Up to Singapore to improve ties with Russia over sanctions issue: Russian ambassador

·4-min read
Russia's ambassador to Singapore Nikolay Kudashev. (PHOTO: Embassy of the Russian Federation in Singapore)
Russia's ambassador to Singapore Nikolay Kudashev. (PHOTO: Embassy of the Russian Federation in Singapore)

This is the first of a two-part interview by Yahoo News Singapore with Nikolay Kudashev, Russia’s ambassador to Singapore. The second part will be published on Friday (6 May).

SINGAPORE — Singapore should take steps to normalise ties with Russia following its decision to impose sanctions against Kremlin-linked business interests, said Nikolay Kudashev, the newly appointed Russian ambassador to the city-state.

In a recent phone interview with Yahoo News Singapore, Kudashev said Russia has not initiated any sanctions against Singapore and as such, it is not up to the Kremlin to decide on the issue.

“It is for the Singaporean side to make decisions and to get things back to normal. We are not to be blamed for the sanctions against us,” said the 64-year-old career diplomat, who joined the diplomatic service in 1981.

His comments come after Singapore joined a number of countries to impose a wide range of sanctions against Russia after it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Announcing the “special military operation” on the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the operation was “to protect the people who have been subjected to abuse, genocide from the Kiev regime” and to “demilitarise and denazify Ukraine".

In a ministerial statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament on 28 February that the city-state will impose export controls on items that can be used directly as weapons in Ukraine, as well as certain financial sanctions on Russia.

"We cannot accept one country attacking another without justification, arguing that its independence was the result of 'historical errors and crazy decisions'. Such a rationale would go against the internationally recognised legitimacy and territorial integrity of many countries, including Singapore," Dr Balakrishnan said.

Kudashev said much has been accomplished between Singapore and Russia on the political, economic, humanitarian and other fronts over the years.

“Unfortunately, the decision of the Singapore government on the imposing of sanctions against Russia, bypassing the United Nations (UN) Security Council, overshadows what has been achieved and causes serious damage to it. We can hardly speak about normalcy in relations,” he added.

“I am convinced that we are not responsible for the changed situation…and it is not for us to take the first step towards improving it, although it is well-known that the Russian Federation has never lacked good will.”

Kudashev, who was previously posted to the Soviet Union embassy in Singapore from 1981 to 1985, presented his credentials as ambassador to Singapore President Halimah Yacob at the Istana on 19 April. In a post on the Facebook page of the Russian embassy in Singapore on the same day, Kudashev said, “Looking forward to establishing friendly and cordial relations. Expect you would reciprocate.”

Russia's ambassador to Singapore Nikolay Kudashev and Singapore President Halimah Yacob speaking at the Istana on 19 April 2022. (PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information)
Russia's ambassador to Singapore Nikolay Kudashev and Singapore President Halimah Yacob speaking at the Istana on 19 April 2022. (PHOTO: Ministry of Communications and Information)

Singapore in Russia's list of 'unfriendly countries'

On 2 March, during an emergency session in the UN, Singapore voted alongside 140 other countries for a resolution to condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Five countries voted against the resolution while 35 abstained.

With no sign of a reversal of Russia’s invasion, the emergency session reconvened on 24 March to vote on a resolution reiterating the UN’s demand that Russia withdraw from Ukraine and deploring the attacks on Ukraine’s civilian population and infrastructure. Singapore voted in favour of the resolution alongside 139 other countries while five countries voted against it and 38 abstained.

Singapore, however, abstained from the vote to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council on 7 April. Russia was suspended from the Council after the vote took place in the UN, with 93 countries in favour, 24 against and 58 abstained.

The Kremlin on 7 March issued a list of countries and territories including Singapore that “commit unfriendly actions” against Russia, its companies, and citizens. All corporate deals with companies and individuals from "unfriendly countries" have to get approval from a government commission, according to a Russian government resolution.

When asked whether Russia plans to remove Singapore from the list, Kudashev again referred to Singapore’s move to impose sanctions and urged its government to "preserve those areas of cooperation” where possible.

“It is sufficient to mention that Singapore is the only one of the Asean countries, which joined the (moves by various countries to impose) sanction pressure on Moscow. I suppose it speaks for itself,” said Kudashev.

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