Putin official says Estonian authorities denied him visa

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MOSCOW, February 7 (RIA Novosti) - A senior Kremlin official said Tuesday he was unable to make a scheduled visit to northeastern Estonia because local authorities had denied him a visa, while Russian diplomats said the Baltic republic had deliberately delayed issuing the document.

Modest Kolerov, who heads the Kremlin department for overseas interregional and cultural ties, said the Estonian authorities had refused to comment on the move. "It was a denial without any explanation," he said, adding that the reasons lay in Estonia's domestic policy but refused to elaborate.

Meanwhile, the deputy spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Boris Malakhov, said earlier that the visa had been eventually issued to the Kremlin official but only after the Foreign Ministry had made efforts and talks had been held with Estonian Ambassador to Moscow Marina Kaljurand.

"Modest Kolerov encountered difficulties in obtaining a visa, and therefore could not make planned visits to some Estonian cities where he had been invited by local administrations," Malakhov said.

The ministry's spokesman said that the obstacles caused by the Estonian side meant Kolerov had failed to visit the cities of Narva, Kohtla-Jarve, and Sillamjae Tuesday and meet with local officials and Russian-speaking residents.

Relations between Russia and Estonia have been tense since the Soviet Union collapsed, with Estonia accusing Russia of 50-year occupation and Russia criticizing the Baltic republic for discrimination against ethnic Russian residents.

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