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    The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

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    ESTONIA

    The press expected that the signing of the Russian-Estonian state border delimitation agreement would bring political and other benefits to Estonia comes to a conclusion that Russia has managed to keep the strategic initiative in this confrontation. "Moscow displays no sign of willingness to give up its, to put it mildly, untraditional ways of exercising influence on Estonia." (Eesti Paevaleht, May 26.)

    The parliament's foreign affairs committee gave the government recommendations on how to choose strategy in relations with Russia. "The parliamentary committee urged the government to watch closely the progress of democracy and human rights in Russia and to use the stick and carrot policy in economic relations." (Postimees, May 27.)

    The mass media responded very negatively to the Russian parliament's statement of May 27, where the demands of the Baltic states that Russia should apologize for the past "occupation" are described as "hypocritical and cynical" and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact is seen as a historical answer to the "Munich conspiracy." "The Estonian Foreign Ministry must work consistently to tell both Europe and America about the true position of the official Moscow. This can be the best way to explain that Russia is not part of the Western world based on democracy and law." (Postimees, May 28.)

    The results of a public opinion poll are published, which show that Russian-speaking residents of Estonia do not support the claims of Baltic political elites to Russia concerning the events of the Soviet past. "40% of Estonian residents believe that the Russian President has to apologize. Two thirds of Estonians insist on apologies and only one third of Russians." (Eesti Paevaleht, May 27.)

    LATVIA

    Society increasingly criticizes the Latvian authorities for the government crisis caused by the failure to sign a border delimitation agreement with Russia. "We have shown that we can talk loudly about history, but are not able to sign a border agreement, to find a common language with Russia." (Neatkariga Rita Avize, May 25.)

    Russian-language mass media write that the political crisis in Latvia does not help to increase the efficiency of the Riga-Moscow dialog. "Political disagreements do not allow Latvia and Russia to sign the border agreement and at least 15 other inter-state agreements." (Biznes&Baltia, May 25.)

    President Putin's statement that Latvia will get "not the Pytalovsky district, but the ears of a dead donkey" are quoted in almost all the media. "People are always misled by saying that the absence of a border agreement with Russia prevents Latvia from joining the Schengen zone. But for Russia the border agreement is a condition for introducing a visa-free regime. So it was Russia who got the ears of a dead donkey." (Latvijas Avize, May 28.)

    In connection with the attempt on the life of deputy general director of Yuganskneftegaz Sergei Burov, the press clearly hints to the involvement of Russian special services in shadow business. "Mafia and law-enforcement bodies, such as the police and the FSB service, work hand in hand. The principles of the rule of law do not work in Russia. (Biznes&Baltia, May 31.)

    LITHUANIA

    The recurring scandals caused by mutual distrust of Lithuania and Russia affect Lithuanians' attitude towards Russia. "44% of Lithuanian citizens believe that relations between their country and Russia are deteriorating, and 8% consider them bad. Only 27% think they are good." (Lietuvos Ritas, May 31.)

    The press forecasts growth of social and political instability in Russia. "Something is changing in the Russian state. People have less and less liking for the authorities and President Putin personally." (Lietuvos Ritas, May 28.)

    Perceiving the Kyrgyz and Uzbek developments as consequences of Russia's unwise foreign policy, the press predicts that social unrest will be spreading from Central Asia northwards and may lead to Russia's collapse. "The unrest may embrace even Russia, especially its "non-Russian" part. For example, Tatarstan, where the birth rate of local citizens is several times higher than that of Russians." (Lietuvos Ritas, May 28.)

    In connection with the potential sale of Maizeikiu Nafta to a new owner, the mass media keep reminding that Lithuania may find itself energy dependent on Russia. Some experts, however, propose to accept the fact. "If the country needs Maizeikiu Nafta, we have to accept the fact that all or a bigger part of it has to belong to Russia. Otherwise you may cut it in pieces and throw away." (Verslo Zinios, May 30.)

    UKRAINE

    The press sharply criticizes the official Kiev for its intention to expand Ukraine's participation in the establishment of a common economic space. "The common economic space is a soft spot Russia will press at any convenient moment and, using painful holds, protect its strategic interests." (Zerkalo Nedeli, May 28.)

    In reports devoted to the 2nd GUAM inter-parliamentary assembly in Yalta, the press once again takes up the thesis of the weakening of Russia's influence in former Soviet republics caused by intensified regional unity. "The GUAM countries intend to settle conflicts with common efforts of the European Union, the OSCE and NATO, as well as to fight against separatism and extremism. Fulfillment of these plans can reduce the role of Russia as a leading peacekeeper in the former Soviet Union." (ProUA, May 30.)

    The press writes about the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's positive reaction to the Moscow-Tbilisi agreement on withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia in 2008. "Ukraine thinks that this agreement will give a new impulse to the settlement of frozen conflicts." (Glavred, May 31.)

    MOLDOVA

    Writing about huge losses inflicted on Moscow companies by the electricity blackout in the Russian capital, the mass media give a positive assessment to the work of Russian energy specialists who quickly eliminated the consequences. "I cannot now talk of the cause of the blackout, because even Russians do not know it. There are only suppositions, awfully distorted by journalists... I can tell you one thing: the blackout was very serious. And Russian powermen coped with it better... than even Americans. Do you remember a similar blackout in New York? That one took more time to eliminate." (Komsomolskaya Pravda v Moldove, May 27.)

    The press notes with satisfaction that the Moldovan and Russian veterinary services have agreed to resume Moldovan meat and sausage supplies to Russia. "The protocol on resuming meat exports to the Russian market was signed in Moscow by the chiefs of the two countries' state veterinary services. Russia and Moldova agreed to work out a strategy for control and monitoring of Moldovan meat supplies to guarantee its Moldovan origin by June 20." (Komsomolskaya Pravda v Moldove, May 27.)

    The mass media quote Western publications that sharply criticize the Kremlin for destroying Yukos. "As to the scandal around Yukos, Russia's largest oil company, foreign investors could see for themselves that the tax service and judicial system could be used to destroy any company and this is becoming increasingly clear with every passing day." (PRESS Obozrenie, May 27.)

    ARMENIA

    Newspapers mull over recent Russian-Georgian talks on the timeframe for and conditions of the Russian military bases' withdrawal from Georgia. Debate is focused on the possible redeployment of part of troops to Armenia. Newspapers' and the political opposition's reaction to the possible appearance of Russian troops in the Armenian city of Gyumri was very negative. "By agreeing to deploy what Georgia demanded to pull out from its territory Armenia risks remaining one of Russia's outposts forever in the global community's eyes. In that event we may lose the right to determine our own destiny, ensure our own interests" (Aravot, May 25.)

    The media are also stepping up campaign against President Robert Kocharyan who is being traditionally criticized for a pro-Russian policy. Interestingly, newspapers do not approve of the Armenian opposition's orientation towards the United States either. "Robert Kocharyan, for example, said he enjoyed Vladimir Putin's support. This may be true as both presidents are close to each other in terms of mentality based on Soviet-time stereotypes. The opposition swear in the name of George Bush, but not because it shares the principles of freedom and broader mentality. If our opposition shared those values, it would have subjected the policy pursued by the American president to sharp criticism. Opposition forces have simply found "Dad" who they hope will help them" (Aravot, May 25.)

    GEORGIA

    Newspapers blame Russia for difficulties in reviving Georgian-Russian relations. "Russia is irritated not so much by recent developments in Georgia, but its vision of (the bases' withdrawal( as the loss of Georgia" (24 Saati, May 26.)

    The withdrawal agreement having been signed and the relevant timeframe and conditions agreed on, newspapers refocused their criticism on the idea of creating an antiterrorism center in Georgia. The right-wing opposition is categorically against establishing a center in cooperation with Russia. "The bases' existence is illegal, while the antiterrorism centers, once bilateral talks are completed, will be legally grounded, which will produce an even worse effect on the country". (Rezonansi, May 25.)

    This week, experts criticized newspaper reports warning about the danger of Russia's using energy tariffs to influence Georgia. "Russia's raising prices of its energy exports to Georgia is an impossible development. It is the State Duma that has raised a ballyhoo over it, while the Russian government will not resort to the measure". (Rezonansi, May 27.)

    The commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline is seen by the media as a step towards creating an alliance that will keep Russia off from the Caucasus. "Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey have shaped up as a new geopolitical core. Ukraine, Belarus, and some Central Asian countries may join the alliance with time, which will lead to the emergence of an utterly new geopolitical reality where Russia will have to abandon its excessive ambitions" (Rezonansi, Georgia, May 30.)

    "Subversive acts on the pipeline are possible as certain forces, among them Russia, Armenia, Iran, etc., are opposed to the project" (Akhali taoba, May 30.)

    AZERBAIJAN

    Moscow's readiness to conduct dialogue with Georgia on the Russian troops' withdrawal is seen as its diplomatic surrender. "Reports on Russia's massive diplomatic retreat at talks on its bases in Georgia have received an official confirmation although the State Duma and the Russian president are making boastful declarations" (Ekho, May 26.)

    Newspapers have become less confident in Washington as a reliable partner in confrontation with Russia. "Bush made it clear that Washington regarded relations with the countries like Georgia as important, but relationship with Russia was much more important strategically". (Nash Vek, May 28.)

    Newspapers described Moscow officials' absence from the ceremony of opening the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline as "yet another Moscow's clumsy attempt" to show its negative attitude to the project. "It (the pipeline( will lead to reducing Russia's influence on post-Soviet territory. This cannot but worry Russia". (Yeni Musavat, May 27.)

    The incidences of murder of ethnic Azerbaijanis in Russia have lead to reports accusing Russian society of growing xenophobia and even Nazism. "Russian authorities also practice a discriminatory and humiliating approach to Azerbaijanis" (Zerkalo, May 30.)

    KAZAKHSTAN

    Some newspapers claim the May 25 blackout in Moscow was a result of Russia's ongoing decline. "The man-caused catastrophe that hit Moscow and its environs can be seen in the philosophical context, i.e. as the further destruction of the Soviet Union <...> Inter-state relations were the first to fail, which was followed by a series of "velvet" revolutions and the weakening of Russia's positions in the 'post-Soviet space'. Now, Russia's technological heritage is breaking down". (Liter, May 27.)

    Newspapers write Russia does not fit in with the new geopolitical environment (meaning the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan /BTC/ project) because of the Kremlin's reluctance to renounce foreign policy stereotypes. "Believing that Russia could control (the Caspian( region through its export monopolies, Transneft and Gazprom, alone is an illusion. Expecting any dramatic changes whatsoever is unrealistic either. The military rhetoric is not effective with respect to any country today, while mutually beneficial economic cooperation will obviously continue". (Nomad, May 26.)

    Newspapers write the commissioning of the BTC pipeline has increased Kazakhstan's political weight on the international scene, while Moscow will have to build new relations with Kazakhstan. "The success of the BTC project and the destiny of Ukraine's Odessa-Brody pipe depends in many respects on Kazakhstan's position. The BTC pipe will suffer losses without Kazakh oil, while the Odessa-Brody pipeline will not be put into operation at all without it. However, Astana's position is largely contingent on Russia's status. Friendly personal relations between the two countries' leaders will not play a crucial role there". (Nomad, May 30.)

    Newspapers accuse Russia of "political disregard" to ethnic Russians abroad. They write the Kremlin is pursuing an unclear foreign policy, turning a blind eye to what they call Kyrgyzstan's hypocritical policy with respect to Russia. "Withdrawing from Tien Shan, Russia sacrifices its compatriots and the military base for the sake of vague geopolitical interests and illusive influence on Kyrgyzstan's political elite <...> Kyrgyzstan built bright settings for its 'big brother' like solemn promises of eternal friendship, the new law on Russian as the second official language, and by creating a dozen 'societies of compatriots' funded by the Kyrgyz government, holding Days of Russia events, and paying visits to Moscow". (Kompromat.kz, May 27.)

    KYRGYZSTAN

    The Kyrgyz Social-Democrats expressed a negative attitude to the idea of creating in the Osh region of a Russian anti-terrorist center within the framework of the OCST and SCO. "In modern conditions, Kyrgyzstan must uphold its national interests and ensure its national security in a civilized way, and not rely on foreign states' bayonets... In the countries where Russian bases function, for example, Georgia and Moldova, threats to their state integrity and seats of instability arise, as a rule". (Azattyk, May 28.)

    In the opinion of some media bodies, the deployment of a second Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan "may have a positive effect on the stabilization of the military-political situation" and will create "additional jobs for the population of the country, where the level of unemployment is high". (Obshchestvenny Reiting, May 26.)

    At a press-conference held in Bishkek after the talks with acting Kyrgyz defense minister Isakov, OCST general secretary Nikolai Bordyuzha expressed doubts as to the expediency of the creation of a Russian military base in Osh.

    "The situation in the Ferghana Valley is not so acute as to require the use of armed force. Firstly, is the base necessary at all? Secondly, there is no expert conclusion on the matter and thirdly, such issues should be discussed at the level of the presidents of the two countries." (AKIpress, May 30.)

    UZBEKISTAN

    The media emphasizes Moscow's clear interest in a political rapprochement of the two countries. "Russia has actually backed the Uzbek president's tough measures to preserve stability. In this situation, Russia needs to back stability in a country which is a CIS member". (Uzland, May 26.)

    The electronic media claim that the Russian authorities are indifferent to the destiny of compatriots and that their interests were betrayed by the former USSR.

    "On May 13, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov disgraced himself by saying that there were only 80 compatriots left in the rebellious Uzbek city of Andijan. Those who wanted to leave, left the city, he said. According to his logic, those he could not leave are not wanted in Russia... The dying Russia, where a policy of genocide is being pursued in relation to its own population, does not need those who dream of it, consider it their homeland, who want to work for its benefit, or at least worthily die on Russian land". (Ferghana.ru, May 31.)

    TAJIKISTAN

    The opinion that placing the Tajik-Afghan border under the jurisdiction of Tajik border-guards was a premature step is expressed in the media.

    "The Tajik border-guards cannot yet guard the border as reliably as their Russian colleagues because they lack funds, professionalism and their material base is inadequate... Tajikistan must first solve socio-economic problems and only after that address problems related to border protection".(Azia-plus, May 26.)

    Some media bodies, advancing the thesis about the loss of influence by Russia in Central Asia and Moscow's inability to resist the wave of Islamic rebellions sweeping over the region, advocate the buildup of US presence there. "Considering 'the transparency' of the Central-Asian borders, we can easily imagine Uzbek experience spreading up to Russia's outlying regions... Russia is rapidly losing control over the CIS. The need to look for an additional regional policeman is becoming obvious... The buildup of US presence in Central Asia may be seen as an interesting prospect for Russian diplomacy". (Avesta, May 27.)

    A new border-crossing regime established by the government for the EurAsEC countries is arousing a wave of criticism in the media. "At present, 90% of Tajik citizens do not have foreign passports... In fact, Russia needs migrants' hands, not passports. . . It is wrong to advocate integration in words, while raising new barriers to it in deeds." (Azia-plus, May 26.)

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