For the first time in 10 years, Russia has used its right of veto in the UN Security Council. What is more, the resolution turned down by Moscow, Izvestia says, did not deal either with Iraq or North Korea, or the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The item on the agenda was completely innocuous - a referendum on the reunification of Cyprus, scheduled for April 24.
The US and Britain had submitted for consideration a draft resolution urging the Cypriots to vote for a UN-sponsored plan of the island's reunification. None of the Security Council members raised any objections to the wording. Except Russia.
As follows from explanations offered by Gennady Gatilov, Russia's acting UN permanent representative, Moscow was concerned by two circumstances. First, that the UN is trying to exert pressure on the inhabitants of the island, suggesting how they should vote. Second, the "technology" of taking the decision. The Russian side did not like how the British and Americans, without consulting anyone, wrote the text of the document and then - virtually without any discussion - put it to the vote.
It may be assumed, Izvestia notes, that Russia's demarche is aimed at its Western allies - the US in the first place. Moscow has implied that it will not docilely rubberstamp UN resolutions crafted by others without being involved in the drafting process. There is also a second explanation that in no way contradicts the first and, to some extent, even supplements it. The world has witnessed Russia's new foreign policy in action - the diplomacy of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. It is more aggressive than the diplomacy of his predecessor Igor Ivanov.
To some extent it was a "personal PR" move by the new foreign minister - both in the international and in the domestic arena. Well versed in the UN's nuts and bolts, Lavrov precisely figured it out when this step could be taken to ensure the maximum international response and do no damage to Russia's interests, Izvestia says.
Russia and the European Union have agreed upon a protocol on extending the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation with the EU to the Union's 10 new members. Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, who arrived in Moscow at the head of a seven-member delegation of European commissioners, said that his visit was pursuing many aims, but the main one was to discuss the forthcoming EU enlargement. Russian officials are claiming all the credit from the talks with the EU, which ended on Thursday, notes Nezavisimaya Gazeta, because they say the Europeans agreed to discuss with Russia its losses from the European Union's expansion. The point is that Russia is not a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and formally has no right to claim compensation from losses due to worse terms of access for its goods to the markets. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref was optimistic in his assessment of the results of work with the European delegation. In his view, Russia will now suffer no economic damage from the appearance of new members in the EU.
Agreement was reached on practically all the controversial issues. And the first was the export of Russian steel; European supply quotas have been increased to take into account Russian deliveries to the markets of the new EU members. The issue of Russian companies keeping earlier concluded contracts was also raised. This principle was also upheld concerning supplies of Russian nuclear fuel to the new EU members. Besides, the European Union will not restrict Russian exports of aluminium and farm produce, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.
On Thursday, a few hours before meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Crimea, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma described as "anti-constitutional" a decision taken by the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting on the 100% adoption of the Ukrainian language by all national TV and radio channels.
"This is an effective political gesture by the president," Vadim Karasyov, head of Russia's Institute for Global Studies, told VN. "For Ukraine the revocation of the National Council's decision is of no principled significance. But it removes tension from bilateral relations".
With a presidential election looming in Ukraine, Vremya Novostei says, Putin and Kuchma are sure to discuss the continuity of power. "For Russia, it is important that Ukraine's abrupt re-orientation to other geopolitical centres of influence should have the minimum effect on Russia. It needs guarantees that Ukraine's current foreign policy should continue. Ukrainian groups of influence will find it hard to put up a single candidate, and this will complicate the election situation. If Putin, who Ukraine needs to consider, provides a specific candidate with moral support, this will help separate forces to consolidate," believes Karasyov.
The Kommersant publishing house and the German embassy in Moscow have launched a joint project dedicated to the Year of German Culture in Russia. Leading German politicians and public figures will describe their vision of different aspects of life in Germany and comment on Russo-German relations in the newspaper's columns.
The project opens with an article written specially for Kommersant by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. The article says, in particular, that political stability and prosperity in Europe are inconceivable without a modern, economically strong and democratic Russia, translating into life the principles of a law-governed state. Over the past few years, Russia has covered a long way along the path of reform and transformation. The Germans, perhaps better than anybody else, understand what courage, patience, and readiness for change it needs to make new steps along the reform road. Wherever Germany can help Russia, it will do so to the best of its ability. This also applies to Russia's further integration into the world economy. The next important step in this respect will be Russia's accession to the World Trade Organisation.
Germany and Europe look to Russia as a strategic partner in the face of global challenges, the German chancellor writes in his article for Kommersant.