Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the 32nd meeting of the Foreign Ministry’s Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation, Moscow, December 11, 2018
Welcome to a regular meeting of the Council of the Heads of Constituent Entities of the Russian Federation. First of all, I would like to wish every success to the new members of the council which will be working for the next two years.
At our previous meeting we focused on combating attempts to falsify history, in particular the history of the Great Patriotic War and WWII as a whole, and to revise their results.
We adopted a number of recommendations at our previous meeting to neutralise these destructive trends. I am glad to say that the regional authorities are willingly applying them in their work, and direct dialogue with the general public outside Russia has intensified at the level of interregional ties.
I would like to say a few words about the work of the Sverdlovsk Region NGO Centre for the Implementation of Student Projects and Programmes, which is working with partners from the Polish cities of Krosno and Olsztyn to implement initiatives aimed at upholding historical memory. Sverdlovsk Region NGOs maintain close ties with Polish NGO Commonwealth of Kursk, which is looking after Soviet/Russian military monuments and graves. Other Russian regions should make use of this positive experience.
Despite the obstacles created by the Lithuanian authorities, the search parties from Pskov and their Lithuanian colleagues continue to implement the Historical Memory Wave military remembrance project. Search groups from Novgorod and Belgorod are working on the former battlefields together with their colleagues from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Britain, Germany, Spain and Ukraine.
The Belgorod Region leaders promote WWII-related subjects in their dialogue with sister cities in Germany, Serbia and Finland. Tuva State University has organised a series of lectures in the border regions of Mongolia on the importance of defeating Nazism.
The Rostov Region authorities and officials from the Russian Orthodox Church and Cossack associations have held roundtable discussions in Paris and Prague on the Revolutionary Developments of 1917 and the Fate of Cossacks. The newly discovered documents they provided have generated a broad public response. Orenburg Cossacks held events in France to commemorate the soldiers of the Russian Expeditionary Force as part of the centenary celebrations of the end of the First World War.
A number of major cultural events have been held. The Moscow Government organised the Victory Songs international marathon, which included concerts of WWII songs held in the central squares of Vienna, New York, Paris and Minsk. Performers from Adygeya gave concerts in Prague and Berlin on Victory Day and the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad.
I am sure that this work will proceed on a regular basis. Our council, acting in accordance with the long-term agreements reached at the previous meeting, will monitor the regions’ work in this sphere and will provide assistance whenever necessary.
Today we will be talking about the regions’ contribution to the development of the tourism industry. It is clear that we need to attract more foreign visitors not only to more efficiently deal with our socioeconomic problems but also to promote objective information about our country.
Russia has a rich cultural and historical heritage and natural diversity. Russia is home to 29 UNESCO World Heritage sites, 26 federal resort cities and districts and over 140,000 landmarks, including some 150 especially valuable ones.
The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) presents Russia as a leading destination for international tourists. Last year we received some 25 million tourists (9th place in Europe). The largest event this year was the FIFA World Cup, which witnessed an unrivalled increase in the sphere of citizen diplomacy. The millions of foreigners who visited Russia this year saw a modern country with outgoing, friendly and hospitable people. We must make the best use possible of this positive experience and effect so as to boost our regions’ tourism potential.
I am glad to say that our regions regularly host and take part in large tourism exhibitions held in Russia and other countries. Next year St Petersburg will host the 23rd UNWTO General Assembly.
Tourism in the Russian Far East has been boosted by the establishment of the Kamchatka and the Vladivostok Free Port priority development areas. Since August 2017, foreigners can enter Vladivostok on electronic visas. This has greatly simplified foreign travel to the region. This method will be also applied in the Kaliningrad Region starting June 1, 2019.
Tourism information centres are being established in the regions. They have opened in Arkhangelsk, Petrozavodsk and Simferopol. There are also special tourism websites. They are working especially well in Arkhangelsk, Novosibirsk and Omsk. The regions are creating special interactive maps of their landmarks. Karelia is making wide use of federal television channels to advertise its tourism potential. It is another example of positive experience which should be promoted.
The Crimean authorities are giving priority attention to the development of the tourism industry. Information about Crimea has been published in the popular English-language magazine Travelife, which is available in the aircraft of 22 international airlines with over 3 million passengers.
The Foreign Ministry is making a great contribution to the development of the tourism industry. We have visa-free travel agreements with many countries and will sign more of such documents. We are conducting visa facilitation talks with many partners. In light of the decision to promote the system of electronic visas, we are ready to discuss a simplified entry for tourists from many countries who arrive in Moscow or the Moscow Region by plane. Our colleagues from St Petersburg and the Leningrad Region would like to make use of this system as well.
I hope that today we will be able to discuss these and other issues that can help us boost the development of our tourism industry and that we will coordinate recommendations designed to produce a positive result.