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Dhaka-Moscow ties strong both politically, economically: Russian envoy

Bangladesh-Russia relations have proven to be resilient and strong both politically and economically, Russian Ambassador to Bangladesh Alexander Mantytsky said on Thursday judging the outcomes of the year 2023.

“2024 seems to be equally promising,” he said while speaking at DCAB Talk at Jatiya Press Club hosted by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB).

Together with Bangladeshi partners, the ambassador said they are eager to expand and diversify areas of mutual interest for the sake of people of the two countries.

“It leaves no one doubt that we have all prerequisites for that and share the same commitment,” he added.

Speaking about economic cooperation, the ambassador said Bangladesh remains Russia’s second largest trade partner in South Asia after India.

The Russian side is interested in diversification of its export basket by supplying machinery, equipment and technologies necessary for railway, road construction, building, metallurgy and other industrial spheres, said the envoy.

“Russia makes a significant contribution to Bangladesh food security. Despite artificial and counterproductive obstacles created by the Western countries, Moscow continues to export to Bangladesh key agro-industrial products, mainly wheat and fertilizers,” he said.

The Russian side is ready to expand the list of export items with edible oils, peas, chickpeas and lentils, said Ambassador Mantytsky.

“Energy has been the backbone of our cooperation. In 2023, Gazprom continued projects aimed at enhancing Bangladesh energy security,” he said.

The drilling of three additional wells on Bhola Island was completed, bringing the total number of drilled wells to 20.

The company’s proposals for gas evacuation and exploration of new fields are under consideration.

“There are more offers and projects in the pipeline, such as the supply of Russian LNG and crude oil for further local refining, Russian solar energy technologies, upgrade of local power stations, and more,” said Mantytsky.

The Rooppur NPP flagship project is moving according to the schedule.

Among the recent milestones, there is the installation of the passive heat removal system at Unit 2.

The first unit is expected to start pilot operation by the end of this year.

“Safety has always been the top priority of JSC “ASE” – general contractor of the project. Russian specialists use the most advanced engineering solutions and technologies,” said the ambassador.

The same VVER-1200 reactors that are installed at the Roppur NPP are already in operation in Russia, having proved their efficiency and reliability, he said.

They can survive almost everything – from earthquake to a plane crash.

Rooppur NPP will make a considerable contribution to Bangladesh economic development and energy security, said the envoy.

Nuclear energy is environment friendly, produces no carbon emission and no pollution.

It is affordable, reliable and clean. Russia will assist our Bangladeshi partners throughout the entire life cycle of the nuclear project, including our obligations for the long-term deliveries of reactor fuel, plant maintenance, and handling nuclear waste.

“Rooppur is more than just a power plant. Dozens of Bangladeshi companies provide their services and materials for construction works,” Mantytsky said.

The NPP project will create a new sector of economy with more than 18 thousand workplaces for locals, he said.

The envoy said through training of Bangladeshi students in nuclear universities in Russia and at the education center at Rooppur itself, Russia assists in adding a large amount of skilled engineers to the Bangladesh economy capable of bringing a meaningful contribution not only to the nuclear industry, but to other sectors too.

Sadly, he said, it has come to their knowledge that certain pro-Western quarters are hatching plans to smear the Rooppur NPP project.

Instead of focusing on the achievements, local hype-seeking journalists are ready to undermine the epitome of our bilateral relations for short-lived considerations, said Mantytsky.

They deliberately exaggerate minor shortcomings unavoidable in any project of such scale, while turning a blind eye to its benefits, he added.

The ambassador touched upon the situation around and in Ukraine, as well as highlighted the current state of Russia-Bangladesh affairs.

The past year showed the growing global intolerance towards the arrogant manners of Western countries still clinging to their fading hegemony in world affairs, while basing squarely on their vested interests with disregard for the opinion of all others, he said.

The envoy said the West has demonstrated worrisome inability to make honest deals and has proven to be an unreliable partner.

At the UN and other multilateral platforms, Russia advocated for the peaceful development of all states based on the principles of sovereign equality and indivisible security.

“Russia effectively thwarted plans for its international isolation while maintaining opportunities for respectful dialogue and pragmatic cooperation with the West,” he said.

In November, a detachment of warships of the Russian Pacific Fleet paid a goodwill visit to the port of Chittagong.

It was the first time in the last 50 years when Russian Naval ships entered the Bangladeshi port.

In December, two veteran Russian sailors who were engaged in demining and clearing the port of Chittagong from sunken ships in 1972-1974, took part in the Victory Day celebrations in Bangladesh.

DCAB President Nurul Islam Hasib and its General Secretary Ashiqur Rahman Apu also spoke.