From the conflict in Yemen to the latest Latin American tour of Sergey Lavrov, here are six events in the Russian news that you need to know for the week ahead.
A woman lays a bunch of flowers at a place where Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic Russian opposition leader and sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down on Feb. 27, 2015 near the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, March 28, 2015. People continue to offer flowers and candles in memory of Nemtsov even after one month of his death. Photo: AP
While the military situation in Ukraine appears to have quieted for now, it still continues to influence how the Russian media perceives events in both the domestic and international arena. Take the debate over the Nemtsov bridge memorial in the center of Moscow. Depending on how one views the situation in Ukraine, cleaning the bridge (which federal TV channels described as the routine maintenance operation) was either a “desecration” to the memory of Nemtsov or a natural outgrowth of the growing influence of ultra-nationalism in Russian political thought.
Below, we’ve provided a brief primer to the key events you need to know for the week ahead:
1. The situation in Yemen
The Russian media kept a close eye on the formation of a coalition of a number of Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to resolve the situation in Yemen. Most journalists discussed the causes and consequences of the current instability in Yemen, pointing to the role that external actors played in the destabilization.
Thus, Gamid Gamidov, blogger at the Echo of Moscow pointed to the destructive role of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, while the independent media outlet Slon writes about the long internal struggle between the Sunnis and Shiites in Yemen. This struggle, they say, makes political life in this country a real “powder keg.” At the same time, Moskovsky Komsomolets expressed concern that the “cold war” could become a “hot war” if the interests of Iran become threatened in Yemen. Iran, according to some experts, has been sponsoring the rebels.
2. The “war” between Poroshenko and Kolomoisky
The conflict between the Ukrainian president and the oligarch and current governor of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast Igor Kolomoisky aroused great interest in the Russian media. Yulia Latynina of the opposition Novaya Gazeta believes that this situation clearly characterizes the entirely corrupt (and far from democratic) realm of Ukrainian politics, while the pro-government Channel One writes about how this “war” has been joined by representatives of various political forces of Ukraine, and the business media outlet Vedomosti talks about the devastating effects of a conflict between such major players.
3. The debate over the Nemtsov bridge memorial
The media this week also discussed the topic of dismantling of the “national monument” to the assassinated opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. From the bridge, on which the politician was killed, on the night of March 28, they removed all the flowers, candles and pictures of Nemtsov. This caused great outrage from the opposition press (Dozhd, Novaya Gazeta) and a number of other media (Echo of Moscow). These publications called this removal an act of desecration and vandalism.
The business publication Vedomosti blamed ultranationalists for this act of “desecration.” At the same time, pro-government media either have not paid any attention to this event (Channel One) or explained this as an action of the Moscow City Hall, being a necessary step to clear the pavement of wilted flowers, which prevented the passage of people and vehicles (Rossiyskaya Gazeta).
4. The possibility of jail time for the “denial of Russian aggression”
Russian media spread news that Ukrainian lawmakers were intending to punish “deniers of Russian aggression” in the Donbas. According to preliminary information on this draft law, a “denial of Russian aggression” would lead to a five-year prison term. Details are found in the business publication Kommersant and the Moskovsky Komsomolets, which notes that the initiators of this draft law are Ukrainian nationalists in the parliament, which are headed by Oleg Lyashko.
5. The impact of the Latin American tour of Sergey Lavrov
The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs this week visited a number of Latin American countries, having reached agreements on not only the strengthening of bilateral relations with Cuba, Colombia, Guatemala and Nicaragua, but also on increasing the role of Russia in multilateral regional institutions.
The business publication Kommersant said that Lavrov went to Latin America to “negotiate” favorable economic and investment projects for Russia, while the official Rossiyskaya Gazeta talks about the strengthening of ties with the region, and particularly notes the importance of Lavrov’s visit to Colombia, traditionally considered as being in the U.S. sphere of influence.
6. The crash of the A320 in France
This tragedy in the French Alps has provoked a debate in the Russian media on air safety standards and the need to revise a number of requirements. The independent Slon talks about the psychological problems of pilots and the need to think seriously about the effectiveness of current control mechanisms in the civil aviation business, while Vedomosti wrote that Russian rules do not allow a plane’s cockpit to be manned by just one pilot, something that is considered a very beneficial practice.
Quotes of the week
“The falling out with Kolomoisky is exactly what it looks like – a struggle for money and power in a feudal and corrupt government. Moreover, the fact that the first object of Poroshenko’s attack became the very person who helped his government hold onto what was left of Ukraine’s territorial integrity is at the same time inevitable and disgusting. Inevitable – because on the basis of his patriotism, Kolomoisky rose and turned into a “kingmaker.” Disgusting – because in the midst of a war with an external enemy, one should not become involved in the settling of scores with feudal political rivals.”
“I think that I will not be mistaken if I say that Igor Kolomoisky today is just as much a president of Ukraine, as is Poroshenko. And perhaps even more of a president than Poroshenko.”
“For some it is symbolic that Nemtsov was killed near the Kremlin, but for us, it was symbolic that at this time a cleanup has taken place… the cleaning up of garbage in Russia.”
“We have to turn once again to the hackneyed cliché: the obvious double standards, though of course, we did not want to see this happening in Ukraine, nor wish to see it happening in Yemen. In both cases, people should be moving towards national reconciliation.”