Bangladesh is in discussion with Russia to procure crude and refined oils, the Russian envoy in Dhaka said Wednesday, as alternative trading arrangement is envisaged as a last resort amid a global crisis.
"A number of initiatives regarding the supplies of Russian crude and refined oil are being discussed, both at intergovernmental and business-to-business levels," Ambassador Alexander Mantytskiy told a media briefing.
Responding to a question he said sample of Russian crude oil would be made available to Bangladeshi experts to find whether that can be refined here.
He also informs that preliminary discussions have started to explore the mechanisms to replace the US dollar in bilateral trade between the two countries.
"I recently met the Governor of Bangladesh Bank to discuss the issue," he adds.
Also, the envoy informs that with major logistical obstacles being removed, the negotiations are ongoing between Moscow and Dhaka to resume wheat purchase on a G-to-G basis through the direct procurement method.
At the initial stage, the possibility of delivering two-three lakh tonnes of Russian grain will be elaborated on.
On the current state of bilateral trade he said: "Mutual efforts of our governments and business communities made it possible to increase the bilateral turnover manifold. In 2021, it reached an all-time high of almost 3.0 billion US dollars."
In recent times, says the diplomat, multifaceted trade and economic cooperation between Russia and Bangladesh has been developing rapidly with a special focus on such crucial areas as expanding energy infrastructure and ensuring food security.
About the impact of the Ukraine war on bilateral trade he said the Russia-Bangladesh business relations are going through another challenging time with the western countries unleashing an unlimited economic war with his country.
"The unilateral sanctions imposed by the US, EU and Great Britain and subsequent breach of production and logistics chains led to a huge setback in global trade. A number of Russian banks were excluded from the SWIFT system, which affected transactions with foreign economic partners."
But, he notes, at the same time, now both Russian and Bangladeshi companies are getting accustomed to the new reality.
Some of them are using alternative transportation routes to continue mutually beneficial trade. A large amount of items have been delivered by air.
On August 01, a Russian cargo ship reached the port of Mongla for the first time since the beginning of the 'special military operation', thus marking the restoration of trade through waterways, he mentioned.
"As a result, even in the first quarter of 2022, the turnover between our two countries amounted to a solid volume of 650 million US dollars, which is only slightly less than during the same period of 2021".
In spite of the widespread delusion that all Russian banks came under sanctions, there are only 14 financial institutions that cannot provide services to the Bangladeshi partners due to the economic restrictions.
The bilateral trade operations are being carried out successfully through the other Russian banks not affected by the western restrictions, the Russian envoy told the press, adding that the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and the Bangladesh Bank remain in close contact discussing the ways to open correspondent accounts.
"The plots of Washington and its allies have not shattered our fruitful cooperation in energy sector," he said.
Regarding the energy-sector cooperation he said the construction of Rooppur NPP is being carried out without hindrances and according to the schedule.
"Just recently, on August 19, the Gazprom International Investments B.V. has launched drilling of a new well in the gasfields of Bhola island."
Exploration of two more wells is expected to begin this year. "Hopefully, this initiative will contribute to exploring the own mineral resources of Bangladesh and consolidating the energy security of the country."
He assured that the Russian side also stands ready to supply potash fertilizers according to the previously signed contract, as the American sanctions no longer cover non-organic fertilizers and other essential food goods.
"Besides, there is a growing interest in Russia to procure the Bangladeshi medicine and agricultural products."
Therefore, in March all restrictions, imposed by the Russian phytosanitary authorities on supplies of potato from Bangladesh, were lifted. The first lot of local mangoes was delivered to the Russian Federation, he narrates.
About cooperation in space technology, he said on February 2 this year, JSC Glavkosmos and Bangladesh Satellite Company Limited signed Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of promotion of products and services of the Russian space industry in the People's Republic of Bangladesh, including manufacturing, and the launch of "Bangabandhu-2" earth-observation satellite system.
"Both sides are willing to proceed with the said undertaking regardless of possible temporary hardships caused by the global political and economic situation."
The Russian top diplomat lauds Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and her government, for remaining invariably committed to continuing the implementation of joint projects despite an "unprecedented, impudent external pressure".
Dispelling the allegations by the West against Russia making it responsible for all negative trends in the global agricultural, energy and essentials market, the envoy said the current situation resulted from Covid, sanctions and protectionism by the West.
"It is not the result of the six months of 2022, but a steady trend for at least the last two years. Food and fuel prices began to rise in 2020, as the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to a high demand amid a reduction in supplies, breach of distribution chains and increasing transportation cost".
Western measures of "economic coercion" against Russia exacerbated already- existing negative trends in the global market, he said, adding that payment restrictions and logistical difficulties affected all economic operators.
"Nevertheless, the Russian Federation, as a responsible participant of the world trade, intends to continue fulfilling its obligations under international commitments in terms of exporting agricultural products, fertilizers, oil, oil products and other vital items," he assures.