Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Dr Laurie Bristow CMG

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Ambassador, what are your first impressions of Moscow and Muscovites?

I was in Moscow 2007-10 as Deputy Head of Mission. It’s great to be back, and it’s a huge privilege to return as Ambassador. What I like about Russia is the incredibly rich culture, history and hospitality of the country and its people. Living in the historic Residence opposite the Kremlin reminds me of that every day. I aim to encourage a shared respect for each other’s culture, traditions and history. One of our favourite places to relax in Moscow is in Kolomenskoye Park.

How important are UK-Russian business ties now in this time of great international turmoil?

We believe there are roughly 1000 British companies working in Russia, and many jobs in Britain and Russia depend on our economic relationship. The football World Cup, due to be held in Russia in 2018, adds more cities to the list of potential areas for prospects for UK businesses. One of the most important parts of my job is to support UK companies to develop economic relations with Russia. Despite the economic situation in Russia, and the sanctions and Russia‘s countersanctions, particularly on food products, Russia still presents significant opportunities for British companies, both now and in the future.

What can the Embassy do to help British business here?

My colleagues in the UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department work hard to help British companies to increase their trade in Russia. UKTI has three teams, in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Ekaterinburg. They have also successfully led major business delegations to other Russian cities, such as our largest ever trade delegation to Perm in autumn last year.

How important, in your opinion, is culture in international relations?

This is an extremely important part of our relationship with Russia. It‘s something that matters to ordinary people, and it‘s something that catches the public’s imagination. The Cosmonauts exhibition last year was a huge success, and the BBC’s War and Peace is currently showing on Russian TV. We have some great exhibitions being held right now, in London’s National Portrait Gallery and Moscow’s State Tretyakov Gallery, with an exchange of paintings of people who have shaped the way we think about the world. I’m particularly pleased that the famous Chandos portrait of Shakespeare is being shown here in Moscow on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. Our diplomatic relations go back even further. Every time I walk into the Embassy, I see on the wall the name of my first predecessor, who arrived in Moscow 450 years ago. It gives a sense of perspective.

I understand that the role which Embassies play is a political role first and foremost, however many British expatriates feel that they would like to somehow be closer to the Embassy, perhaps on the level of social events. Do you have any plans to bring the embassy and the British community closer together?

The Embassy and Consulates are here to represent the UK in its relations with the Russian government and Russia more widely, and to support British interests here. That includes our support to the British business community and our consular support to British citizens who get into difficulties. We also work with community organisations such as St. Andrews Church and the international schools to support the British community.