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Wikileaks release: in Russia, fear of damage to future US relations

As Wikileaks prepares to release millions of confidential cables, Russian diplomats worry about their ability to talk frankly in the future – while some politicians and anti-Kremlin activists are concerned about private conversations.

By Correspondent / November 26, 2010

Founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, seen on Oct. 23. Wikileaks, plans on publishing 2.7 million confidential communications from US embassies next week. While the disclosure stands to hurt US credibility the most, corruption among Russian political elites and dissatisfaction with the Kremlin is reported to be featured prominently.

Lennart Preiss/AP/File

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Moscow

Wikileaks is about to drop its biggest-ever bombshell – some 2.7-million confidential diplomatic cables from US embassies around the world – and, although US credibility is likely to take the worst hit, much of the collateral damage may end up in Moscow.

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"Among the countries whose politicians feature in the reports are Russia, Afghanistan, and former Soviet republics in Central Asia. But other reports also detail potentially embarrassing allegations reported to Washington from US diplomats in other regions, including East Asia and Europe," Reuters reported Thursday, noting that this huge document dump is expected as early as next week.

Dispatches sent by embassy workers often contain detailed accounts of private conversations with local politicians, businesspeople, journalists, dissidents, academics and public figures. The anticipated blizzard of dispatches from the US Embassy in Moscow to Washington is likely to publicly reveal the raw workings of US diplomacy on the ground and its range of contacts within Russian society. It may also detail the process by which the State Department forms its judgments about the Kremlin and its policies.

Some sensitive topics may include corruption among Russia's top politicians, details of political infighting, deeply critical views expressed to US diplomats by Russians in the opposition, as well as unflattering portraits of Kremlin leaders and their habits.

Russian diplomats contacted Friday said they don't expect the contents to be sensational or politically damaging to the Kremlin, but suggest that the breach of confidentiality might do untold damage to future US-Russian relations.

"As a diplomatic researcher, I must say that I'm really curious to see this material," says Yevgeny Bazhanov, deputy rector of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy, which trains Russian diplomats.

"But it will undoubtedly hurt the relationship. It's not that we'll find out that our American colleagues were critical of us in their dispatches – we know that already – but that all these raw materials, including frank private conversations, will spill into the open. How can we talk candidly with our American colleagues in future if we don't know who's going to read it tomorrow?"

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