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Yakunin Lashes Out Against West, Says Russia Will Turn East

Published: May 24, 2014 (Issue # 1812)



  • Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin.
    Photo: Vedomosti

Animosity between Russia and the West over Ukraine's disintegration has forced Russia to change its course toward the East, Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin said in an interview with The St. Petersburg Times on Friday.

Yakunin, 65, who manages one of Russia's biggest companies — Russian Railways employs more than 880,000 people — had sanctions imposed on him by the United States and the European Union in March as member of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

Yakunin has his own interpretation of the sanctions, saying in softly accented English: "It was clearly stated that I was sanctioned not because of my wrongdoings but because of my connections with some persons on the top of Russian hierarchy,"

"I consider the sanctions list to be a list of people who actually do something positive for our society and our country. It was not us who introduced this clash, but we were sanctioned and disgraced in the mass media, he said.

Yakunin, who has been accused of massive corruption by opposition politician Alexei Navalny, singled out Putin as "a leader who was disgraced in a way that is absolutely not acceptable in normal diplomatic relations even in the modern tense period of life."

He said Western pressure was "not civilized behavior" and that this demonstrated lack of democracy in the West.

The St. Petersburg Times spoke to Yakunin at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, a huge annual get-together that attracts thousands of high-profile business leaders and official from Russia and abroad. This year, the international contingent is slightly thinner than usual, as executives, particularly from the U.S., have bowed to political pressure to keep away.

"Lots of people who came to this forum explain in private that in their countries American ambassadors were reaching them with letters and telephone calls urging them not to come to this event or they will have to face consequences," Yakunin said.

In this situation nothing remains to Russia but to turn to the east, he said.

"We can aim at reaching new level of relations with our friends in China, South Korea, Japan, the Pacific countries, Latin America and so on," he said.

But while confident of the bounties that await Russia from ramping up cooperation with new partners, Yakunin is sure that the West will turn back to Russia as soon as the media pressure subsides.

"Business people are very pragmatic. Russia is a very important market, which has nothing to do with emotions, he said.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Nov. 26


AmCham’s Public Relations Committee will meet this afternoon in their office in the New St. Isaac’s Office Center on Ulitsa Yakubovicha at 4 p.m.


Zoosphere, an international exhibition focusing on the pet industry, opens today at the Lenexpo convention center on Vasilievsky Island. Not only will items such as toys, terrariums and accessories be available for purchase, but animal enthusiasts can also learn about the latest in veterinary medicine and behavioral training thanks to the conferences and presentations that are part of the event.



Thursday, Nov. 27


The Customs and Transportation Committee for AmCham meets this morning at 9 a.m. in their office on Ulitsa Yakubovicha.


Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg’s showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the team’s website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literature’s most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poet’s birthday. The tragic tenor’s work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russia’s greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Strategically dominate your foes at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Honor the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Culture Palace on Petrograd. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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