Thursday, March 12, 2015

Top stories in the Russian media last week | Russia Direct

The investigation into the murder of opposition figure Boris Nemtsov was the most talked about news item in the Russian media last week. In addition, there was debate about the “Minsk 2” agreement, the threat of potential sanctions from the West, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s visit to Moscow, and the “gas war” between Russia and Ukraine.

Here are the top 8 stories of the week:

1. Detention of the first suspects in the murder of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov

Russian media are actively discussing the arrest of four suspects in the high-profile murder of Russia's opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. According to investigators, the “Caucasian trail” is clearly marked: two of the detainees, Zaur Dadayev and Anzor Gubashev, are said to be from Chechnya and Ingushetia. While they are believed only to have carried out the crime, the search for the instigators and paymasters continues.

Business daily Kommersant stresses the technical expertise of Russia’s security services, while opposition media outlets Novaya Gazeta and TV Rain, together with business paper Vedomosti, doubt the investigation’s chances of success and cast doubts on the authenticity of the case data released.

2. Slowdown in the implementation of the Minsk agreements

The constant violations of the peace agreements reached in Minsk in February of this year are covered by the opposition, business and pro-government press alike. The debate about Russia’s involvement in the conflict is ongoing, and there is startling unanimity on the consequences of failure for “Minsk 2.” Ultimately it is Moscow that will have to pay for the acts or omissions of Kiev or the breakaway republics, and in such case, new sanctions will inevitably follow. Kommersant has more details.

3. US and EU sanctions against Russia

The word “sanctions” again looms large in the Russian media, since the retention and build-up of deterrent measures against Russia was again top-of-mind throughout the Russian press last week. According to some commentators, the introduction or extension of sanctions has long ceased to have any connection to events on the ground in Ukraine, and the only glimmer of hope for Russia here is the emerging rift inside the EU on the issue of sanctions. This growing schism is a constant refrain in a number of publications, including official newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, mass daily Moskovsky Komsomolets and business paper Vedomosti.

4. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s visit to Moscow

The Russian press, including the authoritative business daily Kommersant and Vedomosti that identifies itself as independent, commented on the dual purpose of Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s visit to Moscow. Renzi is rankled by both the peacekeeping laurels of Hollande and Merkel and his own government’s inability to propose anything radical or high-impact. Like many other EU countries, Italy is unhappy about the “sanctions war,” yet Rome lacks the clout to stand up to Brussels.

Pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta published a long interview with Renzi in which he waxes lyrical about the close spiritual ties between the Italian and Russian peoples, culture and tourism, yet tiptoes around the problems of sanctions-hit cooperation.

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