Brunei-Russia friendship remains strong

Azlan Othman

Notable developments in the bilateral ties between Brunei Darussalam and Russia were observed last year Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Brunei Darussalam Vladimir Goncharenko said in an interview.

“Russia and Brunei Darussalam traditionally maintain relations of friendship and cooperation, and last year, both nations strengthened and developed them.”

The ambassador said contacts on the top and high levels were organised. In November 2019, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev met in Bangkok, Thailand.

In May 2019, Minister of Foreign Affairs II Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof visited Moscow to hold negotiations with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov.

In December 2019, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Igor Morgulov visited the Sultanate for bilateral political consultations and His Majesty received him in audience.

Ambassador of Russian Federation to Brunei Darussalam Vladimir Goncharenko. PHOTO: AZLAN OTHMAN

Other areas of bilateral include strengthening inter-parliamentary ties. In February last year, Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Valentina Matviyenko was on an official visit to Brunei and His Majesty granted her an audience.

Following talks with Speaker of the Legislative Council Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Lela Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Dato Setia Haji Mohamed Taib, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation and the Legislative Council of Brunei Darussalam was signed.

Russia became the first country with which Brunei has signed such a document.

In July 2019, a Bruneian delegation participated in the ‘Development of Parliamentarism’ forum in Moscow. Ambassador Goncharenko said defence and security have become another key area of cooperation.

“We welcome Brunei’s joining the International Counter-Terrorism Database created by the Federal Security Service of Russia,” said the ambassador.

Minister of Defence II Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof, who is also the Chairman of the National Security Committee, visited the Russian city of Ufa to attend the X International Meeting of High Representatives Responsible for Security Matters in June last year. The MoU on Bilateral Consultation on Security Matters was signed.

The Russian envoy also said that the two countries “continue intensifying our naval cooperation”. Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy First Admiral Dato Seri Pahlawan Haji Othman bin Haji Suhaili @ Suhaily, attended the celebrations on the occasion of the Russian Navy Day in Saint Petersburg in July last year.

November 2019 saw the Task Force of the Russian Pacific Fleet entering the Muara Port while Saint Petersburg hosted the second Navy Staff Talks.

In April and May 2019, the Russian delegation participated in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Workshop in Brunei. June last year saw the Russian Navy delegation once again visit Bandar Seri Begawan to participate in the inaugural Bilateral Exercise Planning Conference.

Ambassador Goncharenko said it is also necessary to highlight the development of bilateral ties in the spheres of culture, education and tourism.

He noted that in April 2019, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brunei Darussalam with support from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of Brunei Darussalam opened the Russian Literature Section at the Language and Literature Bureau Library.

The Russian Embassy also participated in the Brunei International Islamic Festival in April 2019.

Another notable event in January 2019 was when six Russian students arrived in the Sultanate to study under the MoU between Dagestan Islamic Sheikh Muhammad Arif University and Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA).

The ambassador also highlighted that in September 2019, two Bruneian students left for Russia to study under the Russian Government Scholarship Programme.