Russian Foreign Ministry Chief Spokesman Gennady Tarasov yesterday accused Estonia of displaying a "colonialist attitude toward the Russian-speaking population and unwillingness to seek a civilized solution to human rights problems." Also yesterday, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s chief spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov ruled out the Moscow visit sought by Latvian Prime Minister Guntars Krasts and other Riga officials. "Development of bilateral economic and political relations directly depends on the resolution of the entire range of problems related to the human rights and interests of Latvia’s Russian-speaking population," Shabdurasulov declared.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman was reacting to a recent comment by Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Ilves that Russia seeks to impede the Baltic states’ accession to Western institutions. Chernomyrdin’s spokesman was reacting to Krasts’ and other top Latvian officials’ futile attempts to obtain an invitation to Moscow, and their suggestions that Moscow had not closed the door after all. (Russian agencies, BNS, February 5)
Moscow identifies the main "human rights" problem as Estonia’s and Latvia’s reluctance to mass-naturalize the Russian population. In recent months, some Western countries and organizations have advised the Baltic states to make certain concessions in that regard — though not on the scale demanded by Moscow. It is sometimes suggested to the two Baltic states that accommodating Russia on this issue could improve their qualifications for joining Western institutions. This tendency has encouraged Moscow to reactivate its rhetoric, instead of gradually winding it down, and to focus on the issue of naturalization as a precondition to an improvement in overall relations. Chernomyrdin and other Russian officials recently emphasized this linkage during the meeting of the prime ministers of Baltic Sea countries and the consultations held by the OSCE’s High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, in Moscow. (see also Monitor, January 21 and 28)
Belarus Recalls Ambassador from Poland.