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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Opening Borders, War With Iraq and Osmium

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Foreigners working in or traveling frequently to Russia are undoubtedly watching the Kaliningrad debate, realizing there could be something in it for them and their business that the European Commission seems to have either forgotten or quickly pushed to one side.

It is obvious to all who do business here or come to Russia as tourists that the current visa situation is a farce that should not be tolerated in the 21st century. If this situation is a barometer of the real relationship between the EU and Russia, as opposed to political hot air, then the Cold War is still raging.

The real issue here is simplifying the whole bilateral visa set-up between EU countries and Russia. Any other remedies -- sealed trains, stickers and the like -- are simply treating the symptoms but not healing the illness.

I for one have lived through single and multi-entry visas for other Eastern European countries that now allow visa-free travel. The opening of those borders has done immense good for trade and relations between the EU and these countries. The real barrier to travel is now market-driven and not political.

Russians are still suspicious of the Western world, not least because of the visa farce. I say farce because I am 100 percent certain that if the worst elements of Russian society want to travel, they will, regardless of restrictions. The people who are trapped and don't get to travel are those who should be granted a visa. I'm sure most readers of The Moscow Times in Moscow can name several close acquaintances who have had applications turned down unfairly.

If the Cold War is over then for God sake let's open the borders to allow civilized access to one another's countries.

Guy Eames

Tantalizing Tidbits

In response to "Losing the Plot in Kukura Kidnapping," a column by Yulia Latynina on Sept. 25.

Once again, Yulia Latynina does what she can to create the impression that she knows everything about everything -- laughing big business types, pilfered pillow cases, yet another bad-girl Oksana, even non-Euclidean geometry (presumably, she reads Lobachevsky before going to sleep at night). Once again, the logic is "iron." Young Vadim Schmidt -- maybe, but you didn't hear it from me -- organized the thing to even the score for his father's murder. Possibly, but I'm not necessarily saying he was killed, ergo this is "a cover-up not a kidnapping," since Kukura was abducted "for money. Money is the best revenge." She gets it both ways or any way she wants it, perhaps because she is of one of Russian TV's rising stars.

Latynina displays a splendid knack for dropping all sorts of names, hints and fascinating facts that, surely, only one privy to the ugly, hidden truth could know. But she'll never give us the whole story.

She wouldn't want to get her head blown off, after all. Not this shrewd investigative reporter, who plays her cards close to the chest, giving readers tantalizing tidbits and half-spun theories. Just enough to make them say "great stuff!" and keep them coming back for more. She is a clever woman with the gift of gab and a runaway imagination.

That said, Latynina does occasionally write some very good pieces -- on those occasions when she's not in over her head, indulging herself in journalistic impressionism.

Richard Thomas

The Dark Side

In response to Chris Floyd's Global Eye on Sept. 20.

I was alarmed by the comment entitled Dark Passage by Chris Floyd. The threat of the United States to the well-being of the world is sadly apparent. Bush and his close cronies are frighteningly arrogant.

The other countries of the world cannot allow themselves to be picked off, one by one. Britain seems already to be in a state of total submission, although it is much more the government and Tony Blair than the people or parliament.

The disagreement over how Iraq should be dealt with will be a test. It is imperative that the other permanent members of the Security Council do not submit to U.S. and British pressure. They did well over the resolution on Palestine, forcing the United States to abstain. The American people are 60 percent opposed to war with Iraq without UN approval.

It is very important that there should be no excuse. Ideally, Russia, China and France should stick together.

Christopher Leadbeater
Oxford, England

Osmium Scam

In response to "Smuggling Alert," a brief on Sept. 13.

I am a student research assistant at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California. I have been following Russian press coverage of State Duma member Viktor Ilyukhin's comments on the grave dangers of osmium-187 being imported from Kazakhstan. I hope your paper has not been fooled.

Osmium, as was red mercury, is offered for sale as an essential material used in nuclear weapons production by various hucksters.

In fact, its real market value is about $100 per gram and it is not a controlled substance according to U.S. law or the regulations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Furthermore, it cannot be used to produce nuclear weapons and does nothing to magnify the power of nuclear explosives.

See the U.S. Department of Energy's web page. See also the following site: Osmium is really used in alloys used to make phonograph needles.

Cory Johnston
Monterey, California