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Current Digest of the Russian Press: Letter From the Editors #10

Letter From the Editors: Feb. 24-March 2, 2014

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Issue #10 Letter From the Editors
Issue #10 Table of Contents

Ramzan Kadyrov Rushes to Ukraine’s Rescue; and Germany’s Unenviable Position

What do Vladimir Putin, Viktor Yanukovich and Ramzan Kadyrov have in common? Besides a penchant for tightening the screws, the above troika shared their feelings with the press this week. Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, missing for a week (ever since he disappeared in Kharkov), resurfaced in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, where he gave  a press conference stating that he is still the only legitimate leader of Ukraine. Referring to the new government regime as “fascist thugs,” the exiled leader condemned their Western supporters and called for an end to the violence that has engulfed Ukraine.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, not to be outdone, chimed in with a call to friendship among the peoples – Russian, Chechen and Ukrainian – on the pages of Izvestia. He also harshly condemned Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh for calling on Chechen outlaw Doku Umarov to intensify terrorist attacks against Russia.

In a press appearance of his own from Novo-Ogaryovo, Vladimir Putin supported Yanukovich, lamented the difficult fate of simple Ukrainians over the past few geopolitically charged centuries, and offered his support to Yanukovich, as reported by Nezavisimaya gazeta. At the same time, Putin struck a conciliatory tone on the Crimea, stating that even though the Russian Federation Council this week authorized him to use force if necessary, that time has not yet come.

Kiev doesn’t seem to be buying, however – the new government has announced a mass mobilization and training exercises to be held across Ukraine. Some experts, such as Viktor Davydov of the Moscow Times, are already comparing Putin’s appetites to those of Hitler and drawing parallels between the Crimea and the Austrian Anschluss. Yulia Latynina, always one to look on the practical side of things, draws up her own list of pros and cons on annexing the Crimea – and declares the price too high for Russia. Making the disputed peninsula a part of Russia is also going to pose some financial and purely infrastructural costs, writes Kommersant – from bringing pensions in line with the Russian average to figuring out how to bypass Ukraine to get gas and other necessities to the cut-off region.

Finally, the Crimean crisis has spooked some of Russia’s CIS neighbors. Moldova, for instance, is calling on NATO troops to make sure that Russia doesn’t repeat the Crimean scenario with Transnistria – another long-simmering territorial dispute.

The EU, on the other hand, is more spooked by the prospect of introducing sanctions against Russia, writes Nezavisimaya gazeta. Germany in particular is going to feel the sting, since Russia happens to be the fourth largest partner for the German machine-building industry. Experts point out that Europe is being pressured into punishing Russia economically by the US – which has very little at stake, unlike the Europeans. Will economic implications triumph over political considerations? It can’t be ruled out. After all, to quote George Carville: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Xenia Grushetsky,

Managing Editor

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