Russian press review, 18.02.07

The Russian press analyses changes in Sergey Ivanov’s political career after being appointed  First Deputy Prime Minister. It also looks at the fallout from the political reshuffle in Chechnya. 

Rossiyskaya Gazeta daily analyses the new appointments made by President Putin. Sergey Ivanov's promotion to First Deputy Prime Minister puts him on a par with another figure touted as a presidential hopeful – Dmitry Medvedev – who is already a First Deputy Prime Minister. The paper says Mr Ivanov's new job means he now escapes criticism over alleged abuses and other problems within the Russian army. It also says that before the reshuffle, it was clear to officials who the favourite was to succeed President Putin. But the latest changes mean it is now not so clear with whom they should be making friends. Nevertheless, the paper writes, President Putin could reshuffle again before election year and bring completely different candidates into the game.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta also looks at what lies in store for the acting Chechen President, Ramzan Kadyrov. Many analysts say Mr Kadyrov has finally won, he has got what he has been fighting for, and in that President Putin has handed him the keys to the Caucasian Republic. But he now faces a number of challenges. The economy and social sphere need to be completely rebuilt, and Mr Kadyrov will have to do this pretty much single-handedly. Two wars in the last 15 years have led skilled labourers to flee with no one to replace them. The paper says encouraging them to return will not be easy and will depend on the economic development of the region. It goes on to say that, on top of that, the people of the Republic are not used to living by the law, and religious tensions still need to be overcome.

The Kommersant newspaper writes about Anatoly Serdyukov's first day as Russia's Defence Minister. He was presented to the Defence Ministry at an unscheduled board meeting, and his name had been kept secret. But it is reported, when Mr Serdyukov showed up, no one knew who he was. The paper points out that the previous Defence Minister took office in the same manner. Kommersant goes on to say that many are shocked at the new appointment but there have been few official comments. And those in retirement, it seems, are prepared to speak. Some have said the appointment is an “indignity for the man in uniform” and that “the Army is now mourning.”

Ogonyok weekly writes about so-called military tourism in Russia. Almost anyone can have a go at shooting on testing grounds, fly a fighter jet or drive an armoured vehicle. To fly the latest fighter jets for half an hour can cost between $US 8,000 and $US 10,000. You are also to weigh no more than 120 kilos and be under 75. The first space tourist, Denis Tito, got his taste for heights after flying MIG-29s in airfields near Moscow. But the military tourism business has been the subject of some controversy – much of the money paid for the flights has been going to the tourist agencies rather than the aircraft companies organising the flights.
Expert weekly speaks of the recent Freedom House ratings on levels of civil freedom throughout the world.  The results published by this non-governmental organisation, which is financed by the U.S. government, caused a sensation, but only because a mistake was made. Counter to reports in the Kommersant daily and by the BBC's Russian service, Freedom house put Russia on a level with Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan, rather than North Korea and Turkmenistan. The mistake was discovered later, but by then the findings had already angered Russian authorities.

The Russian edition of Newsweek magazine writes about the growing popularity of internet charity funds in Russia. Dozens of them appeared last year, and older organisations have begun to focus their efforts on raising money via the internet. This is believed to be the most effective way in the world for collecting private pledges. The World Charity Association agrees that web donations are the most popular and rapidly developing kind of charity. This can improve charity in Russia, where two thirds of the population are reluctant to give money because of fears over poor transparency and reliability.