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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Friendless Russia Spirals to Doom

First Kazakhstan, then Georgia, then Ukraine and now yet another former Soviet state has spurned Russia and cozied up to the United States:

Latvia's President Vaira Vike-Freiberga used a speech to a special US Congress session to rebuke Russia for failing to acknowledge decades of Stalinist era oppression.The head of the small Baltic state staked her country's claim to be among the staunchest US allies and told lawmakers that unlike the Soviet era, Latvia feels respected in its dealings with Washington. Vike-Freiberga lashed out against "Stalinist tyranny and the oppression of totalitarian Communism," which she said Moscow has refused to acknowledge. "This is not rewriting history," Vike-Freiberga told the assembled members of the Senate and House of Representatives. "These are plain facts. The simple acknowledgement and recognition of them would go a long way toward strengthening trust, understanding and good neighborly relations between our nations."She added that Latvia, which was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1945 until 1990, "stands ready for developing a friendly, future-oriented and pragmatic partnership with Russia as an important neighbor ... based on mutual respect, non-interference and the true respect for human rights." Vike-Freiberga said that Latvia and other nations once subjected to political dominance by the former Soviet Union, feel a particular affinity to Washington. "We, who had lost our liberty, look to those who are ready to defend it," she said highlighting the close links with the United States. "We are partners, even though we differ in size, in influence, in power, in resources," she told the joint session. "We are partners even while having different opinions on certain issues," Vike-Freiberga said. "My country sees Europe's transatlantic partnership with the United States as essential for our common security as well as for maintaining security in the world at large," the Latvian leader declared.

Meanwhile, Kommersant reports that France is no longer interested in receiving Russian guests:

France to Have Fewer Tourists of Russia

French consulate in Moscow has extended from one to two weeks the term for processing tourist visas. The changes will trim tourist flow from 20 percent to 40 percent in the following months, market players forecast. The novelty that comes in force June 26 relates to visas granted to groups of tourists and requested by tourist firms. It won’t apply to individuals, who will be able to have the documents processed during a day. Of roughly 300,000 visas of France released in Russia past year, 272,000 visas were granted by French consulate in Moscow to tourist groups. The changes will hit all categories of tourists, the market players forecast. Buyers of economy tours will refuse to go, as they don’t usually plan their trips in advance, and VIP tourists will prefer the country, where waiting for a visa won’t take a fortnight. The drop in tourist flow could be from 20 percent to 40 percent actually. For the bus tours, for instance, the profit is derived thanks to the last tourists, varying from ten to 15 in number, who process documents in the nick of time. Their number will go down on introduction of two weeks procedures.

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