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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain Recalls Izvestia Story Written by Blair




Britain raised eyebrows in Russia this week when it withdrew an article by Prime Minister Tony Blair about the Kosovo crisis from the Tuesday edition of a major Russian daily.


The front-page article, which was written last week and emphasized the importance of cooperation between Russia and Europe, appeared in Izvestia editions printed Monday east of the Ural Mountains, but not in the Moscow edition.


Britain's change of heart on the article followed Russia's seizure of the Pristina airport in Kosovo over the weekend, but it wasn't clear whether the two events were connected.


The British Embassy on Monday gave Izvestia the version that was published east of the Urals, but later that day received word from London that further changes were needed.


Izvestia deputy editor Alexander Sychyov said Tuesday that the last-minute withdrawal may have been a result of a difference of opinion within the European Union.


"They told me at the [British] Embassy that not everyone shared the viewpoint expressed in the article," Sychyov said. "Not everyone thinks Russia should be a partner with equal rights. They think this is premature."


NTV television suggested in broadcasts Monday evening that the article had been problematic because it was too pro-Russian.


A spokesman for the British Embassy downplayed the incident.


"We don't see it as of great significance," he said, adding that Blair's advisers in London simply wanted to make some changes, but they could not agree on them in time for Izvestia's deadline. He said he did not know what the proposed changes were.


"We wanted to make sure the article was up-to-date," he said, adding that Britain stood by the published version.


Izvestia has an early deadline compared to other newspapers, and the Moscow edition for any given day is usually available early the previous evening. The eastern editions across Russia's vast expanse are, of course, printed even earlier. This problem was compounded by the three-hour difference between London and Moscow.


The article, titled "There Should Be No Place for Conflict and Hatred in Europe," criticized Milosevic and praised Russia for its role in helping to solve the crisis.


"Russia and Britain held different views regarding Yugoslavia, but we worked toward the same goals in Kosovo. Just as we worked together for peace before the beginning of air strikes, so we are now jointly seeking to implement a peaceful solution," Blair wrote.


"In resolving the problems in Kosovo, as in many other areas, Russia is one of the key figures of world politics and a key partner for Britain."


Russia harshly condemned NATO's airstrikes on Yugoslavia, taking the side of its traditional Slavic ally the Serbs. More recently, Moscow has attempted to play a more conciliatory role, promoting a negotiated solution.


Sychyov said this is the fourth article by Blair that the newspaper has printed. During the many times it has printed articles by heads of state, there has never before been a case when the author withdrew it, he said.


"Everyone at the paper liked the article. We were sorry to take it out," he said.