On the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia
On Friday December 1, the State Kremlin Palace in the Russian capital of Moscow hosted the Final Draw for the 2018
FIFA World Cup, fixing opponents in eight different groups made of 32 national football teams, which qualified for the
much-anticipated quadrennial world football championship.
The Final Draw ceremony was opened by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the Russian President Vladimir Putin at
the Palace, which lies behind the Kremlin Walls in the heart of Moscow. To open the most significant World Cup event,
Vladimir Putin gave an impressive speech on its importance to the country. “Our country is eager for the World Cup to
start and intends to make it an event of the highest quality, where leading world football players will be able to show
their mastery of the game, to show real big football”, said the Russian President. Mr Infantino in his speech thanked
Mr Putin, the Russian government and all Russian people who have worked so hard for seven years since Russia won the
right to hold the World Cup. "From what I've seen I am convinced that Russia 2018 will be the best World Cup
ever. Everything is ready, and what is not ready will be ready very soon. Everyone who will come to Russia will
discover a welcoming and warm country, a country that wants to celebrate football with the whole world," FIFA
President Gianni Infantino told reporters at a press conference.
After being revealed one by one, the eight Final Draw assistants – France’s Laurent Blanc, England’s Gordon Banks,
Brazil’s Cafu, Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro, Uruguay’s Diego Forlan, Germany’s Miroslav Klose, Argentina’s Diego Maradona,
Spain’s Carles Puyol and Russia’s Nikita Simonyan – each conjured intriguing matchups for the tournament. Hosts Russia
will open the event against Saudi Arabia at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on 14 June in Group A, while defending
champions Germany were drawn into a tough Group F along with Mexico, Sweden and Korea Republic. According to the
November FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, the toughest group is Group C which has France, Australia, Peru and Denmark.
A colourful new installation dedicated to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia was opened in front of the Moscow Manege
exhibition centre just before the Final Draw on Friday. The outdoor exhibition on Manezhnaya Square comprises 11
figures that symbolise the main sites of interest in each Host City of the upcoming tournament. The 11 cities that will
host the tournament’s matches are spread across the country, so visitors will be able to see how diverse Russia can be.
The journey starts with the Official Mascot of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Zabivaka the Wolf, and ends with the magical
football that is a central feature of the tournament’s Official Emblem. The route also offers an informative football
excursion. The installation will be open until 15 July next year, when the World Cup Final takes place at the Luzhniki
Stadium in Moscow, the final act of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.
Despite numerous publications in the western media warning that fans coming to the World Cup to Russia may face
racial abuse, FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura said in an interview to RT news agency that she never encountered
discrimination in the country. “Definitely, like every African person, I was just fearing to be treated differently and
I was ready also to help people think differently about Africa and Africans. But as we speak I’ve been here for, at
least, 20 times altogether. I haven’t suffered any racial issues,” the Senegal native said. Similar views are shared by
the Manchester United coach Jose Mourinho who believes the mounting rumors of threats to foreign fans in Russia are
grossly exaggerated. “I have been in Russia so many times and I have never had a problem, my teams have never had any
problems, just the cold!,” he said to the media.
The Russian government provided the possibility for sport fans to enter and depart from the Russian Federation
without visas. In order to use this option every spectator should receive the Fan's ID. Beginning from the middle
of October, 2017, all foreign citizens may submit electronic applications through the special website www.fan-id.ru.
On 19th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) in Sochi, Russia
More than 25,000 young people aged 18-35 from 188 countries attended the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS), which ran from October 14 to 22, 2017 in Russia’s Black Sea resort Sochi. The Festival has been held regularly since 1947 as an event of global youth solidarity for democracy and against war and imperialism. The largest Festival was the 6th, held in 1957 in Moscow with 34,000 participants from 131 countries.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin took part in the opening ceremony of the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students at the Bolshoi Ice Dome in Sochi. He welcomed the participants, guests and volunteers of the Festival and expressed certainty that young people of all countries, nationalities and faiths were joined together by common feelings and values, by their yearning for freedom, and their hope to achieve happiness, peace and accord on our planet.
Later on Vladimir Putin held two meetings with Festival participants – students and young specialists from various countries, including Zimbabwe and Mozambique among others. The President asked the young people about their impressions of the Festival and answered their questions about foreign policy and Russia’s bilateral cooperation with other countries. He also attended the Russia show at the Medals Plaza in the Olympic Park at the end of the Festival.
In four days of the regional program, 2,000 Festival delegates visited various Russian cities all over the country. Apart from the delegations, 5,000 volunteers from Russia and 76 foreign countries took part in the Festival. During the event, students and young specialists discussed such issues as global politics and international security, the industry and economy of the future, innovations and environmental issues. Educational and discussion sessions proved to be especially popular with the participants.
Botswana youth activists, businessmen and arts practitioners also had a chance to express themselves through participation in these international events. The Botswana delegation was headed by Hon. Kefentse Mzwinila, Assistant Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development, who also took part in the International Ministerial Meeting of Heads of Departments, responsible for youth policy in Moscow on October 12-13, 2017.
World Festival of Youth and Students sought to establish contacts between young people all over the world and show them that the future of our planet is in their hands. 'Strive to change the world and make it a better place'. – this is the main message of the Festival brotherhood in Russia, which will definitely help young people from all continents to realise their ambitious plans.
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ON FIFA WORLD CUP 2018 IN RUSSIA
For the first time in history Russia hosts the FIFA World Cup 2018. Football matches will take place in eleven Russian cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Sochi, Saransk, Volgograd, Rostov-na-Donu, Samara, Kaliningrad, Ekaterinburg and Nizhni Novgorod, from June, 14 till July, 15, 2018.
Thirty-two teams will participate in the competitions. The European zone will be represented by Russia (it qualified for the Championship automatically as the country-hostess of the competitions) and by thirteen other national teams. Also five teams will come from African zone, not less than four – from Asian and South American zone and there will be at least three teams from North American zone. Two more passes will be qualified during the coupling matches. Detailed information on the event can be found on the Championship's official website www.welcome2018.com
In October 2014 officials of the FIFA Inspection Committee visited the Russian Federation's stadiums and expressed their satisfaction with the ongoing preparations. One year later FIFA and the Local Organising Committee approved the official names of every stadium, which will host matches during the Championship.
According to the procedure established by the Russian legislation, representatives of the television and radio broadcasting companies, legal owners, mass-media officials, volunteers, and other people, who are involved in different Championship's events and do not take part in sports competitions, should possess visas to enter and depart from the Russian Federation. Visas are issued on the basis of direct nominal invitations from the Organizing Committee "Russia-2018".
At the same time the Russian government provided the possibility for sport fans to enter and depart from the Russian Federation without visas. In order to use this option every spectator should receive the Fan's ID. Beginning from the middle of October, 2017, all foreign citizens may submit electronic applications through the special website www.fan-id.ru.
Manual "How to get a Fan ID"
On the post-registration clinical trials of the Russian Ebola vaccine Gam Evac Combi in Guinea
On August 9, the Republic of Guinea launched post-registration clinical trials of the Russian Ebola vaccine Gam Evac Combi. The National Ethics Committee for Health Research of Guinea’s Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene (MOHPH) issued a permit to conduct clinical trials of the vaccine on 2,000 Guinean citizens in July 2016.
The Ebola epidemic in Western Africa primarily affected three countries: Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. According to the WHO, the Ebola virus infected 28,600 people and killed over 11,300 of them.
Russian researchers were among the first in the world to respond to Guinea’s plea for help in combatting the Ebola outbreak. In response to the official request from the Guinean leadership, Russia sent a group of specialists and two lab modules of a mobile complex of specialised anti-epidemic teams by an aircraft of its Emergencies Ministry in August 2014.
UC RUSAL (Russian aluminium company) ensured the deployment of a field hospital for 200 patients donated by Russia and organised and funded the training of qualified military medical personnel for its operation. During the epidemic, the hospital rendered free medical aid to over 4,500 people. Today it is the main field medical unit of Guinea’s Armed Forces.
On January 14, 2016, Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova announced that the Gamaleya Federal Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology developed Gam Evac Combi, a combined vector vaccine against the Ebola fever. The vaccine was registered and permitted for use in medical practice on the territory of the Russian Federation in December 2015.
On February 15, 2016, Ms Skvortsova presented the Russian vaccine in Geneva to WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and other WHO officials. An extensive presentation was also held in the Palace of Nations, as well as at round table discussions in March and May 2016 in Moscow and Geneva.
The vaccine develops long-term immunity and has no serious side effects. It must be stored at -20C but now researchers are developing a vaccine that will work even at +4C. The Russian Ebola vaccine is the only duly registered medicine against Ebola at the national level.
Guinea chose to test the vaccine in the Centre for Epidemic and Microbiological Research and Treatment (CEMRT) in Kindia built by UC RUSAL to fight the Ebola epidemic in 2015. The Russian company invested over $10 million in its construction.
CEMRT represents a complex system of medical, diagnostic, logistics, guarding and dwelling buildings. Its main functions are to diagnose the presence of the Ebola virus, organise the treatment of infected patients, take part in anti-epidemic measures, conduct research related to the virus, search for treatment measures, train personnel and consult local medical workers.
The Kindia centre is designed for 40 beds but stores enough materials and equipment to double this number. It has its own diagnostic and clinical biochemical lab. In cooperation with the MOHPH, UC RUSAL held contests to select and train medical personnel for the centre. Following qualification exams, each of the centre’s medical workers received a certificate and a working permit from the Guinea’s National Ebola Coordination Committee and the WHO.
The centre has 90 employees: 45 medical workers (seven doctors, 15 paramedics and 23 medical nurses), 18 technicians and 27 security guards. The centre trained over 100 medical specialists that continue working in other anti-Ebola facilities in Guinea.
During the working visit of the Russian delegation (representatives from the Healthcare Ministry and the Gamaleya Centre) to Guinea last April, the sides signed a trilateral memorandum on cooperation between the Russian and Guinean healthcare ministries and Guinea’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and addressed practical aspects of vaccination efforts in Guinea.
Last July, the Gamaleya Centre sent Russian equipment and over 1,000 vaccine doses to Guinea for initial vaccination. Guinea started mobilising its volunteers. Its Healthcare Minister issued an order to create the national committee to promote the Gam Evac Combi vaccination that included both Russian and Guinean researchers and experts that are organising studies and research at the local level and enlisting volunteers.
The trial programme includes the vaccination and health monitoring of volunteers, especially their development of immunity over the course of a year. Success of the programme will make it possible to use the Russian Ebola vaccine all over the world.
The vaccination of 2,000 Guinean volunteers and post-registration clinical trials in Guinea are expected to last until the end of 2018.
Embassy of Russia
On current development of BRICS
The regular 9th BRICS Summit was held in Xiamen, China, on September 4 and 5, 2017. The BRICS cooperation process was first launched in 2006. Ten years of hard efforts have resulted in ten years of progress. Over the past decade, BRICS cooperation has gone to greater depth and substance, yielding fruitful and laudable outcomes.
Russia highly values the multifaceted cooperation that has developed within BRICS. Our countries’ constructive cooperation on the international arena is aimed at creating a fair multipolar world and equal development conditions for all. Russia stands for closer coordination of the BRICS countries’ foreign policies, primarily at the UN and G20, as well as other international organisations. It is clear that only the combined efforts of all countries can help bring about global stability and find solutions to many acute conflicts, including those in the Middle East.
It was largely thanks to the efforts of Russia and other concerned countries that conditions have been created to improve the situation in Syria. However, the fight against terrorists in Syria and other countries and regions must continue. Russia and China have created a roadmap for a settlement on the Korean Peninsula that is designed to promote the gradual easing of tensions and the creation of a mechanism for lasting peace and security.
With vast territories and big populations, BRICS countries carry much weight in the world economic paradigm. Over the past decade, BRICS economic aggregate has soared from 12% of the global total to 23%, and its share in international trade increased from 11% to 16%. Together, BRICS countries have formulated the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership, which draws up systematic plans for deepening economic cooperation and fostering integrated trade and investment markets. The inception of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) are good examples of this process.
The NDB Africa Regional Center was recently launched in South Africa, which is the first regional office of the Bank. It has approved seven investment projects in the BRICS countries worth around $1.5 billion. This year, the NDB is to approve a second package of investment projects worth $2.5-$3 billion in total. It is expected that NDB will fully leverage its role and enhance cooperation with multilateral development institutions including the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as well as with the BRICS Business Council, to forge synergy in mobilizing resources and promote infrastructure construction and sustainable development.
Russia shares the BRICS countries’ concerns over the unfairness of the global financial and economic architecture, which does not give due regard to the growing weight of the emerging economies. It is necessary to promote international financial regulation reforms and overcome the excessive domination of the limited number of reserve currencies. BRICS countries also intend to work towards a more balanced distribution of quotas and voting shares within the IMF and the World Bank, and against protectionism and new barriers in global trade.
At the recent Summit, the leaders of the BRICS countries expressed concern over the challenges faced by the African continent in achieving independent and sustainable development and in wildlife conservation. They reaffirmed commitment to strengthen cooperation with Africa and help the continent to address illegal wildlife trade, promote employment, food security, infrastructure developmental initiatives and projects. The Xiamen Declaration reaffirms BRICS’ strong support for African Union’s implementation of its various programmes under Agenda 2063 in pursuit of peace and socio-economic development.
Russia stands for strengthening the BRICS countries’ partnership in politics, the economy, culture and other areas. The five countries are ready to continue working jointly to promote democracy and to strengthen the healthy elements of international relations based firmly on international law.
Embassy of Russia
On socio-economic development and investment opportunities in Crimea
The proclamation of independence of the Republic of Crimea on March 17, 2014 and its reunification with the Russian Federation (in accordance with the international treaty of March 18, 2014) were conducted on the basis of direct expression of will of the peninsula’s population at the general referendum after the coup d'état in Ukraine in February 2014. On April 11, 2014, the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea was adopted, which declares the status of the Republic of Crimea as a subject (constituent entity) of the Russian Federation and guarantees equal rights and freedoms regardless of language, religion, national or social origin, and political convictions.
As of January 2017, about 1 912,000 people live in Crimea (the population grew by 30 thousand people in 2014-2016) and 430,000 – in the city of Sevastopol. In total there are more than 100 nations and nationalities in Crimea. 85% of Crimeans consider Russian to be their native language. In accordance with the Constitution, the state languages of the Republic of Crimea are Russian, Ukrainian and Crimean-Tatar. The principle of cultural diversity is recognized, their equal development and mutual enrichment is ensured.
In 2014-2016 a lot has been done to consolidate and integrate the Crimean economy into the Russian economic complex. A medium-term federal target program "Social and Economic Development of the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol until 2020" has been developed and is being implemented with a financial volume of $11 bln.
The economy is on the upward trend, which has been achieved thanks to the development of energy and recreational sectors, the growth of housing construction. According to the Ministry of Economic Development of Crimea, from January to September 2016 industrial production increased by 21%, the mining industry – by 28%, electricity production – by 74%, manufacturing – by 2%. The total cost of manufactured local products and rendered services in 2016 exceeded $1.2 bln.
The implementation of major infrastructure projects is expected to give an additional impetus to the socio-economic development of the peninsula. Currently the work is underway to construct a bridge across the Kerch Strait (planned for commissioning in 2018-2019); the Tavrida motorway is being built (total cost is $2.2 bln, the length is over 250 km).
In order to attract investment and develop new industries in Crimea, the Free Economic Zone (SEZ) has been created. At the end of 2016, the total number of participants in the free economic zone reached 740, the volume of expected investments exceeds $1.3 bln. It is estimated that the investment projects will result in creating 30,000 new jobs.
One of the drivers for economic development in Crimea is the tourism sector. In 2016, more than 5.5 million people visited the peninsula, which is 21% higher than in the same period in 2015. Tax revenues from the tourism industry grew by 15% and reached $40 mln.
The situation in the social sphere of the peninsula is improving. The average monthly salary for January-August 2016 compared to the same period of 2015 increased by 18%; cash income of the local population in this period increased by 8% (while in general Russia's incomes fell by 6%).
In 2016 foreign trade turnover of the Republic of Crimea amounted to $115 mln, foreign trade operations were carried out with partners from 57 countries. The top five trading partners were China (20% of the turnover value), Belarus (15%), Ukraine (14%), Italy (8%), and Turkey (7%).
The Yalta International Economic Forum is held annually in the Republic. This is one of the four largest business forums held in Russia with participation of high-level government officials, domestic and foreign experts, influential business leaders and economists.
On participation of Russia in G20 Summit in Hamburg
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin participated in the Group of Twenty Summit that took place in
Hamburg on July 7–8, 2017.
Over the two days of the summit there were four working meetings of the heads of delegations of the G20 countries
which discussed such topics as the global economic growth, boosting trade, fighting terrorism, issues related to
Africa, healthcare and migration, digital economy, employment and the role of women in the economy. Following these
meeting, the leaders adopted a joint communique. Before the start of the summit, an informal meeting of the BRICS
leaders took place.
On the sidelines of the summit, Vladimir Putin held a number of bilateral meetings. On the first day he met with
President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in, US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe.
Presidents of Russia and the US undertook commitments to a memorandum on de-escalation zones in the south-west of Syria
– in Daraa, Quneitra and Souweida. The ceasefire in this zone came into effect on July 9 at 12 pm Damascus time.
The President of Russia began the second day of the G20 Summit with a working breakfast with Federal Chancellor of
Germany Angela Merkel and President of France Emmanuel Macron. Later Vladimir Putin had meetings with President of
Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and a separate bilateral meeting
with Emmanuel Macron.
As President Putin said in a news conference after the event, the world leaders agreed on determining global economy
sustainability principles, which is vitally important for working along the same standards. They also proposed adopting
common rules in the area of digital economy, defining cyber security and designing a comprehensive system of behavior rules in this sphere.
On the XXII St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
The next XXII St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) will take place on May 24–26, 2018.
St. Petersburg International Economic Forum is a leading international economic and business forum held annually in
Russia. It was established in 1997. Since 2006 SPIEF has been held under the patronage of the President of the Russian
Federation. Over its twenty years of history SPIEF has built a reputation of the most important international political
and economic event in Russia. The Forum affirmed its relevance as a universally recognized venue for informal dialogue
between business and authorities, establishing trustworthy business contacts, open and frank exchange of views between
the representatives of political elite, private sector, academia, civil society and the media. Representatives of
numerous foreign countries and companies choose the St. Petersburg Forum as an effective tool for promoting their
There is growing international attention to SPIEF from various parts of the world, including Asia-Pacific, Latin
America and Africa.
This year the Forum brought together a record number of participants – over 14,000 business representatives, heads
of international organizations, officials, experts, scientists, and media from more than 143 countries. Among them were
heads of 700 Russian and 400 foreign companies. Over 900 speakers and moderators took part in the Forum covering a wide
range of topics including socio-economic development, energy, transportation, the environment, healthcare, culture,
tourism, education, and science. 475 investment agreements and memorandums, were concluded for a total amount of $ 30
Updated information about SPIEF-2018 is available at the official website http://www.forumspb.com/en.
On the outcomes of the XXI Saint-Petersburg International Economic Forum
The XXI Saint-Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) was held on 1-3 June which is traditionally a broad platform for discussing issues related to the development of the regional and national economy, as well as global economic challenges. More than 14 000 representatives of business, heads of international organizations, experts, scholars, journalists from 143 countries of the world took part in the events of the forum. Participants signed 386 investment agreements and memoranda worth $35 bln.
President Vladimir Putin addressed the participants and organizers with a greeting, in which, he noted the growing authority of the Forum as an international platform for dialogue.
On June 1, the Russian President had a meeting with Indian Prime Minister N.Mody, following which V.Putin announced that India's full-scale entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will be effected in a week. The Russian-Indian forum, timed to the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the countries, has become one of the most important events of the SPIEF-2017. The parties agreed on joint investment projects in different economy sectors in Russia and India.
During the Forum, a plenary meeting was held with participation of the President of the Russian Federation V.V. Putin, Prime Minister of India N.Mody, Austrian Chancellor C. Kern and Moldovan President I. Dodon, UN Secretary General A. Guterres. In his speech V.V. Putin stated the need to introduce digital technologies into the Russian economy. American business had the largest representation at the SPIEF-2017. In total, 560 people from 140 companies came from the US. President Vladimir Putin called on American business community to help develop a political dialogue between Moscow and Washington.
The main topics of the SPIEF were the investment opportunities in Russia and fight against cybercrime. The participants also discussed the development of economy in the digital age. Dozens of meetings took place and important agreements were signed. Vladimir Putin met with investors from the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America who jointly manage assets worth more than $11 trillion.
On VI International Cultural Forum
This year the VI International Cultural Forum will be held from 16 to 18 November 2017 in Saint-Petersburg, Russia.
The General Staff building of the State Hermitage will traditionally be the main venue of the Forum.
Last year more than 20 000 people attended the Forum. According to Alexander Zhuravsky, the Deputy Minister of
Culture of the Russian Federation, Japan may become the guest country of the Forum, asthis year the country is hosting
«Russian Seasons» festival for the first time.
The structure of the Forum will remain unchanged and is going to be divided into 3 sections: comprehensive program
for professional discussions, wide range of cultural events and the business program.
Forum agendaas well as more detailed information is available on the website of the International Cultural Forum at:
On 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup
The 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup will be the 10th FIFA Confederations Cup, a quadrennial international men's football tournament organised by FIFA. It will be held in Russia, from 17 June to 2 July 2017, as a prelude to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Russia was announced as the host on 2 December 2010 after the country had been awarded the hosting rights of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The matches are tobe playedat four different stadiums in four cities: Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Kazan, and Sochi. It is going to be the first time that Russia hosts the tournament, and the third time that the Confederations Cup is held in the European continent. As a host country, Russia qualified for the tournamentautomatically, and will be joined by the six winners of the FIFA continental confederation championships – Australia, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Cameroon and the 2014 FIFA World Cup champion Germany.
In accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation, entry of foreign citizens and stateless persons arriving in Russia as spectators for sports events within the framework of the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and the FIFA 2018 World Cup will be visa-free.
However, in order to enter Russia foreign citizens/stateless persons must have a valid identity document (“tourist” passport) and a “Personalized card of the spectator” (also known as a “Fan ID”).
Information on the procedure for obtaining a Fan ID is available on the websites of the organizers of the above sports events at: www.fan-id.ru, www.welcome2018.com.
On the situation with Crimean Tatars
Crimean Tatars are a Turkic ethnic group that formed in the Crimean Peninsula in the 13th-17th centuries, primarily from the Turkic tribes that moved to the land that is now known as Crimea from the Asian steppes beginning in the 10th century. Today, Crimean Tatars constitute approximately 12% of the population of Crimea.
After the transfer of Crimea and Sevastopol under the Russian jurisdiction, there have emerged widespread accusations of the Russian Federation by many Ukrainian, European and American officials as well as some functionaries of international organisations in human rights violations and ill-treatment of Crimean Tatars.
In reality, however, the Russian Government has taken of a number of measures recently aiming to address some concerns of the Crimean Tatar community, such as the rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars (which also implies an increase in pensions of ex-deported people), the building of a mosque in the Crimean capital Simferopol, and the continuation of the Crimean Tatar curricula in schools. An important change in the legal framework is that Article 10 of the Constitution of the Republic of Crimea, adopted on 11 April 2014, recognizes Crimean Tatar along with Russian and Ukrainian as official languages. The adoption of these measures is positively perceived by the concerned population.
While in the context of the current crisis, some of the most prominent members of the “Mejlis” left Crimea and have been charged, others still occupy important official positions in Crimea.
Before the reunification of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol with Russia in 2014, international human rights organisations repeatedly recorded violations of the rights of Crimean Tatars. The Kiev authorities were criticised for failing to take appropriate legal and political measures to restore the rights of Crimean Tatars, who had returned to their historic homeland after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Those people had difficulties in obtaining the Ukrainian citizenship and were underrepresented in bodies of government. Meanwhile, the Kiev authorities tended to ignore socio-economic upheavals of the said ethnic minority such as unsatisfactory living conditions, inefficient anti-discrimination law and acute shortage of educational institutions for Tatar speaking population.
On 20 September 2015 a trade blockade of Crimea was initiated by the Crimean Tatar leadership, namely the former and current heads of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis Mustafa Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov. Since 20 September, hundreds of
Ukrainian activists, including Crimean Tatars and members of nationalist battalions living in Ukraine, blocked the flow of goods between mainland Ukraine and Crimea in both directions. On 21-22 November 2015, unknown perpetrators damaged four transmission towers located in the region of Kherson, Ukraine, which supply electricity to Crimea. It is widely believed that pro-Ukrainian activists and Crimean Tatars who had been enforcing the ‘civil blockade’ were behind this act of sabotage.
On 17 January 2016, the organizers of the ‘civil blockade’ of Crimea announced that they had stopped enforcing their embargo. The decision followed the entry into force of Ukraine’s Government Decree of 18 December 2015, imposing strict restrictions on the delivery of goods, services, food and personal belongings to and from Crimea.
According to the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the activists enforcing the blockade were illegally performing law enforcement functions, such as identity checks and vehicle searches, with the apparent acquiescence of the Ukrainian authorities. In February 2016, OHCHR observed persistent tensions between local residents and blockade supporters. Local residents have set up ‘self-defence’ groups in response to numerous attacks against physical persons and property. The impact of the trade embargo and the halt of electricity supplies have had harsh consequences for some people affecting daily life on the peninsula in violation of their right to access water and electricity.
Thus, after the transfer of Crimea and Sevastopol under the Russian jurisdiction, the human rights aspect of the Crimean Tatar issue has been artificially and wilfully exaggerated by many Ukrainian, European and American officials as well as some Western media. This is just another manifestation of Kiev-propelled campaign to portray the reunification Crimea with Russia as illegitimate.
On BRICS activities in 2016
Under India’s presidency, BRICS continued its work to strengthen the group and diversify the areas of strategic partnership among the member states.During their informal meeting on the sidelines of the G 20 summit in Hangchow (4 September 2016) and the VIII BRICS summit in Goa (15-16 October 2016), the heads of BRICS member states demonstrated the unity of the association, reaffirmed their true commitment to further develop and deepen multi-aspect cooperation. The Goa Declaration and the Action Plan adopted at the recent summit recorded the concurrence or similarity of member states’ positions on a wide range of issues of global political and economic agenda.
The New BRICS Development Bank and the Contingent Currency Reserve with a total capital of $200 bln. have taken a solid place in the world financial system and facilitate the modernization of the global governance structure. The New Development Bank has approved its first seven projects including the construction of two hydroelectric power stations in northwestern Russia. Demand for the Bank’s bonds in Chinese yuans has surpassed supply several times. The emission of bonds in other currencies is planned for this year. In accordance with the G 20 arrangements, the BRICS countries’ share of votes in the IMF rose from 10.72% to 14.18%.
Among the documents adopted at the Goa summit are the Provision on the BRICS Customs Cooperation Committee, the Memorandum of Understanding between BRICS Diplomatic Academies, and the Memorandum of Understanding for the Establishment of the BRICS Agricultural Research Platform. The BRICS agenda is expanding as social and humanitarian issues get increased attention in the group's documents. A number of large forums were held in 2016: parliamentary, civil, youth, and also forums for female parliamentarians and young diplomats.
The BRICS countries work together fruitfully within the World Trade Organisation and the G20 and share common positions on global development and reforming the global financial and economic architecture. BRICS aims to preserve the basics of the multilateral trade system and the WTO as its basement and the only universal trade organisation. At the same time, regional trade agreements should not be discriminatory because this would undermine the WTO principles and be detrimental to the development of international trade. The leaders of BRICS member states approved action plans for developing electronic commerce, small and medium enterprises, trade in services and standardization.
BRICS member states also agreed to set up an independent rating agency based on market-oriented principles. The decision came as a result of concerns over methodologies of the big three global agencies (S&P, Moody’s, Fitch), which constrain growth in emerging nations.
The Goa Declaration outlines the group's stance on the issue of fighting terrorism, providing for a joint working group on counter-terrorism and calling on all nations to facilitate the adoption of a comprehensive convention on the matter. The document also sets clear support for Russia's initiative to work out a convention prohibiting chemical and biological terrorism.
In the field of education, the cooperation within BRICS is also growing. The biggest educational institutions of the member states are taking part in the BRICS Network University project. It is aimed at uplifting the quality and attractiveness of the higher education and strengthening intercollegiate ties. The first Master’s programmes will be launched in the Network University this year.
All these positive developments show that BRICS is an example of a new approach to multilateral partnership based on openness, equity, solidarity and non-interference into each other’s affairs. In spite of the current economic challenges, the group has good prospects of increasing its weight in international affairs.