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#1 - JRL 2006-143 - JRL Home
Analyst Says Russia Should Welcome Western Criticism

MOSCOW. June 22 (Interfax) - Western criticism of the current political situation in Russia is not an attack on Russia, Political Studies Institute Director Sergei Markov said.

"This criticism is not an attack on Russia. Rather, it is an expression of friendly wishes and concerns and should be treated as such," Markov told Interfax on Thursday.

Earlier reports said that a resolution adopted after a European Union - U.S. summit in Brussels criticizes Russia's democratic record and expresses concern about Russia's backsliding on liberties.

Markov said that both the West and Russia are right in their own way. "First, Russia is right because it is trying to solve its own problems. However, our partners are also right in their own way, because a series of important, positive changes, expanding liberties and democracy in Russia, could indeed be made. There are quite a few areas in which we still have a great deal to do," he said.

Russia is going through a period of transition from chaos to more or less stable development. "In these conditions the space for freedom is narrowing in Russia, which is arousing serious concern among our Western partners who fear that Russia will opt for non-democratic development, or go back to the traditions of an authoritarian state hostile to the West. This is what the U.S. and the EU are paying attention to," he said.

Russia is not trying to use its energy resources as an instrument of political pressure, on the contrary, it is working to remove politics from the energy market, he said.

"Regarding the utilization of energy resources and the economy in general as an instrument of political pressure, Russia is not concerned with this. Russia regularly raises prices for oil and gas, including for Ukraine, not because Ukraine is naughty, but because there are no reasons at all to sell gas cheap to Ukraine," Markov said.

The U.S. is far more likely to be using the economy as a means of political pressure, including sanctions against Belarussian officials. Another typical example is the embargo against Iran, which scared Iran to the point of rushing to nuclear weapons," he said.