It appears that the administration of Tajikistan, formerly a Soviet republic in Central Asia, is not going to revise the indictment against Estonian national Aleksei Rudenko and Russian national Vladimir Sadovnichy. The two men will thus have to spend 8.5 years behind bars. A court in Tajikistan found the men guilty of contraband, transgression of borders and violation of flight rules. The two men were found guilty of these charges even though they were conducting an international flight and had to perform an emergency landing on the territory of Tajikistan.
The two pilots were detained in March of this year. However, experts say that the Russian authorities had not been doing anything for their release. Moreover, the judgment was delivered three days ago, but Russia has not taken a move to do something about the problem.
Can Russia exert influence on the Tajik administration? Pravda.Ru asked this and other questions to the director of the Institute for the CIS countries, a deputy of the State Duma, Konstantin Zatulin.
"We overlooked such development of the situation even though it had been unfolding like this for more than six months on practically all levels - on the official, diplomatic and public levels. If it wasn't for the harsh reaction in the Russian media, we wouldn't have seen the reaction that we can see now.
"The judgment has been delivered, and the situation changes considerably. One can only welcome the words from our president, who said that adequate measures would be taken. The Russian Foreign Ministry also reacted to the problem. However, it is much more important here to have the result: the release of the pilots.
"It can happen only if the problem is discussed on the top level. We do not have many reasons to be optimistic about it, though. It's enough to mention a ridiculous situation: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has not been able to reach his Tajik counterpart for two days.
"Why did we let this happen? Tajikistan is too far from being referred to as a developed country, but this country humiliates Russia publicly in spite of the fact that Tajikistan virtually lives at Russia's expense. Can we imagine this happening in Senegal or France, for example?"
"The comparisons are not appropriate because they do not reflect the character of relations between Russia and Tajikistan. However, it goes without saying that no serious country would tolerate such a situation. It is possible to understand the situation in which the USA did not notice Russia's statements about the case of Viktor Bout. In this case our arms are too short to change the situation. However, Tajikistan is a member of practically all of our associations. This country depends on Russia a lot indeed.
"This situation with the pilots has become possible just because no one was taking any care of it. This could be a vestige of our past, when the fate of one separate person did not worry a strong superpower, as we say it about ourselves.
"It appears that Russian officials have sowed up their mouths. Tajik scientists of politics use this fact to say that Russia has not done anything to help its people."
"What does the Tajik administration want? Are they trying to obtain good conditions in attracting a loan from Russia?"
"They have not set their claims yet. One may assume, though, that Tajikistan will focus on the money. It is not ruled out that they will raise the rent for our army base in the country. There is another variant too: Tajikistan is trying to obtain the funds to complete its large projects, like the construction of the hydroelectric power plant and others.
"If the Tajik administration is unwilling to conduct the dialogue on the issue why not forcing them to it? Russia has plenty of opportunities to do so. Tajikistan lives on the earnings of its guest workers. What if Russia restricts the money transfers from Russia to Tajikistan? What if Russia introduces a visa entry with the country?"
"Of course, Russia would have to resort to certain measures if Tajikistan does that. I would not prefer to punish common people of Tajikistan, though. It would be better to target the interests of the Tajik authorities instead. We could deny Tajik officials entry to Russia, for instance. This would be a very efficient thing to do. If Tajikistan is simply trying to promote itself by humiliating Russia, we can think about arresting some of its assets and introducing fiscal restrictions for the country. Russia must not lose its face in the struggle, though."