Why the Russian foreign minister set to visit Dhaka

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov

Although Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was supposed to visit Dhaka in November last year, his trip got cancelled in the last minute.

News has recently come out the Russian minister will visit Dhaka this year. In the current political context, his sudden visit has made many curious.

Next month, he will be coming to Dhaka from Jakarta before attending the G-20 Summit in Delhi. In his 12-hour-long visit he will pay a courtesy call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina and will hold a meeting with Bangladesh’s foreign minister AK Abdul Momen.

Russia has been bombarded with sanctions from the West since invading Ukraine in February 2022. Now, Russia is focusing on expanding its political reach in the international sphere. Russia is prioritising finding new friends while also testing out old friendships.

Diplomacy analysts observed that Russia, which usually keeps its nose out of the internal matters of other countries, has been very vocal about Bangladesh’s internal affairs which has been apparent through the activities of the Russian consulate in Dhaka and the routine press conferences in Moscow.

Russia is also making no attempts to hide the fact that it’s breaking out of its shell like this to teach the US a lesson.

Russia's president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting.

Politicians from the US and Europe have been urging Bangladesh to hold a free, fair and peaceful election. Russia has labeled these talks from the US and Europe as an example of neo-colonialism. Moscow feels that the US and Europe are interfering in the internal affairs of a sovereign country.

So, the Russian foreign minister’s visit at a time when the US and the Europe are pressuring the government about the upcoming election and the human rights condition indicates Moscow’s political support of Bangladesh.

Asking for anonymity, a diplomatic source said, even though Sergei Lavrov’s Dhaka visit got cancelled in last November, the Russian consulate in Dhaka continued all communication in the political sphere to facilitate his visit at some other time.

Continuing with those efforts, the Russian consulate sent a proposal to Sergei Lavrov in a diplomatic letter to visit Dhaka on 7 and 8 September. Now, the preparations for the Russian minister’s Dhaka visit are going on in full swing.

Diplomatic sources said, according to the preliminary proposal, Sergei Lavrov is expected to land in Dhaka from Jakarta at night in a chartered flight. The next morning, he will have a breakfast meeting with Bangladesh’s foreign minister AK Abdul Momen in a hotel. Later, he will pay a courtesy call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina. After that, he will leave Dhaka for Delhi. The Bangladesh prime minister is also expected to leave for Delhi to attend the G-20 Summit.

Sources said other than sending out a political message about the strengthening of the political ties between the two countries, the two parties will engage in talks about many important matters as well during Lavrov’s visit. Matters such as the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, defence, Gazprom, wheat and fertiliser import, many contracts and agreements that are set to be signed between the two countries are expected to be discussed during his visit.

The two countries will soon finalise the agenda of the meeting. Bangladeshi diplomats feel that Sergei Lavrov will also bring up the matter of Bangladesh not letting a US sanctioned Russian vessel enter its maritime territory.

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Sergei Lavrov is set to be the first Russian foreign minister to visit Bangladesh post-independence. When asked what message will this visit send out, a diplomatic source said that Moscow is trying to ease the tension created by the cancellation of his last year’s trip. Russia has been feeling isolated since the start of the Ukraine war and is trying to increase its number of friends in different parts of the world.

By strongly opposing the US and Europe in the matter of election, Moscow sent a message that it supports Bangladesh. Sergei Lavrov in person will reiterate the same message to prime minister Sheikh Hasina.