Russia cherishes ever-growing ties with Brunei

Danial Norjidi

Brunei Darussalam is an important and dependable partner of Russia in the Asia-Pacific region, and the relations between the two countries are predicated on the principles of friendship and mutual respect.

Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Brunei Darussalam Vladimir Goncharenko said this in a message delivered in conjunction with the Russia Day celebration today.

“This holiday marks the centuries-old, uninterrupted path of our country full of achievements and victories, pivotal moments and breakthrough stages,” he said.

He noted that Russia is the world’s largest country and “is an example of interethnic and interconfessional harmony, with more than 160 ethnicities live and over 150 languages are spoken in our country. Four of the world’s largest religions are vastly represented and peacefully coexist in Russia”. He said Russia has given to the world prominent writers, poets, composers, artists and film directors, adding that there are 21 Nobel Prize laureates comprising scientists and writers as well as public and political figures .

On the COVID-19 crisis, Goncharenko believed that there is a need for “coordinated efforts to combat the common evil, as well as solidarity and mutual help”.

A view of Moscow, Russia at night

“The virus has affected Russia with our country ranking third in the world for the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases (though) the mortality rate is relatively low at around one per cent,” the envoy said. “Lately, Russia has been witnessing positive trends: the number of recovered cases has exceeded new cases.”

He noted that Russia “has actively joined in on the collective efforts to combat COVID-19. In January, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sent a message to President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping to express sympathy and support for all coronavirus victims. In February, a team of Russian epidemiologists was sent to China and the aircraft of the Ministry of Russia for Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM) delivered humanitarian aid.

“In April, it was China that sent to my country medical materials and a group of specialists to combat the virus. Russia also lent a helping hand to other countries, including the United States (US), Italy and Serbia. In turn, the US has also provided assistance to us, and we appreciate it.”

The ambassador said, “Even outside of the COVID-19 context, Russia is open to operation and dialogue, and welcomes constructive interaction in the interest of global peace, security and justice. The Asia-Pacific region is one of our foreign policy’s priorities.”

Russia, he said, is an active member of regional mechanisms, such as the East Asia Summit, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting+ (ADMM+), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Asia-Europe Meeting and Asia Cooperation Dialogue.

“We promote cooperation with Southeast Asia within the framework of the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue, which was upgraded to strategic partnership in 2018,” he said.

Next year will mark the 25th year of the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue, and on top of that, it will be the year of Brunei’s ASEAN chairmanship during which “we will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Brunei-Russia diplomatic relations”.

Looking back on the past years, Goncharenko said, Russia has achieved a lot in terms of diplomatic ties with Brunei.

“We’ve had regular contacts… 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 met with Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of ASEAN meetings in Bangkok,” he said, adding that the visit of the Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Valentina Matviyenko to Brunei in February 2019 “gave a new impetus to our bilateral interparliamentary ties (during which) a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed”. He also noted that in July 2019, a delegation of the Legislative Council of Brunei Darussalam participated in the Development of Parliamentarism forum in Moscow. Earlier, in May 2019, Brune Minister of Foreign Affairs II Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof visited Moscow to hold dialogues with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov.

“Our two countries continued building up defence and security cooperation,” he said. “In June 2019, Brunei Minister of Defence II and Chairman of the National Security Committee Pehin Datu Lailaraja Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Awang Halbi bin Haji Mohd Yussof participated in the International Meeting of High-Ranking Officials Responsible for Security Matters in Ufa, Russia. Fruitful cooperation was developed between the two navies.”

Meanwhile, last July, he said, “The Commander of the Royal Brunei Navy First Admiral Dato Seri Pahlawan Haji Othman bin Haji Suhaili @ Suhaily attended the Russian Navy Day celebration in Saint Petersburg.”

Later that year, in November, “the task force of the Russian Pacific Fleet entered the port of Muara” and “the 2nd Brunei-Russia Navy Staff Talks were organised in Saint Petersburg”.

The ambassador continued, “In April and May 2019, a Russian delegation participated in the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Workshop in Brunei”, and the following month of June, “the Sultanate held an inaugural Bilateral Exercise Planning Conference”.

Goncharenko said, “Russia and Brunei continue efforts to develop trade and economic ties, with energy being one of the most promising areas. In October 2019, Bruneian Minister of Energy Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mat Suny bin Haji Mohd Hussein attended the Russian Energy Week in Moscow. And last year, the Nizhny Novgorod Institute of Applied Technologies successfully demonstrated technologies to clean the oil reservoirs of sludge in the Sultanate.”

He noted that in the first months of this year, the bilateral trade between the two countries was at BND30.6 million.

“Our countries have developed ties in the spheres of culture and tourism. In April 2019, with the support from the Bruneian Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the Russian Embassy launched the Russian Literature Section at the Language and Literature Bureau (DBP) Library, along with the donation of a collection of Russian classical literature,” he said.

In the same month, a group of Russian travel agents visited Brunei, while at the end of the year, under the project of the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism, tourist operators from ASEAN member states, including Brunei, stayed in Russia for a month to study Russian language, history and culture.

“The ties between Muslim communities of Russia and Brunei are getting stronger,” the ambassador said. “From January to June last year, six students from Dagestan Islamic Sheikh Muhammad Arif University in Russia studied at Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA). Later in August, officers of the State Mufti’s Office attended the opening ceremony of a mosque in Shali, Chechen Republic of Russia. Then, in February this year, Rector of UNISSA Dr Haji Norarfan bin Haji Zainal visited the Russian Republics of Dagestan and Chechnya during which MoUs between universities were signed.”

Additionally, he said, in the field of education, two Bruneian students were admitted to universities – in Moscow and Rostov-on-Don – last year under the Russian state scholarship programme.

To the envoy, the Russia-Brunei ties “are developing in all areas, and we are looking forward to giving a new impetus to cooperation between our two peoples, as the epidemiological situation becomes stable.

“It is encouraging that under the wise leadership of His Majesty, the spread of COVID-19 has been successfully kept under control in Brunei. Positive trends are also beginning to show in my country. Therefore, we look to the future with optimism”.

He concluded by extending to “His Majesty and the people of Brunei Darussalam my best wishes for happiness, health and prosperity. Terima kasih“.