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Russian Ambassador to T&T, Alexander Kurmaz.

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As the war in Ukraine rages, Russian Ambassador to T&T, Alexander Kurmaz is warning there could be serious economic and other effects for T&T and the rest of the region.

Kurmaz a non-resident ambassador based in Georgetown, Guyana, maintained that the military action is limited to defending ethnic Russians who have been victimised and killed by the Ukrainian government for the last eight years. He said only military infrastructure is being targeted and civilian lives are being protected.

He said the sanctions the United States and other Western countries have imposed in Russia will hurt T&T and other nations regionally and globally.

“These drastic so-called sanctions are not classical hard invitation of rough insensitivities as they are described in textbooks,” the ambassador said. “These acts openly declared by the West could be described as economic proxy-war against Russia aimed at ruining, dismantling and liquidation of the basics of this nation step by step.

“The sanctions put a huge additional financial burden on each and every country in the COVID pandemic. They are also aimed to hide the fact that the Ukrainian economy in the year 2021 found itself literally blown up following measurers and advice of the Western countries and block.”

Contacted for comment on the matter, Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon said it was unfortunate that the Ukraine conflict comes on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic as the sanctions could affect food prices as well as other goods traded between the two countries.

“Today’s research is showing that wheat futures are now double what it was in 2018. Current pricing is close to US$10 per bushel. When one thought that rising food prices were pandemic-related on account of supply chain disruptions, the Russia-Ukraine impasse now is likely to affect global economies and consumers the world over,” Gopee-Scoon said.

However, she said all is not lost as the US Department of Agriculture has forecast a reduction in wheat prices which could lead to lower food prices eventually.

The main export item from T&T to Russia is hard liquor. Non-energy items exported to Russia last year included metal parts, while the main imports were sulphur (used in water treatment) and newsprint.

Imports from Russia have significantly declined since 2010 from $1.4 billion to $24 million. Last November, the top imports from Russia to this country were machinery, vegetable parchment, unglazed ceramics, and insulated wire.

Kurmaz wants the Russian Federation, T&T and the rest of the Caribbean to maintain the ties that have existed for decades. He said Russia will continue to develop “friendly and partnership relations” with T&T and Caricom which would contribute to economic prosperity. However, he warned the “hellish sanctions” from the United States may hurt.

“Russian anti-COVID vaccine Sputnik V is approved for migration purposes in Caricom, according to a Caricom decision adopted on July 7, 2021. On March 23, 2021, the Government of Grenada signed a collaboration agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) that allows the initial distribution of 1 million doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for the Caricom region. Russia is really to supply its efficient anti-COVID vaccines in the Caribbean, as in other 70 countries.”

He added that Russia is one of the sponsors in the World Bank and provides developmental aid to Caribbean countries. Russia has developed cooperation with Caribbean countries in various spheres, including investments in energy and oil exploration as well as training for law enforcement personnel in Russian universities. In the region, Russia provides the largest bilateral assistance to Cuba.

Speaking specifically about T&T, Kurmaz said Russia is ready to develop bilateral cooperation with T&T in the areas of trade, energy, and tourism.

“It is also possible to strengthen bilateral ties in the field of medicine, which might be facilitated by the approval of Russian vaccines in Trinidad and Tobago. Russia is also optimistic about prospects for expanding educational cooperation and establishing extra quotas and scholarships for more Trinidadian students to study in Russian universities. It depends very much on the climate of international relations in the years to come,” he said.