SOCHI: The Kremlin has seized on the visit by southeast Asian leaders for a summit as an opportunity to show Russia still has friends on the international stage, despite being cold-shouldered by the West over the conflict in Ukraine.
Russia has had few chances to host major international gatherings since western sanctions were imposed, so there has been considerable fanfare around this week’s summit with members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
A special commemorative coin was minted for the occasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin flew most of his government to the Black Sea resort of Sochi to take part, and state television broadcast a prime-time report showing how cleaners were vacuuming the carpet at the summit venue in preparation.
While the formal agenda of the two-day summit that ends on Friday has focussed on building Russia’s ties with ASEAN member countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar, it has also been conducted with an eye on the US and Europe. it
“These are difficult times. Europe and America, by declaring sanctions against us, have basically turned away from us, or turned their backs on us,” said Andrei Vorobyov, governor of the Moscow region, part of the Russian delegation at the summit.
“But countries in the Asian and Pacific regions are working very actively with us, and that is very important, very nice,” he told a session on the sidelines of the summit.
ASEAN members range from emerging market powerhouse Indonesia to wealthy city state Singapore, but the grouping excludes Asia’s economic giants China, Japan and India.