1. The outgoing year 2016 was a difficult one for world politics and international relations.
The international situation remained tense. Acute contradictions between states and associations of states with regard to fundamental issues of the world order remained unchanged. Blood was shed in entire regions, where statehood and the legitimate basis of the government have been undermined by external interventions or foreign support to local extremist and radical forces. The terrorist threat in the belt of instability ranging from North Africa to South Asia’s borders has taken on a systemic dimension. The entire world has to pay a high price for the attempts of a limited number of countries to retain their global "leadership" at all costs.
The vast majority of the international community clearly saw the ephemeral nature of a unipolar hegemony and the flaws of unilateral approaches. The demand for a constructive international agenda seeking to establish equal cooperation has increased.
Alongside other responsible nations, Russia has worked hard to prevent the further degradation of international relations, fraught with uncontrolled collapse and descent into full-blown confrontation. It confirmed and consolidated its status as a guarantor of global stability, a centre of attraction and support for those who are committed to the primacy of international law, healthy traditions and values, and who are ready and willing to use this as a basis to build clear and fair collective approaches to resolving the important problems of our time.
2. Russia’s vision of a changing world is reflected in a revised Foreign Policy Concept, approved by the Russian President on November 30, 2016.
The document contains reinforced provisions regarding the need to step up the fight against terrorism and to create, for this purpose, a broad international front based on a solid legal foundation. Considerable attention was given to various aspects of forming a polycentric world order, and working within such forward-looking international forums as the SCO, BRICS, RIC, the G20, promoting the EAEC and strengthening its external relations, including with ASEAN, in order to create a broad Eurasian economic space. Also, the Concept confirms the inviolability of the fundamental basis of Russia’s foreign policy, its independence, pragmatism, multi-vector nature and its willingness to promote equal and mutually beneficial cooperation with all interested countries and groups of states.
3. Countering international terrorism was a key area of focus designed to improve security and stability in 2016.
The death of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov as a result of a cowardly act of terror underscores the unprecedented and unparalleled challenge of modern terrorism, and reflects the monstrous inhumanity of its ideology and practice. The initiative put forward by the Russian President during the 70th session of the UN General Assembly with regard to forming a broad international anti-terrorist coalition remains relevant. Fighting evil can be successful only on a collective, fair, and legal basis, with the central role played by the UN and its Security Council.
International organisations and associations kept their focus on consolidating anti-terrorist cooperation, including during Russia's presidency of the UN Security Council (October), the antiterrorist OSCE conference in Berlin and the OSCE Ministerial Council in Hamburg, the CIS, the CSTO, ASEAN, APEC, the Global Counterterrorism Forum, the SCO and BRICS, where a working group on counter-terrorism was established at Russia’s initiative, focused on strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation.
The FATF standards have been amended at Russia's proposal, according to which, for the first time in the 25 years of the Group’s existence, a complete ban on any and all trade with terrorists was introduced. Anti-terrorism cooperation has been the subject of numerous bilateral meetings and negotiations with our partners from the EU, the African Union, China, Egypt, Israel, Tajikistan, Pakistan and other countries.
4. The Middle East and North Africa have remained the focus of attention, as the activity of international terrorist groups there has led to the emergence of a vast space of chaos and violence. If maintained in their hot phase, the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, along with the further weakening of public institutions and the deterioration of the regional population’s socioeconomic and humanitarian situation, pose a major threat to international security and stability.
The effective joint action as part of the operation of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria, carried out at the request of the authorities, has effectively stopped the expansion of the militants’ zone of influence, and the previously invaded areas have been liberated. The country’s largest city, Aleppo, has been liberated. Due to the involvement of Russian forces from the Centre for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides, over a thousand towns and about one hundred armed opposition groups have signed agreements to join to the cessation of hostilities, and have declared their commitment to abide by the requirements.
In addition, efforts were continued to promote a peaceful settlement through a political and diplomatic process to launch an intra-Syrian inclusive dialogue, without preconditions, on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 2254, and taking into account the decisions of International Syria Support Group, established and co-chaired by Russia and the United States. At a time when the Obama administration has failed to comply with the agreements to dissociate the moderate opposition from the terrorists, a special role in the implementation of measures aimed at the cessation of hostilities and the revival of the political process to end the Syrian conflict, has been played by the trilateral alliance between Russia, Iran and Turkey, and the regular dialogue with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and other countries in the region.
The policy Russia is pursuing to stabilise the region, to relieve the negative consequences of the crisis and find ways to resolve the numerous political conflicts, promotes understanding of the need to combine efforts to combat the common threats and challenges, and to coordinate approaches to leading the region out of its multilevel crisis. This includes, in particular, participating in the search of ways to overcome the crises in Libya, Yemen, and Iraq, and facilitating the resumption of the Middle East peace process, where any results can only be achieved through direct dialogue between the leaders of Israel and Palestine.
The concerned parties continued to address the entire scope of issues related to the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Regarding Iran’s nuclear programme.
5. The developments in and around Ukraine have remained one of the dangerous factors that have a direct influence on Russia’s security and interests.
Armed provocations, responsibility for which rests with Kiev, according to reports by the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission, combined with Ukraine’s policy of subverting negotiations and the fulfilment of adopted decisions, made it impossible to achieve progress in carrying out the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements of February 12, 2015. Meanwhile, there is no alternative to these agreements, as a foundation for settling Ukraine’s domestic crisis. This idea was emphasised more than once during the work of the Contact Group, regular dialogue between the foreign ministries and foreign policy assistants of the leaders of the Normandy Four, meetings with representatives of the US administration and the four-party summit in October 2016.
6. As part of the Russian President’s initiative on forming multi-level integration in Eurasia – the Eurasian comprehensive partnership – members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) continued developing ties with third countries and integration associations, including Serbia, Israel, Iran, Egypt, India, China, Singapore, South Korea and MERCOSUR. They were preparing for a transition to advanced formats of cooperation, for instance, via the signing of memorandums of understanding of the Eurasian Economic Commission, drafting trade and economic agreements and forming free trade areas.
The final documents of the Russia-ASEAN summit in Sochi in May reflect the association’s intention to consider the Russian initiatives on a joint study of the prospects of establishing a free trade area between the EAEU and ASEAN.
The EAEU-Vietnam free trade area agreement came into force in October. This is the union’s first preferential trade agreement.
The EAEU and China began harmonising a draft agreement on trade and economic cooperation, which is a new practical stage in the search for points of contact between two regional integration initiatives: the EAEU and China’s Silk Road Economic Belt.
7. In the year of the 25th anniversary of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), its member states focused on making it more efficient and adapting it to modern realities. To expand its contractual basis, they adopted 12 international documents and made over 70 decisions regulating various aspects of their activities in the economic, humanitarian and law-enforcement areas.
The development of a free trade area in the CIS remained a major task. At present the free trade area agreement of October 18, 2011 is valid for all states that have signed it. To develop the agreement, the CIS member states signed a protocol on the rules and procedures of regulating state purchases at the June meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of State in Bishkek
The CIS member states pooled their efforts to overcome the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis for their national economies, counter the terrorist threat and organised crime and consolidate foreign policy cooperation.
In the context of Russia’s chairmanship in 2017, the CIS will continue its course on developing multifaceted cooperation, as well as deepening and linking multi-level integration processes in its space.
8. Constructive cooperation between the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) will be furthered by the CSTO’s updated Collective Security Strategy until 2025, as well as by a number of political documents on a political settlement in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh and the fight against international terrorism that were adopted at the top and high levels.
The organisation’s potential will also be substantially strengthened by the newly created Crisis Response Centre, whose operation will be closely related to the activity of the National Defence Management Centre and similar centres created in the CSTO member states.
Joint exercises to improve military cooperation and the fight against terrorism, emergency response and special operations to combat illegal migration and cybercrime have been conducted on a regular basis. Decisions were made regarding CSTO Joint Staff reform, military personnel training programmes and deeper cooperation in the defence and technology sector. The coordination of a single list of organisations designated as terrorist in the CSTO member states at the October session of the CSTO Collective Security Council in Yerevan was a breakthrough.
The level of cooperation with Armenia on a broad range of issues of bilateral relations, and active engagement within the framework of multilateral mechanisms and organisations was, as usual, high.
At the final stage of Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the EAEU, Russia continued to provide the republic significant financial and technical assistance aimed at ensuring the optimal adaptation of its economy to new realities.
The similar or identical positions of Russia and Tajikistan on most key issues on the international and regional agenda ensured the reciprocal support of Moscow’s and Dushanbe’s initiatives at international organisations, such as the CIS, the CSTO, the SCO, the UN and the OSCE. Factoring in the threats coming from the territory of Afghanistan, bilateral cooperation in the defence and technology sector, above all in reinforcing the Tajik-Afghan border, remained a priority.
The untimely death of the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, whose memory the President of Russia paid tribute to in his visit to Samarkand in September, did not freeze the development of Russian-Uzbek cooperation. In October, the 4th round of high-level interagency consultations on regional security issues in Central Asia took place in Moscow. In November, the defence ministers of the two countries signed a new treaty on cooperation in the defence and technology sector.
The focus of relations with Turkmenistan remained on issues related to the development of trade and economic cooperation, cooperation at international platforms, regional security issues and bilateral cultural and humanitarian ties.
9. Comprehensive support was provided to help Abkhazia and South Ossetia develop as modern democratic states and to strengthen their international positions. The contractural framework of relations was expanded. As of late 2016, there are over 90 agreements with Abkhazia and over 80 agreements with South Ossetia, including on the deployment of Russian military bases on their territories and on the protection of their borders with Georgia.
In the Transnistrian settlement, based on Russian proposals, the main objective of the past two years was successfully achieved: the sides returned to the negotiating table and “5+2” format meetings resumed. In the course of official contacts in Germany in June and July, the sides addressed the most urgent issues on the agenda. We expect the elections that took place in 2016 on both banks of the Dnestr will make it possible to provide a positive impetus to the Transinstrian settlement process.
Thanks to Russia’s energetic actions, in the course of a meeting of chiefs of the general staffs of the Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces in Moscow, it became possible to ensure the cessation of large-scale hostilities that erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh in April 2016. We worked to deescalate the situation and provide conditions for further talks in the course of the Armenian-Azerbaijani summit in Vienna, with the participation of the foreign ministers of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries and a trilateral meeting in St Petersburg.
10. Allied relations with Belarus have been developing in various formats, including a bilateral format within the framework of the Union State, the Eurasian Economic Union and the CIS. A high level of cooperation was noted not only in the economic sphere but also in ensuring collective security, foreign policy coordination, cultural and humanitarian ties and in ensuring the equality of citizens’ rights in both countries.
The comprehensive development of strategic partnership relations with Kazakhstan will be facilitated by the Russian-Kazakh Joint Action Plan for 2016–2018 that was approved by the heads of state.
11. The consolidation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) continued in the interest of strengthening regional security and deepening political coordination and humanitarian ties between its member states.
The main efforts were focused on the practical implementation of the agreements that were reached during Russia’s SCO chairmanship in 2014–2015, primarily those regarding the organisation’s enlargement. During the June meeting of the Council of the SCO Heads of State in Tashkent, memoranda on India’s and Pakistan’s obligations for full SCO membership were signed, the 2016–2021 Action Plan for the Implementation of the SCO Development Strategy through 2025 was approved and the Tashkent Declaration on the 15th Anniversary of the SCO was adopted.
In the economic sphere, the Russian President’s initiative on forging a comprehensive Eurasian partnership with the participation of EAEU, SCO and other countries and their associations was actively promoted on the organisation’s platform.
12. Under India’s chairmanship, efforts continued at BRICS to strengthen the association and diversify strategic partnership between its member states.
During an informal meeting of the BRICS heads of state on the sidelines of the G20 Hangzhou Summit on September 4 and the Eighth BRICS summit in Goa on October 15–16, the state leaders demonstrated the unity of the association and reaffirmed their genuine interest in furthering and deepening multilateral partnership. The declaration and the plan of action that were adopted in Goa documented the similar or identical positions of the member states on a broad range of key issues on the international political and economic agenda.
The BRICS New Development Bank and the BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement, with a total capital of $200 billion, have secured a foothold in the global currency and financial system, and facilitate the modernisation of the global architecture of governance. In 2016, the bank began funding its first seven projects, including the construction of two hydroelectric power stations in Karelia.
In the interest of building up BRICS’ “soft power” and consolidating the cultural and civilisational capability of its member countries, a number of major forums were held: parliamentary, civic, youth, women MPs and young diplomats.
13. Within the framework of the G20, global efforts continued, aimed at providing conditions for the speedy restoration of economic growth. We note the objectively predetermined enlargement of the G20’s agenda with topics on the borderline between economics and politics (international information security, fighting corruption, suppressing the financing of terrorism, refugees). Russia’s input has made it possible to achieve balanced decisions on these issues at the group’s Hangzhou summit in September.
Under the agreements that were previously reached within the framework of the G20, in January 2016, decisions regarding IMF reform officially went into effect, whereby the share of the BRICS countries’ vote increased from 3.46 per cent (to 14.18 per cent), which brought their aggregate weight close to the 15 per cent blocking vote.
14. The development of Russia’s comprehensive and equal partnership based on trust and strategic cooperation with China has become a key factor in world politics and a basic element of global and regional security.
The Russian-Chinese dialogue at the top and high levels was marked by a high degree of mutual understanding. In 2016, there were five meetings of the heads of state, and the 21st regular meeting of the heads of government was successfully held. Beijing’s G20 chairmanship was marked by the effective coordination of the two countries’ positions on the agenda in this format.
Bilateral trade is seeing growth in the share of the export of domestically manufactured goods with high added value and the deliveries of high-tech innovation goods, and 66 priority projects in the investment sphere have been coordinated. Mutually beneficial partnership in the energy sector is strengthening: Chinese credit organisations have begun financing the Yamal-LNG project, construction of the Sila Sibiri [Siberian Might] pipeline is ongoing, and supplies of Russian oil to China are steadily growing.
Cooperation in the defence sector is developing, and the first joint check of the Russian-Chinese state border was successfully completed. The Years of the Russian and Chinese Media have become a key humanitarian cooperation project.
15. The development of special relations of privileged strategic partnership with India is based on the well-established ties between the two countries, the trusting dialogue on topical issues on the global and regional agenda, the similarity of their positions on peace and security issues and the strengthening of global inclusive and transparent governance. The Russian President’s visit to India in October reaffirmed that Moscow and New Delhi are on the same wavelength regarding the consolidation of bilateral ties.
New important agreements were reached in areas such as cooperation in the defense and technology sector, energy and investment, regional contacts are steadily developing and new humanitarian contacts have been initiated. In light of the upcoming celebration, in April 2017, of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with India, a plan of corresponding activities was approved.
16. The trilateral forum of Russia, India and China (RIC) is a major platform for foreign policy and practical cooperation, which is being used to closely coordinate trilateral interaction. During the 14th meeting of the RIC countries’ foreign ministers in Moscow in April 2016, the parties reached an agreement on strengthening their coordination within multilateral organisations, primarily the UN, BRICS, SCO and G20.
17. Efforts were redoubled to deepen multilateral cooperation with Asia-Pacific countries in order to create conditions for the accelerated socioeconomic development of East Siberia and the Russian Far East. The Eastern Economic Forum, which met for a second time in Vladivostok in September, has grown into a major venue for demonstrating Russia’s investment potential and for strengthening ties with Asia-Pacific countries.
Relations with Japan were given a fresh start, primarily by the visit of the Russian president in December, the first in 11 years. Russia also worked consistently to strengthen its comprehensive strategic cooperation with Vietnam and strategic partnership with Laos and to boost cooperation with Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. There were positive changes in relations with Australia and New Zealand.
Interaction with multilateral Asia-Pacific associations became more energetic. The largest foreign policy event in this area was the ASEAN-Russia Commemorative Summit, which was held in Sochi in May. The participants adopted the Sochi Declaration and a five-year Comprehensive Plan of Action to enhance Russia’s cooperation with the 10-member association to the level of strategic partnership.
Seeking to promote an economic space free from discrimination and to foster mutual complementarity of integration processes underway in Asia Pacific and Eurasia, Russia advanced an initiative on moving towards a free trade zone in Asia Pacific based on the experience of all regional integration initiatives, which was added to the final documents of the APEC summit in Lima, Peru, in November.
In cooperation with its Asia Pacific partners, Russia proceeded to work to create a regional architecture of equal and indivisible security based on international law and mutual respect for each other’s interests. As part of a multilateral dialogue on this issue, Russia proposed creating a matrix for a comprehensive assessment of regional security organisations’ efficiency.
Russia actively contributed to the mechanisms of ASEAN Post Ministerial Conferences (held with ASEAN Dialogue Partners after meetings of ASEAN defence ministers), the ASEAN Regional Forum, the Asia-Europe Meeting, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia and the Asia Cooperation Dialogue.
18. Dialogue with the United States was complicated by an aggressive US policy of systemic containment of Russia, which included the build-up of sanctions pressure, the deployment of Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) components and provocative military activities on Russia’s western borers and in the Black Sea. The well-orchestrated campaign to accuse Russia of interference in the presidential election in the United States was designed to whip up anti-Russia sentiments.
In response to these actions, Russia worked consistently to convince its American partners to normalise dialogue based on equality and mutual respect for each other’s interests. It also pointed out the need to settle old problems in bilateral relations, such as the abduction of Russian citizens by US security services in other countries and violations of the rights of adopted Russian children in the United States.
Russian-US interaction continued in the areas of Russian interests and international security, including the settlement of the Syrian crisis, the Treaty on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms (2010) and dozens of other bilateral agreements. The United States had to admit the failure of its attempts to isolate Russia on the international stage: the presidents of Russia and the United States met twice and their foreign ministers met 14 times, including twice in Moscow.
When Donald Trump won the presidential election, Vladimir Putin sent a message of congratulations saying that he hopes to work together to lift Russian-US relations out of the current crisis.
19. Relations with the European Union could not break out of Brussels’ destructive policy of using various pretexts to contain Russia. However, dialogue continued in several areas of mutual interest, including counterterrorism, immigration, trade and customs issues, energy supplies and the Middle East.
During a meeting on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 16, President Vladimir Putin presented Russian proposals on developing new Russia-EU relations to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. The response is pending, as is the case with the Eurasian Economic Commission’s proposals on developing working ties with the EC.
20. Despite the EU’s policy of restricting interaction with Russia, programmes of cross-border and regional cooperation were underway with Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Finland, Sweden and Estonia with the European Commission’s financial assistance, and cooperation continued within the Northern Dimension partnerships on the environment, transport, public health and culture.
21. The past year has reaffirmed the OSCE’s relevance in European affairs.
On Ukraine, the organisation has continued to facilitate the fulfillment of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, as well as the activity of the Contact Group and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. As a result, the mission’s reports on the situation in all parts of Ukraine have become more objective and comprehensive.
In addition to the OSCE’s traditional agenda, the organisation has focused on the migration crisis in Europe and the compatibility of integration processes. The focus on these issues was maintained and the prime causes of migration problems in the EU were highlighted. As part of the effort to foster economic interconnectedness, Eurasian Economic Commission, CSTO, CIS and SCO representatives were encouraged to participate in OSCE activities.
We are satisfied with constructive engagement between the Russian Central Election Commission and the OSCE ODIHR regarding the monitoring of elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation on September 18.
Russia has joined the OSCE’s new confidence building measures involving the use of IT, as well as the Declaration on the Twentieth Anniversary of the OSCE Framework for Arms Control that was adopted at the OSCE Ministerial Council and that welcomed the launch of a well-defined dialogue on security challenges and risks to foster a greater understanding on these issues.
22. In the year of the 20th anniversary of its participation in the Council of Europe, which is a leading format of pan-European cooperation, Russia came across as an active partner in all the dimensions of the CE’s activity (except PACE).
Within the framework of political dialogue, CE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland made a working visit to Russia, and a meeting of the steering committee on Russia-CE cooperation programmes was successfully held in Moscow.
The further expansion of Russia’s participation in CE activities will be facilitated by our country’s accession to the European Convention on the Abolition of Legalisation of Documents executed by Diplomatic Agents or Consular Officers, the Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events, and Protocol No. 15 amending the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, aimed at improving the efficiency of the European Court of Human Rights.
23. The NATO leadership continued to implement the package of measures to rapidly build up the bloc’s military presence and develop its military infrastructure in the Central European and Baltic states, as well as in the Black Sea, which was approved at its Wales summit in 2014. At its Warsaw summit in July, the alliance approved its long-term course toward strengthening the bloc’s military component to maintain its dominant positions in the Euro-Atlantic region and to ensure global power projection, and also reaffirmed its undeviating course toward the military-political containment of our country.
Nevertheless, for the first time after an almost two-year hiatus, on April 20, July 13 and December 19, meetings of the Russia-NATO Council (RNC) at the level of permanent representatives took place in Brussels on NATO’s initiative, the agenda of which included the crisis in Ukraine, security issues in Afghanistan and risks related to NATO’s increased military activity along Russia’s western borders.
We regard the RNC as a much needed mechanism for consultations between Russia and NATO on key security issues. We are willing to build relations with the alliance, taking into account the extent of its readiness for equal partnership, to invest in meticulous compliance with the principles and norms of international law, and to take real steps to ensure a common space of peace, security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic region based on the principles of mutual trust, transparency and predictability, and the fulfillment by all of its members of the obligation assumed within the framework of the RNC not to ensure their own security at the expense of the security of other states, as well as the obligations to exercise military restraint in keeping with the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between Russia and NATO of May 27, 1997.
24. The efforts to develop relations with the Latin American and Caribbean states were focused on maintaining an intensive dialogue at the top level, strengthening interparliamentary ties and promoting active exchanges of interagency delegations. Russia’s relations with the Latin American countries are devoid of considerations of political expediency and are built on the long-term basis of friendship, mutual respect and the similarity of interests.
Regarding the development of integration in Latin America and the Caribbean region as an important condition for raising its profile in international affairs, we have consistently worked to foster cooperation with multilateral associations in Latin America. As a result of Sergey Lavrov’s November meeting with an expanded quartet of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Sochi, concrete areas of cooperation with this representative regional association were outlined.
25. Steps were taken to strengthen multifaceted cooperation with the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and their integration associations, primarily the African Union (AU). Ties between the African Union Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission offer additional opportunities for deepening and giving a new meaning to these relations.
As part of its assistance to Africa, Russia decided to make an additional one-time contribution to the World Food Programme’s humanitarian assistance fund, including $1.5 million each for Zimbabwe and Ethiopia and $1 million each for Madagascar and Somalia.
26. Active use was made of bilateral contacts and specialised international agencies to protect the interests of the Russian fuel and energy sector. An agreement reached between the OPEC member states, Russia and other oil producing countries to reduce oil production by approximately 1.8 million barrels per day in the first six months of 2017 was a major achievement. It should help stabilise the global oil market, enhance the sector’s investment attractiveness and create conditions for the sectoral companies’ new projects, which will prevent price hikes in a few years’ time.
The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) was used to promote the interests of the Russian fuel and energy sector in gas pricing, the reliability of deliveries, stable financing of gas markets and increasing the share of natural gas in the global energy balance.
Support was given to large infrastructure projects, including the Turkish Stream, Nord Stream 2 and the Sila Sibiri, and the transit of Russian natural gas via Ukraine was closely monitored.
27. In light of the continued sanctions pressure by the United States, the EU and some of their allies, we pointed out to those who initiated these steps that they are illegitimate and counterproductive and that unilateral restrictions will only continue to disrupt and unbalance the global economy and prevent it from re-entering the trajectory of sustainable growth.
At the same time, we upheld our position of principle against closed trade blocs with a limited membership and urged the new integration associations to strictly comply with internationally recognised standards and rules of trade and economic regulation.
28. The February meeting between Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and Pope Francis in Havana, Cuba, was a momentous event. The two religious leaders pointed out the unity of tasks and goals in light of the current challenges facing society, spoke up in defence of traditional family values and urged the international community to take measures to protect Christians in the Middle East.
Other important events within the dialogue of civilisations was the Russian attendance at the 7th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) in Baku, Azerbaijan, in April and the UNAOC Group of Friends Ministerial Meeting in New York in September. Russia also hosted the 7th Meeting of the Russia-Islamic World Group of Strategic Vision in Kazan, Tatarstan, in May.
29. Efforts to enhance Russia’s cultural and humanitarian presence abroad remained a vital aspect of Russian diplomacy. Large-scale projects were held within the framework of cross-cultural years, days and seasons with Greece, China, Spain, France, Germany and Great Britain. The Feel Russia and Flowers of Russia culture festivals were a huge success in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Greece, Finland, Austria, Spain and Germany.
Russia Days, which are held with assistance from the Moscow Patriarchate to strengthen the centuries-long spiritual ties with the world’s nations, took place in Armenia, Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan, Cuba, Brazil, Greece, Slovakia and Macedonia.
The network of Russian science and culture centres has been expanded with branches in Gomel, Belarus, and Osh, Kyrgyzstan. These centres were used to hold cultural, education and science events.
Consistent efforts were taken to increase the export of Russian education services.
The focus was on youth programmes, including international youth forums Terra Scientia on Klyazma River, Tavrida, Iturup, and the New Generation forum of young leaders that offers an opportunity to visit Russia. Cooperation is underway with the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs (Rosmolodezh) to prepare for the World Festival of Youth and Students in 2017.
30. All-round efforts were taken to consolidate the Russian Diaspora and support its desire to preserve its distinctive identity and ties with Russia. Measures were taken to improve the National Programme to Assist the Voluntary Resettlement in Russia of Compatriots Currently Living Abroad.
We continued to prioritise the defence of the rights and legitimate interests of compatriots in their countries of residence. Active use was made of the OSCE resource for attracting public attention to the situation with Russian speakers in Ukraine and the Baltic countries.
Continued efforts were taken to strengthen the positions of the Russian language across the world, and a legal framework was prepared for implementing the 2015 Russian Schools Abroad Concept. Other priorities included cooperation with compatriots to preserve historical memory, combat the attempts to falsify history and support the Russian-language media as part of the policy of promoting objective and reliable information about Russia in the global media environment.
Cooperation with young compatriots living abroad includes the annual World Junior Compatriot Games. The Second World Junior Compatriot Games held in Sochi in April 2016 were attended by 500 junior athletes from 46 countries.
Over 700 creative Russian-speaking young people from 43 countries were able to visit Russia as part of the Hello, Russia! project.