Friday's press review

This Friday Russian newspapers argue with Freedom House, describe the ‘Russian Avalanche’ in Cuba, explain why Warsaw is ready to let Russian military inspectors on the U.S. missile defense facility, publish secret documents of the Georgian army and explo

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA has an op-ed article by its Foreign Affairs editor Artur Blinov who argues that the inclusion of Russia on the Freedom House’s list of authoritarian regimes with negative dynamic is not based on objective analysis but on the priorities of the U.S. foreign policy. He writes that the situation with freedom and human rights in China has not changed in the past year, nevertheless Russia is now viewed by Freedom House as a ‘worse’ case than China because Russia is supposedly ‘showing a negative dynamic trend’ of deterioration in constitutional freedoms. The writer says that the reason here is in the growing dependence of the U.S. economy on China in the circumstances of the global financial crisis. He writes that for the U.S. criticizing China now would have been unwise. Therefore Russia, being much less important for the U.S. economy, remains a legitimate target for criticism and lecturing on human rights. The author says that for Freedom House, being 80% funded from the state budget, such behavior is totally natural.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI reports that a ‘Russian Avalanche’ is expected on the island of Cuba. Correspondent Alexandr Aksenov writes from Havana that the year 2008 has become ‘the Russian year’ for Cuba. He presents an impressive list of bilateral events in politics, economic and business cooperation and culture that portrays a real renaissance of Russo-Cuban relations. A visit by President Medvedev expected later this month is seen in Cuba as Russia’s way of announcing to the World that bilateral relations with Cuba are receiving a new impulse and that Russia is going to strengthen its position on the island to a level unknown since Soviet times, writes Aksenov. He adds: this is only the beginning. The most interesting events in Russo-Cuban relations are still to come.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA explains that Poland’s unexpected readiness to accept Russian inspections of future U.S. missile defence facilities has been caused by direct pressure from Washington. In America, writes the paper, an understanding that missile defence is, first of all, a matter to be discussed with Russia, is winning over hearts and minds of the prospective members of the new administration. The paper also says that there is no way to predict now, in the middle of the world financial crisis, if the state budget can bear the expenses, and on top of that President Barack Obama himself is so far not convinced that the system would really work.

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA has acquired top secret Georgian military documents – a series of orders to the 4th Rifle Brigade, the main unit of the Georgian army involved in the brutal attack on Tskhinval in August. The paper notes that all the orders are written in Georgian but unmistakably in the style, sequence and logic of U.S. military documents. The paper also reveals that the dates on the documents show clearly two things: one – that the Georgian attack was premeditated and well-prepared, and two – by the time the Georgian operation in South Ossetia commenced, there were no regular Russian units anywhere close to the region. The only adversary the Georgians expected to engage were South Ossetian ‘irregulars’ and Russian peacekeepers. The orders with a commentary by a Russian General Staff expert can be seen in English.

IZVESTIA publishes an article by its veteran correspondent Malor Sturua who now lives in Minneapolis. Sturua writes that the growing online media campaign portraying Barack Obama as the Antichrist may look funny to the Russian eye but it isn’t as lightheartedly dismissed in the United States. When a man who lives in the state that Obama represents in the Senate comes forward with a winning state lottery ticket numbered 666, the number of the Beast, many see it as a revelation. Sturua says – what else to expect if apart from amateur Judgment Day and Antichrist watchers the Catholic Church itself, through Cardinal Stafford, bemoans Obama’s ‘post-modernist, aggressive, ruinous apocalyptic rhetoric.’ The Cardinal means, says Sturua, that Obama supports abortion rights, stem sell research and gay/lesbian marriages.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT