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Russia's Ukraine diplomacy gets double edge

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 02:16

President Putin asks parliament to revoke his right to send troops into Ukraine. At the same time, Russia concludes the South Stream pipeline deal with Austria - a move seen by some as an attempt to 'divide and rule' EU member states. David Pollard reports.

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Russian diplomacy at work - as Vladimir Putin lands in Vienna. The Russian president was on a one-day visit - only his second to an EU country since his country annexed Crimea. It's a critical one - Austria is now giving its final approval to a controversial Russian gas pipeline through its territory. The $40 billion South Stream project will carry gas to the centre of Europe - crucially, it'll bypass Ukraine as a transit point. And that's aroused opposition from within the EU. Austria's OMV energy company says no matter - Europe still needs Russian gas. While Russia's Gazprom says it's in constant touch with the EU. Chief exec, Alexei Miller. SOUNDBITE (Russian) GAZPROM CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ALEXEI MILLER, SAYING: "As far as the European Commission is concerned and personally Energy Commissioner Mr. Oettinger, I'm in touch with him all the time, if not daily, at least weekly. That's what our dialogue with the European Commission looks like. We communicate both personally and by telephone." And the diplomacy took on a double edge with an announcement from the Kremlin. Putin has asked parliament to revoke a right to military intervention in the Ukraine. The move is certain to be welcomed by the West as a sign of Russian good faith. Andrei Klimov is a Russian senator. SOUNDBITE: RUSSIAN SENATOR, ANDREI KLIMOV, MEMBER OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION COUNCIL, SAYING: "I believe that this signal has to be heard both in Ukrainian society and by our partners in Washington - mainly in Washington, in London in Brussels and so on." That signal might be: no more EU sanctions please - as EU leaders prepare for this week's summit in Brussels. Even so, Russia has not lost sight of its ambitions, according to Maria Lipman of the Carnegie Foundation in Moscow. SOUNDBITE (English) MARIA LIPMAN, ANALYST, CARNEGIE FOUNDATION, SAYING: "I do not think that Russian priorities have changed - the priorities being that Ukraine should not come under the Western orbit and that Russia should have leverage in Ukraine and have a way to influence the developments inside Ukraine." Outline peace talks on the crisis began on Monday. Some though, wonder at the timing of the two events. Asking whether Russia is trying to exploit differences between EU states like traditionally neutral Austria - and those like Britain that take a harder line.

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Russia's Ukraine diplomacy gets double edge

Tuesday, June 24, 2014 - 02:16