The Russian Federation's Foreign Ministry is to host a conference of Russia's honorary consuls in other countries of the world. Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Alexei Fedotov would be expected to attend this conference.
International law doesn't offer any clear-cut definition of the honorary-consul concept. Therefore each country determines honorary consuls' rights and duties in line with its own legislation and on the basis of international treaties and agreements.
The first honorary Russian consuls appeared in the 18-th century. As of 1913, this country offered 470 consular positions, including just 144 regular positions. Meanwhile the Soviet government didn't pay any serious attention to honorary consuls; as a matter of fact, such posts were abolished starting with 1925. In 1998 the Russian Foreign Ministry endorsed a statute dealing with this country's honorary consuls.
Honorary Russian consuls are people, who live abroad, and who are not members of the Russian Foreign Ministry's staff. Nonetheless, they fulfil certain consular functions. As a rule, they are supposed to protect the rights and interests of Russian citizens, also doing their best to expand Russia's trade, economic and cultural ties with other countries of the world.
Any honorary consul is appointed in line with the Russian Foreign Minister's order; Moscow obtains the consent of the resident country's authorities beforehand. Each honorary consul is allotted his or her own consular district, i.e. the entire country, some regions or just one area.
Russian citizens and foreigners alike can become honorary consuls. As a rule, honorary consuls are appointed from among prominent and influential public figures.
First of all, honorary consuls are supposed to protect the interests of Russian citizens and legal entities abroad. Honorary consuls therefore have to work in those specific countries, which lack any Russian diplomatic missions (such as Belize or El Salvador). The same is true of large countries where it's pretty hard to reach the Russian embassy.
Honorary consuls have numerous rights and duties. They help Russian citizens in difficult situations, also contacting Russian embassies or the Russian Foreign Ministry in case of problems. Honorary consuls have the right to visit Russian citizens in foreign prisons, preventing the violation of their interests. Apart from that, honorary consuls can represent their clients in court or in any other state agency.
Moreover, honorary consuls possess certain rights with regard to the property of Russian citizens. They also have the right to charge consular fees for the sake of covering their expenses.
At the same time, honorary consuls lack certain staff-diplomat powers; for example, this concerns visa-issue aspects.
Honorary consuls play an auxiliary role, without substituting for the activity of staff consuls.