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Putin Meeting With Czech Leaders In Prague --> Presidents Vladimir Putin and Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle on March 1 (epa) March 2, 2006 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin continues a visit to the Czech Republic today, laying a wreath at a World War II memorial in Prague.

The Russian leader will also meet with Czech Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek and Czech lawmakers.

Yesterday, Putin said Russia bears moral responsibility for the Soviet-led crackdown of the Prague Spring in 1968, but no legal responsibility for it.

Czech President Vaclav Klaus said it was time to look to the future and not back on the past.

"I don't see any reason why I today, on March 1, 2006, should try to settle with President Putin what Brezhnev's Soviet Union did in August 1968," Klaus said. "We both know about it and understand it. It was an exceptionally tragic moment for us, but I am for a positive outlook on the present and the future."

Putin made a similar statement in Budapest on February 28 about the Soviet crackdown of the 1956 Hungarian revolution.

(Czech TV, AFP)

Russia's Gas Strategy

RUNNING HOT AND COLD The crisis over Russian supplies of natural gas to Ukraine that erupted on New Year's Day has implications that spread well beyond these two countries and will impact both economic and political policymaking throughout Europe. On January 19, RFE/RL's Washington, D.C., office hosted a briefing the examined the ramifications of the natural-gas conflict.

CLIFFORD GADDY, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, outlined Russia's "grand energy strategy," in which Ukraine is perceived as merely an obstacle frustrating Russia's energy ambitions in Western Europe and therefore a nonentity in Russia's broader strategic planning. According to Gaddy, Russia's strategic goal regarding energy is to maximize the role of its own energy resources in the world energy markets, so as to increase its geopolitical influence. To do this, it must reduce competition and maximize dependency on its own energy resources, as well as ensure a stable supply.

TARAS KUZIO, a visiting assistant professor at George Washington University, rebutted Gaddy's argument, claiming that Russia's actions evidenced a complete lack of geopolitical strategy and resulted in strong denunciations by Western countries and a loss of political allies in Ukraine. According to Kuzio, Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to have a deal signed by the January 4 European Union energy summit outweighed his hope of reinforcing opposition to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during the run-up to Ukraine's March 26 parliamentary elections.

RFE/RL Coordinator of Corruption Studies ROMAN KUPCHINSKY did not fully agree with Kuzio's assessments of Yushchenko or Ukraine. He outlined three major problems that are feeding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The biggest, he argues, is that the state-controlled Russian gas giant Gazprom holds a monopoly on natural-gas sales outside the CIS. Kupchinsky also decried Ukraine's consumption of natural gas, terming it "out of control." Corruption is also a major factor in the conflict, Kupchinsky said, although the extent to which it taints the deal struck between Russia and Ukraine remains unknown.


Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 90 minutes):
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Moscow's New Energy Strategy

Moscow And Energy Leverage

Russia's New Imperialism

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