While there is no progress to report and relations between Estonia and Russia remain cold, the farther away from Moscow you are, the friendlier Russians' attitudes toward Estonia get, Arti Hilpus, Estonian ambassador to Russia, told ERR's Välisilm foreign news magazine.
Ambassador Arti Hilpus describes the current relations between the two countries as a state of "cooler stability". Though Russian president Vladimir Putin did appear at conferences and other events relatively often, there are very few occasions when they actually get close, Hilpus said.
At the same time, the work of the Estonian embassy isn't limited to the Russian capital, and Hilpus has had the chance to visit plenty of Russia's different regions.
"There have been meetings with governors, deputy governors, mayors. Some of them had a rather dry and formal atmosphere from the start, where you would hear about the usual statistics and talking points that concern the relations of our state with a given region. And those meetings end relatively quickly," Hilpus said.
"But there are also those representatives like Yekaterinburg's charismatic mayor, Jevgeni Roizman. He has had dealings with Estonia on several occasions, and he's interested in some of Tallinn's projects, whether they could me implemented in Yekaterinburg as well."
"The meeting with him was completely informal, he arranged it, we met at an art museum. And I'm sure these contacts make it possible to actually talk about specific cooperation projects. The farther away from Moscow you are, especially in Siberia or somewhere in the far North, the more you get an attitude towards Estonia and the Estonians that's free of prejudices," Hilpus said.
Asked about the most difficult part of his work in Moscow, the ambassador said that because of the current state of Estonian-Russian relations, it was difficult to make any sort of progress.
"I would say that any kind of work, including that of a diplomat, is usually oriented towards some kind of outcome. It's hard to find these kinds of longer-term cooperation processes here that would lead to any kind of an outcome. First meetings are easier, but where bilateral relations are generally complicated and cool, then the result is typically that there's no lasting process that follows. People meet, but there's no actual cooperation coming from that," Hilpus said.
Though there are exceptions, for example the active dialogue between the two countries' economic affairs ministries, supported by the embassy. The ministries discussed transport between Russia and Estonia. Another positive point is cross-border cooperation, and the cooperation program between Estonia and Russia's regions, which included Estonian ministers Mihhail Korb (Center) and Urve Palo (SDE) visiting Russia's Pskov oblast in May this year (ERR News reported).
"To be honest I'm a bit surprised and I regret that before the backdrop of the biggest Russian media's attitude towards the Baltic states, we hear so little about this kind of unpolitical and practical cooperation, which very much interests people in the regions on both sides, and which offers the chance of a slightly different relationship between Estonia and Russia than our broader public is used to imagining it," Hilpus said.
Editor: Dario Cavegn