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National Day  June 12

His Excellency Mr Andrei V. Kelin
Embassy of the Russian Federation
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens
London W8 4QP
T:020 7229 3620/ 020 7792 1408
F: 020 7229 5804

RUSSIA’S NEW AMBASSADOR Andrei V. Kelin arrived in London on 22 November last year with his wife, Irina. After their children and grandchildren – five boys! – joined them for Christmas and New Year, he hopes they can return this spring. But at the time of meeting, the coronavirus crisis was starting to set in, impacting travel and work across the country. “Meetings and contact are slowing down. So, unfortunately, our work is having to slow down too. Separate from the crisis, it’s a pity because we are losing time.”

Mr Kelin arrived at the Embassy almost four decades after his father was here as Minister Counsellor. “During his posting, my father wrote a book about Great Britain and its traditions. At the time, there was much talk of the royal marriage between Prince Charles and Princess Diana. He also described presenting his credentials at Buckingham Palace – a ceremony that sounds more or less like it does today. What strikes me most, is that the UK is still based on strong traditions. So not that much has changed.”

After training as a journalist at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Mr Kelin joined the Foreign Ministry in 1979. “I decided to follow the path of my ancestors, starting my career as a junior diplomat in the Hague.” Later on, he joined the Department of Arms Control and Disarmament back in Moscow, as an expert member of the Soviet Delegation at INF and START negotiations.

In 1990, he began a five-year posting in Brussels as a member of the team with the goal to establish a relationship between Russia and NATO. “Building up and normalising relations between Russia and NATO – of which sadly not much remains these days – was good for security in Europe at the time.”

Working as Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO (1998 – 2003), he memorably recalls the moment in 2002 when a declaration on ‘NATO-Russia Relations: A New Quality’ was signed, establishing a new NATO-Russia Council. Bringing together President Putin and heads of state and government of NATO member countries to identify and pursue opportunities for joint action, was a major event.  “This body had huge potential to provide security in Europe and friendly relations between all states. I had worked on this document, so I was particularly pleased to see them sign it at Pratica di Mare Air Force Base, near Rome.”

After a role as Director of the Department of South Caucasus (4th CIS) at the MFA came a posting in Vienna as the Russian Federation’s Permanent Representative  to the OSCE. Their efforts focused on “the Ukraine crisis that emerged in 2014. We worked seriously hard on this issue, and our main achievement was establishing a special observation mission that continues in Ukraine to this day. It contributes a lot to improving the situation.”

Prior to his arrival in London, he found a role as Director for the Department for European Cooperation at the MFA to be “a good learning experience, and important preparation for [his] role as Ambassador in the UK.”

“At the moment,” he concedes, “relations between the UK and Russia are difficult. As Ambassador I have inherited a number of problems that have emerged in recent years. My task and the task of the British Ambassador in Moscow is very simple: we need to improve this relationship.” Unfortunately, he admits, “political relations are currently frozen. But relations in the trade and cultural spheres remain normal. But I believe, step-by-step, the work of the Embassy will be able to improve the situation.”

The Ambassador and his team are also focusing their attention on Brexit. “Great Britain has to establish new modalities of relationships with all countries around the globe, including of course, Russia. Until now, our relationship has been regulated through the previous agreement with the European Union. A time will come when we need to establish a so-called continuity agreement. We will need to establish other types of arrangements between the UK and Russia.”

What then, does he think is the Russian Federation’s greatest diplomatic challenge? “Again, very simple!” he says. “To have normal relations with all countries in the world. This will provide stability and the necessary conditions for the economic development that we all desire.” In terms of Russia’s relationship with the UK, he explains “we do not have any territorial disputes or ideological differences. There aren’t any special barriers between our two countries. Yes, we have issues that have interfered in the relationship, but we will be able to overcome these difficulties.”



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