are shared by the countries of the Global Majority, which have expressed a sincere desire to develop relations with us on the basis of equality, respect for each other's interests and efforts to balance them, regardless of the relentless and sometimes off-the-charts pressure the US and EU bring to bear on our partners.

                                                          Continuing to expand our multifaceted partnerships with our closest Eurasian neighbours remains our unconditional priority. Russia will use its CIS chairmanship this year to address this task. Launching the International Russian Language Organisation established under CIS auspices at the initiative of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan is among our top priorities.

                                                          Under Russia's chairmanship, the EAEU received a significant boost in 2023, and a common vision for economic processes within the EAEU to 2030 and beyond until 2045 was coordinated. The EAEU is broadening its external relations. Recent successes include the signing of a comprehensive free trade agreement with Iran in December 2023.

                                                          Strategic partnership and integration within the Union State of Russia and Belarus, the 25th anniversary of which we will celebrate this year, continue to make advances.

                                                          In conjunction with our allies, we are reinforcing the capability of the CSTO as the key regional defence entity that is responsible for ensuring the security of its member states and maintaining stability in Eurasia. The purpose of the CSTO is to form a new architecture of continental security in Eurasia. An international conference convened by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk in October 2023 addressed these matters. This theme holds much promise and aligns well with modern geopolitical trends. We plan to discuss Eurasian security at various international forums this year.

                                                          Expanding ties with our partners, friends, and like-minded countries in Greater Eurasia is also among our top priorities. Comprehensive strategic partnership with China plays a crucial stabilising role in international affairs. Bilateral trade is growing at record-breaking speed. This year, together with our Chinese friends, we will mark the 75th anniversary of the diplomatic relations, which are at their highest level in history and rely on an intensive and trust-based dialogue between our leaders, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of the PRC Xi Jinping.

                                                          Our particularly privileged strategic partnership with India is making strides. Last year, it got a boost from the significant growth in bilateral trade and systematic efforts to advance energy, military, and defence cooperation, as well as contacts within the SCO and the G20, both of which India chaired in 2023.

                                                          Mutually beneficial ties with the Middle East and North Africa have reached new heights. Political dialogue with many of them goes hand in hand with a major expansion of trade, economic, and investment ties. We plan to continue facilitating the political and diplomatic resolution of numerous issues and conflicts in this strategically important region.

                                                          Positive dynamics are observed in our cooperation with ASEAN, Iran, and Türkiye. They are our partners in building international relations that are free of diktat, threats, and interference in other countries' domestic affairs.

                                                          We have teamed up with our African friends to implement the agreements reached at the 2nd Russia-Africa Summit held in St Petersburg in July 2023. A ministerial conference of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum is planned to be held in the second half of this year with the participation of foreign ministers and heads of executive bodies of integration associations from Africa. We are working to expand our diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian presence in Africa which is called upon to become an important pole in the emerging multipolar world.

                                                          We are strengthening versatile ties with Latin American states and multilateral organisations. Interparliamentary contacts are contributing to our joint efforts. The Russia-Latin America 1st International Parliamentary Conference, held in Moscow under the aegis of the State Duma in early October 2023, deserves high praise. A similar forum devoted to cooperation with African legislators took place in the spring of 2023. It is a useful undertaking. We discussed further plans on promoting international parliamentary cooperation before the start of the current meeting.

                                                          We continue actively working within the UN, including as part of the effective Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter. During its 78th session, the UN General Assembly adopted a traditional Russian resolution on countering the glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism. This theme is becoming particularly relevant in light of the events in Ukraine and other parts of Europe – in NATO and EU countries.

                                                          We will continue to actively use the UN platform to draw the attention of the international community to the disastrous consequences of the policy pursued by the US-led collective West in international affairs. Western countries are disregarding fundamental principles of international law and the agreements they themselves signed, and then publicly refused to fulfil. This applies to UN resolutions on the creation of a Palestinian state, a decision of the Security Council on the settlement of Iran's nuclear programme and the now defunct Minsk Agreements on Donbass. The latter were initially approved by the UN Security Council and later trampled on by Kiev with the approval of its Western patrons.

                                                          We are actively working within the G20, which remains an important mechanism for coordinating positions in the economy and finance. Together with the Global South, we continue countering attempts by the Western minority to turn the G20 into an instrument to pursue its own narrow objectives, including the ukrainianisation of its agenda. This is our position during the preparations for the G20 foreign ministers' meeting due to take place in Rio de Janeiro on February 22-23.

                                                          I would like to separately mention Russia's chairmanship of the expanded BRICS, which started on January 1, 2024. Its theme is Strengthening Multilateralism for Equitable Global Development and Security. Today, BRICS is one of the key pillars of the emerging multipolar world. We are doing all we can to make sure that the expanded association continues to strengthen its position as a reliable and effective representative of the Global Majority's interests. We are working on instituting categories within BRICS, thereby fulfilling a relevant instruction from the leaders of the Five, which was approved at the summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, last year.

                                                          Russia will hold a number of major events with the participation of parliamentarians as part of its current BRICS chairmanship. We attach much importance to these functions, including the BRICS Parliamentary Forum scheduled for July 11- 12 in St. Petersburg.

                                                          The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation functions based on the same principles of equality, openness and non-directedness against anyone. The SCO is the core element of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. Let me remind you that the new version of Russia's Foreign Policy Concept gives President Vladimir Putin's initiative the status of a medium-term "flagship project." For it to be put into effect, it is vital to implement the agreements on aligning the EAEU processes with advances in the context of China's Belt and Road initiative.

                                                          We also pay much attention to tapping the potential of cultural, public, and people's diplomacy. Our special focus is on promoting the status of the Russian language. A fine platform in this sense is the International Organisation for the Russian Language I have mentioned. We will continue to support the International Russophile Movement established in March 2023. This informal association of people, who live on different continents, feel spiritual and cultural affinity with Russia, and gravitate towards our history, values and traditions, will hold its second global congress in Moscow on February 26-27.

                                                          Our absolute priorities include the need to protect the rights of Russian citizens abroad. In 2023, we organised the evacuation of Russians from the zones of current and potential crises and conflicts. We must be permanently ready for this effort, given the unbalanced situation in the world, a situation fraught with new crises.

                                                          On March 15-17, the presidential election will be held in Russia, amid the unprecedented Russophobic campaign unleashed in the West. The Foreign Ministry and Russian foreign missions are doing everything they can to ensure that the voting abroad is extremely well organised and that our nationals can exercise their constitutional rights. We are working closely with the Central Election Commission. We will certainly assist international observer delegations from friendly countries who will arrive in Russia for the election, including in the territories reunited with Russia.

                                                          Several major humanitarian, cultural and sport events will organically complement our positive international agenda. They include the World Youth Festival ( Sochi, March 1-7, 2024), Games of the Future and BRICS Games, the Intervision song contest, film festivals and many others. The Foreign Ministry will make every effort to demonstrate Russian hospitality to our foreign guests as we did in 2014 during the Olympic Games in Sochi, and in 2018 when Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup.


                                                          As President Vladimir Putin has noted repeatedly, including during the plenary session of the World Russian People's Council on November 28, 2023, "without a sovereign and strong Russia, no lasting and stable international system is possible." The Foreign Ministry will continue to help strengthen Russia's sovereignty, ensuring national security and creating the most favourable conditions for the country's development, using political and diplomatic means.

                                                          We are always open to cooperation with the State Duma, willing to engage all existing formats of dialogue. We hope for reciprocity from the State Duma, the parliamentary parties and all Russian parliamentarians. We value our cooperation, which genuinely helps us to solve foreign political tasks set by President Vladimir Putin, more effectively through joint efforts.

                                                          Question: I would like to thank you and your team for our joint work and our successful track record. The CIS Council of Heads of State designated the year 2025 as the year of the 80th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War against the Nazis. Our team has collected history textbooks from across the CIS and reviewed them. In the process, we found that the way they describe the course of the Great Patriotic War is riddled with serious distortions. The President of Russia spoke out many times about the need to form a single educational space within the CIS, which entails writing unified history textbooks describing the past that we all have in common, including during the years of the Great Patriotic War. To pay tribute to the Great Victory, we have a duty to prevent political facts from being falsified or distorted, while preserving the legacy, which came at such a high price for us.

                                                          In this connection, what do you think about the proposal to have the Russian parliament and the Foreign Ministry set up a joint commission for promoting the idea of creating a single textbook on the history of the Great Patriotic War for CIS countries?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: The effort to compile a plan of events to be submitted to the Government of Russia for approval is about to be completed. They will take place in 2025 to mark 80 years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. Preserving the historical memory and defending the historical truth from efforts to distort it, which are becoming increasingly frequent and aggressive, will feature prominently among the plan's key objectives.

                                                          The CIS has established an International Association (Commission) of CIS Historians and Archivists. Its mission consists of coordinating matters dealing with our joint efforts. This was already a step in the right direction. In addition to this, the Union State has a corresponding commission on history with its own expert council. They are already publishing materials and other publications on this topical subject. As for parliaments in all our countries, they play an instrumental role in advancing state approaches on sensitive matters for our voters.

                                                          I think that there is a lot of potential for stepping up our cooperation on historical matters and defending the historical truth, or should I say for further enhancing these efforts, since they are already underway.

                                                          As for creating a joint commission, as a matter of principle I am always willing to go down this road. What matters the most for me here is that the commission's creation should not infringe upon our substantive efforts. What we need is to work closely together. I suggest that we give this idea a thought as part of our regular contacts. Of course, this is a very important topic, so coordinating our efforts in any form or format, be it within a commission or in any other framework, matters greatly. I think that this is the way it should be.

                                                          Question: In your opinion, is there a need to restore the practices when it was the Foreign Ministry's Main Administration for Service to the Diplomatic Corps – GlavUpDK – which was tasked with appointing administrative and technical staff to the embassies of unfriendly countries? This is how the embassies filled all these vacancies back in the Soviet era. This way, we knew who was recruited to fill these positions and how, as well as who these people were. It was also the Main Administration for Diplomatic Corps Services which paid their salaries. However, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, unfriendly countries, and especially the Anglo-Saxons and the Brits, defaulted to hiring gardeners, cooks, and drivers who all performed sensitive tasks, including in their confidential conversations with our nationals. I think that that it is high time that we put these people in their place and force them to go through our structures when recruiting people for these positions.

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: There is indeed some urgency when it comes to this matter. We have been working on it since the start of the special military operation, when the West started expelling our staff by the hundreds, all the while hoping to be able to continue operating in Russia by relying on their local staff.

                                                          The decision to terminate these practices was taken a long time ago. Today, we count locally recruited staff towards the overall quota when it comes to restoring or ensuring that we have parity in the number of people working in our respective diplomatic missions. Some Western countries had hundreds of local staff members working for them, to the tune of 300 to 400 people. But we have put an end to these practices by including locally recruited staff in the overall quota. This way, those who abused these practices had to terminate many of these employment contracts.

                                                          However, the decisions we have taken to this effect do not prevent them from signing contracts for the provision of labour with legal entities. We have arrangements of this kind in the Russian Federation, which, again, makes it impossible for us to know who serves as a gardener or a cook there, and what they do. Your remark is valid. We believe that our laws must prevent foreign missions from acting as employers.

                                                          As you have said, having the Main Administration for Diplomatic Corps Services fill in this role would make sense. First, it would satisfy the legitimate need for obtaining human resources. Second, this would prevent any abuses like the ones you have mentioned. In fact, we are proactive on this matter and have already articulated our position, saying that instead of operating on the labour market as an employer, the British Embassy in the Russian Federation and its Consulate General in Yekaterinburg must find common ground with the Main Administration for Diplomatic Corps Services.

                                                          Question: It has been proposed to hold a Eurasian Olympiad in the Russian language for schoolchildren, in which talented children from the CIS member states would participate. Winners will be able to enrol as state-subsidised students at the universities of their choice without taking entrance exams. The most talented young people from the CIS countries will be able to receive university education in Russia and Russian students in the CIS countries. The Eurasian Olympiad can become an effective instrument of creating a common education environment in the CIS. What do you think about this initiative?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: In terms of the interests for which the Foreign Ministry is responsible, I wholeheartedly support such foreign policy initiatives and the strengthening of friendship, cooperation and neighbourly relations with our closest neighbours and friendly countries on all continents. It is a good idea. As for its implementation, other agencies should contribute to this, namely the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The more opportunities are created for exchanges with colleagues on the international stage, especially between young people, the better. If you need official assistance, we will provide it.

                                                          Question: The bodies of state authority, NGOs and public organisations, and the foundations that are promoting the Russian language and a positive image of Russia abroad have been working in a consolidated manner. Rossotrudnichestvo and the Ministry of Education used the system of grants to set up 69 open education centres in the Russian language in 56 countries. But there is no legal framework formalising their legal status.

                                                          Would you and the authorised education agencies support the idea of developing a single concept of open education centres in the Russian language abroad as an instrument of Russia's foreign policy? We believe that his initiative must have a legal framework.

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: The Foreign Ministry, which has many objectives in the humanitarian area, is responsible for implementing and coordinating the comprehensive state programme for the support and promotion of the Russian language abroad. We are aware of the many instruments that can be used to achieve this objective, including other programmes on the Russian language abroad, and the work of various funds like Russky Mir and Rossotrudnichestvo. As you have pointed out correctly, much is being done but we want to do more, especially considering the interest in the Russian language out there.

                                                          I am not ready to endorse the idea of a single legal framework, and here is why. Legislations regarding Russian-language schools and the teaching of Russian differ even within the CIS. There are no limitations in some countries, where a Russian teaching programme and methods can be used and even encouraged. In other countries this calls for adjusting this to the requirements of the national legislation.

                                                          I think there can be problems with developing universal legislation. Some countries have Russian Science and Culture Centres, Rossotrudnichestvo offices, schools work in accordance with intergovernmental agreements and Russky Mir centres at universities and other educational establishments. In most cases, the work of these mechanisms aimed at promoting the Russian language is adjusted to the local legislation.

                                                          To formulate a clear answer to your proposal, we should probably hold consultations with the other agencies responsible for providing these educational services abroad. Don't expect an immediate verbal answer even when you formulate your initiative in practical terms. There will have to be a discussion of your views on the matter. We are open to a discussion.

                                                          Question: The Parliamentary Commission on Investigation of the Crimes Committed by the Kiev Regime Against Minors has been in operation since last year. We are increasingly seeing cases of children being lured into extremist activities, with a destructive ideology implanted in their minds. Unfortunately, this evil has been confirmed by our fellow parliamentarians from other countries. We have discussed this issue with parliamentarians from Latin America. We see Kiev terrorists stepping up attacks on our children. Our suggestion is that we should, jointly with the Foreign Ministry, present new mechanisms for protecting children to the international community and create a working group to develop new international legal tools to oppose the involvement of children in extremist activities.

                                                          In conclusion, I want to thank you and all colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, Vasily Nebenzya, and all those who have worked with us throughout this period to investigate the Kiev regime's crimes against minors.

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: This is a very important topic. As you know, there are pro-active attempts to exploit this issue in an unscrupulous and unethical manner. Our ill-wishers have forced the International Criminal Court to launch a relevant investigation. We all know what machinations were employed in the process. We are responding, along with our colleagues from the parliament and representatives of other federal agencies, including Presidential Commissioner for Children's Rights Maria Lvova-Belova. We are fighting back against hostile propaganda. There is the Foreign Ministry's Maxim Grigoryev, who promotes non-governmental formats dealing with the crimes committed by the Kiev regime. Rodion Miroshnik is now Ambassador at Large for this issue on the Foreign Ministry staff. It is important to establish coordination, given the plethora of mechanisms and formats at the level of the executive authorities and taking into consideration the State Duma's interest, preparedness, and, most importantly, ability to make a contribution. How should this be done? I see no great problems with creating working groups. We will certainly consider this proposal, if you also formulate your vision of this mechanism and its potential value-added.

                                                          I know that parliamentarians, including the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, have taken part in drafting model laws, including laws against extremism and terrorism. The UN has also been developing laws on this subject with the participation of Russian parliamentary experts and in cooperation with Qatar. We regularly explain at the UN Security Council about the problems of children in Ukraine-occupied territories and children evacuated from the zone of hostilities. The next open debate on Children and Armed Conflict will take place in June. There is a special mission over there which we also work with. I am in favour of coordination. How shall we get it all lined up? Let's discuss it.

                                                          Question: Many African countries have come to realise that the dollar zone and the IMF rules are tools of neo-colonialism that help the golden billion nations to extract rents from natural resource-producing countries. Their "prescriptions" are always carbon copies: creating a national wealth fund run by the sovereign funds, plunging governments into debt (with profits from the mined resources sent to the West and national budget deficits covered by loans), and imposing a tax system in the interests of transnational corporations. These countries are turning in hope towards Russia. This situation can be characterised by the saying "physician, heal thyself." Regrettably, we continue to follow many of these "prescriptions" and this works against our efforts as a nation leading others towards a just economic world order. What is your take on this?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: This topic is being actively discussed, including as part of political science formats and televised talk shows, as well as online, and in social media. But it is necessary to understand what tasks we are setting ourselves.

                                                          According to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, our strategic priority related to national security, socioeconomic development, and the wellbeing of our people is to put an end to dependence on the discredited mechanisms that the US-led West has controlled for years.

                                                          President Putin's interview with Tucker Carlson contains details on how he views the decision by the United States to turn the dollar into a tool of its hybrid war against Russia and how this has shattered America's reputation as a reliable partner in international economics and finances. More and more countries today are giving thought to whether they should predicate the development of their economic and financial systems on the heavily weaponised US currency.

                                                          The de-dollarisation is in full swing. We are doing this on the bilateral basis: approximately 90 percent with the People's Republic of China, nearly 50 percent with India, and similar figures in trade with Iran and many other countries. The transition to national currencies will continue, as will the multilateral efforts to shape regional and global mechanisms that will make it possible to use alternative forms of payments.

                                                          The participants in the BRICS Summit held on August 22-24, 2023, instructed their central banks and finance ministries to prepare recommendations on alternative payments platforms by the next summit to be held in Kazan in October of this year. It is important that the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance of Russia as agencies representing the current BRICS Chairmanship promote this matter more aggressively.

                                                          It is impossible, overnight, to get rid of what has been created over decades and still strongly influences, if to a smaller degree, the world economy and finances. But in any event, we must move in this direction. This goal has been proclaimed in Russia's national documents, as well as by BRICS, and other organisations of the Global Majority.

                                                          Question: Yesterday, the State Duma discussed the prospects of Russia suspending its participation in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and backing out of the membership fee payment programme, because, through the efforts of Western countries, the assembly has ceased to be a platform for bringing the countries' positions closer and no longer makes its own decisions. The EU and NATO parliamentarians use this organisation to promote their own geopolitical interests.

                                                          The Assembly's rules significantly differ from the procedures adopted by the OSCE which makes decisions by consensus. Russia can block harmful initiatives and make known its position on a wide range of issues. What does the future hold for the intergovernmental segment of the OSCE? Will the organisation hold its ground amid the intensifying confrontation with the West? What platforms will we use to manage confrontation? If we act decisively in these matters, what is the likelihood of our allies following our lead and leaving Westerners to stew in their own juice?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: I met with Vyacheslav Volodin and his deputies today to discuss our membership in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. The situation is outrageous. First, they are pushing to strip our delegation of the right to vote. On earlier occasions, they withheld visas when the Parliamentary Assembly met outside Vienna, which is the OSCE headquarters. The United Kingdom and other countries failed to issue visas as well. The attempts to explain these moves as part of the national decision on sanctions hold no water. If a country has undertaken to host a conference of an international organisation with the participation of a particular country, it is under an obligation to issue visas to every participant.

                                                          Second, you mentioned the principle of consensus that the OSCE abides by, which is true. However, the allegation that it allows us to block the decisions that we find objectionable is not. The West is using every tool in the box to promote off-budget unregulated projects. We stand strongly for properly regulating this area and the OSCE ODIHR activities. We fought for this for decades.

                                                          At a time when Russia has to use the consensus rule to block budget appropriations to fund openly unilateral anti-Russian projects, or projects aimed at achieving other unseemly goals in neighbouring countries, the West takes advantage of the lack of a legal framework to fund off-budget projects with an overtly confrontational angle. There is no ceiling whatsoever. The off-budget projects can exceed the OSCE's regular budgets. In order to overcome this, we will need to oppose the steps taken by acting chairs, the Secretary General, and heads of various mechanisms, who must speak publicly based exclusively on the member states' collective stance. In reality, they do the opposite and unilaterally side with the West.

                                                          Regarding withdrawal from the OSCE, this matter has not yet been discussed, but is hanging in the air. Whether our allies will follow us is a different matter, but their position must be fully taken into account.

                                                          Question: My question is about the Transnistria-Moldova region which is an area of geostrategic and geopolitical interests to the Russian Federation and other global centres. The situation there is fairly complex. On the one hand, there is Romania (a NATO member) and, on the other hand, there is the Odessa Region, Ukraine and the unrecognised Transnistrian Moldovan Republic that is blocked on all sides.

                                                          The youth in the Republic of Moldova has been the subject of special attention for decades now. Many have received their university diplomas in Romania and even hold dual citizenship. Much ideological and mental work is done with the participation of non-profit organisations, among others. What does the future hold for Russia-Moldova relations? How will the unrecognised Transnistrian Moldovan Republic impact regional developments?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: The Moldovan leadership is not an independent actor, but just another geopolitical project promoted by the collective West as represented by the United States and the European Union. Maia Sandu and her cabinet, including the newly appointed Foreign Minister Mihai Popsoi, demonstrate complete obedience to their masters on a daily basis. In their doctrinal documents, the Western countries refer to the Transnistrian region as a hostile pro-Russian enclave. They are unwilling to resume equitable and settlement-oriented contacts with Tiraspol. Regarding Gagauzia, they have made it clear that regions opposing rapprochement with the EU are not eligible for subsidies from the state budget. What kind of democracy is that?

                                                          That's about how it started in Ukraine in 2013 when President Yanukovich asked the European Union for more time to figure out how the EU Association Agreement (if signed) would affect free trade with the Russian Federation. The West turned his request down and forced Ukraine to choose between the EU and Russia. Now they are doing the same with Chisinau issuing ultimatums. Moldova meekly states that Gagauzia will not receive money from the state budget if it puts up with the politicians who are against Moldova joining the EU. So much for democracy.

                                                          The political process underlying the Transnistria settlement in the 5+2 format in which Russia acts as a guarantor and mediator fell victim to these moves. This format has been frozen. The West is reluctant to convene it being fully aware that Maia Sandu will do as told, and the issue can be solved without the involvement of the Russian Federation or recognised international mechanisms. We will do our best to reverse this trend and restart the political process.

                                                          This region is home to 200,000 of our citizens. We are concerned about their fate and we will spare no effort to make sure they do not fall victims to yet another reckless scheme of the West.

                                                          Question: Lake Baikal is a global symbol of Russia. The law on indiscriminate logging on Lake Baikal adopted by the State Duma in the first reading has encouraged business activity not only among Russian oligarchs. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin, Mongolia has announced that if the law is approved it would be prepared to withdraw from the intergovernmental agreement on the preservation of Lake Baikal and the transfer of the huge Oyu Tolgoi copper deposit to the British-Australian concern Rio Tinto. The mill's operation will require considerable water supplies from the Selenga River, which flows into Baikal. Polluted water from the mill is discharged into the river and runs into Baikal, doing considerable environmental damage to the lake. Mongolia also planned to build a hydroelectric power plant, which would have harmed the lake's ecosystem. What is the Foreign Ministry's stand on the expediency of adopting a federal law on indiscriminate logging on Lake Baikal?

                                                          We would also like to express special gratitude to Alexander Pankin for his pro-state position.

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin put forth the ministry's stand. In addition, we must honour UNESCO's decisions on global heritage and prevent actions that violate these decisions. I chair the Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO. If the matter is given a practical form, we will be ready to take it up within the framework of our competence.

                                                          Mongolia has long-standing energy problems. It wanted to build a hydroelectric power plant on the Selenga or its tributary. We believe that it would harm the nature and bioresources of Lake Baikal. We held talks with Mongolia and continue to discuss methods of alleviating our neighbour's energy shortage problems without harming the environment. The process is not over yet. When we adopt decisions or put forth initiatives that disregard environmental concerns, this gives additional arguments to those who are not worried about the construction of a hydroelectric power plant on the Selenga and the consequences of this.

                                                          The Foreign Ministry is not main agency responsible for this issue. It calls for intergovernmental coordination. I hope that the State Duma will be able to coordinate this matter with the agencies that bear responsibility for this.

                                                          Question: Russia holds the rotating BRICS chairmanship this year. We have numerous bilateral agreements ranging from security to concrete economic projects with the member states, namely China, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Russia also has a visa-free regime with some of them, in particular, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. We also have agreements on visa-free travel for tourist groups with China and Iran. We have also reached an agreement on a simplified visa regime with Ethiopia.

                                                          Is Russia planning to establish common visa requirements to strengthen cooperation within the framework of BRICS, including visa-free travel for the member states' citizens?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: We are not discussing a standardised simplification of visa regimes or the lifting of visa requirements now. There are no discussions on this issue. Every country has its own national specifics and interdepartmental processes regulating these issues.

                                                          It would be possible to start with using the experience of the APEC, which has an APEC Business Travel Card, which allows multiple entries for citizens of APEC countries travelling to other member economies for business and official purposes with little to no red tape. We could start by introducing similar cards in BRICS.

                                                          Question: My question is about the complaints we have been receiving from our people. It has become harder for many Russian citizens who stay abroad for a long time, especially in unfriendly countries, to obtain consular services due to reductions in diplomatic staff and the downsizing of diplomatic missions. This includes getting the documents they need for their children and other family members living in Russia. What are you planning to do to resolve this important issue? Will we need to amend any laws? We stand ready to working with you on overcoming this challenge.

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: It is true that the hostile actions by the West to declare our diplomats and consular workers personae non grata substantially put a dent in our capability to assist Russian nationals and offer consular services. Hundreds of diplomats were expelled from their countries of stay. There is hardly a country which has allowed us to replace at least some of these diplomats. We have responded in kind, which does not make things easier. In some countries, for example in Germany, almost all consulates general were closed. All we have left there is the Embassy in Berlin with its consular department and the Consulate General in Bonn.

                                                          The effort to amend laws is already underway, with your help and assistance. First, enacted recently, amendments to the Russian Federation Citizenship Law make life easier for our citizens. Before the adoption of these amendments, people permanently residing abroad could only file their requests on citizenship matters with the diplomatic mission in their country of stay, but now they can do it in any country where we can have more options for providing consular services in terms of our staff numbers. Second, legislators helped us amend the Consular Charter of the Russian Federation. This enabled us to vest unitary enterprises affiliated with the Foreign Ministry with authority to open their branches abroad for assisting our foreign missions in performing their consular functions. These branches do not replace our diplomatic or consular missions. They are tasked with processing documents, offering consular services, and performing similar functions. We are already using this approach in Türkiye, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. There are also plans to provide more services this way. This goes to say that we always find a way around the tricks the West plays for inflicting a strategic defeat on us.

                                                          Question: Do you view the agreements on the legal status of the Artic with our neighbouring states to be a mistake? For example, I am referring to the treaty delineating the maritime space and on cooperation with Norway. It cut into Russia's continental shelf and its natural resources. There was also a maritime delineation agreement with the United States, signed by James Baker and Eduard Shevardnadze, even if it has yet to be ratified. Under this agreement, we also lost part of our continental shelf and natural resources. The way the boundary of the continental shelf is currently traced demonstrates very clearly that Western countries refuse to take our position into account. Not that long ago, the United States appropriated a significant portion of the contested shelf area and took it under its protection without coordinating these moves with anyone, ignoring international norms. We believe that these actions infringe upon Russia's national interests. Has the time come to consider denouncing these agreements?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: We must consider the whole picture. First, every agreement was signed in a specific context. Whether we want it or not, these agreements remain in force. The one with Norway has been ratified, while there is an understanding with the United States and the agreement with that country will be fully operational even before its ratification.

                                                          These questions are not new, and we have been discussing them for quite a long time. In fact, we raised them many times, and opinions vary. Among other things, these assessments stem from the positive nature of our 2010 agreement with Norway. It enabled us to extend the Russian continental shelf beyond the 200-mile exclusive economic zone. In this part of the Arctic Ocean, we have been able to assert our rights within the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Everyone, including the Western countries, recognised them.

                                                          As for the so-called Shevardnadze-Baker line, it enabled us to avoid any issues or attempts to challenge the materials we filed with the same commission when we claimed a substantial portion in the east of the Arctic Ocean – all Arctic countries represented in the Shelf Commission, including the United States, Norway and others agreed. Even if fishing volumes in Norway declined (maybe not – some statistics point the other way) or if the Americans have bigger catches, it would be unwise for us to stop paying attention to the diplomatic and political struggles for the spaces between our northern borders and all the way up to the North Pole.

                                                          Regarding the American initiative, they announced it post-factum by telling everyone that this is now their space. The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf will not support this initiative. It has its own procedures. We followed them. It is thanks to that and the patience we had, as well as the scientific case we made to support our claim, that we do not face any challenges or issues regarding our claim.

                                                          We will have to coordinate the claim with the neighbouring countries at certain stages, but this is a minor issue. The United States lacks this advantage.

                                                          Question: BRICS has been growing, getting stronger, and projecting its power on the world order since its inception. In your report, you noted Russia's role in this association, which it will chair in 2024. What will BRICS chairmanship do for us? Will it help speed up the creation of a single BRICS currency?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: I discussed the single currency earlier. There is an instruction for the finance ministries and central banks issued by the heads of state at last year's summit to submit recommendations on alternative payment systems for the upcoming summit in Kazan in October.

                                                          Brazil is fairly active in promoting this issue and even mentioned the possibility of introducing a single BRICS currency, which is hardly viable at this point. Brazilians also proposed a single currency for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

                                                          To reiterate, at this juncture, a consensus decision was made to explore recommendations concerning unified payment platforms. This process cannot be stopped and is unfolding in the context of developing mechanisms that will be immune to the whims and unilateral neocolonial designs of our American colleagues. That's for sure.

                                                          Without a doubt, BRICS is the most consequential global alliance. The fact that the number of its members doubled as of January 1, 2024, and that about 30 more countries are also willing to establish relations with BRICS speaks for itself. The processes of forming a multipolar world have largely become regional rather than global processes, which is partly due to the Americans abusing the role of the US dollar. Sometimes you can even hear people say that globalisation has gone regional. Eurasia has the EAEU, the SCO, ASEAN, and the CIS; in Africa, there is the African Union; and Latin America has its own integration associations. Each of them increasingly focuses on its growth opportunities within the context of regional cooperation and relies less on global tools that have been tainted and discredited by the Americans and their allies.

                                                          At the global level, these regional integration processes can and should be harmonised, and BRICS is best suited for this role. Based on purchasing power parity, this association has surpassed the G7. So, we are facing conceptual and practical tasks, which is good motivation and a challenge. We are working on this as part of an interagency effort led by the President and the Government.

                                                          Question: Unfortunately, laws that protect cultural heritage in the Global South countries are weak, and an international group of looters is taking advantage of this. After smuggling cultural treasures from Russia and China, they legalise them in third Eurasian countries and then openly sell them on online auctions. Regular meetings on illegal trafficking in antiquities at the ministerial level are held within the SCO, but have so far been ineffective. Our specialists used the experience of the Russian Federation and neighbouring countries to draft the main points of an international treaty aimed at preserving the common archaeological heritage of Eurasian peoples and curbing the trafficking of it.

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: I am against thievery of any kind. As a state entity, the Foreign Ministry is also against ransacking national heritage.

                                                          Apparently, as you said, this issue is being addressed within the SCO by ministers, but clearly not foreign ministers. This issue is addressed accordingly by the Interior Ministry and special services, which are playing the leading part. We will stand by every effort to combat organised crime. As soon as the competent authorities come to terms on all consequential matters, we will do our part and draft these agreements as final international legal documents.

                                                          Question: My question follows up on the question posed by my colleague Kazbek Taisayev, who spoke about rewriting history, in particular, the history of World War II. This must be opposed by using soft power in the form of art and culture. It's a known fact that a high-class work of art can overcome all bans and drive its message home. Examples abound. Arthouse films such as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Schindler's List have become world cinematic bestsellers. Perhaps, the Foreign Ministry will join hands with the Ministry of Culture to identify the list of specific priority themes.

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: We are collaborating closely with the Ministry of Culture, the Department of Cinematography, and the Cinema Fund. Our foreign-based missions widely use films during events with the participation of representatives of the host country and the diplomatic corps. These screenings are invariably popular. However, they often take place on the premises of our foreign missions, which don't have large auditoriums for obvious reasons. Some locations have them, but the best the missions can offer are modestly sized auditoriums. So far, on rare occasions, we have managed to negotiate with our colleagues from the host country film screenings at their venues.

                                                          Two problems arise in his regard. In many instances, the copyright has been sold to foreign legal entities. The second issue has to do with the subtitles. We lack a centralised system for film dubbing and subtitling. So, in all host countries where Russian is not widely spoken, embassies make private arrangements to add subtitles to a film, since they have no official budget to do that.

                                                          One way to resolve this issue is to make decisions that, first, would address the copyright issue at least with regard to the films made with budgetary funds and commissioned by the Ministry of Culture or the Cinema Fund. It is important to draft an approved list of films to make sure distributors can't file legal claims.

                                                          The centralised subtitles come second. This is not a major expense. Outreach and public awareness efforts must be properly funded in order to promote our culture and art. We need subtitles in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. This is really important.

                                                          Question: The issue I would like to raise is especially important for members of parliament. Preparations for celebrating the 80th anniversary of Victory have started as per President Putin's executive order. An organising committee has been established, and the Government is working on a plan of events. Russia has many supporters abroad, including among members of NGOs, who commemorate the Great Victory and are grateful to our country for saving the world from Nazism and genocide. It is important to support such NGOs.

                                                          What is the ministry doing to hold events commemorating the 80th anniversary of Victory in foreign countries in the context of the current geopolitical situation? Will there be additional programmes for supporting the NGOs that are ready to help us conduct the anniversary events?

                                                          Sergey Lavrov: It is not the programmes or the absence of them that matter but the practical contacts we maintain with NGOs abroad and the legal, moral, political, and logistical support this involves in current conditions.

                                                          Every Russian embassy and consulate general maintains contacts with a number of active members of the Russian diaspora, above all those who comprise the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots. Such councils are created in every country where at least several dozen compatriots live. They form regional councils, and there is also the World Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots. It is a regular activity.

                                                          We are not making plans because of the upcoming anniversary. We organise movie screenings, photo exhibitions, concerts, and guest tours by our performers (where agreements to this effect are reached), roundtable discussions, and conferences every year for Victory Day. We do all this regardless of the national specifics of the host countries. We hold Immortal Regiment marches and implement other initiatives actively supported by Russian diasporas. We maintain regular contacts with them.

                                                          Our ambassadors submit their assessments, views, and proposals on that issue. Our compatriots have now been subjected to aggressive persecution and faced with threats, ultimatums, and blackmail. Tough political measures are being taken in some host countries to hinder their activities.

                                                          But I have no doubt whatsoever that we will provide support to them, like we did last year when such pressure was already being used against our colleagues, and that they will not go back on their initiatives. The number of attendees can decrease, but this will not change the essence of the events we are planning to hold.


                                                          I would like to thank you for this annual meeting. It was beneficial. It is notable that nearly all questions had to do with concrete and practical foreign policy projects or concrete issues of international relations. None of the speakers or questions expressed doubts regarding the strategic aspects of our foreign policy. Everyone expressed support for the policy outlined by the President of Russia.

                                                          I would like to say a few words about the initiative on a manifesto suggested by Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Alexander Babakov. He mentioned China's concept of the Community of Common Destiny. China has many concepts, including on global security and joint development, not to mention the Belt and Road Initiative.

                                                          We agree that we will benefit from the concepts based on respect for all countries. We will continue to promote them. The Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation is a forward-looking document, as Vyacheslav Nikonov pointed out today. I don't think it is a big secret that we are now working on a document based on this concept to present our understanding of multipolarity. We need to find a balance between outlining the conceptual details of our vision and drowning in them. It must be an embracing political document.

                                                          There is no need to reinvent the wheel or any other instrument. We have the UN Charter. We demand that all its provisions and articles be respected and implemented in their entirety and as a whole.

                                                          It is unacceptable that the West upholds the principle of self-determination when it insists on the recognition of Kosovo but invokes the principle of territorial integrity to categorically reject the right of people in Crimea to express their will.

                                                          In 1970, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in accordance with the UN Charter. It is devoted to the interpretation of the UN Charter and says that all states must respect the territorial integrity of states "possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory." Did the gang that seized power in February 2014 represent the interests of people in Crimea and southeastern Ukraine? Absolutely not.

                                                          Our stance is indisputable if all provisions of the UN Charter are respected in their entirety and as a whole. We highlight the provision which says that the UN is based on the sovereign equality of states.

                                                          Take a look at the position of the United States and its allies in any conflict that took place in the world after 1945, when the UN was established. Not once did the West respect the principle of sovereign equality of states. That principle is also applicable to what Vyacheslav Nikonov has said about the civilisational approach. Some civilisations are tens or even hundreds of times older than those where states have called the shots for the past 500 years. Their history began thousands of years ago.

                                                          The principle of respect for sovereign equality will reflect the aspirations, desires, and ambitions of these ancient civilisations, which have entered a period of renaissance. We will continue working. We will keep the relevant State Duma committees informed, ask their advice, and exchange opinions with them.

                                                          Thank you for your cooperation.

                                                                        Article by Ambassador Anatoly Antonov "Russia and partners: priorities of the BRICS Сhairmanship" (Статья Посла Анатолия Антонова «Россия и партнёры: приоритеты председательства в БРИКС») / Russia, February, 2024
                                                                        Keywords: mofa, quotation, chairmanship

                                                                        The year 2024 is a landmark year for the foreign policy of the Russian Federation. Despite persistent attempts by a number of states to isolate our country or, at least, present such a picture that key foreign nations are fencing off from Moscow, de facto the situation is completely different. Advancement of the international community towards genuine multipolarity is gaining momentum. And Russia is not a mere witness to these trends, but an active participant in this much-needed process.

                                                                        The enhancement of truly mutually beneficial and constructive cooperation is exactly at the heart of Russian Chairmanship in BRICS - a unique group of countries in terms of membership and potential. Under the overarching theme "Strengthening Multilateralism for Equitable Global Development and Security" we will do everything possible to further smooth out all the parts of this mechanism.

                                                                        And it's not just about the five states which have completely and irrevocably proven the relevance of the format over the 15 years of its existence, but also about the new full-fledged members - Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Moreover, as a follow-up to the decisions taken at the historic 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, modalities of engagement with a new category - partner states - and their integration are yet to be developed. There are almost three dozen nations willing to join the format in one way or another.

                                                                        The main goal of Russia's chairmanship is to enhance and bolster BRICS' role and weight as a center of gravity for countries seeking to pursue an independent foreign policy course. For those who do not want to live under someone else's dictate, and aspire to be on friendly terms with the rest of the world, trading and interacting on equal footing. For those, to whom the fundamental principles of the group - sovereign equality, mutual and consensual consideration of interests, desire to shape a fair model of global markets, search for collective answers to the current challenges - are not an empty word.

                                                                        However, the above-mentioned priorities in no way imply that member-states see the value of the format in opposing themselves to the collective West. The essence of BRICS doesn't lie in confrontation, but in promotion of a positive and unifying agenda. Nobody exerts pressure on particular states to join the group. It is all driven by their own plans and intentions.

                                                                        The very fact that a number of U.S. journalists cast doubt on the ability of China and India, Saudi Arabia and Iran to work together, only confirms a unique character and power of BRICS. When sneering at Argentina's "recusal", they ignore that there were neither criticism nor threats towards Buenos Aires from other members of the Organization. Only a confirmation of the readiness to cooperate in any convenient form. And this is the key idea behind the new world order - searching for answers to challenges on collective basis, without imposing alien values and influences.

                                                                        The Russian Federation and our partners are interested in promoting a constructive and mutually respectful dialogue in the following main areas - politics and security, economics and finance, cultural and humanitarian contacts. We intend to work on the implementation of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership 2025 and on the Action Plan on Innovation Cooperation for 2021-2024.

                                                                        As a part of our Chairmanship, more than 200 various events in different corners of Russia have been scheduled, with the October Summit in Kazan being their apogee. The list of meetings includes business and political conferences, seminars for municipal authorities, a Parliamentary Forum, and the BRICS Sports Games. Strengthening of ties in the fields of science and innovation, healthcare, as well as deepening of contacts between academic and research centers (including the BRICS Network University) also remain in the focus of our agenda.

                                                                        In our efforts we intend to put a particular emphasis on the issue of enhancing importance of the multilateral format in the international monetary and financial system, as well as on the necessity to increase the role of national currencies in mutual trade. Development of alternative mechanisms of cross-border payments is very much needed. Even politically affiliated experts acknowledge de facto monopolization of the current financial and economic infrastructure. Such situation does not in any way contribute to the global financial stability. And most importantly, it undermines its own credibility by creating new crises and hindering genuine decolonization of the world economy.

                                                                        A situation when a few countries feel entitled to dictate their will to others, threatening to cut off access to global economic processes, confiscate their assets, and ruin well-being of ordinary citizens, is fundamentally wrong and inconsistent with prevailing tendencies. The overwhelming majority of states have realized the harmfulness of such approaches. We remain fully committed to uniting our resources to design new financial instruments independent from political trends in Washington, Brussels or London, where authorities are ready to neglect national legislative provisions and postulates of international law in order to punish insufficiently loyal partners.

                                                                        It is unacceptable when the debt burden of developing countries (or rather, their ability to get out of the debt trap they were forced into over decades) is at the "mercy" of the central banks of the United States and Europe.

                                                                        As for the existing constraints for the use of the national currencies, I am convinced that if there is a will, there is a way. A significant part of issues are related, again, to the long-standing imbalances rooted in the dominance of dollar and euro. An increase in the use of national currencies - such as renminbi, rubles, rupees, dirhams or others - in mutual trade will inevitably result in the advancement of the independent payment infrastructure and in smaller transaction fees. This is a classic free market rule, which Western partners are increasingly trying to manipulate. It seems they do not realize that by endless sanctions and threats of "allegedly legal" seizure of foreign reserves they are digging themselves into a deeper hole.

                                                                        We are convinced that Russian Chairmanship will contribute to practical results in all above-mentioned areas and provide an additional impetus to cooperation within the BRICS framework. This in turn will strengthen the voice of nations, which are focused on defending true national interests and choosing their own path of development. Russia will bring together representatives of different cultures and civilizations, countries with different economic and political systems. However the discussions will not be focused on differences, but on the search for common ground on the principal of consensus and taking into account each other's positions. Isn't that the essence of genuine multipolarity?
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