Russia Direct presents a new media roundup with a focus on the G7 summit, the release of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Greece.
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, walks towards the meeting point for the family photo session at the G-7 summit, Friday, May 27, 2016, in Shima, Japan. Photo: AP
In its new media roundup, Russia Direct focuses on the G7 summit in Japan, the release of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Greece.
The latest meeting G7 concluded in Japan on May 27. Once again the summit took place without the participation of Russia, which has been excluded from this informal club since Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014.
The online publication Gazeta.ru stressed that this summit, in light of the visit to Hiroshima by U.S. President Barack Obama, once more turned the attention of the world to the issue of nuclear disarmament, which is impossible to achieve without a permanent and constructive dialogue between the major nuclear powers of the world – Russia and the United States. The “Collective West” format cannot resolve this issue, no matter how much the G7 member states might wish this. In this sense, the return of Russia to this group is desirable for both sides, but this is hardly possible in the near future.
The analytical website Aktualniye Kommentarii, quoting Russian experts, writes that the G7 countries no longer have the resources for the formation of a productive agenda. Their agenda actually keeps repeating itself from time to time, and largely reflects existing initiatives, not actually touching upon any new challenges and threats. In addition, G7 club members have been absorbed in their own internal problems, including the upcoming Brexit vote (the possible exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union), the protests in France, and Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, which further underlines the remoteness of the G7 when it comes to facing global challenges.
Also read: "Russia needs a Plan B now that the G8 is history"
The business newspaper Kommersant writes that for Russia, the main item of interest at the G7 meeting was the question of removal of Western sanctions. However, there were no surprises in this area, and they were not expected, with the G7 extending the sanctions and even announcing the possibility of strengthening them, in order to continue putting pressure on Russia. Moscow’s reaction to these moves was quite calm, in part due to the admission, in the final document, of Russia’s positive role in the settlement of the Syrian crisis, and the need to maintain contact with Russia to resolve global problems, writes Kommersant.
The release of Nadiya Savchenko
The exchange of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko for Russian citizens Alexander Alexandrov and Yevgeny Yerofeyev, who fought on the side of separatist militias in eastern Ukraine, drew the attention of the Russian press. A Russian court sentenced Savchenko to 22 years of prison for the alleged killing of two Russian journalists in the Donbass, while a Ukrainian court gave Alexandrov and Yerofeyev 14-year sentences for terrorism and involvement in military actions on the side of the armed forces of the unrecognized republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The mutual transfer procedure was preceded by pardons, with Savchenko being personally pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin. This development in the “Savchenko Case,” which for a long time has poisoned Russian-Ukrainian relations, as well as dialogue between Russia and the West, came as a surprise to many.
The business newspaper Vedomosti, in its editorial section, emphasized that this was an unequal exchange – Ukraine got back a heroine, while Russia got back two former employees of state bodies, whom it had previously officially disowned, not wanting to admit the extent of its involvement in the conflict in the Donbass. Nevertheless, getting rid of the annoying “Savchenko Case” may serve as an impetus for the further development of the Minsk peace process, and may even show that some non-public agreements have already been reached – though so far it is unclear what exactly these may be. One thing is clear: This does not involve the lifting of Western sanctions against Russia, the cancelation of which is not expected before the year 2017.
The independent news publication Slon published an article by opposition journalist Oleg Kashin, who wrote that the resolution of the Savchenko issue had led to an “awkward silence” on the part of Russia. After such a loud process and tough statements about the inevitability of imposing retribution for the deaths of Russian citizens, the authorities pardoned Savchenko, and then without any explanation to the public, sent her home. Russia does not want to admit its own guilt in the events in the Donbass, and all that its officials can do when evidence is not in the country’s favor is to remain embarrassingly silent – something that Russians should get used to in the coming years, writes Kashin.
The online publication Gazeta.ru believes that the Russian government has suffered serious damage to its image from pardoning Savchenko and sending her home. Many public figures have already criticized this decision, including Igor Strelkov, the Russian former Defense Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Opinion polls show that this pardon was contrary to the mood of the population, and the authorities will have to take this into account. However, the release of Savchenko may not be as profitable for the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as it may seem at first glance. Savchenko is a member of a party that is in opposition to the president, and she is now a position to become a driving force in the political struggle against the current leader, given her popularity and fame as a national heroine.
Vladimir Putin’s visit to Greece
One of the central events of the week was Putin’s visit to Greece, where he held talks with President Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. In fact, this is the first significant visit in recent years by Putin to an EU country, and the Russian press stressed the truly warm welcome that the Greeks gave the Russian leader. At the same time, the media is skeptical when it comes to the idea that Greece could become a reliable ally for Russia in its struggle to have the Western sanctions canceled.
Alexander Chursin from liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta believes that the visit, although it has fulfilled its internal political propaganda task – to show that there are EU countries that are friendly to Russia – can hardly be called productive. No really important agreements can be concluded between the two countries, because Greece is not in any position to lobby for the interests of Russia in the EU, and today, this is what Moscow needs most of all. The only large-scale project – South Stream – is now in limbo, because of the positions of Turkey and Bulgaria, which means that even in economic terms, we should not expect any breakthroughs from the Russian-Greek dialogue.
The Moskovsky Komsomolets tabloid argues that Putin’s visit has left an ambiguous impression – on the one hand, this is an obvious attempt to “open a window to Europe,” and on the other, during the official press conference, threats were once again uttered against NATO member countries, in connection with the recent deployment of missile defense bases in Romania. Moskovsky Komsomolets also noted that the president’s visit was replete with cultural events, including a visit to Mount Athos.
Recommended: "Putin's meeting with the Pope isn't only about diplomacy"
The business newspaper Vedomosti explained that Moscow is well aware that Greece is far from the most important member of the European Union, and it is hardly in a position to seriously affect the EU’s policy towards Russia. However, by his actions, Putin has been seeking to enlist the support of as many EU countries as possible, and now to his credit, he already has the support of Italy, Hungary, Greece and, to a certain extent, Austria. For the Kremlin, it is extremely important to maintain the image of “shaking hands” with European leaders, and this visit to Greece fulfilled this task. In addition, the two countries have common interests when it comes to mutual cooperation, in particular in the tourism and energy sectors.
Quotes of the Week:
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, on the G7 Summit: “The true value of the G7 now – after expelling Russia from this format, a country that expressed alternative points of view on a number of issues – is that of a closed club. A club that is no longer capable of generating ‘added value’ when it comes to international relations. The Americans need only partners that agree with them on everything. This is just like the Communist Party Congresses during the Soviet era.”
The first statement by Nadezhda Savchenko after her arrival in Kiev: “I want to tell you this. Though I cannot return the dead, I am always willing to put my life on the line on the field of battle for Ukraine. I will do everything in my power to ensure that every child who is now sitting in captivity is released. All heroes of Ukraine should not have to die.”
From Vladimir Putin’s answers, given at a press conference in Greece, concerning the missile defense system in Romania: “Well, how would this not threaten us? This poses a real threat to our nuclear forces! But what is worse, is something else – into these compact units, they can install offensive systems, attack missiles even today! These have a range of 2,400 kilometers. And it is a simple matter to replace one missile with another – it suffices to merely change the software. And no one would notice this – not even the Romanians will notice this!”