Russian press review, 22.12.06

The death of Turkmenistan's president Saparmurat Niyazov dominates headlines in most Russian newspapers today. Press also features an interview with  Russia’s DM and analyses the 2006 charity boom.

Gazeta daily speculates as to who might be the next president – with nothing certain right now. It says that none of his closest relatives or opposition leaders can be considered  a candidate as they have mostly lived abroad and lack a profile in the country. Gazeta reflects on what Mr Niyazov's death would mean to Russia and quotes experts who agree that Turkmenbashi was a very predictable political partner. Most of them restrain from any exact forecasts…. adding, it  will depend whether the next leader is be pro-Russian or pro-western.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper looks at President Niyazov's death from the angle of gas relations between Turkmenistan and Russia. It says the main issue now is whether the country's new leader will decide to revise current agreements on gas trade with Gazprom which  has been reached through long and tough negotiations during the past year. The daily quotes sources in Gazprom who say that even though the situation now is vague and unpredictable, there are no obvious grounds for the contract to be revised. Rossiyskaya Gazeta says gas revenue is vital for the  Turkmen economy and no regime would risk changing agreements with Gazprom.

Trud daily features an interview with  Russian Defence Minister, Sergey Ivanov. Mr Ivanov gives an overview of the situation in the Russian army and  the country's intelligence service. He also explores the military aviation industry and Russia's relations with NATO. Russia’s Defence Minister says a  key priority is the overall re-armament of the Russian army with the government planning to equip it  with new strategic weapons to over 50% by 2015.

Vedomosti unveils a charity boom in Russia in 2006. It writes there's been a dramatic increase in the Russian media devoted to charity issues. It says around 25 private and public charity foundations have been established in Russia in 2006 – compared to two just three years ago. 40 to 50% of Russian population say they want to take part in a charity project or activity. Experts say the situation in Russia is  unique, as most of the charity money here comes from large corporations, whereas elsewhere in the world the main source is private donations.