PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong is on a four-day working visit to Russia from Tuesday, a trip that will take him to Moscow for meetings with its political and business leadership, and then to Sochi to mark the 20th anniversary of dialogue ties between Russia and Asean.
This will be his first bilateral visit to the world's largest country, and the first by a Singapore leader since the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew visited the then-Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in September 1990.
PM Lee's last two trips to Russia in 2012 and 2013 were for multilateral meetings; he visited Vladivostok for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and St Petersburg for the Group of 20 summit respectively.
During his stay in Moscow this week, he will meet Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Eurasian Economic Commission chairman Tigran Sargsyan.
He is also scheduled to meet leading business executives and senior government officials from Russia, and attend a reception with Singaporeans in the Russian capital.
International Enterprise Singapore and the Singapore Business Federation are organising a business mission in conjunction with his visit.
The latest figures indicate that Russia was Singapore's 21st-largest trading partner last year; bilateral trade amounted to S$7.66 billion, up from S$4.68 billion in 2011.
While bilateral trade in goods and services has been strengthening since 2008, trade fell by 28.8 per cent last year, mainly attributable to a 24.6 per cent fall in the value of imports of petroleum oils.
Singapore's stock of direct investment abroad in Russia amounted to S$47 million as at end-2014. Singapore companies with the largest ongoing projects there include Amtel Properties, Food Empire, Olam International and Changi Airports International.
On Thursday, Mr Lee will head to the Black Sea resort city of Sochi for a special summit to commemorate the two decades of Russia-Asean dialogue.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting the two-day event with Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, whose country holds the rotating Asean chairmanship this year.
Asean has 10 member states - Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Laos, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. They have a combined population of about 625 million people.
A statement from Mr Lee's office said the leaders will review the state of Asean-Russia cooperation, discuss its future direction and exchange views on regional and international issues. Mr Lee is also scheduled to call on Mr Putin on the sidelines of the summit.
Last week, Mr Putin said the summit's agenda includes a broad range of issues related to improving the regional security architecture and searching for new ways to fight the growing threats of international terrorism, militant extremism and transnational crime.
In remarks published on the summit's official website, the Russian leader said another priority was how to "realise the rich economic potential of our relations and to increase the amount of trade and mutual investment".
He expressed hope that the Asean-Russia Business Forum, a one-day event on Thursday involving 500 executives, could "develop effective measures to expand cooperation in energy, transportation and infrastructure, agriculture, science and technology".
On this trip, Mr Lee will be accompanied by his wife Ho Ching, Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Josephine Teo, Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Koh Poh Koon and senior government officials.
During his absence, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean will serve as Acting Prime Minister.