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Mixed Signals Emerge from European Union-Russia Summit in Finland

  • Bill Gasperini

The main focus of the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Union leaders was energy security. But the EU appeared to make little headway with Mr. Putin on other issues.

President Putin met with more than 20 European leaders for a one-day summit in the Finnish town of Lahti.

As always, there were smiles all around and even a family photo of everyone together.

Energy security was the primary issue on the agenda, as the Europeans sought reassurances about the steady supply of natural gas from one of their biggest suppliers.

Mr. Putin did make conciliatory statements on the subject, and afterward EU Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso said energy should not be politicized.

"We should not let energy divide Europe and Russia the way that Communism once did," he said.

However, there was little sign President Putin was willing to open up Russia's energy market to outside investment, or end the monopoly that state firm Gazprom has on exports, as the EU has requested.

There were other signs of unease between the two sides, especially on Russia's tense relations with its southern neighbor, Georgia.

EU leaders have called on the Kremlin to end the economic blockade imposed against Georgia after four Russian military officers were briefly detained there recently.

But the Russian leader had only tough words for its neighbor, warning there could be a bloodbath in two breakaway regions within Georgia that Russia supports because Georgia wants military action.

Mr. Putin put the blame for recent tensions on the Georgian leadership in a situation that has also led to mass deportations of ethnic Georgians from Russia.

Before the summit diplomats also said the leaders would press Mr. Putin on human rights, including the recent murder of prominent investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

But the issue received little public mention in a meeting that did not appear to change long-standing positions held by either Europe or its giant eastern neighbor.

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