Media Roundup: The presidential elections in Kazakhstan, the conflict between Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Russian law enforcement, and the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide were in the spotlight of Russian media last week.
From left, Rita Sarkisian, her husband Armenia's President Serge Sarkisian, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiadis, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Armenian Apostolic Church leader Catholicos Garegin II attend a memorial service at the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide memorial complex in Yerevan, Armenia, Friday, April 24, 2015. Photo: AP
Last week, the focus of Russian media shifted away from Ukraine to other conflicts and political controversies in the post-Soviet space. Kazakhstan and Armenia – two important allies of Russia – were at the forefront of Russian media attention. In addition, signs of a potential rift between Moscow and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov also made headlines.
1. Presidential elections in Kazakhstan
Elections in Kazakhstan, which is considered one of the main allies of Russia, could not but attract the attention of the Russian press. Most analysts and journalists do not doubt that Nursultan Nazarbayev (the incumbent) will win the race. [Preliminary election returns from April 26 show that Nazarbayev won 97.7 percent of the vote – Editor’s note]
Moskovsky Komsomolets believes that Nazarbayev basically has no rival among the political elite of the country, while the business-focused Kommersant said that Nazarbayev had decided to hold early elections in order to avoid future problems and prevent the development of a “Color Revolution” scenario.
2. Ramzan Kadyrov and Chechnya’s ‘political immunity’
Suddenly, on the front pages of Russian newspapers appeared a conflict between one of the most controversial of Russian politicians – Ramzan Kadyrov – and police representatives of Stavropol Krai. This forced the powerful Russian Investigative Committee to choose sides.
The scandal erupted after police from Stavropol Krai, in pursuing a federally wanted suspect (Dzhambulat Dadaev), crossed the border of the Chechen Republic. They caught up with their suspect and shot him at close range, despite the fact that he was ready to surrender. Kadyrov stated that security forces had exceeded their authority, and what is more, they did not inform the relevant authorities in Chechnya about the fact that they were going to carry out this operation.
The Investigative Committee of Russia took the side of the Stavropol security forces, refusing to review the complaints that were filed by Kadyrov. The opposition Novaya Gazeta believes that finally, the “political immunity of Chechnya” has been broken. Chechnya has been viewed as only conditionally following many Russian laws and that could change now. The pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta took a much calmer tone, noting that, all the same, the Investigative Committee will investigate this incident.
3. A century after the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire
Armenia is one of the main allies of Russia in the post-Soviet space, and among the Russian leadership, there is a very reverent attitude to the tragedy that befell the Armenian nation in the early 20th century. We should recall that the Christian Armenians were subjected to deliberate destruction by the Ottoman Empire, which led to the killing of nearly two million Armenians.
The commemorative events, held in Yerevan to mark the centenary of the genocide, were attended last week by Vladimir Putin. Russian media reacted to the president’s trip with understanding. The majority of publications – ranging from opposition media outlets to pro-government media – noted how devastating a tragedy this genocide was in Armenia.
In particular, the opposition Novaya Gazeta published the memoirs of the victims of the genocide and their descendants, while Moskovsky Komsomolets argued that Putin had made a difficult choice, because recently, Russia has made considerable efforts to strengthen relations with the other party in this dramatic history – Turkey.
4. Vostochny Cosmodrome
During the course of the ‘Direct Line’ with President Putin, which RD wrote about last week, there was announced information about large-scale corruption in the construction of one of the most important and major projects of modern Russia – the Vostochny (“Eastern”) Cosmodrome.
Putin was outraged by the news announced on live TV – about the embezzlement of budget funds, and issued instructions to restore order on the construction site. Top Russian officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, for a week already have been conducting numerous inspections and making tough statements concerning the measures being taken.
The business newspaper Vedomosti published data on large-scale irregularities in the construction of the spaceport, and the opposition Novaya Gazeta wrote about the measures being taken to pay back debts to the builders (more than 25 million rubles have already been paid).
5. The tragic earthquake in Nepal
The Nepal earthquake took more than 2,000 lives. In Kathmandu, after powerful aftershocks, the electricity was immediately shut off, and cell phone services became irregular.
The business newspaper Kommersant published eyewitness accounts of what happened. “We are without drinking water for a second day already,” Kommersant was told by Rayvant Moktan, a resident of Kathmandu, and noted that the preceding night, all residents of the Nepalese capital spent on the street. “We were not forced to do this by anyone. However, all are afraid for their safety. The braver ones, fearing the appearance of looters, remained inside to guard their houses.”
At the same time, the media reported on possible casualties among Russians in the area, as well as about the active participation of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations, in working to restore order in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Kommersant and Echo of Moscow also published stories of Russian and foreign tourists stranded in Nepal during this earthquake. “I planned to go home in mid-May, but now would take the first opportunity to return,” said one of the Russian tourists in a radio program broadcast by the Echo of Moscow.
Quotes of the week:
Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen leader: “The era of the 2000s is long past. Some people wanted to look good ─ they captured a Chechen, and killed him. This will not happen again. We demand respect for the law. Everyone must know that the rule of law is paramount in Chechnya. I declare officially, if without your knowledge someone appears on your territory, be it a person from Moscow or Stavropol, shoot to kill. They must respect us. If they come in masks and helmets, this means they are criminals.”
Vladimir Putin on the Armenian Genocide: “The events of 1915 shook the entire world, and in Russia they were perceived as the country’s own grief. Hundreds of thousands of defenseless Armenians were killed, while millions were granted asylum in Russia and thus were saved.”
Dmitry Rogozin on the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome: “We have passed the most difficult, the most critical moment, and are now even more convinced that we have to meet the set deadlines. We are entering into a normal, healthy rhythm of work.”
Sulabh Chinetri, a victim of the earthquake in Nepal, about the consequences of the disaster: “The relatives were afraid of becoming lost if separated, so the inhabitants of the city tried to stay in family groups, during the night they spent on the sidewalks. Police blocked traffic on some highways. With the coming of nightfall, when all tremors had subsided, people were still afraid of aftershocks. It was terrible to see how the houses of neighbors were scattered all around – as if they were made of cardboard.”