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Thursday 19 October 2006

Russian president Vladimir Putin may have a rather uncomfortable dinner with EU leaders in Finland on Friday. Since the booking was made in Lahti, there has been a dispute over Shell’s operations in Sakhalin and a spate of apparently politically-motivated murders, culminating in the shooting of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Finnish president Tarja Halonen, who invited her Russian counterpart, may be too polite to mention it. But Putin will not be able to avoid Politkovskaya. The Liberal group in the European parliament have paid to put an open letter in two Russian papers today, including Novaya Gazeta, where she worked. It will also appear in the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat on Friday.

Excerpts include: “We are deeply concerned that political opposition is being slowly but surely eliminated and that those who dare to finance it, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, are being silenced and incarcerated.

“We therefore challenge you to reverse those policies which are strangling your country and its private citizens, conduct an open  and independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the  deaths of Anna Politkovskaya and others and bring the perpetrators of this and other murders to justice.” Otherwise, it says, they will be agitating against a new EU deal with Moscow.

It’s enough to make Putin choke on his herrings.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

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