Media roundup: What the Russian media thinks about the Iran nuclear agreement, the MH17 investigation and the new deputy governor of Odessa.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is also Iran's top nuclear negotiator, right, speaks with journalists as the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, listens, at Mehrabad Airport, Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Photo: AP

Last week, the Russian media primarily focused on the comprehensive agreement reached in Vienna on Tehran’s nuclear program. In addition, as they marked the one-year anniversary since the tragedy of MH17, the media in Russia widely discussed the way the international investigation was going and analyzed its potential implications.

The Iran deal

On July 14, Iran and the P5+1 countries (the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) reached an agreement in Vienna on Tehran’s nuclear program, imposing significant restrictions on its development in exchange for lifting the long-standing sanctions regime. The Russian media analyzed the implications of this move and what the deal means for Russia-Iran relations.

 Also read: "Iranian nuclear deal for Russia: victory or failure?"

The pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta considers the agreement to be a historic example showing the role of diplomacy in resolving even the most difficult issues. The newspaper also pointed out that the agreement was possible, above all, because the West and Russia could find a way to work together.

The business-oriented Vedomosti newspaper brought forward the reaction from Israel, which is not happy with the agreement and might even try to influence the decision-making process in the U.S. Congress to hamper its ratification. The paper cites the Israeli prime minister who believes that Iran will still be able to destabilize the region and continue on its path to acquiring nuclear weapons.

Other media publications, like the tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets, interviewed experts to find out what the lifting of sanctions on Iran might mean for the dynamics of the ruble and Russia’s role in the energy markets. Some of them believed the ruble might suffer following the growth of Iran’s energy exports, while others argue that the current price for oil is acceptable for all actors so it might only change slightly. This means that it would not have a significant effect on the ruble.

The independent Slon published an article by the editor-in-chief of the opposition TV channel Rain, Mikhail Zygar, who argued that the Iranian peace talks were the last big negotiation process that Russia was allowed to take part in. According to him, the West is hardly likely to invite Russia to participate in other negotiations on numerous global challenges, because the Kremlin is seen by the West as an untrustworthy power that destabilizes the global order, undermines stability in Eastern Europe and violates international law. 

That's why Zygar comes to conclusion that "the Iranian nuclear program is the last serious global challenge" that Russia and the world have been dealing with together as partners.

A year since MH17

Last week, the media remembered the tragedy that happened in Ukraine’s Donetsk region and claimed 298 lives last year – the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The plane is believed to be shot down from the anti-aircraft missile system ‘Buk.’ Who is to blame for the tragedy is still unknown. The international investigation process is still far from being over. The Russian media discussed the current progress of the investigation.

 Recommended: "A year after MH17: The lessons for Russia"

State-run news outlets, like Channel One and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, oppose the anti-separatist rhetoric coming from the West and Kiev by saying that such allegations are still groundless since the Netherlands investigators have not yet concluded their investigation. In line with them is the Echo of Moscow radio station, which published a column by the Anti-Maidan movement. The column argued against Russia’s involvement in the tragedy and attributed the responsibility for the MH17 downing to the Ukrainian authorities, which did not stop the plane from flying over the territory of the military conflict notwithstanding the risks.

Speaking about the calls for the establishment of a UN tribunal to prosecute suspects of the disaster, the Vedomosti newspaper explains why Putin spoke out against such a tribunal. According to him, this will be too soon and counter-productive as the international investigators have not yet finalized their work. Establishing the tribunal before that time will signify that it will only suit Washington’s version of what has happened and prosecute those that Washington deems responsible.

Other news outlets marked the anniversary by bringing together all the available information on the event including expert opinions (Snob), stories of the eyewitnesses (, and reports from the commemoration ceremony in Holland (the opposition Novaya Gazeta).

A controversial Russian deputy governor appointed in Odessa

It was announced on Friday, July 17, that Maria Gaidar, a Russian opposition activist and a daughter of the former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar, will become the deputy governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region. Working with the recently appointed governor Mikheil Saakashvili, Gaidar will be responsible for the social policy of the region. To take up her post, she will first obtain Ukrainian citizenship.

Some believed that Gaidar’s appointment might be considered a national betrayal. The Russian conservative politician Vitaly Milonov is reportedly making an inquiry into whether Gaidar might be deprived of her Russian citizenship. According to him, Gaidar’s previous position in the administration of the Russia’s Kirov region might have allowed her to access classified information that now can be transferred to the Ukrainian government.

In an interview, Gaidar told the business publication Kommersant that while she would deeply regret if the Russian authorities would indeed deprive her from the Russian citizenship, it was still very important for her to do what she believed was right.

The economist Sergei Aleksashenko expressed his support for Gaidar  in his blog on the opposition radio station Echo of Moscow’s website, bringing up the numerous cases when Gaidar was having conflicts with the current regional authorities in Russia that prevented her from achieving her career aspirations.

The debate over the status of the Donbas region

On Thursday, July 16, Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko submitted a proposal on constitutional amendments that would address the special status of the Donbas region to the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada. This way Kiev plans to fulfill its commitments under the Minsk agreement and regain control over the Donbas region until the end of the year.

This decision, as Poroshenko’s critics might argue, was highly affected by Victoria Nuland, who paid a visit to Kiev. The business daily Kommersant cited experts who believe this step is a positive sign that will mark the beginning of a peaceful dialogue between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine.

When later on July 19 Poroshenko denied the there was any discussion of attributing a special status to Donbas, the state-run Channel One TV network suggested that this once again signifies only an imitation of Kiev’s readiness to fulfill its commitments.

 Recommended: "Russia's non-linear approach to war in Ukraine"

Quotes of the week:

Maria Gaidar on her appointment as a deputy governor of Odessa:

“I would like the Ukrainian people to know that Russia is not only about war and propaganda, but, more importantly, it is about friendship, cooperation and a common future. If we achieve positive results here in Odessa, we will also be able to bring change in Russia. Odessa is attracting attention from all over Ukraine, Europe and Russia, and successful reforms here will have a global influence over the long term.”

Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch chief prosecutor's office, on the MH17 investigation:

“As part of the investigation process, we are still working on two versions: first, that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile; second, that it was shot down by an air-to-air rocket. The investigators have not yet determined the figures who were responsible for the downing. This work is still in progress.”

Sergey Lavrov on Russia’s strategy for Iran:

“We have large-scale plans for our cooperation with Iran in developing its nuclear energy sector. We signed an agreement to create a range of new blocks for nuclear power plants.”

Yury Pavlenko, representative of the Opposition Bloc party on Poroshenko’ s proposal on Donbas:

“The president proposes to define the characteristics of self rule in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. This can’t be considered the fulfillment of the Minsk agreements and its commitments.  But it is a serious step to reach peace in our country.”