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Protest rallies of the pro-Kremlin youth movements besieging Estonia’s embassy in Moscow might harm Russia’s relations with the EU and NATO.
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May 04, 2007
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West Takes Estonia Personally
// The U.S., NATO, and the EU condemned Russia
The West showed on Thursday it will not leave Tallinn alone in its current conflict with Moscow. The U.S., NATO, and the EU chairing state -- Germany -- stood up for Estonia, demanding that Russia stop “the inadmissible acts of violence near that country’s embassy”. Thus, Moscow was told it will have to deal with the united bloc of western states if the conflict with Estonia escalates. In response, Russia said the events in Estonia cannot help affecting its relations with the EU and NATO.
West’s Pressure

Western countries addressed numerous statements to Moscow on Thursday, demanding that Russian authorities stop the disorders near Estonia’s embassy in Moscow. NATO’s criticism of Russia was the toughest. The alliance said it is “deeply concerned by threats to the physical safety of Estonian diplomatic staff, including the Ambassador, in Moscow, as well as intimidation at the Estonian Embassy” by pro-Kremlin youth movements. “These actions are unacceptable, and must be stopped immediately; tensions over the Soviet war memorial and graves in Estonia must be resolved diplomatically between the two countries,” the statement says. The alliance called on the Russian authorities to implement their obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations, and urged them to protect the embassy, as the host country should do.

The U.S. shares NATO’s concern over the Russian-Estonian confrontation. For the first time, Washington made it clear it will no longer remain an outside observer in the conflict. “We urge authorities in Moscow to do everything possible to reduce tensions and carry out their responsibilities under the Vienna Convention,” said State Department spokesman Tom Casey. He called on the Russian authorities to “avoid harsh words and escalation”. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried delivered a similar statement. In his interview to BBC, he urged Tallinn “to treat the feelings of the Russian community in Estonia with understanding” and demanded that the Russian government “help stabilize the situation and cooperate with Estonia”. “Monuments of that kind may be regarded from different points of view. For Russians, the monument is a symbol of enormous sufferings and the final victory over Nazi Germany. And this point of view is fair. But for Estonians such monuments symbolize the Soviet occupation and national humiliation. And this point of view is also fair. The situation is so complicated because these are two opposite viewpoints, and very strong feelings are behind both,” said Fried.

The EU, having already expressed on Wednesday its concern over the events around Estonia’s embassy in Russia [please see yesterday’s Kommersant], tried to influence the current situation again. Ambassador of EU chairing state Germany Walter Jürgen Schmidt visited the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday. According to the German Foreign Ministry, the Ambassador delivered Europe’s stand on the events in Moscow and Tallinn, saying that the fate of Soviet war memorials in Estonia “should be discussed without emotions, in a business-like way, and with mutual respect”. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the telephone on Thursday. Lavrov promised that Russia will secure the proper protection for Estonian diplomats and their freedom of movement.

Lithuania joined the chorus of those criticizing Moscow. Lithuanian Sejm unanimously passed a statement in Estonia’s support, calling Russia’s response to the Bronze Soldier’s removal an “interference into Estonia’s domestic affairs”. “Considering the events in Tallinn, and the interior and international tension they caused, Sejm of Lithuania stands together with the Estonian government on the issue of moving the monument to Soviet soldiers from the center of Estonia’s capital to a war memorial,” the statement says. Georgia expressed support to Estonia as well, having underwent a tough conflict with Russia last year and still being under Russia’s sanctions. “Georgia categorically condemns Russia’s inability to end assaults on the Estonian embassy in Moscow and on the Estonian Ambassador,” said Georgian Parliament’s speaker Nino Burjanadze, adding that Russia’s constant intervention into Estonia’s domestic affairs violates international conventions.

Russia’s Rebuff

The West’s unanimous criticism was not left unanswered. First, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talked on the phone with his Estonian counterpart Urmas Paet. The Russian minister urged Estonia to refrain from provocative steps against Russia, demanded to investigate Russian citizen Dmitry Ganin’s murder in Tallinn, and to provide access to Russians arrested in Tallinn during mass disorders in late April. Moreover, deputy head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s information and press department Boris Malakhov spoke in the UN headquarters in New York, demanding to raise the issue “of the necessity to consistently prevent any attempts to rehabilitate Fascist crimes and revive neo-Nazi movement in the world, one of whose manifestations is the attempt to remove monuments to Soviet soldiers-liberators in a number of countries”.

Later in the day, Moscow gave a very tough response to the EU’s and NATO’s reproaches. It was delivered by Russia’s Ambassador to the OSCE Alexei Borodavkin. “Flagrant violations of human rights in Estonia which we have recently witnessed is the consequence of the conniving indifference of the EU and NATO, the organizations that provided membership to a country violating the key values of the European culture and democracy,” he said. Borodavkin also warned that “the blasphemy committed in Estonia cannot help affecting Russia’s relations with the EU and NATO in the long run.”

The statement means the conflict with Estonia threatens to grow into a large-scale confrontation of Russia with the EU and NATO.

How Embassies were Attacked

January 30, 1829. Russian diplomatic mission in Tehran was attacked. A crowd broke into the building and killed all the employees, including special envoy, poet Alexander Griboedov. The attack was triggered by the signing of the Turkmanchai peace treaty, according to which Russia obtained Nakhichevanskoe and Erivanskoe khanates.

August 4, 1914. After Germany declared war to Russia, the German embassy in St. Petersburg was battered. A crowd broke into the building, smashed windows, tore down wallpaper and pictures, threw furniture out of the windows. The embassy’s free-lance translator-correspondent was killed.

Since January 26, 1967, a crowd of Red Guards, members of the radical youth movement supporting the cultural revolution, was besieging the USSR’s embassy in Beijing. In February, the USSR had to resort to foreign diplomats’ help to evacuate the families of Soviet citizens from China. The crowd repeatedly tries to set the embassy on fire, and on August 17 it battered the consulate. The blockade was lifted only by early 1969, when Chinese authorities no longer needed the aggressive actions of Red Guards.

November 4, 1979. Members of Islamic “Movement for Strengthening the Unity” took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran, demanding to extradite Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had fled to the U.S. The embassy’s 52 employees were taken hostage. On July 27, 1980, the shah died, and the captors demanded $24 billion. The sum was gradually reduced to $8 billion. It was taken from Iran’s frozen accounts in Western banks. The hostages were set free on January 20, 1981.

February 4, 2006. Syria’s capital Damascus hosted mass protest rallies against the caricatures of Prophet Muhammed in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and other European newspapers. The protesters climber over the fence of Denmark’s embassy and set the building on fire. Embassies of Sweden and Chile were in the same building. After this, the crowd went to Norway’s embassy and set if ablaze too. Riot police resorted to special substances to scatter the protesters. On February 5, Denmark’s embassy in Lebanon’s capital Beirut was set on fire as well. The employees did not suffer because they had been evacuated in advance.

How Russia led Cold War against Georgia

The last high-profile scandal between Russia and ex-Soviet states happened in autumn 2006, when several Russian officers were arrested in Tbilisi on espionage charges. On September 28, 2006, the next day after the arrests, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov promised that Russia’s response would be “adequate and accountable”. Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately withdrew the ambassador from Tbilisi “for consultations” and began evacuating diplomats’ families.

On October 1, during the session with Security Council’s permanent members, Russian President Vladimir Putin classified Georgia’s actions as “state terrorism with hostage-taking”. Immediately afterwards, the Russian authorities blocked air, railway, land, and sea communications with Georgia. Mailing and money transfers to that country were suspended.

Even after the Russian officers were set free on October 2, the anti-Georgia campaign went on. Restaurants, casinos, private companies owned by Georgians underwent checking, and most of them were closed down.

Georgian citizens living in Russia illegally were deported. Over 3,800 people were deported by the end of 2006, and up to 1,500 more left Russia voluntarily, scared by the anti-Georgia campaign. Russian police reported almost daily on arresting “Georgian gangs” and “mafia bosses” from Georgia. Russia’s Foreign Ministry refused visas to several sport- and culture-related delegations from Georgia that wanted to visit Russia. At that time, the Russian consulate in Tbilisi stopped issuing visas. The State Duma passed a statement “About the anti-Russia and anti-democratic policy of the Georgian authorities”. By late 2006, the anti-Georgia campaign began decreasing, and in January 2007, the Russian ambassador returned to Tbilisi.

Russian Embassy in Sweden was Attacked

Russia demanded on Thursday that Sweden immediately investigate the attack on the Russian embassy in Stockholm. On Wednesday night, a group of unidentified people threw stones at the embassy’s territory, damaging several ambassadorial cars. Moscow responded with protest, summoning Swedish Ambassador Juhan Mulander to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry demanded immediate measures for the Swedish authorities to investigate the incident and “secure safety to the Russian embassy’s personnel and their property, in accordance with the 1961 Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations”.

On Wednesday, the Swedish Ambassador’s car was blocked near the Estonian embassy by the activists of pro-Kremlin youth movements. Apparently, the infuriated protesters mistook Mulander’s car for that of Estonian Ambassador Marina Kaljurand. The activists tore the Swedish flag off the car, and broke off its side mirror.

Vladimir Solovyev

All the Article in Russian as of May 04, 2007

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