'Russia-Albania, Potential for Improvement'
By Genc Mlloja
Albanian Daily News
Published October 19, 2017
The Russian Ambassador to Tirana, Alexander Karpushin has told Albanian Daily News that the overall bilateral relations between Russia and Albania are not so successful, but he, nevertheless, was optimist that there would be an upgrading of them. "The potentials exist and we are working to exploit them in practice," said the Ambassador, who saw as crucial the quick activation of the Albanian-Russian Joint Inter-governmental Economic and Technical Commission.
Further on the Ambassador, Karpushin dwelt on the crisis in Ukraine, the relations with the West and the impact of their sanctions against Russia, as well as on the relations with other countries worldwide in the following interview:

- Mr. Ambassador, would you be so kind to share with ADN's readers some information on the activity of Albanian-Russian Joint Inter-governmental Economic and Technical Commission. As a follow up, which is your opinion on the progress of economic and trade exchanges between the two countries?
- It is true that since the years 1990s, the governments of Russia and Albania have established such a commission and six sessions have been held so far. Such intergovernmental commissions are considered as the main instruments to broaden the partnership for mutual benefit between states and to promote the bilateral relations with the aim of taking them to higher levels. Unfortunately, there is much time that this instrument is not being used in the Russian-Albanian relations; the latest meeting of the intergovernmental commission was held in December of the year 2009 in Moscow, that is almost eight years ago. The Russian side and its Embassy in particular have done much efforts for reviving this format of cooperation and we have achieved to hold on April 4 this year in Tirana a meeting of the co-chairmen of the commission, Mr. Gerasimov and Mrs. Karapici. The meeting was a successful one and the parties adopted a preliminary plan of the agenda of the next session of the commission. Some key points of the activity of the commission have been defined, and also questions for the improvement of the bilateral legal framework were discussed. In addition the interest was expressed to organize a joint business forum on the margins of the commission. So, we gave a strong impulse but the work has got stuck because of different reasons. The commission has remained without the two co-chairmen. But despite this we are continuing the work for the preparation of the consecutive session of the commission. At the end of April's meeting the Russian government has assigned to some ministries and other relevant institutions important tasks for the implementation of the so far achieved agreements. I believe that even the Albanian side is getting ready for the next session of the commission because a little remains to be done. As a matter of fact, we should appoint the co-chairmen of the commission and then set the date for the meeting of the commission.
As far as the economic and trade exchanges between our two countries are concerned due to the above mentioned reasons we do not have great successes even though we are aware that the mutual benefit in some key sectors is very great. In this frame, I can mention tourism, energy and agriculture. So the potentials exist and we are working to exploit them in practice.

- In the meantime, what can you say on the exchange of views at political level between relevant government institutions of Russia and Albania during this year? We have learned that this year Russia is hosting the 2017 World Festival of Youth and Students (14-22 October) in Sochi. Have Albanian youth representatives been invited to it?
- Every year many international activities of different profiles at various levels are held in Russia. And as it is asked in your question the 2017 World Festival of Youth and Students (14-22 October) is being held in Sochi of Russia during these days. Besides this the Assembly of the Inter Parliamentary Union was held in St. Petersburg a few days ago and these two activities have been inaugurated by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The international cultural forum will be organized in November of this year in St. Petersburg and in May of the next year the traditional international economic forum will be held in the same city. As a rule official invitations are systematically sent even to Albanian leadership, institutions, and businesses. Last year, the Minister of Culture, Mirela Kumbaro visited the international cultural Forum in St. Petersburg, where she held a meeting with her Russian counterpart and signed the program of cultural cooperation. The Tirana Mayor, Erion Veliaj attended the Urban Forum of Moscow while the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Damian Gjiknuri was among the invitees to the International Economic Forum of St. Petersburg.
An Albanian parliamentary delegation made up of four deputies from different parties attended the deliberations of the Assembly of the Inter Parliamentary Union during these days, while 20 Albanian young people have gone to attend the Sochi Cultural Festival. Unfortunately, there are two years that no diplomatic consultations are being held between the foreign ministries. I hope that such a dialogue would serve to the good understanding and confidence in the bilateral relations of our two countries.

- Besides the official aspect, are their private businessmen that carry out cooperation with their Russian counterparts?
- Of course, such exchanges exist. For example, the director of a shoe factory, Mrs. Donika Mici, has established stable business contacts in Russia. She has succeeded to be in the Russian market on her own and has achieved a great success. Certainly, we would like to have such contacts as many as possible, and I would suggest to Albanian businessmen that in case of any need, they can contact the Russian Embassy in Tirana and we will do the utmost to create efficient contacts between the businesses of the two countries.

- It is written by some Albanian media outlets of feverish attempts of Russia to put under its influence press and other media outlets in Albania, and it is even claimed that Russia has bought one TV station and three portals in Tirana. What can you say on this, Mr. Ambassador?
- Our Embassy has already given a detailed answer on the speculations of such a kind. Concretely in June this year we have published a reaction concerning an article, where so many absurd accusations were made against Russia which you mentioned in your question. I have nothing to add but I can underline again that the authors of these falsifications, which are spread having as an aim the propagandistic provocation, show an unlimited lack of respect towards Albanian readers considering as normal not to mention at all any concrete fact in their materials. It still remains a mystery which Albanian media outlets have been 'bought' by Russia because no concrete names are provided as no such media or portal exist.

- Russia made its first promised delivery of fighter jets to Serbia a short time ago. More military-grade vehicles and anti-aircraft defense are expected to head to Russia's longtime ally in the near future as tensions increase in the Balkans region, according to the Associated Press. How do you assess, Your Excellency, the intensification of the supply of Serbia with such sophisticated armaments when efforts are underway to pacify the region?
- The supply with armaments and military equipment is an important and normal element of the bilateral relations for all the countries. As it is known the world leader for producing and selling weapons is the US, but even Russia is among the greatest actors in this market. It develops weapons trade with dozens of countries. As you are very well aware Russia and Serbia are strategic partners. They are broadening intensively their economic exchanges and support each other in different international forums. So there is no surprise that Russia aims at helping Serbia in strengthening its military capacities. It is quite natural that we cooperate in the military field, but I want to underline that in the concrete case it is a questions of defensive weapons. In your question you mentioned the efforts for pacifying the Western Balkan region but we know that stability and peace can be achieved only on balanced military strategic conditions. The impairing of the military parity always creates the temptation of the solution of the international problems through the use of force. We know that Albania takes free of charge military supplies from the US and also it is not a secret that the West supplies even other neighboring countries of Serbia with some weapons that can hardly be called defensive.

- On September 5 this year, Russia circulated at the UN Security Council a draft-resolution on the creation of a UN Mission for assistance to protect the Special Monitoring Mission of OSCE at the southeastern part of Ukraine. In the meantime the West continues to hold Russia responsible for the situation even keeping in force the embargo. How do you see these developments?
- In fact, the main countries have already recognized that the Minsk agreements constitute the only right solution to the Ukrainian crisis. On the other hand, it is known that their implementation is being undermined by all means by the Kiev authorities. So far none of 19 points of the Kiev agreements have completely been fulfilled by Kiev. Kiev considers as main obstacle the difficulty for the establishment of a ceasefire along the contact line between the rebels and the armed forces of Ukraine. As you are aware the special monitoring mission of OSCE which operates in Ukraine in compliance with the Minsk agreements is an unarmed mission, which is always at risk of bombardments. For this reason the Russian side has presented at the UN Security Council the draft resolution in question and we consider as very important the guaranteeing of the security of the OSCE representatives. We are confident that the establishment of a defensive mission of UN in Donbas would favor the soonest solution to the internal crisis in Ukraine. As we have declared continuously Russia is dedicated to achieve a peaceful and sustainable solution to the crisis in Ukraine in order to find a suitable way for all parties for the implementation of the Minsk agreements. And as far as Ukraine is concerned we have strong reasons to suppose that this country has still a wish to oppress through violence Donbas and the ceasefire is violated by their forces.
In the meantime the West does not make an objective assessment of this situation. In fact they encourage non-punishment and gives Ukrainian leaders a possibility to justify themselves in the eyes of their citizens. While Kiev does not implement the agreements the West holds responsible Russia keeping in power the sanctions.

-The relations of Russia with the US and the West in general continue to be complex. Could you please shed some light on what's going on? But, on the other hand, it is noticed that Moscow has stepped up cooperation with such countries like China, Turkey, Iran etc. Is that step taken to counterbalance the tense relations with the West?
- As you are aware the Russian-US relations have deteriorated significantly since the time of the administration of the former president, Barack Obama. At that time a grave interference of the US in the internal affairs of Ukraine occurred provoking a deep crisis in that country. Afterwards, anti- Russian sanctions were imposed, the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats from the US and the illegal confiscation of the diplomatic Russian property followed. All of these created a deadlock in our bilateral dialogue until the end of the year 2016. Moscow has hoped that there would be an improvement of the relations between Russia and the US after Mr. Donald Trump came to power. The more so as the latter promised to build a constructive relationship with the Russian Federation during the electoral campaign speeches. But, however, this has never happened. On the contrary, baseless accusations continue to be made against Russia for alleged interference of Russia in the internal affairs of the US, its influence on the US presidential elections. Russia is included by American strategists in the list of the countries threatening the security of the US. The cooperation in the military field has almost been stopped and it is meaningful that this does not help us in the strengthening of the good confidence and security. We are against the illegal sanctions imposed by the US because they are harmful for all with the exception of the US itself. But the 'game' of sanctions makes suffer our European partners, including Albania. We are open to any form of cooperation with the West and our partners are aware of this. But we hope that the future will bring about an improvement of the relations with the US.
Answering to the second part of the question, I can say that Russia has improved significantly the cooperation with countries like China, Turkey, Iran, India, Brazil etc. But this is not as a counterbalance to the US and the West in general. It is simply in line with our national interests. It is very important that the relations with China have achieved an unimaginable strategic level, including the Silk Road project. With regard to the other countries, we have accomplished cooperation in different important fields. In the meantime Turkey remains a very important country for Russia. Our relations with that country have turned to normality and evidence of that is that there have been 5 meetings between the presidents of the two states since the beginning of this year. In addition Russia and Iran are early partners, and it is significant to mention that the two countries have diplomatic relations since 500 years.
In the meantime, speaking of the economic situation in Russia there is a positive trend, and the negative tendencies are almost invisible. I can say that despite the sanctions and other negative elements the Russian economy has overcome the recession. In conclusion of this interview I would like to express the confidence that the creation of the new government of Prime Minister Edi Rama, and the election of the new President of Albania, Ilir Meta, will create conditions for further moving forward the entire spectrum of the bilateral overall cooperation on the basis of pragmatism and practical thought. The Embassy expresses its will to make its contribution to this endeavor.

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