Meeting with Nigerian Diplomats at Russian Foreign Ministry
On July 22, a meeting with a group of Nigerian diplomats took place at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the initiative of Nigeria's embassy in Moscow.
The Nigerians stated with regret that the trial of twelve Russian seamen arraigned in that country on a charge of raw oil contraband has again been deferred, now even until October 21, 2005. It was stressed that the Nigerian ambassador to Russia, Dan Suleiman, is doing all he can to ensure that the trial ends as soon as possible and sincerely hoped that in July the trial will definitively be brought to an end, having become, the Nigerian diplomats acknowledged, the chief and absolutely unnecessary irritant in bilateral relations. They at the same time accentuated the independence of the Nigerian judiciary, in whose exclusive purview it is to hand down a final judgment.
The Nigerians were told that Moscow is sincerely hoping for the latest session of the court in Lagos truly to become the last one. This hope in particular was based on the repeated promises by the Nigerian side to speed the process, a point made specifically in Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's message of July 15, 2005, to his Nigerian counterpart. While by no means trying to intervene in the proceedings, Moscow nevertheless feels the trial is being dragged out solely because of the unconstructive stand of the prosecution, which can be explained only by the shakiness of inculpatory evidence. It was noted that this further trial deferment is extremely worrying for the Russian public and has again become caught in the spotlight of Russian print and electronic media attention.
Overall, all this has begun to adversely affect the atmosphere in bilateral relations, which earlier had always served as an example of friendly bilateral engagement.
At the conclusion of the meeting mutual interest was affirmed in turning over, at last, the page that has marred relations between the two countries, and confidence was also expressed that the Russian seamen will be able to return home even before the end of the current year.
July 22, 2005