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Monday, October 09, 2006

Germany Turns on Russia

Remember when it was being reported what an expert Vladimir Putin was in German culture and language, and how this would give him lots of influence in Germany? Poppycock. Germany turns against Russia just like all civilized nations are doing, as the International Herald Tribune reports:

Reacting to the assassination of a crusading journalist in Moscow, German politicians Sunday called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to raise more forcefully the human-rights situation in Russia when she meets Tuesday with President Vladimir Putin in Dresden. "We have to keep raising human rights with Russia," said Herta Däubler- Gmelin, a Social Democrat and chairwoman of the human-rights committee in the Bundestag, or Parliament. "We do raise it, but we have to do more."

The assassinated journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who was repeatedly criticized by the Russian authorities for her reporting on the war in Chechnya, had received several awards in Germany, including the Leipzig Prize for the Freedom and Future of Media in 2005.

Her death has sparked worldwide reactions of sympathy and outrage, but also criticism of Putin, particularly over the way he has muzzled the press and opposed Politkovskaya's independent- minded professionalism. Until now, few issues have brought together opposition voices inside Russia and the government and human-rights organizations outside the country. "Anna Politkovskaya was one of the most important human-rights defenders in Russia today," said Thomas Hammarberg, commissioner for human rights at the Council of Europe. "While not everyone agreed with her views, no one questioned her professionalism, courage and personal dedication to revealing the truth about a controversial issue."

Finland, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, condemned the killing, calling it a heinous crime. "On behalf of the EU, the presidency expresses its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Anna Politkovskaya," the European Union's Finnish presidency said in a statement. It urged an investigation into the "heinous crime."

The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment, saying that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier would issue an official statement Monday and that the government had yet to issue an official reaction. The foreign ministry is at present preparing a new "Ostpolitik," or eastern policy, with Russia aimed at drawing it closer to Europe, primarily through energy and economic contacts.

Other German politicians, however, were quick to react to Politkovskaya's murder. "Obviously, the situation in Russia is deteriorating and also Russian foreign policy," said Rheinhard Bütikofer, a leader of the opposition Greens party. "Vis-à-vis Georgia, Russia is behaving in a very, almost unbelievably arrogant manner," said Bütikofer, referring to the Kremlin's confrontation with Georgia and its decision to sever all transport and postal links. "This is a clear indication that there has to be a more open and more clear-cut language from the West, including Germany and including particularly the chancellery if we just don't want to be standing by. The Petersburg Dialogue provides this opportunity."

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