Russian MP insulted by Latvian colleague

  • 2004-12-15
  • By The Baltic Times
MOSCOW 's Russia's State Duma foreign affairs committee chairman, Konstantin Kosachev, said he would refuse to take part in a meeting of north European and Baltic state foreign affairs committee heads in Oslo in January after recent remarks by a Latvian MP, the Interfax news agency reported.

Kosachev told reporters Dec. 21 that he believes Aleksandrs Kirsteins' remarks are "provocative and go beyond all the possible and admissible boundaries in politics."

According to Kosachev, Aleksandrs Kirsteins said in a recent television program in Latvia that "relations with Russia could be built only by two means 's either by slapping on its face or by licking its boots."

As Kosachev said, "Russia's political circles and public opinion sees this statement as a direct insult to our state."

But Kirsteins, a member of the People's Party, denied having made such a statement. He underscored that he said "unfortunately," since Russia has not signed a single treaty with Latvia over four years. He also doubted if Kosachev, even if he saw the program, could understand the remark since was speaking in Latvian.

Kirsteins said the idea he was voicing on the television was about unequal treatment of other states by Russia. "My key goal was to tell that Russia does not want to talk to Latvia but just wants to talk to states like the United States and China," he said.

Kosachev has sent an official letter to Norway's parliament, stating he "did not see any chance of arriving in Oslo for a meeting that would be joined by Kirsteins as well." He said he would agree to take part in Oslo forum only if Kirsteins "made just a public and comprehensive apology, or if participants of that honorable forum expressed evaluation of his statements," according to the letter to Norway.

Kirsteins said he was not worried about Kosachev's position. "It's his problem. I'm not organizing the conference 's it's organized by Norwegians," he said.

Kosachev, meanwhile, accused the EU of applying exaggerated standards to Russia, using a comparison of Russian-speakers in Latvia and to the plight of Meskhetian Turks as an example.

After 10 new countries joined the EU in May 2004, a trend has emerged toward "lecturing Russia and applying if not double, then obviously exaggerated standards toward it," Kosachev was quoted as saying at a meeting on Tuesday with ambassadors from the Benelux countries in Moscow.

He said this was evident, in particular, from the fact that the EU was raising the issue of the condition of 7,000 Meskhetian Turks while it "hushes up the situation surrounding hundreds of thousands of Russian-speaking residents of Latvia and Estonia."

The EU has been drawing Russia's attention to the situation of the Meskhetian Turks living in the Krasnodar region, many of whom don't have Russian citizenship. As of the end of July, some 12,000 Meskhetian Turks lived in the southern Russian region, but only 4,943 possessed Russian citizenship.

Stalin's regime deported Meskhetian Turks from southern Georgia to Central Asia 's Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan 's in 1944. After massive pogroms in the Fergana valley in 1989 many of them were forced to leave Uzbekistan and most are now living in Azerbaijan and Russia.