Friday, January 21, 2005

Rüütel in Moscow

Yesterday afternoon, both CNN and BBC Monitoring reported an Estonian radio broadcast from Moscow by Estonia's president, Arnold Rüütel, telling his country that Putin is ready to support an official Russian repudiation of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact.

Now EDM wonders: What did Putin actually tell Rüütel, and how did he phrase it?:
Even on January 20, the day of the Putin-Ruutel conversation, Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs chief spokesman Alexander Yakovenko reaffirmed the standard position. Assailing Latvia 's President Vaira Vike-Freiberga for her recent proposal that Russia should condemn the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact and the annexation of the Baltic States, Yakovenko asserted, "There is no basis in history or international law for the view that the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states ." Terming that view, "the usual attempt at distorting history," Yakovenko portrayed Vike-Freiberga as unwilling to accept Russia 's friendship, and opined: "We are convinced that her view does not correspond with that of a majority of Latvians" (Interfax, January 20).

Apparently, either Putin's new line has not yet percolated to Russia 's chief diplomatic spokesman, or Putin's actual phrasing in that private meeting requires full clarification. In either case the subsequent Russian statements must be checked against Putin's private statement.

Rüütel is in Moscow on a private visit, to receive a Russian Orthodox Church award from Alexei II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Socor notes:
Alexei II presented Ruutel with an award for "Distinguished Activity for Reinforcing the Unity of Orthodox Peoples." Ruutel belongs to the small minority of Orthodox Estonians whose church is canonically subordinated to the Patriarchy of Constantinople. By contrast, Orthodox Russians in Estonia are generally affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchy. Ruutel helped obtain legal registration of the Moscow-affiliated church in Estonia , thus earning Alexei's gratitude. Alexei, a native of Estonia who spent half of his pastoral career there, for his part had been instrumental in suppressing the Constantinople-affiliated church during the Soviet occupation.

Estonian oil transit tycoon Aadu Luukas accompanied Ruutel to Moscow and collected the same award. The other recipient of the Orthodox Unity award for 2004 is Yevgeny Primakov. He had crossed paths with Alexei during many years in an institution of a decidedly secular character -- the same institution that nurtured Putin.

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