Russian media roundup: After the tragic crash of a Russian civilian airliner in Egypt, Russia’s top journalists attempted to make sense of what really happened. In addition, these journalists analyzed the high-profile meeting of Nicolas Sarkozy with Vladimir Putin.


St. Petersburg residents lay flowers and light candles on Palace Square to mourn the victims of the Russian passenger airliner crash in Egypt. Photo: RIA Novosti

For the Russian media, the biggest news of the week was the tragic crash on Oct. 31 of a passenger jet of Metrojet Airlines (former Kagalymavia Airlines), flying from Sharm el-Sheikh to St. Petersburg. The crash, which killed all 224 people on board, with the vast majority being Russian citizens, once again raised the specter of terrorism and resulted in introspection about the safety record of Russia’s civil aviation industry.

Russian passenger plane crash in Egypt

Causes of this crash are now being analyzed, and according to preliminary data, the main conclusion being put forward is equipment failure. However, experts have not excluded the possibility that this was a terrorist attack. It should be noted that immediately after this tragedy, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility. On Nov. 1, Russia declared a day of mourning for the victims.

Yulia Latynina, a staff columnist for the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, expressed its indignation with the poor safety record of Russian civil aviation. The newspaper reminds its readers that in the last few years, there have been a number of major aircraft accidents in Russia, in each of which the main factor was low professionalism and negligence of the crews or the airline company. The newspaper says that in the final analysis, there will be little left of the air transport market, but this will not make Russian airlines any safer.

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Vera Chereneva, the author of the pro-government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, reported on the numerous mourning ceremonies taking place in St. Petersburg, where in the center of the city, thousands of people gathered to commemorate the victims and express condolences to their families. The newspaper wrote about the depression that prevailed among those that came.

Meanwhile, Sergey Mashkin from the business newspaper Kommersant tried to understand the reasons for the crash and presented three possible versions, citing the opinions of experts.

According to the first version, the biggest disaster in the history of modern Russian aviation occurred due to explosive decompression of the interior – the body of the airliner burst due to a sudden drop in cabin pressure at high altitude.

According to the second version, the fuselage could have had its integrity compromised by the shock wave caused by small bomb going off in the luggage compartment of the airplane, or by parts breaking off from an engine. In addition, metal fatigue cracks that might have developed in the supporting structures could be responsible. The third reason given was a faulty engine that eventually led to explosive decompression.

Moskovsky Komsomolets tried to humanize the names on the list of passengers, telling a little story about each person that flew on the ill-fated flight. Who were these people, what did they do in life, and what were they planning to do in the future? In this way, the newspaper tried to focus a little attention on each person.

Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit to Moscow

On Oct. 28, the former president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, visited Moscow. The program included not only all sorts of cultural activities, but also a personal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in which the two politicians discussed the current international agenda, including Russia’s military operations in Syria. The Russian media tried to guess what the French politician’s motives were for coming to Moscow.

Novaya Gazeta's reporter in Paris Yuri Safronov argues that “creating an image” was the primary motivation for Sarkozy’s decision to visit Moscow. Sarkozy has already started campaigning for the presidential elections that will be held in 2017 in France, and is trying to maximize his own popularity. For him, this meeting with the “chief troublemaker” in world politics – is a real “treasure,” something needed to improve his ratings.

For Putin, this visit is also important, because the Kremlin still hopes for Sarkozy’s return to power. On many occasions, Sarkozy has criticized the current French President François Hollande for being too tough on Russia.

The online newspaper Gazeta.ruquoting Russian political scientists, noted that this visit was more important for Putin. Although Putin and Sarkozy are not bound by such warm and friendly relations, as for example, exist between Putin and Berlusconi, the Russian leader still sees a potential ally in Sarkozy. Thus the Kremlin is interpreting his visit to Moscow as yet one more proof of the falsity of the thesis being circulated by Western leaders – that Russia is isolated.

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The business newspaper Kommersant gives the voice to political scientist Igor Bunin. He also pointed to Sarkozy’s desire to obtain additional political points from a dialogue with Moscow. Sarkozy is distancing himself from the ruling Socialists and their leader, Francois Hollande, whose relations with Moscow have grown very cool.

This expert believes that many in the political elite in France support a rapprochement with Russia, and these are the very people that Sarkozy wishes to attract to his side. In addition, the analyst believes that this also provides a good opportunity for Moscow to dissociate itself from Marine Le Pen and her nationalists, and lay its bets on a more traditional political force.

Parliamentary elections in Poland

On Oct. 25, parliamentary elections were held in Poland. As a result, the conservative Law and Justice Party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski came to power, which was previously in opposition. The party won enough votes to form a majority single-party government led by the current leader – Beata Szydlo, a protégé of Kaczynski.

Ivan Preobrazhensky, an author of the independent media publication Slon, believes that the victory of the conservatives has played into the hands of Moscow, as relations with Warsaw could hardly be worse (and may even improve on the background of the pragmatism shown by Szydlo), while Brussels will once again have to deal with the intransigence of Law and Justice when it comes to pan-European issues.

Moskovsky Komsomolets interviews a Polish journalist, Vatslav Radzivinovich,  who has a similar point of view – the relations between Russia and Poland are so bad that they cannot deteriorate any further, so we can expect a return to tough rhetoric and numerous accusations being hurled against Russia. At the same time, Germany should feel afraid, which during the last government run by the Law and Justice Party, was forced to endure regular insults and reminders of its own past evils committed against Poland.

Stanislav Kuvaldin, an author of Kommersant-Vlast political magazine, analyzing the results of the elections, called them unprecedented, because for the first time since 1989, no left-wing forces entered the Sejm, and other traditional parties have also lost much of their support.

Thus, several new parties and individual politicians came out successful, including the populist Pawel Kukiz and the liberal Ryszard Petru. In addition, the magazine also emphasizes that the situation has actually not changed for Russia, because relationship between the two countries are constantly poor.

Revival of the Pioneers

The Pioneers, the Soviet-era children’s movement and organization that played an important step in the socialization of Soviet citizens, had largely disappeared with the collapse of the U.S.S.R. On Oct. 29 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on the establishment of a Russian movement for students “to promote the development of an identity based on the intrinsic values system ​​of Russian society.”

The Russian media immediately drew an analogy with the Soviet pioneer movement, and went on to actively discuss this innovation.

The author of the business newspaper Vedomosti, Olga Churakova, point to the fact that the views of legislators and experts were clearly far apart – the parliamentarians recall their bright pasts in the ranks of the Pioneers and the Komsomol, considering it an important step in the socialization of young people, while political experts talk about the return to the Soviet system that was ideologized and politicized.

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Rossiyskaya Gazeta's blogger Elena Yakovleva sees this initiative as a good idea, and emphasizes the importance of socialization of students. The mission of this movement, according to the newspaper, is not political action, but to involve students in sports, extracurricular activities, as well as participation in cultural activities.

The blogger for the Echo of Moscow radio station, Alexey Kuznetsov, considers that, in fact, it does not really matter whether the creation of the Russian student movement is a trip back to the days of the Soviet Union or not, what is more important is that this idea is doomed to failure.

First of all, this is because, in terms of ideology, the state cannot offer students anything. Soviet leaders had an arsenal of Communist values ​​and symbols, while in modern Russian – there is nothing but questionable conservative ideas and “spiritual bonds.”

Quotes of the week:

Political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin on the creation of the Russian students’ movement: “An eventual return to the Soviet Union is inevitable, and now we are getting even closer to it, with increasing levels of idiocy, anti-professionalism and corruption."

Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko on the revival of the Young Pioneers: “This is a timely, long-awaited, and much-needed document. This being a continuity of the Pioneers and Komsomol movements is obvious. Life demands we revisit the experiences and activities of these associations, but of course, taking into account the qualitatively new realities of modern Russia.”

Political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, on Russian-Polish relations, in the context of the recent elections: “Against the background of nervousness in Europe, the reaction in Russia has been surprisingly one of indifference. Do Russians have any reason to rejoice? Of course not. Kaczynski and his associates do not conceal their attitude towards Russia, treating it as an evil empire.”

Nicolas Sarkozy on Russian-French relations“We should not now be returning to the reasons for these difficulties, which our relations are suffering from. Drawing further away from each other is a mistake. France and Russia need to work together.”