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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Russia offers mixed signals over Libya

Libyan Petroleum FacilityRussia is backing sanctions against Libya, and President Dmitry Medvedev has spoken out against the bloodshed unleashed by Col. Gaddafi.

But the hard line has been diluted by some mixed messages within the diplomatic community, while a leading member of pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi has outraged many by praising Gaddafi's uncompromising response.

It all adds up to confusion, experts say, with Medvedev yet to give a clear indication of the country's stance.

"There is no clear sign from [President Dmitry] Medvedev, Dr Yitzhak Brudny of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem told The Moscow News.

Cautious condemnation

Boris Yakimenko, a leading ideologist in pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi, invoked presidential ire when he piled praise on Gaddafi for showing just how to deal with insurgents.

"The leader of Libya, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, has shown the world how to deal with provocateurs who attempt coups, destabilisation and civil war. He has begun to destroy them," Yakinkemenko wrote in his personal blog last week, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported.

That did not fit in with the party line, however, with Medeved deploring the bloodshed in the North African state.

"Moscow is seriously concerned about the events that are taking place in Libya. The numerous casualties reported by the media have caused the deepest regret. Russia condemns the use of force against civilians, as authorised by the government," Medvedev said.

Yet for all this Medvedev's positioning is not so clear, says Brudny.

Money and influence

The UN sanctions could lose Russia $4 billion. Libya has been one of Russia's main arms customers, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported.

The pair have already signed contracts for about $2 billion and $1.8 billion's worth of Russian aircraft are also earmarked for Libya. The sanctions would put all of those on hold, KP reported.

"They would lose billions of dollars in the arms trade. They also want to be certain they are backing the right runner, they are hedging their bets," Brudny by telephone.

Moscow is also reluctant to be seen jumping on to the American bandwagon, he added.

However, in a rare show of unanimity, Russia joined its fellow members of the UN Security Council in supporting global sanctions against Gaddafi, who has now returned to the pariah status he seemed to be shaking off after decades of international suspicion.

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