Monday, April 14, 2008

Sphere of Influence - 2

From today's RFE/RL Newsline:

DAILY CALLS ON RUSSIA TO CHANGE TONE TOWARD UKRAINE
General Yury Baluyevsky, who heads Russia's General Staff, attracted widespread attention at home and abroad when he said in Moscow on April 11 that "Russia will take unambiguous action toward ensuring its interests along its borders. These will not only be military measures, but also steps of a different character," Russian and international media reported. He did not elaborate but nonetheless "intrigued half the world," "Nezavisimaya gazeta" wrote on April 14 (see Part II). The daily argued that "Baluyevsky and whoever writes his lines" are simply playing into the hands of those abroad who "accuse [Russia] of behaving aggressively and disrespecting its nearest neighbors." The paper noted that any "harsh tone from Russia facilitates consolidation among political forces and the public in Ukraine and Georgia, lending strength to proponents of NATO membership." "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported that "NATO is waiting for Moscow to explain what kind of measures it intends to take. As of April 13, no public explanations have been provided. Neither was there any confirmation or denial of media reports that President [Vladimir] Putin, speaking at the NATO summit in Bucharest, questioned Ukraine's right to statehood and threatened to annex the Crimea." The newspaper argued that "if Russia wishes to delay NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia, it should withdraw its threats and change its tone. It should call on Kyiv and Tbilisi to expand cooperation in the areas where this is possible, and concentrate on discussing disputed issues without any excess publicity." The paper noted that "regardless of geopolitical constructs, Ukraine and Georgia will remain our neighbors. Thus, in taking any steps at present, we should think about the future of Russia's relations with these countries." On April 14, "Izvestia" wrote that four countries with which Russia has problematic relations are in the process of changing their ambassadors in Moscow, namely the United States, Great Britain, Estonia, and Ukraine. PM

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RIGHTS ACTIVISTS WARN OF VIOLENCE MARKING HITLER'S BIRTHDAY
Russian human rights activists are calling on police to be vigilant in connection with actions that radical nationalists plan to take on April 20 -- the birthday of Adolf Hitler, newsru.com reported on April 14, citing Interfax. The website reported that immigrants are already highly anxious in anticipation of possible attacks and ready to "administer justice." Newsru.com noted that for 20 years -- since the 1980s -- radical nationalists have attempted to mark Hitler's birthday with public actions and that a large number of attacks by skinheads on people from the Caucasus and Central Asia and other foreign citizens, as well as the desecration of Jewish establishments, usually take place on that day. Aleksandr Brod, the director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, said that one radical nationalist organization has already announced plans to carry out mass actions on April 20. "Since 2002, in Moscow institutes of higher learning where foreign students study, they have been permitted to miss lectures and also advised not to leave their dormitories," Brod said. "Institutes of higher learning in St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod have adopted this practice." According to newsru.com, various diaspora groups have vowed to dispense their own justice in response to the inaction of the Russian authorities in preventing racial violence. It quoted Brod as saying that radical immigrant websites are full of calls to mark April 20 with violence. JB
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