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Articles Published in Botswana Mass Media on Russian-Botswana Relations

Mmegi
February 21, 2006

RUSSIA "TOO COLD" FOR LOCAL STUDENTS

While scholarships for overseas studies are somewhat difficult to come-by, Russia's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Igor Liakin-Frolov says Batswana students have shunned scholarships offered by his country.

In an interview yesterday, Liakin-Frolov explained that of the five scholarships his country offered Batswana students, only one person turned up for the sponsorship. Liakin-Frolov asserted that one of the reasons for the low turn out was that Batswana preferred studying in the United Kingdom and the United States. "They are spoiled, they say it is too cold in Russian," said the Ambassador.

He said his Embassy had talked to Education Minister, Jacob Nkate to have Russian schools listed among institutions that Batswana could study at but they were yet to discuss specific proposals on education with Nkate.

Regarding health services, Liakin-Frolov said the Botswana government turned down an offer by Russia to send medical specialists to the country though Botswana is facing the problem of lack of specialists such as neurosurgeons.

He said he was surprised that though his country offered to assist Botswana with specialists in health, the government did not accept the proposal. Liakin-Frolov said he was shocked at the government's response because the same government had been crying that it did not have enough funds to pay doctors.

On the movement of people between the two countries, the Ambassador said his country had asked Botswana to exempt Russian tourists from visa requirements. While countries such as the UK and United States do not have visa requirements, Russia is not exempt from the requirement. But Botswana would not be exempted from visa requirements even if it is extended to Russians - at least for now, said Liakin-Frolov.

On a positive note, he explained that his country had signed an agreement on the abolition of visas for holders of diplomatic and service passports.

The Russian Ambassador pointed out that is was not easy for his country to do business in Botswana because the country was dependent on South Africa. Despite that, he indicated that his country could cooperate with Botswana in diamond trading, as both countries were major diamond producers in the world. Other potential areas of cooperation could be in water prospecting and agriculture, he said.

Concerning the stalemate over Iran's intention to experiment with nuclear capability building, he said his country needs Iran to conduct a joint venture to enrich uranium under international control. He preferred a diplomatic solution to the issue citing the current situation in Iraq where military might was used to address the problem.

As for the country's position to invite Hamas for talks, Liakin-Frolov asserted that Russia's position was influenced by the desire to prevent serious deterioration of the situation in Palestinian-Israel settlement and advance peace prospect.

He said they would impress on Hamas to be committed to the Road Map and recognize the existence of Israel.