This month I was kindly invited to the launch of the Conservative Friends of Russia (CFoR) Club, which was held in the grounds of the Russian Ambassador’s residence in London. The party was well-attended with more than 200 people enjoying the company of each other. Richard Royal, the Club’s Founder, mentioned they could have easily doubled or tripled the capacity, the waiting list of those keen to come along was long.
My conversation with others showed that the attendees were from various walks of life. Apart from members of the UK’s Conservative Party I met business people trading with Russia or interested in establishing trade relations with Russian partners, Russian nationals running successful businesses in the UK, people interested in Russian art and culture and simply those fascinated with everything Russian.
There is certainly a lot to be amazed by. The largest country in the world continues to arouse political controversy. The beauty of the CFoR Club is it encourages discussions, regardless of political views, and you do not need to be a member of the Conservative party to be a member of the CFoR Club. It provides a perfect platform for people interested in similar things to network and exchange ideas.
As Richard Royal said: “The "Friends of …" model is familiar within British political parties – there are many such groups including those dedicated to America, Israel, India, Poland and Azerbaijan – but there has never been one for Russia, which is unusual given the size of its economy and its importance on the international stage.”
This was echoed by A.V. Yakovenko, the Russian Ambassador in London, who highlighted Russia’s growth, promising economic prospects and importance of political dialogue. His Excellency was very kind to allow the Club to use his residence and gardens at the Russian Embassy for this event, and the guests were impressed and grateful for the hospitality, enjoying a few drinks and the barbecue in the Russian style.
A Russian TV crew made a video package about the launch, which can be viewed here. Or here is the Club's own video.
A Russian myself, I personally welcome all Russian initiatives in the UK as they contribute to a better understanding of this country which is still a bit of a mystery to others, and I certainly look forward to future CFoR events.
Yelena McCafferty with Ambassador A.V. Yakovenko.
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