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    The CIS and Baltic press on Russia

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    ESTONIA

    Focusing on Russian-Georgian relations, the press is blaming Moscow for exacerbating the conflict. "The Russian authorities have made it very clear to Georgia -- stop flirting with NATO, or you'll see how the situation may develop. They were simply waiting for an excuse to justify their actions." (Postimees, October 6). "Russia is furious about Georgia's pro-Western course, and its desire to join both the EU and NATO. Moscow views Georgia as its own backyard." (Parnu Postimees, October 10).

    Journalists write that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who was brought to power by the Rose revolution, is an irritating factor for Moscow. "A man who speaks fluent English and evokes continuous interest of Western news agencies, is bound to be very different from regular post-Soviet leaders... Having been educated in the U.S., Saakashvili is a democrat. Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is also a democracy. Maybe, we'll see the collapse of the international relations theory which reads that democratic states do not fight each other? Or is one of the conflicting parties not entirely democratic?" (Postimees, October 7).

    Some newspapers believe that Estonia should support Georgia. "Georgia can play a key role in helping the EU overcome its energy dependence on Russia - the Caspian region can meet up to a quarter of EU requirements, a lion's share of which would go through Georgia... Georgia is giving Estonia a chance to play a part in EU-Russia policy, which is now ignoring us as if we didn't exist." (Eesti Paevaleht, October 10).

    LATVIA

    The murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya has raised a new wave of criticism in the media, which are accusing the Kremlin of suppressing the freedom of speech. "The state has established control over all popular television channels and newspapers. The Kremlin is not particularly concerned about Novaya Gazeta and other newspapers with small circulation, which are issued for intellectuals. But Politkovskaya was very influential. " (Diena, October 10).

    "Both the West and Russian liberals qualify the murder of Politkovskaya as one more onslaught on the freedom of speech... Politkovskaya focused on the war in Chechnya, and neither Moscow officials, who supported it, nor Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov liked most of her publications." (Neatkariga rita avize, October 9).

    At the same time, some publications surmise that her murder is a thoroughly planned Western provocation, designed to portray Russia in a bad light - as a country, which is violating democratic standards and human rights. "Politkovskaya's slaying obviously benefits the West, which has been trying to harass Russia during the past month... The accusations rest on the following logic - pressure on Georgia, pressure on Georgians, and pressure on democratic journalists. This allows them to blame the Putin regime of going 'Nazist', or committing other sins against democracy. It is not clear whether the West has directly contracted the murder, but it stands to gain more from it than anyone else." (Vesti-segodnya, October 9).

    LITHUANIA

    All Lithuanian publications write about the murder of Politkovskaya, recalling that she was one of the most uncompromising critics of the Kremlin. The majority of the media are prone to believe that she was murdered for political reasons, which are rooted in her political activities, and that her death was in the interests of the Russian ruling forces. They are stressing the fact that she was killed on Putin's birthday. "Anna Politkovskaya was like a thorn for President Vladimir Putin, who supports criminal policy in Chechnya. The ex-KGB agent could not have dreamt of a better present for his birthday." (Lietuvos zinios, October 9).

    "Those who have money and information in Russia have decided that if there is no person, there is no problem." (Lietuvos rytas, October 9).

    "Pro-Russian Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov may be linked to this crime. Anna Politkovskaya wrote many articles which exposed his regime... It is not ruled out that Russian officers serving in Checnya are behind her murder. Her articles led to quite a few criminal cases against members of the Russian army in Chechnya." (Lietuvos rytas, October 10).

    The press is trying to predict how the merger of the aluminum companies RusAl, Sual, and the Swiss Glencore will affect Russia's potential role in the world markets. RusAl is building the world's biggest aluminum enterprise, thereby increasing President Vladimir Putin's influence on world metal prices... A deal estimated at $30 billion paves the way for the formation of one more Gazprom-like monopoly. The new structure will occupy 100% of Russia's aluminum market in production scale, leaving behind the US Alcoa." (Verslo zinios, October 10).

    UKRAINE

    The press writes that Moscow is deliberately procrastinating the definition of the maritime border, insisting that the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait should be assigned the status of the territorial waters of both countries, and that the demarcation line should pass along the seabed. Russia does not want to accept Kiev's terms because in this case Ukraine will keep the bigger part of the Sea of Azov with its gas-bearing shelf. Having accepted Kiev's terms, the Kremlin may lose one of the potential levers of energy pressure on the Ukrainian authorities.

    While admitting the provocative character of Tbilisi's tactic towards Russia, the media are convinced that the Georgian president has united the nation against the "Russian threat" on the eve of the elections, and that his attempts to discredit Moscow politically have not been unsuccessful. Some publications are urging the Ukrainian authorities to follow Georgia's example, and display resolve in upholding national interests. "Ukraine can learn from Georgia. Russia has already lost some trump cards in its relations with Ukraine... It has already shut down the gas tap... The world will not understand if it does it again." (Delo, October 4).

    "Georgia is not simply a strategic partner for Ukraine... Kiev's behavior in this difficult will largely determine the attitude to our country in the event of disputes with Russia." (Zerkalo nedeli, October 7-13).

    MOLDOVA

    Pro-Romanian papers express the opinion that Moldova is getting a historic chance to free itself from Russia's influence. "Chisinau should take advantage of the U.S. and NATO resolve to gain a foothold in Russia's possessions, all the more so since its good lawyer - Bucharest - is ready to give it all-round support for integration in the Euro Atlantic structures. To achieve this, it is necessary to denounce the CIS agreements, undertake all other diplomatic and legal measures required for integration, and revise constitutional provisions on Moldova's neutrality (Flux, October 4).

    Journalists claim that the Kremlin is creating the image of an outside enemy in order to stay in power. "Moscow has almost no good neighbors left. In fact, it is at loggerheads with many of them. A typical example is the spy scandal in Georgia, which has developed into a large-scale crisis in bilateral relations.' (Moldova Suverana, October 4).

    The statement of the Russian State Duma on the legitimacy of the referendum in Transdnestr has evoked a sharp response in the media. "As we see again, Russia has been and remains Moldova's number one enemy." (Flux, October 10).

    ARMENIA

    The media fully approve of Tbilisi's actions, and present the events as Russia's big loss in the Caucasus. "In effect, today the Georgian authorities are fighting for the independence of their state, and preservation of its territorial integrity." (Aravot, October 4). "At present, Russia is perpetrating undisguised terror against Georgia." (Aikakan Zhamanak, October 7). "It seems that Russia has lost, but doesn't want to admit it. This reluctance makes its position even worse." (168 zham, Octonber 7).

    Newspapers are interpreting Georgia's transport blockade, which has also affected Armenia by virtue of its location, as more evidence that Moscow does not care one bit about its partnership with Yerevan. "Apparently, we are expected to show understanding... But...it transpires that Russia, our strategic ally, has included Armenia in the blockade; Georgians at least know why they have to suffer hardships, but our position is nothing but some tragic absurdity." (Aravot, October 4).

    "It won't get any worse. How can it get worse? Armenians cannot get to Russia by car because it is separated from Armenia by 300 km of Georgian territory. As for railroad transportation between our two countries via Georgia, this topic has been closed for the past 15 years. The blockade of Georgia, the buffer between Armenia and Russia, has not yet had any effect on the Armenian economy. We have life-long immunity to the blockade." (Golos Armenii, October 5).

    Experts point out that energy security is Armenia's other urgent problem. "The future of the Russian gas pipeline is the 'main enigma' of the Georgian blockade, which has also affected Armenia... The prospect of continued tensions in Russian-Georgian relations simply compels Armenia to speed up as much as it can the construction of the Iran-Armenia gas main. If the situation destabilizes, or hostilities break out in South Ossetia, the Russian gas pipeline may go to rack and ruin." (Hayots Ashkhar, October 6).

    GEORGIA

    The media focus on sanctions imposed by Moscow against Georgia for the arrest of several Russian officers on spying charges. The Georgian public has reacted with great concern to the massive deportation of Georgians from Russia. But it was even more indignant at the initiative of the Moscow police which obliged schoolteachers to provide lists of children with Georgian surnames. "The police has decided to look for Georgians by targeting their children in Moscow schools... On Thursday regional police departments sent cables to a number of Moscow schools, demanding lists of students with Georgian surnames." (Grusia Online, October 6).

    Human rights activists are drawing direct parallels between the harassment of Georgians in Russia and the genocide of Jews in Nazi Germany. "The way Russia is treating ethnic Georgians, including children, is a classic example of xenophobia, racism, and discrimination on ethnic grounds... This is similar to what took pace in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, when Jews and later on other nationalities were subjected to genocide." (Akhali Versia, October 9).

    The media are writing about stepped up activities of the ultra-right, who have zealously backed the Kremlin's harassment of Georgians in Russia. 'The ultra-right nationalist groups have announced unreserved support for Vladimir Putin's policy and are ready to help the police find them. They are already setting up special teams to locate Georgians ... The Moscow police has already started hunting Georgian children... In short, Russia has elevated suppression of Georgians to the rank of its government policy." (Rezonansi, October 7).

    On the whole, the media qualify Russia's response as totally inadequate and self-discrediting. "Georgia will somehow deal with the blockade, but what will happen with to our neighbor's image?" (Sakartvelos Respublica, October 4).

    The opposition continues supporting the government in its conflict with Russia. "Russia is attacking not only the authorities of Georgia, but its entire people. We should unite against Russia, because it is our number one enemy... The Saakashvili problem does exist but this is a domestic issue, and not for Russia to resolve." (Akhali Taoba, October 5).

    AZERBAIJAN

    The Georgian-Russian spy scandal has prompted the opposition media to discuss Azerbaijan's national security. "The arrest of Russian spies in Georgia, subsequent deterioration of bilateral relations, and Russia's blockade against Georgia have brought to the fore the problem with the Russian spying network in Azerbaijan. Using its three intelligence bodies, Russia has set up a well-camouflaged and effective network of agents in Azerbaijan." (Exspress, October 5). "The Russian intelligence service has created a spy web not only in Georgia but also in Azerbaijan. True, some of its members have already been exposed, but it would be naive to say that it no longer exists... The situation in Azerbaijan is totally different, considering that it is the assistance of Russian security services that is being used for the preservation of power." (Eni Musavat, October 5).

    The press predicts that the Kremlin's violent anti-Georgian policy may have a negative effect on Azeri-Russian relations. "Azerbaijan has much closer relations with Georgia than with Russia. The two South Caucasian states will have to clear up the mess created by Russia. A sharp aggravation in Georgian-Russian relations is likely to affect Azerbaijan. Having sent its major oil and gas exports through Georgia, Azerbaijan has become vitally interested in the political stability of its western neighbor. Now Russia has actually imposed a blockade on Georgia by shutting down all transport routes and money transfers. But how far ahead have the Kremlin officials calculated their steps when they took such unprecedented measures against Georgia? Russia's tough conduct may have a serious effect on its relations not only with Georgia but also with Azerbaijan." (Zerkalo, October 4).

    KAZAKHSTAN

    The main subject of the week was the forum of the border regions of Russia and Kazakhstan in the city of Uralsk with the participation of both heads of state. The highly positive coverage of the forum by pro-government newspapers is in sharp contrast to the publications of the opposition press, which is indignant at the organized Soviet-style "universal approval" of this undertaking. "The light of the rising sun reflected the sincere joy of the Uralsk residents, who greeted the presidential motorcade with stormy applause, smiles, and welcoming posters." (Kazakhstanskaya Pravda, October 5).

    "Markets and big shops have been closed for three days to be on the safe side... It goes without saying entertainment facilities are also under lock and key... Some schools and universities have cancelled lessons. Several days ago students who live in rural areas were sent home, and their urban mates were told to volunteer for a 'home arrest' - with the exception of the most reliable and thoroughly screened young people. Together with their teachers, the latter have been flooding streets since the morning on orders from above. Beaming with 'happiness', they were greeting the 'father of nations" with flags and balloons. Almost all employees of budget-dependent organizations had the same 'lot' on this 'happy day.' Apparently, they did not need at all to teach children, treat patients, and provide services for invalids and pensioners, that is, perform their direct duties." (Navigator-II, October 4).

    KYRGYZSTAN

    The press continues writing about labor migration. The media are concerned over the increasing number of people leaving Kyrgyzstan. Some analysts believe that as a result of this the titular nation may become a minority. "There are almost no young people left in some Kyrgyz villages. They are all working in Russia... This is fraught with huge losses for the future of the nation and the national Kyrgyz culture." (Zhany Kylym, October 6).

    UZBEKISTAN

    The media are closely following the developments in Russian-Georgian relations. They note that despite a partial blockade, Russia continues honoring its commitments on gas supplies to Georgia. "Russia has stopped air and postal communication with Georgia. Meanwhile, Russian gas continues to be supplied to Georgia in full volume. Earlier, Moscow has repeatedly stated that it is not going to use energy carriers as a political weapon." (Toshkent okshomi, October 5).

    The media are voicing apprehensions that with the adoption of new laws in Russia, Uzbek migrant workers will lose an opportunity to wire money home. "Russian State Duma deputies are planning to debate a bill which will give the government... the right to impose a ban on bank operations and money transfers abroad... Such measures may well be applied to other CIS countries, whose citizens are tangibly replenishing the workforce in Russia." (Fergana.ru, October 5).

    TAJIKISTAN

    The press is expressing concern over potential withdrawal of the RAO UES of Russia from CIS countries, first of all, from Tajikistan. "Tajikistan is in suspension. The RAO UES of Russia is getting ready to sell 60% of its shares in the Inter RAO UES, which controls energy assets in CIS countries... The Inter RAO UES holds 75% of shares of the Sangtudin GES-1 hydro power plant, which is now under construction in Tajikistan. If the company is sold to a private investor, the plant construction or the terms of the deal with the Tajik government may be called in question. "This step by a major Russian company is quite unexpected, and may have an adverse effect on its CIS partners," said Firdavs Karimov, the director of the Economic Forecasts Center. "Having ousted the Iranian investors, the company has taken commitments on the construction of the Sangtudin hydro power plant in Tajikistan, and bears moral responsibility for the concluded agreements." (Avesta, October 4).

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