In statements made on August 6 and 7, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valery Nesterushkin suggested that Russia might officially grant Latvia nondiscriminatory trade status if Latvia consents to prolonging Russia’s lease on the Skrunda antimissile early-warning radar. Conversely, Nesterushkin indicated, Russia would withhold the nondiscriminatory trade status if Latvia terminates the lease. In the Russian Foreign Ministry’s view, Moscow had rewarded Latvia with “most-favored-nation” trade status in 1994 as an implicit quid-pro-quo for the four-year lease on Skrunda. “Continuation of that status depends on Latvia’s actions, including the fate of the Skrunda radar,” Nesterushkin emphasized.
Latvian Foreign Minister Valdis Birkavs and other officials promptly ruled out any extension of the lease. Skrunda is the last Russian military facility on the territory of a Baltic state. The 1994 lease agreement expires on August 31, 1998. The radar is due to cease operations that day and to be dismantled between September 1998 and September 2000. Approximately 400 Russian military personnel who now service the radar are due to leave Latvia with their dependents. (BNS, Itar-Tass, August 7 and 8)
PUSTOVOYTENKO STEPS UP PRESSURE AGAINST STATE OFFICIALDOM OVER TAXES.