Wednesday's press review

This Wednesday Russian newspapers reveal some secrets of the ‘gas war’, analyze options in India-Pakistan relations and explain how a constitutional monarchy can save Georgia’s sovereignty.

KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA quotes the Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko as saying that on the 31st of December Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko flew to Moscow to negotiate a gas deal with Russia, and that the effort was a total ‘waste of time and resources because the deal was not to be signed between governments but between gas companies.’

The paper says there is no other evidence of the Moscow trip by Timoshenko, apart from an indirect confirmation that comes from Gazprom: its spokespersons never said anything about a visit by the Ukrainian Prime minister but said that by 16.00 of the 31st of December they had finalised a deal with the Ukrainian side but after that everything started falling apart.

A Gazprom official told the paper that involving politics in Russia’s gas deals with Ukraine is only interesting to ‘a certain party which is not a part of the conflict but wants to gain extra influence over Russia, Ukraine and the rest of Europe.’ The paper says it would be the U.S. which has recently signed an agreement with Ukraine on the renovation and maintenance of the whole gas transporting pipeline network.

KOMMERSANT writes that Israel seems to be ready to discontinue its military operation in the Gaza Strip on the conditions that Egypt persuades Hamas to stop missile attacks on the Israeli territory and prevents arms smuggling to Hamas through the Egyptian border. The paper says that the Israeli military, contrary to the signals sent around by the nation’s government, wants to continue the conflict to destroy more of the Hamas leaders and disrupt the unity of Hamas.

However, the paper continues, many experts think that even after the well-aimed hits at Hamas commanders and the evident lack of centralised command resulting from those hits, Hamas still has a large stock of missiles which they may be saving for the final hour before the possible ceasefire.

They do not need centralised command to synchronise a massive missile attack, say experts quoted, they only have to know at which hour of which day the ceasefire becomes effective – and then shoot off every single missile they have in store, like it was done by Hezbollah in 2006 ‘to ensure the final victory of the Arab people.’

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA has an article by its commentator Artur Blinov who writes that the Gaza Strip conflict is a part of George Bush’s legacy left as an inheritance to the Barack Obama administration. The commentator says that the Bush administration has been so far the closest to Israel of all the past U.S. administrations, and that even with pro-Israeli lobbyists well-represented in the new U.S. Cabinet, the next administration will never become as pro-Israeli as the present one is.

Blinov says that may be the main part of a hidden agenda that Israel may have had when it started the new Gaza war: to force the hand of the new U.S. president and to make him continue the policy of total support of Israel pursued by his predecessor. The writer says Barack Obama has already promised to get deeply involved in the peace process in the Middle East. However the current situation pushes him towards participation in a peace effort during an armed conflict, while Obama is better prepared for a leading role in the peaceful creation of the Palestinian state.

The same paper writes about the escalating conflict between India and Pakistan: India has proven that one of the Mumbai terrorists was a Pakistani and blames Pakistan for the lack of enthusiasm in their investigation of the Mumbai attack. The paper says India threatens to sever all ties including cultural and tourist, and all that looks as if the two nations are heating themselves up for a new war, making the fourth of its kind in history.

The paper quotes Russian expert Dr. Tatiana Shaumian who says that she doesn’t believe there will be a war. She says the new Pakistani government is still inexperienced, it’s the first civilian government in decades, and President Zardari feels a lot of pressure from the military. On the other hand, the government of the Indian national Congress is under fire for ‘softness on terrorists’.

The expert says, however, that in India and Pakistan there are enough wise politicians and generals who understand that the two countries, with their current nuclear arsenals, cannot go to war without the risk of triggering a wider and more devastating conflict in the world. She adds that both China and the U.S. are trying hard to pacify the hottest heads in the both nations.

VREMYA NOVOSTEI writes that while Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili is talking of partly sharing his immense power with the parliament, the Patriarch Ilia II of Georgia is promoting the re-installment of the thousand-years-old Georgian monarchy. The Bagrationi dynasty that ruled Georgia from 1008 till 1801 and then was accepted into the highest nobility of the Russian Empire as ‘the family descending from the Tsars of Georgia’ has never left the European social scene.

The last Georgian monarch Georgy Bagrationi, writes the paper, was a famous sportsman and a close friend of the Spanish king. He died in Tbilisi in January 2008. Now his son Prince David of the ‘foreign’ Bagrationis is scheduled to marry Anna Mukhraneli of the ‘Georgian’ Bagrationis. The Patriarch himself will preside at the Church service on February 8.

This union, says the paper, cancels out all the old disagreements between the two branches of the Georgian royal family and may produce a child who would be accepted by everyone in Georgia as the nation’s rightful monarch. Patriarch Ilia II is quoted by the paper as saying that the new monarch will have to be ‘raised to rule’ – but not to govern, as his position of a constitutional monarch would be above politics and direct governance.

However, says the paper, history teaches us that even in a constitutional monarchy the king or tsar has a certain degree of influence and power.

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT