Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Bangladesh Thursday, lashing out at Washington's foreign policy in the region as an increasingly isolated Moscow seeks to bolster relationships after its invasion of Ukraine.
Dhaka is also eager for friends ahead of general elections due by the end of January, with Western governments and rights groups warning Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government is silencing critics and stamping out political dissent, reports Manila Bulletin giving reference of AFP.
"Despite the pressure exerted upon Bangladesh by the United States and its allies, our Bangladeshi friends are guided exclusively by their national interest in their foreign policy," Lavrov told reporters, alongside his Bangladeshi counterpart A.K. Abdul Momen.
"We can clearly see the United States and its allies are truly trying to promote their interests in the region by using the so-called Indo-Pacific strategy: their goal is clearly both to deter China and to isolate Russia in the region," he added.
Lavrov, on a two-day visit before a G20 leaders summit in India that he will attend instead of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Dhaka and Moscow had "agreed to increase and strengthen our trade and investment relations".
Bangladesh is building its first nuclear power plant with Russian backing, the 2,400 megawatt Rooppur station.
The $12.65 billion project, 90 percent funded by a Moscow loan, is the most expensive infrastructure project launched by Hasina in her nearly 15 years in power.
But its execution and repayment of loans have been hampered by Washington's sanctions on Moscow's state-run firms and banks in the wake of Russia's war in Ukraine.
Lavrov said the first batch of nuclear fuel is expected to arrive in Bangladesh in October.
Bangladesh is home to around a million members of the stateless Rohingya people, most of whom fled a 2017 military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar that is now subject to a genocide probe at the International Criminal Court.
In July, a top US state department official visited Bangladesh and said that conditions remain unsafe for the return of ethnic Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, with Washington pledging further aid for the crisis.
Lavrov said Russia "supports the continued negotiations" between Bangladesh and Myanmar to launch a pilot repatriation of the refugees.
"Certain outside players use this topic to exert pressure on one of the parties and to interfere (in) its domestic affairs," Lavrov said, speaking in a mix of English and Russian, with an official translator.
"I believe this is both counterproductive and unacceptable".