PM Lee Hsien Loong on four-day working visit to Russia from Tuesday

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) is greeted by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the official welcome ceremony of the G-20 Leaders' Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Sept 5, 2013.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (left) is greeted by Russian President Vladimir Putin during the official welcome ceremony of the G-20 Leaders' Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Sept 5, 2013. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong begins a four-day working visit to the Russian Federation on Tuesday (May 17).

He will be in Moscow till Thursday (May 19), and will then travel to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi to attend the Asean-Russia commemorative summit.

The trip is Mr Lee's first bilateral visit to Russia. The last such visit by a Singapore prime minister was by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who visited the then-Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in September 1990.

The Prime Minister's Office announced PM Lee's visit in a statement on Monday (May 16), and highlighted some of his key meetings.

In Moscow, he will meet Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the capital city's Mayor, Mr Sergei Sobyanin, the chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Tigran Sargsyan and other senior government officials.

He will also meet leading Russian business executives and entrepreneurs, and members of the Singapore community in Moscow.

Trade agency IE Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation are organising a business mission in conjunction with Mr Lee's visit.

The EEC is the regulatory body of the Eurasian Economic Union, which brings together Russia and the former Soviet states of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in a common market of 180 million people, with total Gross Domestic Product of US$4.2 trillion.

Singapore and Russia agreed to start the process to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Singapore and the Eurasian Economic Union last November, and this visit is expected to see the signing of an agreement to promote greater cooperation between Singapore and the EEC as well as its five members.

Mr Lee will then fly to Sochi on Thursday for the Asean-Russia Commemorative Summit to mark the 20th anniversary of Asean-Russia relations.

Leaders of all 10 Asean members will review Asean-Russia cooperation and discuss its future direction, as well as exchange views on regional and international issues.

Mr Lee will also call on Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit.

The summit comes three months after US President Barack Obama hosted Asean leaders at the Asean-US Special Leaders' Summit in Sunnylands, California, and ahead of an Asean-China Commemorative Summit in Laos this September to mark the 25th anniversary of Asean-China relations.

Mr Lee will be accompanied by Mrs Lee, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Josephine Teo, and Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon.

During Mr Lee's absence, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean will be the Acting Prime Minister.

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu will also be in Sochi, Russia, from Tuesday (May 17) to Saturday (May 21) during which time she will attend the meeting of Culture ministers from Asean and Russia.

The meeting, which commemorates the 20th year of relations between Russia and Asean, will discuss ways to strengthen cultural ties between the two sides. Ms Fu will also meet her Asean and Russian counterparts while there.

She is also scheduled to attend the inaugural Russia-Asean Festival of Culture, which will include leading artists of various genres from Russia and Asean member-countries.

Singapore will be participating in the festival and will be represented by NADI Singapura, a group which promotes traditional Malay drums and percussion, and by the Peranakan Museum.