Representing Russia

by BTM

Fri, 05 April 2024

HE Dr. Aleksey Skosyrev, Russian Ambassador to Bahrain | Representing Russia

The Kingdom of Bahrain and Russia will be celebrating 35 years of diplomatic relations in 2025. Recently, the Bahrain This Month team met with Russian Ambassador, HE Dr. Aleksey Skosyrev, who highlighted the cooperation between the two nations.

Your Excellency, can you provide us with a detailed overview of your career up to this point and how you came to be appointed as the Russian Ambassador to Bahrain? 
My journey in diplomacy began after I graduated from Moscow University in 1987. My first posting was to Iraq during the turbulent era of Saddam Hussein, where I witnessed the onset of the first Gulf War. Subsequently, I was stationed in Yemen during its unification war. 

I then returned to Russia and I remember the Vice Minister saying: “Look, you’ve been to two wars, what do you want as a favour?” I said I wanted to go to Europe. So I was posted in Italy for three years, but there I felt a bit like a fish out of water, so I returned to the Middle East and never ran away. Since then, I took up a post in Washington before returning to Moscow as a Deputy Director of the Middle East Department. Finally, I ended up here in Bahrain as my first full ambassadorship a year and a half ago. 

How would you describe the current state of relations between Russia and Bahrain as well as the broader GCC region? 
I would say that we have remarkable relations in different spheres based on mutual understanding and respect. There are a lot of issues that we see eye-to-eye, especially with Russia and Bahrain calling for a more just and even multi-polar world order. 

Both Manama and Moscow reject neo-colonial remnants, believe in traditional values and repulse those who are trying to impose a pseudo-universal neoliberal ideology. So, our political dialogue is very intense. Recently in March, there was a telephone conversation between President Putin and His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and during the last year there were more than 50 exchanges of official delegations between the two countries. 

Could you elaborate on the specific areas of economic collaboration between Bahrain and Russia, particularly in trade and investment? 
The economic partnership between Bahrain and Russia encompasses a diverse range of sectors. Despite some objective challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, both countries are committed to enhancing bilateral trade and investment. Key areas of cooperation include agriculture, food industry, tourism and transportation. Efforts are underway to explore new avenues of collaboration and overcome existing barriers to trade. Furthermore, Gulf Air has just announced that further to daily flights to and from Moscow, the company will be adding a weekly flight to Sochi which is great news for our mutual tourism industries. 

How does Russia view Bahrain’s position in the Middle East, and do you foresee further engagement between the two countries in this regard? 
Bahrain occupies a strategic position in the Middle East, serving as a hub for trade and cultural exchange. Russia views Bahrain as a valued partner in promoting regional stability and cooperation. There is immense potential for deeper engagement between our countries, particularly in areas such as infrastructure development, energy cooperation and cultural exchange. Both nations stand to benefit from closer collaboration in navigating the complex geopolitical landscape of the region. 

What is Russia’s stance on the current security challenges facing the Middle East, and what initiatives is Russia undertaking to address these challenges? 
Russia is deeply concerned about the security challenges confronting the Middle East, including conflicts, terrorism and instability. We believe in a diplomatic approach to resolving regional conflicts and have proposed initiatives aimed at fostering dialogue and cooperation among regional stakeholders. One such initiative is the Collective Security Council concept for the Gulf area, which seeks to enhance regional security through confidence-building measures and cooperative frameworks.  

With regard to the global energy market, how do you see Bahrain’s strategic position in the Gulf, particularly in relation to energy, and what opportunities exist for cooperation between Bahrain and Russia in this field?
Bahrain’s strategic location in the Gulf region, coupled with its focus on energy transition, presents significant opportunities for cooperation with Russia. Both countries have a shared interest in ensuring energy security and promoting sustainable development. Areas of potential collaboration include renewable energy, energy infrastructure and technology transfer. By leveraging each other’s strengths, Bahrain and Russia can contribute to the stability and growth of the global energy market. 

What initiatives are currently in place to facilitate cross-cultural activities between Bahrain and Russia, and how do you envision enhancing cultural ties between the two countries? 
Bahrain and Russia have a rich history of cultural cooperation, with initiatives ranging from art exhibitions to music festivals. Looking ahead, we aim to further strengthening of cultural ties through educational programmes, language exchanges and joint cultural events. By promoting cultural exchange, we can deepen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our peoples. 

In the last few years, we have witnessed many cultural events here in Bahrain and also in Russia. In December, there was the Bahraini-Russian Cultural Forum and Museum Roadshow in Manama. Furthermore, it will be especially a great pleasure for me to watch Bahraini youth taking part in the World Youth Festival in Sochi this year, especially now with the aforementioned weekly flights facilitating easier travel.

In 2025, our countries will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. In this regard, the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation plans to hold in Bahrain a large-scale international project, ‘Russian Seasons’ which will include tours of outstanding theatres, symphony and jazz orchestras, opera soloists, exhibitions of major museums and more.

Regarding the Russian diaspora in Bahrain, how would you describe their contributions to Bahraini society, and what efforts are being made to support Russian citizens in Bahrain?
The Russian diaspora here plays a valuable role in contributing to the country’s social, economic and cultural life. Russian expatriates, of which there are approximately 600 registered in our consular section but number as many as 2000 including tourists and extended families, are engaged in various sectors, such as IT, technology, education, services and the arts. Efforts are underway to support them through cultural programmes, language courses and community events. By nurturing ties, we can strengthen people-to-people connections and promote mutual understanding between Russia and Bahrain. 

What are your main priorities and objectives for furthering bilateral relations between Russia and Bahrain as we approach the 35th year of association next year?
As we look to 2025 and celebrating the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and Bahrain, my main priorities are to deepen political dialogue, expand economic cooperation and enhance cultural exchange. By building on the strong foundation of friendship and cooperation, we can unlock new opportunities for mutual benefit and prosperity. I look forward to working closely with our Bahraini partners to advance our shared goals and aspirations. 

On a personal note, what have been the main challenges you’ve faced during your tenure in Bahrain, and how have you navigated them?
My main difficulty was bringing my cat to Bahrain! She is a beloved member of our family but Gulf Air does not let cats on board, just hawks and falcons. I would call for equality.On a more serious note, many would say the climate especially coming from Russia, but I have been in the region for so long that I am completely used to it and embrace it. 

Is there anything else you’d like to add or any message you’d like to convey to the people of Bahrain?
I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to the people of Bahrain for their warm hospitality and friendship. The support and cooperation extended to the Russian Embassy and the Russian people here are deeply appreciated. As we look to the future, let us continue to strengthen our bonds of friendship and cooperation for the mutual benefit of our nations and peoples.