The Media Mirror: what's in today's Russian newspapers?

Ukrainian leaders make the first step to NATO membership without consent from the Ukrainian people and the conflict over regional offices of the British Council in Russia is slowly turning into a huge scandal. These topics dominate the Russian press on Th

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA writes, the letter to NATO signed by three Ukrainian “Orange” leaders resembled a report to a commander after an accomplished mission. The paper also notes the fact that the first announcement of the move was not made by a Ukrainian official but by a U.S. Senator. Evgeny Kozhokin of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies highlights another fact: the letter stipulates that in the future the government is going to “discuss the matter with the public”. No direct mention of a referendum.

KOMMERSANT quotes its sources saying the letter was signed on the 11th of January. President Yushchenko planned to make it public in a special television address later this week, but the eager American Congressman, co-Chairman of the International affairs Committee Richard Lugar beat him to this privilege by telling all to journalists after a meeting with the President.

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA has a telephone interview with the Russian Ambassador to Ukraine, Victor Chernomyrdin, who says: more than 60% of Ukrainians are against NATO membership. I don't think they will join – during my term at least. No, he continues, we are not going to force their hand in any way, they want to join – it's their business. But then we will have to re-orient our foreign policy accordingly.

VEDOMOSTI publishes a letter of Russian-born Lord Robert Skidelsky who says there has always been a force of mutual cultural gravity between our countries. But, he writes, even friends fight, and the friendship may fail to survive a fight. The Member of the House of Lords says, there is much mutual misunderstanding, especially in the way governments work in Britain and Russia. Now it is necessary to maintain non-diplomatic contact and to give each of the two countries and peoples an opportunity to explain themselves to the partner.

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA says the actions of the British side look at the least impolite: the host is showing them the door but they are refusing to leave. On the other hand, a few hundred thousand Russians have so far benefited from the work of the British Council here, to say nothing of the dozens who would lose their jobs if the offices are closed.