Chris Koney’s column
Diplomatic relations between the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the Republic of Ghana was established in January 1958. The USSR opened its diplomatic mission in Accra in 1959 and the Ghanaian government opened its embassy in Moscow in 1960.
Over the last 60 years, the relationship; political, cultural and economic between the USSR, now known as the Russian Federation and the Republic of Ghana had gone through different phases of development for mutual benefit.
The Russian Federation has consistently contributed towards the socio-economic development of the Republic of Ghana, particularly in the area of capacity building, through scholarships to Ghanaian students to study in Russia. Currently, there are over two thousand Ghanaians who have benefited from these scholarships.
On Friday, June 25, 2021, Sergei Berdnikov, the Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Ghana presented his letter of credence to the president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Last week I had the honour of having a conversation with Sergei Berdnikov at the Russian Embassy in Accra. Our conversation focused on the state of the bilateral relations between the Republic of Ghana and the Russian Federation as well as the direction of the embassy under his leadership.
Ambassador Berdnikov is a career diplomat who graduated from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations in 1991. As someone who strives for excellence in everything he does, he started his career working for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Prior to his latest appointment as Ambassador to Ghana, he had held very important roles which included serving at the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the International Organizations in Vienna and also serving at the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in New York. In addition, he also worked in the Personnel Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
On his main goal in Ghana, Ambassador Berdnikov revealed that he is looking forward to an amazing time in Ghana and active engagement on all levels, from government relations to liaising and collaborating with all relevant institutions and key stakeholders.
“My main aim is to ensure that I am able to help grow the relationship between the Republic of Ghana and the Russian Federation. As you are aware, in recent years, there has been a great deal of development to our healthy relationship with Ghana and it is my hope that together with all stakeholders, this relationship can be taken from the current state to the next level,” he explained.
On how he perceives the Ghanaian assignment, Ambassador Berdnikov indicated that he is ready for what he describes as challenging yet exciting task ahead. “This is my first ambassadorial posting as well as my first time traveling to Africa. In any diplomatic mission, being an ambassador is the top level of your experience and all countries have different levels of relationship with the Russian Federation which determines and guides the kind of work you will be doing as an ambassador,” he added.
He further stated that “I am here to make the most out of the existing great relationship between our two countries and fulfil my mission working with all interested parties. I have also met with the Ghanaian Ambassador in Moscow and we had a great conversation on how to make the best out of our great relationship to the benefits of our countries and citizens.”
On the agenda of the embassy under his leadership, Ambassador Berdnikov stated that the basic task of the embassy is to facilitate relations between citizens of both countries which falls in different directions including a political approach.
Emphasizing on political cooperation, he said “it is my believe that politically both the Russian Federation and Republic of Ghana have the same approach when it comes to handling various national challenges. What we are also looking at doing politically is to closely collaborate with Ghana as a non-permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations for the next two years.”
The second and most important agenda as part of the bilateral relations between the two countries is economic relations which Ambassador Berdnikov revealed has a lot potentials yet to be developed. “Here, we are looking at the prospects of growing and developing our business and economic relationship, improvement of trade and commerce among other programs of commercial value to both countries. We are to review and improve on our joint effort which hopefully will result in a tremendous progress in this area,” he emphasized.
The third point Ambassador Berdnikov raised is the focus on humanitarian and cultural relations between the two countries. He explained that “we have a long standing history of receiving Ghanaians in the Russian Federation to study in our various world class educational institutions and also all levels of study. We are looking at developing this and also importantly, to strengthen our cultural ties. Most Russians dot know much about Ghana and it is the same in Accra. So it will be important to look at creating some exchanges to allow for this to change.”
Ambassador Berdnikov spoke about consular relations and the review of the framework for consular relations with the Republic of Ghana in the new future. “We have Russian citizens living and working here and we look out for their interest and help them in any way possible whenever they call on us. We also facilitate travels to the Russian Federation for Ghanaian businessmen and women and others with other purposes for going to Russia. We are currently working on an agreement for visa free travels for diplomatic and service passport holders. In the future we could look at general visa free travels for Russians and Ghanaians,” he stated.
On specific programs aimed at increasing the trade volumes between the Republic of Ghana and the Russian Federation, Ambassador Berdnikov said he is certain it will be an area of discussion when the technical teams of Ghana and Russia meet for the Fourth Session of the Ghana-Russia Permanent Joint Commission for Cooperation in October 2021.
Ghana – Russia bilateral relations according to Ambassador Berdnikov looks very promising and he is confident of a tremendous growth of the relationship in the coming years.