Russia will stand with Dhaka against possible US or any Western sanction against Bangladesh, Russian Ambassador in Dhaka Alexander Mantytskiy said on Thursday.
“We are against any illegal actions here (Bangladesh). We will be against any sanctions or steps which can be taken by America or Western countries here,” he told an interaction with a group of journalists at Jatiya Press Club (JPC).
Mantytskiy said other than any sanction slapped by the UN Security Council his country does not recognise any such ban imposed unilaterally by any Western nation.
The envoy, however, expected no such situation would arise but added “Let’s see what happens”.
The Russian ambassador’s comments came in response to a question of what Moscow’s stand would be if any western economic sanction was imposed against Bangladesh.
Swadhinata Sangbadik Forum organised the event titled “Talks with Ambassador,” moderated by Bangla Tribune Diplomatic Correspondent Sheikh Shahriar Zaman while JPC General Secretary Shyamal Dutta and Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) Joint Secretary Khairul Alam also spoke.
Asked if Washington was interfering in Bangladesh’s internal affairs cantering the upcoming general election, he said, “Yes, of course”.
He recalled that Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova last month said that Moscow repeatedly spoke about attempts by the United States and its allies to influence Bangladesh’s internal political process.
Mantytskiy said erstwhile Soviet Union was straightforward in supporting the liberation struggle of the Bengali nation back in 1971 and the present day Russia remained committed to strengthening cooperation with Dhaka in a meaningful and respectful way.
The ambassador said despite Bangladesh's RMG sector’s global repute until recently it had little access to Russian market but Russian business circle currently was looking for new suppliers including Bangladesh since 2022 when many international brands decided to leave Russia.
Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant
Bangladesh is building its first nuclear power plant with Russian technical and financial assistance and the envoy expected the mega project to make a considerable contribution to the South Asian nation’s economic development and energy security.
“We will assist our Bangladeshi partners throughout the entire life cycle of the nuclear project,” he said adding Moscow was obligated for the long-term deliveries of reactor fuel, plant maintenance, and handling nuclear waste.
He said Russia aimed to create an entire nuclear sector, a peaceful atom industry in Bangladesh.
In 2022, the Ambassador said, Russian JSC “Glavkosmos” and Bangladesh Satellite Company Ltd signed a memorandum of cooperation in the field of promotion of products and services of the Russian space industry in Bangladesh, including manufacturing and launch of Bangabandhu-2 earth observation satellite system.
“The project’s technical parameters have been finalised. The commercial offer for the same is on the table,” he said.
Mantytskiy, however, said it was up to Bangladesh to decide on the issue.
The Ambassador said, Bangladesh currently was Russia’s second-largest trade partner in South Asia after India and even the COVID-19 pandemic did not hinder it as trade volume reached the historic height of $297 billion in 2021.
But in 2022, he said, western countries imposed “illegal unilateral sanctions” against Russia that resulted in the trade turnover with Bangladesh decreasing by $640 million.
The ambassador expected Russia-Bangladesh trade volume will approach the indicators of 2021.
“Russia increases export of wheat and fertilizers to Bangladesh. Russian companies are ready to supply on G2G basis up to 1 million tons of grain, as well 500,000 tons of potassium chloride per year,” he said.
The ambassador said Moscow is ready to employ more Bangladeshi workers in the construction, agriculture, and hospitality sectors.
He said the first batch of Bangladeshi specialists has already left for Russia to work in shipbuilding and construction industries in the Primorye Territory in the Russian Far East.
Indo Pacific Region
In Russia, the envoy said, Moscow believes that the Indian and Pacific Oceans should not be an arena of rivalry, but a zone of cooperation between states within the framework of such regional structures as ASEAN, IORA, SAARC and BIMSTEC.
But “unfortunately”, he said, Russia recently witnessed persistent attempts by extra-regional forces to reformat the existing order to fulfil their “own narrow selfish objectives”.
“The concept of a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific region’ promoted by the United States has destructive rather than unifying potential,” he said.
Mantytskiy alleged that the true goal of US-led indo-pacific strategy was to divide the states of the region into "interest groups" such as QUAD and AUKUS, and weaken the multilateral principles of the regional system of interstate relations in order to establish Washington’s own dominance.