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Update: Estonia's foreign minister denied Russian visa


TALLINN, November 10 (RIA Novosti, Nikolai Adashkevich) - In the latest twist in ongoing difficulties between Estonia and Russia, the Baltic country's foreign minister, Urmas Paet, said Thursday he was upset that the Russian authorities had denied him a visa to attend a roundtable on cross-border cooperation in St. Petersburg.

Ministry spokesperson Ehtel Halliste quoted Paet as saying, "This is disappointing... This [decision] has shown that Russia is not interested in relations with Estonia."

Relations between the two countries have been tense in recent times due to land and sea border disputes.

In a recent related development, Estonian Minister of Regional Affairs Jaan Ounapuu, who was granted a Russian visa to attend the roundtable set for November 10-11, said he would not go to St. Petersburg.

On September 2, the Russian Foreign Ministry commented on a Baltic News Service report regarding "a number of tactless remarks about Russia" by Paet. The ministry said he had "deliberately twisted the facts and substituted the object of criticism" in comments about Russian xenophobia in the central republic of Mari El, which has a significant ethnic Mari population.

"As far as Paet's assessments of the situation in Mari El and the position of the Ugro-Finnish peoples in Russia are concerned, it is difficult to comment upon this. Not only does the opinion of Urmas Paet not correspond to reality, but even some of the members of Estonia's Cabinet of Ministers do not share it either," the ministry said.

Putin's special representative for EU relations Sergei Yastrzhembsky said he thought "the participation of any foreign minister in such a forum would be inappropriate."

"This forum is not for an exchange of opinions on the national level," he said. "We have invited representatives of local administration from regions that border on Estonia and Finland."

A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Tallinn said Paet was not issued a visa because the proper diplomatic procedures had not been followed.

"The Russian Embassy received an official visa request from the Estonian Foreign Ministry two days prior to the forum, and we would have been able to issue it only if we violated all the existing norms for the proper reception of high-ranking foreign officials," Irina Pavlova said.

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