Russian media roundup: Russia’s celebration of Victory Day on May 9 had a number of important implications for Russian foreign policy, including the future of relations with both China and Germany.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden on May 10. Photo: RIA Novosti
The nationwide celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory Day on May 9 was the focus of the Russian media’s attention throughout the week. The celebratory events helped to set the context for the arrival to Russia of Chinese President Xi Jinping and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In addition to the May 9 events, the Russian media focused on the election results in two key European nations – the UK and Poland – and what they might mean for Russia.
Victory Day parade and May 9 celebrations
The Russian media actively discussed the grandiose celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory in the Great Patriotic War. The business media outlet Vedomosti, in its op-ed section, argue that the celebration of victory in the Great Patriotic War, for Russia’s rulers, have become an ideological weapon aimed at rallying the people. Moreover, they are being used to justify the current aggressive rhetoric in Russian foreign policy.
The tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets tells the story of the campaign of the Immortal Regiment. The essence of this activity is for people to walk with a portrait of a relative who fought in the war at certain places in the city. This activity was held all over Russia, and was attended by about 12 million people. The newspaper notes that the initiative is certainly a good one, but that it also contains a tragic component – very soon there will be no more living veterans of the war left, and this is particularly evident in the marches of the Immortal Regiments.
The radio station Echo of Moscow also discusses the importance of the Immortal Regiment march that was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The blog post at the radio station's website considers this a purely political move, and noted that this very procession made the May 9 celebrations a “truly national event.”
In contrast to the positive articles, the independent Internet outlet, Slon, came out with a largely critical article. In this article, political scientist Andrey Movchan writes about the perversion of the values of Victory Day celebrations in modern society, claiming that “history has been privatized by marauders” who profit from the exploits and sacrifices of real heroes, which, a long time ago, they “pushed off the stage.”
Arrival of Angela Merkel in Moscow on May 10
The visit of the German Chancellor to Moscow as part of the commemorative events in honor of May 9 caused a stir among Russian media. The pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta sees Merkel’s visit on May 10 as an attempt by Germany to mitigate the negativity caused by the Chancellor’s refusal to attend the Victory Day parade on May 9.
At the same time, newspapers point out to the mutual desire of Russia and Germany to normalize dialogue, because the political problems have had a serious impact on economic ties between the two countries.
The tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets point out to a certain change in Merkel’s demeanor, who, as the newspaper noted, “For the first time in a long time, even smiled at Vladimir Putin.”
Xi Jinping in Moscow for Victory Day
The Chinese leader arrived in Moscow to participate in the Victory Day festivities. However, the two leaders managed more than just participating in the special celebration activities – they also discussed the future of Russian-Chinese relations, signing 40 bilateral agreements. Among the most significant was a package of investment agreements, supplementing the large-scale “gas contract,” as well as an agreement on cooperation in the military and infrastructure sectors.
The business publication Vedomosti calculated the total value of the 40 agreements, while also noting that the parties had signed and a political statement about the “deepening of partnership and strategic cooperation.”
The pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote not only about joint economic projects, but also about the fact that Russia and China together are seeking peace, and one of the priorities of the two countries is to safeguard peace in the world.
The website of the Echo of Moscow radio station warned against excessive orientation on China, believing that, first of all, this would be an unequal relationship, and secondly, a focus on the complicated bureaucratic regime, with elements of total control, is separating Russia from democratic development.
Elections in Poland
Elections in one of the most anti-Russian countries in Europe - Poland - attracted the attention of Russian journalists. In this regard, all were in agreement – no matter who wins the presidential race and comes to power, relations with Russia would remain the same.
Moskovsky Komsomolets wrote about the variety of pre-election promises of the candidates, noting that, in reality, the “Russian Question” does not concern the Poles that much. The business newspaper Kommersant points to the pro-Russian views of only two of the 11 presidential candidates, while predicting a victory for incumbent President Bronislaw Komorowski, who is distinguished by his aggressive anti-Russian rhetoric.
The pro-government Channel One believes that there are no chances for the pro-Russian forces to win in these elections, while also noting the drop in popularity of the incumbent President Bronislaw Komorowski, due to the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
The parliamentary elections in the UK were also not ignored by the Russian press. The business newspaper Kommersant considers the landslide victory of the Conservatives as unexpected, noting, however, their better and well-thought-out economic agenda within the framework of the electoral program, and the latest achievements in the fight against unemployment.
Another business daily – Vedomosti – paid much more attention to the third place ranking achieved by the Scottish National Party, for which these elections became a real success. The publication notes that the new government will now have to reckon with such a significant political rival.
The Moskovsky Komsomolets also discusses the role of the Scottish Party, noting that the party could give its support to any of the “heavyweights.”
The Yevgenia Vasilyeva case
The sensational trial involving large-scale embezzlement, which has been dragging on for more than two years, finally ended in a conviction of the main actor in this case – Yevgenia Vasilyeva.
The “Oboronservis Case” began two and one-half years ago, when large-scale corruption schemes were discovered in the Russian Defense Ministry. This corruption resulted in Yevgenia Vasilyeva, the head of the Department of Property Relations of the Ministry of Defense, causing damages to the state of about $3 billion.
The whole situation was complicated by an alleged love affair between Vasilyeva and former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. After a long trial, numerous rumors were circulating about a possible probation sentence being handed to Vasilyeva, yet nevertheless, she was given five years in a penal colony.
The opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta calls Vasilyeva’s sentence a farce, a kind of “gift” to the common people on May 9 (it should be noted that by her behavior and a life of luxury, while under house arrest, Vasilyeva elicited virtually unanimous anger on the part of the public).
The business newspaper Vedomosti listed the details of the sentencing and pointed out that there was a possibility that Vasilyeva could be released after a couple of months on parole; after all, the two and one-half years of her house arrest have been included in the total prison term. The business daily Kommersant said that the sentence is too soft – the result of too much media attention.
Best Quotes of the Week
Angela Merkel during her visit to Russia: “Great expectations have been placed on us. And with my visit today, I wanted to show that we are working together with Russia, and not against it... [But] the criminal and illegal annexation of Crimea, as well as the military actions in Ukraine, have dealt a serious blow to the cooperation [between Russia and Germany]... The annexation of Crimea is a threat to the European peaceful order.”
Vladimir Putin at a meeting with Angela Merkel commented on the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union: “The security of the Soviet Union was the reason for this pact. This is the first thing. Now the second – I recall that after the signing of the Munich Agreement [in 1938], Poland itself had taken steps aimed at annexing some Czech territories. It so happened that after the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the partition of Poland, this latter country became the victim of the policies that it tried to carry out in Europe.”
[Editor’s note: The non-aggression pact signed between Germany and the Soviet Union, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, based on the last names of the foreign ministers who signed it, was concluded in August 1939. This pact was supplemented with secret additional protocol on the delimitation of spheres of mutual interests in Eastern Europe. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact made possible the territorial division of Poland between Germany and the U.S.S.R., which took place in September 1939, as well the annexation of the Baltic countries by the Soviet Union.]
[Editor’s note: The Munich Agreement was signed on September 29, 1938, between Great Britain, France, Italy, and Germany. According to this agreement, the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, where Germans constituted the majority of the population, was given to Germany. Poland also made territorial claims against Czechoslovakia, and after Germany annexed the Sudetenland, Poland sent troops into the Cieszyn Region, the subject of the territorial disputes.]