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Russia: Putin Wants Equal Treatment

Weimar, Germany; 10 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- President Vladimir Putin, on a visit to Germany, has emphasized Russia's desire to be treated as an equal partner with the West. Putin, whose German visit continues today, said in the city of Weimar yesterday that Russia seeks to have a decision-making role in a new NATO-Russia forum that is under negotiation.

He said Russia wants to be regarded as an equal partner in its relations with NATO and the European Union.

Noting Russia's importance to Europe as an oil and gas exporter, Putin warned that Russia could raise obstacles if Moscow feels it is being treated as an outsider.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder praised Putin for carrying out an "historic" policy that has created the conditions for a breakthrough in relations between Russia and the West.

Further Russian-German talks today are expected to focus on the Middle East crisis and efforts to settle Moscow's large Soviet-era debt to Germany.

In other news, Russia's upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, today unanimously approved a bill for the return of medieval stained-glass windows looted from a German church at the end of World War II.

The bill was passed by the Duma, the lower house, on 5 April. It now must be signed by Putin. The bill provides for the return of 111 14th-century stained-glass windows from the Marienkirche in Frankfurt an der Oder, on the Polish border. Church officials have said they hope to have the windows returned in time for the church's 750th anniversary next year.

The windows are among the booty Germany has pressed the hardest to have returned.