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In the Spotlight: Lavrov in Warsaw for talks

16th December 2013
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On December 19 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Poland for a meeting of the Committee on Polish-Russian Cooperation Strategy, Poland’s Foreign Ministry announced last week.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

The visit has been on the cards since last month, when Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski told Radio ZET that his Russian counterpart would be visiting Warsaw on his invitation, which came days after Poland’s Independence Day protests saw a nationalist attack on the Russian embassy in Warsaw.

Matters will almost certainly turn to Poland’s demands that the Tupolev wreckage – the remains of the Smolensk catastrophe which killed President Lech Kaczyński and 95 others in 2010 – finally be returned to Poland.

Back in November, Mr Sikorski told the radio station that he raises the issue of the Tupolev wreckage “practically every time” he speaks with Mr Lavrov. Not to much effect, it seems.

Nevertheless, “Poland and Russia have joint interests,” Mr Sikorski maintained, adding that the countries have better trade relations and managed to launch a local border traffic agreement in July this year.

Since that November interview, however, a lot has changed in terms of regional geopolitics. After Ukraine rejected an EU free-trade agreement fearing that relations with Russia would sour, talks will almost certainly pivot on the ongoing situation in Kiev. 

Protesters have since filled Kiev’s Maidan – Independence Square – and have called for the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych.

Olena Babakova, a journalist working for the Ukrainian service of Polish Radio, told WBJ that the Ukrainian authorities have showed that they have no respect for Western codes of diplomacy.

What’s going on in Kiev is also the fault of the EU, whose jibber-jabber, lack of decision making and incompetent [leadership] has untied Yanukovych’s hands,” said Ms Babakova, going so far as to say that the EU should play a heavy hand with Ukraine by threatening sanctions on the country.

Ms Babakova added that the situation in Kiev has opened the door for Poland to become a major player in EU foreign policy, but for the time being Warsaw is keeping its talk limited.

Mr Sikorski and Mr Lavrov are unlikely to reach a breakthrough in their countries’ disagreement over Ukraine’s future, but the discussion may allow Warsaw to gauge how far it can go in helping to find a resolution.

John Beauchamp 

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