Seychelles and Russia were so anxious to appoint a new Russian Ambassador to the Seychelles that Mikhail Kalinin presented his credentials to the President James Michel within one hour of landing in Mahé. He now can claim from the Guinness World Record Book the quickest ambassador’s presentation of credentials after arrival in the country of destination.
The relationship between the Seychelles and Russia has a long history. Diplomatic links were established in 1976 on the day after the Seychelles gained independence from the United Kingdom. The capital, Victoria, gained a Russian Embassy. Since then the Seychelles has had eight Russian Ambassadors.
Mikhail Kalinin, who was appointed in 2009, hopes to expand and consolidate the friendly ties between the two countries. He wants to do this by extending Russia’s efforts to stop piracy in the seas around the Seychelles and increasing Russian tourism and investments in the Seychelles. Kalinin is also eager to develop the cultural and sports contacts between the two nations.
Mikhail Kalinin’s background should help him to achieve these aims. He graduated from the Institute of Asian and African Studies at the Moscow State University. After this, he served as a diplomat in Nepal, Sri Lanka, UK and Austria. He also held senior positions at the different departments of the Foreign Ministry and Administration of the Russian President
Russian Anti-Piracy Support
Russia’s warships recently resumed visiting Seychelles after a 20 year break. In March 2012 the marine special task force of the Russian large anti-submarine warship Admiral Tributs conducted joint anti-piracy exercises to simulate rescuing hostages from captivity by pirates. The crew of the Russian destroyer took part in the float parade of the Carnaval International de Victoria. The vessel was opened to the public during the celebrations. This visit was the fourth one by the Russian warships since 2009.
During the ship’s stay in Seychelles, the talks were held between the Foreign Minister of Seychelles Jean-Paul Adam and Commanding Officers of the Russian Navy and Ambassador which were focused on extending relations between the two countries. As it was put by to the Seychelles Nation, ‘ways to strengthen naval and military ties between the two states were discussed and it was agreed that the Russian warships would get logistic support during their calls in Victoria port’. The purpose of these visits is ‘to protect the Seychelles from pirates by patrolling the Somalia coast and the Gulf of Aden’, according to the Ambassador. Russia intends to continue to ‘actively participate in the operations against piracy in the region’.
Cultural Links with Russia
Mikhail Kalinin has also worked hard to extend Russia’s cultural links with the Seychelles. One example of this is his support for the acclaimed violinist and conductor Yuri Bashmet, who first visited Seychelles in 2010 when he gave a concert at the International Conference Centre and received ‘long applause and a standing ovation from the audience’. Bashmet was so touched that he said, ‘he would be happy to be back in Seychelles for his second visit’.
With the support of the Seychelles Government, Designated Minister Vincent Meriton in particular, and Ambassador Kalinin, second visit took place in December, 2011 when Bashmet and his orchestra “the Soloists of Moscow” arranged the first International Festival of Classical Music in Victoria. He performed three concerts with his 34-member chamber orchestra. One of the concerts was played at the attendance hall of the grand State House and was part of the events to celebrate Christmas and the 100th anniversary of the State House building.
All these arrangements became possible thanks to massive support of the Ministries of Culture of Seychelles and Russia, the Seychelles Tourist Board, led that time by CEO and now Minister of Culture and Tourism Alain St. Ange, and the Russian Embassy in Seychelles. Ambassador
Kalinin said, ‘it was a great success and we plan to do it annually in Christmas time in December’.
Kalinin is also very keen to help Seychelles to attract more Russian tourists and investments. Nearly 10,000 Russian tourists visited the country last year. 56% increase is expected in 2012. Russia in now the 4th important contributor to the Seychelles tourism market.
Ambassador Kalinin gave President James Michel much credit for this in the Seychelles Nation. He said that President of Seychelles has worked hard to ensure that the country to become ‘well-known paradise islands to potential visitors’ and that President’s interviews to Russian mass media, and TV first of all, reached a large audience in Russia.
Russian investments are very important to the Seychelles too. Russian businessmen have invested more than US $300.00 million in the tourism industry by renovating old hotels and building new ones at Beau Vallon. Russians are also investing in the preservation of Seychellois sites of environmental, cultural and historical value.
There are a lot of excellent opportunities for the Seychelles students to study in Russia different professions under the scholarships granted by the Russian Government.
Ambassador Kalinin is confident that these strong links between Russia and the Seychelles will continue to grow and will be strengthened in the years to come.