Media Roundup: Last week, the Russian media focused on the renewed escalation of tensions in the Donbas, the ruble’s decline, and the first anniversary of Petro Poroshenko’s presidency.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko speaks during news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, June 5, 2015. Photo: AP

After what had been a lull in the fighting in eastern Ukraine, new reports of military clashes in Donbas have refocused media attention on Russia’s role within the Ukraine conflict. As a result, Russian journalists took a closer look at the results from the year that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been in office, as well as the impact of the Ukrainian conflict on the ruble in foreign exchange markets. 

The worsening situation in the east of Ukraine

The resumption of fighting in the east of Ukraine, in particular, near Marinka, aroused great interest among Russian journalists.

The opposition Novaya Gazeta writes about the official response of the Russian authorities to this new escalation. In particular, it quoted presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, pointing to provocations on the part of Kiev on the eve of the June EU Summit. The publication also noted that, according to the OSCE, both sides are accused of committing violations.

The independent Slon considers the recent developments in Marinka as a confirmation that the Minsk Agreements are not being fulfilled. The newspaper also predicts a deterioration of the situation, the intensification of fighting, and possible offensive operations by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) into the territory controlled by the Ukrainian Army.

The tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets reported on the American response to the escalation of the conflict, given that U.S. officials have accused Russia of the escalation, something the publication considers as a very unjust stance.

The pro-government Channel 1 accused the Kiev authorities of making provocations, and wrote about the victims of the attacks on civilian areas in Donetsk and nearby villages.

The first year of the presidency of Petro Poroshenko 

Last week, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko held a conference dedicated to the anniversary of his first year in office. The results of the “Year of Poroshenko” were actively being discussed in the Russian media.

The pro-government Channel One TV network focused on the difficult economic situation in the country, the ravages of warfare, and the relations between Ukraine and the EU, which are becoming more complicated. Channel One considers that Poroshenko has not fulfilled many of the promises he made to the EU. The appointment of Mikheil Saakashvili, who is on the wanted list in Georgia, as the Governor of Odessa Oblast, also raises many doubts, said the TV channel.

The business publication Kommersant analyzed the performance of Poroshenko, noting that he keeps making a strong emphasis on the “expansion of Moscow,” as well as to revanchist attitudes, promising to return Donbas and Crimea to Ukraine.

“Poroshenko did not skimp on making attacks on Moscow,” writes Kommersant. “In particular, he urged ‘preventing pro-Moscow political forces from achieving their revenge, not allowing them to form a fifth column’ ... Also in his address to the Verkhovna Rada, the president warned about the threat of ‘large-scale aggression’ in the east of Ukraine.”

FIFA: Blatter’s resignation

Last week, the focus of the Russian mass media was the FIFA corruption scandal and the subsequent re-election of FIFA President Sepp Blatter. However, the re-election was not the end of this scandal – literally the next day, Blatter announced his voluntary resignation, pointing out that “not everyone agrees with my candidacy.”

Meanwhile, analysts believe that the main reason for his departure was new evidence of Blatter’s guilt in the corruption schemes of FIFA.

Moskovsky Komsomolets talked about rumors claiming that the resignation of Blatter would lead to Russia being denied the hosting of the World Cup in 2018. The publication cites the opinion of Russian politicians, who believe that such a scenario is highly unlikely, even with the anti-Russian sentiment in Europe and the United States.

The business publication Vedomosti wrote about corruption in FIFA, which has already led to charges being laid. It calls into question the World Cup in 2018 in Russia and the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar. Both countries, the publication informed, shall make every effort to preserve the championships, and have officially denied these events are threatened.

The independent Slon does not deny the political aspect in the whole FIFA story; however, it notes that there is a far more unpleasant scenario than the loss of the World Cup in 2018 that can occur – namely, the exclusion of the country from another important status structure. Russia, the author points out, thus would be excluded not just from the political club – the G8, but also the sports club.

New decline of the ruble

One of the main topics of the week was the rapid depreciation of the ruble against the dollar and the euro. Some analysts even started to recall the “Black Tuesday” in December 2014, when the foreign currency exchange rates in Russia beat all conceivable records. This week, the euro rose in value from 57 rubles for one euro to 63 rubles, and the dollar – from 52 to 56 rubles.

The business newspaper Vedomosti blamed the decline of the ruble not only on objective international trends, but also on the ill-conceived policy of the Central Bank of Russia. The newspaper’s analysts noted that the financial regulator in fact sent the ruble in the downward direction, and no mechanism was used to limit the drop.

“The weakening of the ruble does not encourage people to keep their savings in rubles, and the inflow of foreign investments is not possible due to the confrontational foreign policy of Russia,” the newspaper noted.

The pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta justified the actions of the Central Bank and quoted the statement made by the head of the regulatory body, Elvira Nabiullina, that the objective of the Central Bank’s policy is to achieve an equitable exchange rate, and this is what all the efforts are directed at.

The business publication Kommersant points out that, over the past week, most developing countries have experienced a deterioration in the foreign exchange markets. However, Russia has been hit the hardest because it suffers most from the impact of external factors – renewed fighting in the east of Ukraine, as well as the failure of OPEC to make production cuts.

The Dynasty Foundation and prospects for Russian science

Last week the Dynasty Foundation, a Russian fund that popularizes science, was recognized as a 'foreign agent'. Many experts in the field of education have considered this as a quite innovative project, which could give Russian science a chance for a new future. In support of Dynasty and education in general, protest meetings were held in a number of Russian cities.

The opposition Novaya Gazeta wrote about the closing of this Foundation as a real shock to Russian education and science, as well as the fact that this move will reduce prospects for private investment into science.

The website of the Echo of Moscow radio station wrote about the personality of the head of the Foundation, Dmitry Zimin – a well-known researcher and philanthropist, who has spent many years assisting young scientists. The portal highlighted his positive role in numerous research projects and considers his departure from Russia as a real tragedy.

The business newspaper Vedomosti also stressed that the closure of Dynasty is one of the most tragic moments in the entire recent history of Russian science. The publication noted the most significant achievements of this Foundation, its major projects, and the role Zimin played in them.

Video by Pavel Gazdyuk

Quotes of the Week:

Mikhail Serdyuk, member of the State Duma, on the possibility of losing the FIFA World Cup in 2018: “Russia represents a huge capacity and potential in the football market. In all spheres. There are no objective reasons for depriving Russia of the status of host country for the 2018 World Cup, and one can poke around in our application and accompanying documents until the World Cup 2018, and he or she will find nothing wrong.”

Elvira Nabiullina, the head of Russia's Central Bank, on the depreciation of the ruble: “We have a floating exchange rate, it is affected by many factors simultaneously, and they reflect the current dynamics in the currency exchange markets. Of course, the exchange rate is also affected by the price of oil and the situation in the geopolitical sphere.”

Opposition leader Alexey Navalny on the future of science in Russia, in connection with the departure of the Russian philanthropist and head of the Dynasty Foundation Dmitry Zimin: “The authority of science and education has dropped through the floor. It is not enough that no money is being provided – everything goes to the military and police budgets – now they are even imposing all sorts of “common history textbooks” ... the best scientists, internationally recognized, are leaving the country, and now they are howling at their backs: Off with you, you fifth column.”