Following the EU-Russia summit, which ended in deadlock over Moscow's tetchy relations with Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who was visiting Austria on 23-24 May, showed no sign of change on his key disagreements with the EU - on the questions of Moscow's disputes with Estonia and Poland or the future status of the potential breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo. He also stood firm in his country's opposition to a US missile defence system, saying that it could lead to "a new spiral in the arms race".
Putin's comments came at a joint news conference with Austrian President Heinz Fischer, which took place on 23 May, less than a week after a tense EU-Russia summit in Samara. "I don't think we have particular problems with the EU," said Putin in his comments about the meeting. Russia has always had difficulties with its immediate neighbours and its past, he added. The Soviet Union is to be blamed, Putin explained.
In response to a reporter's question about human rights, Putin said Russia should listen to international criticism but noted that incidents of human rights violations also happened elsewhere. "I think we in Russia must listen to criticism brought against us," said Putin, but added that patronising comments by others was "not acceptable." At the Samara summit Putin slammed Estonia for excessive use of force during demonstrations triggered by the removal last month of a Soviet-era war memorial in Tallinn, which led to riots and the death of one ethnic Russian. He also criticised Germany for preventive arrests of far-right activists ahead of the G8 summit in Germany.
Russia's stance on Kosovo is based on the fundamental principles of international law, first of all on the principle of territorial integrity, Putin said in Vienna. Russia is also guided by UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which says that Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia, the president explained. He added that these principles could be changed if needed, but the changes could not be imposed on either of the conflicting parties. Such principles, Putin stressed, are universal and should work in every spot on earth. …