Bangladesh Ambassador to Moscow Kamrul Ahsan has been summoned to the Russian foreign ministry following Bangladesh’s recent decision to restrict the entrance of sanctioned Russian ships into Bangladesh ports, which has led to an apparent unease recently between the two time-tested friendly nations.
Earlier in January this year, Bangladesh blocked dozens of Russian ships slapped by Western sanctions from accessing its territorial ports, citing the necessity to adhere to the sanctions. This move by Bangladesh prevented Russian ships from delivering import shipments, stopping for refueling, anchoring in the territory, or even using marine routes.
Why Bangladesh had to ban Russian ships?
Bangladesh’s first nuclear power station, Rooppur 1 is being constructed by the Russian state-owned nuclear energy organisation Rosatom, and is expected to begin operations in 2024. Russia is a major supplier of equipment and supplies particularly for this project. Due to diplomatic pressure from the US, shipment from Russia containing materials for the project was prevented from entering Bangladesh’s maritime boundaries.
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Captain Sabbir Mahmood, Registrar of Bangladesh ships at the Mercantile Marine Office, stated in the notice, “At the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the 69 vessels from Russia, which were embargoed by the US, have been banned from entering ports in Bangladesh.”
The US and UK embargo on Russian vessels
Ships from seven different companies, including oil tankers and cargo ones, are included in the embargo. The restrictions mean that neither importers, nor shipping agencies, may import products from any country using Russian ships.
Chairman of the Bangladesh Ocean Going Ship Owners Association (BOGSA) Azam J Chowdhury said, “The ban on ships bearing the Russian flag was jointly imposed by the United States and the European Union.” He further said, “If any product comes to Bangladesh on these ships, then Bangladesh will also be added to the ban.”
The majority of Bangladesh’s international trade is performed with the EU and the US with the UK being another significant market. Among these, the US and the UK imposed sanctions on Russia after the country invaded Ukraine in February last year.
Russian response to ship ban from Bangladesh
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it had informed Bangladesh’s envoy in Moscow that the decision was inconsistent with “traditionally friendly bilateral relations and may adversely affect the prospects for cooperation in various fields.”
Russian state news agency TASS said quoting Russian foreign ministry, “We drew attention to the head of the diplomatic mission to the reports about decision of his country’s authorities to ban Russian ships carrying cargoes for Bangladesh from calling at Bangladeshi ports.”
“This step runs counter to the traditionally friendly character of bilateral relations and can have a negative effect on the prospects for our cooperation in various spheres,” the Russian ministry stated. According to the TASS, the Russian embassy in Bangladesh has verified that 69 Russian ships were banned from arriving at Bangladeshi ports.
The embassy, however, remarks that the action did not indicate that Bangladesh had restricted imports of Russian goods. Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, later stated that Bangladesh had made this choice in response to the risk of secondary US sanctions.
Dhaka, to avoid further diplomatic muddle like this, has requested Moscow not to send sanctioned ships for delivering Rooppur power plant equipment in Bangladesh.