Russian media roundup: Hot topics last week included the possibility of the Russian team being banned from this year’s Summer Olympics in Brazil, the results of the 20th annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and the tragedy in one of the summer camps in Karelia.
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi and Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev reach out to shake hands as Russian President Vladimir Putin looks on, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, June 17, 2016. Photo: AP
Last week, the Russian media debated the possible ban of the Russian team from this year’s Summer Olympic Games as a result of doping allegations. In addition, journalists and commentators looked into the key questions discussed during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which included the appearance of Russian President Vladimir Putin and promises of more economic reforms. The media also analyzed the reasons behind the tragedy involving the drowning of over 30 children.
Russian athletes face risk of being banned from the Summer Olympics
After the International Olympic Committee (IOC) supported the International Association of Athletics Federations’ (IAAF) decision to ban members of the Russian Olympic team, the media analyzed how the situation might develop further and whether it is really too late for the Russian athletes to gain entry into the Rio Games.
The online publication Gazeta.ru assessed different aspects of the issue in anticipation of the June 21 IOC summit, which will discuss the question of banning the Russian team from the Olympics and decide what is more important: collective responsibility or individual justice. According to the president of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe, the organization’s decision was not aimed at preventing “clean” Russian sportsmen from taking part in the Games but, rather, to assess the work of the overall system in Russia, which now casts a shadow over each of its athletes.
Vladimir Varfolomeev, a journalist at the Echo of Moscow radio station, looks into the significance of the principle of collective responsibility that is currently being debated with respect to the case of the Russian athletes. “When the United Nations imposes sanctions on a country for the policies of the ruling regime, it’s a collective punishment. When the authorities in Russia ban imports of goods, it’s a collective punishment of its own people,” he writes. Of course, such an approach does not always look just, but no one has yet come up with an alternative, so it will continue to remain in practice, he argues.
The business daily Kommersant thinks that a scenario in which the IOC permits individual Russian athletes to participate in the Games is most likely. “Nevertheless, in order to gain entry to the Olympics each sportsman needs to pass certain norms, and any court will state that the disqualification of the whole team is illegal,” says a source close to the IOC.
The paper also shares information on the launch of the investigation into the activities of the former head of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who has spoken widely about how Russia ran a cover-up of doping by dozens of its athletes at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Russian federal investigators have opened a criminal case against him on charges of abuse of office. Reportedly, he failed to meet the international standards of storing doping test samples, which led to the cancellation of the lab’s international accreditation and the launch of a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) investigation into it.
The results of the 20th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
From June 16-18, the cultural capital of Russia – St. Petersburg – became the economic capital of Russia as it welcomed the participants of the 2016 International Economic Forum. Russian media widely covered this annual event bringing together business leaders, academics and policymakers from Russia and abroad.
According to the Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, more than 300 agreements worth 1 trillion rubles ($15.6 billion) were signed during the forum. For instance, Italy, represented at the forum by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, signed agreements worth $1.3 billion with Russia. The number of representatives of foreign business both from Europe and Asia has increased, according to the paper.
Anton Kobyakov, executive secretary of the forum's Organizing Committee, brought up the issue of the U.S. State Department, which has pressured foreign businesses to ignore the forum in St. Petersburg for four years now. “But we don’t really feel this ignorance,” he says.
The business newspaper Vedomosti assessed the promises that Russian President Vladimir Putin made during the forum. Based on the figures and comments of the representatives of business attending the forum, the publication comes to the conclusion that there was nothing new – the President stated once again the promises he has made over the last two years.
Vladimir Tikhomirov, senior economist at the BKS financial group, along with other experts interviewed by the newspaper, says that the promises made by Putin were due to the problems with the budget – there is nothing else to promise but reforms. The issue here is that reforms require limiting the Kremlin’s power. “Everything that Putin has said, in one way or another, has been repeated for a long time now, but the statements that could really improve the situation still were not heard,” he remarked.
In a column for liberal media outlet Snob, economist Vladislav Inozemtsev shared his thoughts on the key takeaways from the forum in St. Petersburg. As he sees it, there will be no radical shift in Russia’s economic policy. There will be no military confrontation with the West, just as there will be no substantial reforms. The economy, despite everything, is quite stable and the slowdown will not exceed 2-3 percent each year until 2017-2018, he argues.
“Today the government has moved from ‘growth management’ that it was preoccupied with in the 2000s to “slowdown management,” which is a controllable process.” The Western threat will be one of the significant components of the new domestic strategy, ensuring the public’s adaptation to the decreasing living standards. That is why the confrontation [with the West] will be maintained on a level necessary to keep the general public in thrall.”
Tragedy in Karelia
On June 18, at least 13 children (all from Moscow) and their adult instructor died during a boating trip in a storm on Lake Syamozero in the northwestern region of Karelia. Three boats with 47 children and four instructors of the Syamozero Park hotel went on a lake trip despite the approaching storm. The staff at the Syamozero summer camp will face criminal investigation. As of June 20, five suspects were detained.
Moskovsky Komsomolets presents details of the tragedy with evidence showing the camp’s administration to be largely ignorant of ensuring security at the camp, not to mention poor living conditions. According to a former camp employee who gave an interview to the paper, there were a number of violations and it should have been closed long time ago. According to him, there were events of different levels of seriousness before at the camp, as children did not receive enough attention.
The Echo of Moscow radio station released an interview with the head of the Department of Social Security, Vladimir Petrosyan. It was this department that funded the Syamozero camp offering special courses in survival skills for children aged 12-15. He said that there were no concerns over the complaints about the camp and the program they offered was very interesting with parents speaking very highly of it. En route to Karelia, Petrosyan told the journalists that the investigation will be carried out; meanwhile, the children will all be going back to Moscow.
As the Russian online portal Lenta.ru reports, the 34 children that survived the tragedy will have a medical checkup in Moscow. The media also notes that the representatives of the camp said that they had not received any warnings from the Ministry of Civil Defense, Emergencies and Disaster Relief (MChS). However, the local witness Natalia Stolyarova, cited by the media, claims that the wind was dangerously strong and such conditions would be a challenge even for an adult. “When the children were going for a trip, probably, everybody knew that there was a storm. The weather forecast was known long before and it was quite accurate,” she says.