I found out about Meeting Russia on IJNET
(which, incidentally, is a really useful resource for international journalists). The annual initiative is run by an organisation called PICREADI Creative Diplomacy
, which describes itself as: "a Russian NGO founded in 2010 and working in the fields of soft power and public diplomacy."
Despite the 'NGO' title, it is definitely worth making clear that the Meeting Russia program I was on is funded by a grant from the [Russian] Presidential Grant Foundation
. I paid for my return flights to Moscow and nothing else.
The stated aim of Meeting Russia is: "To bring together young European and American representatives from academia, government institutions, parliaments, think tanks, the media and the private sector to facilitate dialogue about Russia's foreign policy and its relations with the West."
This, they promise, is achieved through meetings with senior Russian officials and top experts in the field of Russian foreign policy. On reading this, my interest was piqued, because if there are three things I like doing as a professional journalist, they are: 1) Getting a better understanding of Russia, 2) Analysing Russian foreign policy, and 3) Getting access to senior officials and experts. Also: any excuse to go back to Moscow for a few days…
So, I filled out the application form and was lucky enough to be one of the 24 candidates selected for the program in 2018. (I later learned that I almost wasn't
selected! Just in case you were incorrectly assuming that my previous work experience in Russia made me a shoe-in for the cause).