The highlight of the week was the anniversary of the Beslan hostage tragedy, with Russian authorities taking the blame. "Many Beslan residents fault the authorities, rather than the terrorists, for what happened, or more precisely for the tragic consequences. They think the authorities and corrupt officials let the Chechens into the town and did nothing to prevent the bloodshed." (Eesti Paevaleht, September 1).
Putin's decision to revoke Russia's signature under the border treaty with Estonia invalidating the May 18 agreement is widely commented on. In response, Estonia is considering freezing a more favorable visa regime sought by Russia. "The date of Putin's final word - September 1 - makes one wonder. Was it fortuitous that it coincided with the day the Second World War began?" (Parnu Postimees, September 6).
The media focus on the anniversary of the Beslan tragedy. The Russian-language press traces the chronicle of events and discusses plans for memorial services and Putin's meeting with relatives of the dead. The national press is more interested in quoting Basayev as saying the Russian secret services had a hand in organizing the Beslan terrorist attack, in charges leveled by relatives against the Kremlin, and in information that members of the Mothers of Beslan Committee are prepared to seek political asylum abroad.
Ahead of the signing in Berlin of a treaty on the construction of the North European gas pipeline on the Baltic seabed, the press examines possible consequences of the step. "The pipeline will strengthen the position of Gazprom and its owner - the Russian government - in talks with the West and also with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus ... The pipeline will make it possible for Russia to deepen the rift between the new European states wanting Atlantic cooperation and the old EU nations, especially Germany." (Diena, September 1).
An informal agreement has reportedly been reached between the secret services of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to fight political opposition in the CIS. "In addition to monitoring electronic media and independent internet sites, the services have undertaken to seek out and identify the lists and addresses of the opposition members who appear suspicious to national security bodies ... It is an attempt to control a whole segment of electronic media in five former Soviet republics." (Litovskaya Narodnaya Gazeta, August 31).
The media took note of Putin's decision to revoke the Russian signature under the border treaty with Estonia. "Analysts believe this may block a simplified visa regime between Russia and the European Union sought by Moscow." (Respublika, September 3).
The issue of labor shortage in Lithuania and consequent recruitment of workers from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova is increasingly raised in the press. "But is our society prepared to accept this? Only recently it resented the influx of immigrants from the East, brought in by the occupying power." (Lietuvos Ritas, September 2).
The floundering of the 2006 gas price negotiations is seen as the Kremlin's continued pressure on Kiev. "The steps taken by the Russian side are directed at putting systematic pressure on the Ukrainian economy. Ukraine's dependence on Russian energy is great enough for Russia to exploit it unceremoniously." (Podrobnosti, September 2).
Some media say that Moscow's attempt to dictate the terms can be countered with a joint project of Ukrainian and Georgian leaders - the Community of Democracies of the Baltic-Black Sea-Caspian Region. "The Common European Space, whose future is up in the air yet again, would be unnecessary if oil and gas transit countries pursued an agreed policy. Such outlook may force Russia to be more accommodating, which is what we need to join the WTO. Generally speaking, in a purely political sense, even at this preliminary stage, the Baltic-Black Sea Project looks good." (Galitskiye Kontrakty, September 2).
The media regard the anti-dumping investigations, launched by Russia, involving Ukrainian engineering fittings as another way of exerting pressure on Kiev. "Remarkably enough, the latest anti-dumping probe was initiated by Russia's Economic Development and Trade Ministry a week after its head German Gref met with his Ukrainian counterpart Terekhin." (Delovaya Stolitsa, September 1).
Congratulations offered by some Russian politicians to the Transdnestr Moldovan Republic on its anniversary reflect, journalists think, Russia's policy of double standards and disrespect of regional figures for the Kremlin's official line. "Nothing like this can be imagined in civilized countries, for example, congratulations to Chechen gunmen from the Drokiya district of Moldova or the American state of California." (Moldova Suverana, September 6).
Pro-Romanian media discuss the KGB archives and possible dispatch of Moldovan materials to Moscow via the self-proclaimed Transdnestr Republic. "If files of the Moldovan KGB were sent in the early 1990 to Tiraspol and from there to Moscow, then dossiers landing on the president's desk come from the Russian FSB (Federal Security Service) and not from the Moldovan security service. It follows that the blackmailer is therefore in the Kremlin, which makes even heads of state vulnerable." (Timpul, September 6).
Russia's request for a list of chemicals used in vine growing and wine production in Moldova is seen as a pretext for imposing economic sanctions. "Moldovan Ministry of Agriculture does not rule out that ... following checks, the Russian side may say Moldova is using banned or harmful substances, allowing Moscow to clamp a ban on Moldovan wine." (Moldova Azi, September 2).
With the decline of the CIS, which appears to be a foregone conclusion for Armenian media, Turkmenistan's decision to downgrade its membership of the Commonwealth to associated membership is seen as the only correct alternative. "At the last summit in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, the presidents of member states sat round the table with such preoccupation on their faces that it was obvious: they would rather be doing something else ... Deep at heart they all envied the president of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, who not only declined to come to Kazan, but also sent a message with his deputy prime minister declaring that Turkmenistan was withdrawing from the CIS." (Golos Armenii, September 1).
The media are particularly focused on the Kremlin's response to improved relations between the Armenian and Georgian presidents. "Cooperation between Kocharyan and Saakashvili is unnerving Moscow, since the latter is regarded as an 'ambassador' of pro-western ideas in the post-Soviet space." (Iravunk, August 31).
There is bitter comment on the impossibility of any changes in Armenia's foreign policy because of the Kremlin's rigid control. "Kocharyan is chained to Russia in so many ways that changes cannot be made. Leverage is very effective - arms, bases, the economy, energy ... Let anyone say that arms taken out of Georgia are moved to Armenia by decision of its National Assembly: Armenia was never asked." (Aravot. August 31).
The media are certain of the impending breakup of the CIS, and a Union of Democratic States is considered a worthy alternative to the Commonwealth. "This project is likely to receive favor with the EU and possibly the U.S. Using this instrument, they will try to "squeeze dry" the situation aiming at limiting Russia's influence to its own borders... The Kremlin continues to see the world through the prism of Soviet-era concepts. This will most probably lead to Russia's further defeats in foreign policy." (Apsny.ru, September 9).
Contacts between presidents Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Saakashvili during the Kazan summit met with positive response from the media. "One gets the impression that before the meeting with Saakashvili, Putin had been poorly informed or even misled about the situation in Georgia." (Akhali Taoba, August 8).
The first anniversary of the Beslan terrorist attack was one of the main subjects under discussion in Georgian media. They unanimously laid the blame for the tragedy on President Putin.
The media also covered the demands made by Chechen refugees living in the Panksi Gorge. They came to Georgia in 1999 and now want to move to a third country. "They justify this decision by saying: 'We do not want to live in a country which borders on Russia'." (24 saati, September 2).
It is suggested in the media that Tbilisi may demand that the mandate of Russian peacekeepers be revoked due to the recent scandals over the confiscation of smuggled goods from Russian peacekeepers.
"The peacekeepers have turned into border-guards along some imaginary administrative border, while they must contribute to the peacemaking process and the settlement of the conflict, something that is not happening." (Civil. Ge, September 5).
The news that the Russian company LUKoil may start extracting oil on the shelf of the Black Sea in Abkhazia has provoked a strong reaction in Georgia. "Tbilisi will not give Sukhumi the right to extract oil in the Black Sea. Thereby Russia will violate the agreement signed by the CIS heads of state and put an end to Russia's peacekeeping mission." (Rezonansi, September 2).
The first anniversary of the Beslan tragedy received wide coverage. "Many parents are laying the blame for the death of their children on him [Putin]." (Zerkalo, September 2).
"Beslan is 'like a volcano waiting to blow up the political regime in the country now." (Ekho, September 2).
The media note the Kremlin's attempts to resist pressure from the west more effectively. "The forming Eurasian Moscow-Ankara axis will give a new strategic and geopolitical meaning to Azerbaijan, making Baku an important component of the whole structure of the Moscow-Baku-Ankara trilateral axis." (Nash Vek, September 2). "Turkey is on the eve of a new round of talks with the EU ... Moscow, which is experiencing pressure from the West in the post-Soviet republics, intends to avail itself of this opportunity to make Turkey a reliable ally, thereby boosting its own influence in the region." (Yeni Musavat, 06.09).
The media covered the subject of Beslan, referring mostly to Russian sources.
Diametrically opposite assessments of the events are being made. "Beslan showed that there is no strong and effective government in Russia." (Liter.kz, September 1).
The media state that the Russian economic model, based on the production of raw materials, has no prospects. "It is time to change to an innovation model. Kazakhstan realized this more than two years ago. In experts' estimates, oil production in Russia will grow by a mere 2%, while exports by 3-4%. A slowdown in growth rates, even given the growth of oil prices, is fraught with a marked decline in economic development rates." (Liter.kz, September 2).
The press examines probable reasons behind Tashkent's uncompromising statements on the deadline of the withdrawal of U.S. military bases. "The reason for such radical steps taken by Tashkent may only be the provision of guarantees by Russia and China that Uzbekistan's losses will be compensated, interests taken into account and security ensured." (Gazeta.kz, September 1).
The press notes that the visit of the Kyrgyz leader to Moscow was productive - the Kremlin is interested in Bishkek as a guarantor of Russian influence in Central Asia. "In connection with the growing threat of 'orange' revolutions in the CIS, Kyrgyzstan has become for Russia an even more important toehold in Central Asia and a kind of indicator of the level of Russian influence in the post-Soviet republics." (AKIpress, September 5). "The successful talks in Moscow inspire a hope for the revival of industry, power engineering and defense plants in an absolute majority of the population." (Kyrgyz Press, September 5).
Against the background of pro-Russian tendencies in Kyrgyz policy, some media are warning Russia of the danger of "losing vigilance." In their opinion, the lack of a single foreign policy in Bishkek, regular "maneuvers" by the top Kyrgyz leaders in the name of preserving sovereignty, Kazakhstan's claims to leadership and the United States' stable interest in Central Asia may reduce Russian influence in the region to the minimum. Therefore, Russia is advised to build up its presence in Central Asia. "In pursuing their Central Asian policy, the Russian leaders should bank on the Central Asian Cooperation Organization (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). An active support for the Organization's ideology and, within its framework, of the concept of a Central Asian Common Market will become a worthy reply to external challenges to security in Central Asia and Russia." (KyrgyzInfo, September 6).
The opposition media are pessimistic in assessing the results of the CIS forum in Kazan. "One can hardly call the past CIS summit successful because its participants failed to agree on so much as the agenda for the meeting." (TRIBUNE-uz, August 8).
The Uzbek senate's recent decision on the withdrawal of the U.S. military base from Uzbekistan has again made individual media emphasize the allegedly anti-American orientation of the Russian-Uzbek alliance. "For the Kremlin, the Americans' permanent presence in former Soviet republics has been a thorn in the flesh since there appeared grounds for Putin to suspect the U.S. of supporting and financing democratic movements and organizing popular revolutions, like those carried out in Ukraine and Georgia." (Uzland-uz, August 8).
At the same time, individual media are citing Uzbek intellectuals who are calling on Russia to "protect" its ally. "The U.S. has never withdrawn from other countries peacefully and with dignity. It would like to stay in Uzbekistan forever by resorting to intrigues and conspiracies. It is very important that everybody raises their voices in defense of Uzbekistan's honor and dignity because Uzbekistan's victory over 'the world hegemon' will also be Russia's victory." (ZERKALO XXI, September 9).
The press is alarmed by the reports that some CIS countries, led by Russia, are joining forces to strengthen control over Internet-resources with a view to fighting "orange infection" in the post-Soviet republics. "An important point in the intergovernmental agreement is establishing a permanent exchange of information between the security services [of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan] in order to put an end to the practice of independent Internet broadcasting from the territory of other CIS member-countries... In principle, this agreement between security services may lead to a real 'witch hunt in the CIS' as part of the struggle with the Internet-opposition." (TRIBUNE-uz, August 8).
The provision of migrants from Russia with travel passports is a "hot" subject of the week. "It is very important for Tajikistan to find a solution to this problem. A considerable part of Tajik citizens permanently work in Russia. They return home from time to time only to see their families and give them money." (Leninabadskaya Pravda, September 9).
Preparations for an official ceremony of launching the construction of the Rogunskaya hydro power station are being widely covered in the press. "Basic Element Group won the right to implement such a large-scale project largely thanks to state support. It would not have won it without political support both in Russia and Tajikistan." (Vecherny Dushanbe, September 2).
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Ukraine has not preserved its 1991 borders. The signing of the Geneva memorandum on April 17 reaffirmed the willingness of Russia, the United States and EU countries to reach a compromise. While the sides continue to trade tough talk and symbolic sanctions, the Kremlin and the White House are also holding a parallel dialogue on the coordinated geopolitical revision of Eastern Europe.