IN an issue that is raising the volume on cries of anti-Russian discrimination, the Baltic states are considering limiting Russian TV broadcasts or cutting them off altogether.
Officials in the three former Soviet republics cite purely financial considerations, saying Russia's Channel 1 has failed to pay broadcast fees of $426,000. But many Russians in the region, protesting the proposed move strongly, say Baltic governments have political motives.
Fueling those suspicions, some Baltic nationalists say that Moscow-based Channel 1 programs have an anti-Baltic bias, and one large political party in Latvia calls it ``the television of a hostile state.'' Russian leaders in the Baltics warn that already-tense inter-ethnic relations could be worsened.
``Whatever the case, this will be perceived as an anti-Russian move,'' said Hanon Barabaner, co-chairman of the moderate Russian Democratic Movement in Estonia, where almost 40 percent of the population of 1.6 million is Russian. For them, most of whom immigrated during Soviet rule, the TV broadcasts are one of the last links to their homeland. Most Russians do not speak the native Baltic languages and can't understand locally broadcast TV. Transmissions may end in Estonia on April 4 unless a down payment is received.
Channel 1 officials could not be reached for comment.