Russian media roundup: The mass shooting in Munich, the selection of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee, and developments in the Olympic anti-doping scandal all made headlines last week.
People gather to read tributes among the flowers and candles near to the Olympia shopping center where a shooting took place leaving nine people dead the day before in Munich, Germany, July 23, 2016. Photo: AP
The official nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential candidate at the party’s four-day convention in Ohio attracted the attention of the Russian media, which is attempting to figure out how a Trump administration might impact the future trajectory of U.S.-Russian affairs.
In addition, the anti-doping allegations against Russia’s Olympic athletes continued to attract media attention. With less than a month to go until the Summer Olympics in Rio, there is now a dark cloud over the entire Russian sports industry.
Finally, the Russian media analyzed another mass shooting, this time at a mall in Munich, and what it might mean for Europe’s growing migrant problem. While the attack does not appear to be linked to radical Islamists, it does point to deep fractures within European society.
Shooting in a Munich mall
On July 22, Europe was once again shaken by an act of violence – a mass shooting close to a shopping center in central Munich, Germany. Although the tragedy comes just one week after the terrorist act in Nice, France, the police said on July 23 that there was no connection to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS).
According to reports, the 18-year-old German-Iranian national who killed nine people and left 27 wounded, including children, had no accomplices. The evidence suggests that the teenager was a “lone wolf,” similar to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people five years ago.
Based on witness accounts, the attacker Ali David Sonboli expressed his hate for foreign migrants before starting to shoot. While connection with ISIS was ruled out, it is assumed that the main motive for the attack was anti-migrant sentiments.
The pro-government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta emphasizes that Sonboli’s actions were likely caused by trauma suffered from being bullied at school on the part of immigrants from Turkey and some Arab countries. According to the newspaper, the young man always behaved strangely and regularly tried to intimidate former classmates with violence.
The online publication Gazeta.ru noted the similarity of Sonboli’s actions and that of Anders Breivik, whom the young German was probably imitating. Gazeta.ru suggests that, given Sonboli’s hatred for the Turks, it is likely that this was the latest episode of the “white terror” aimed (as in the case of Breivik) against immigrants and Muslims.
The opposition Novaya Gazeta believes that this shooting in Munich, Germany once again exposes the problem of refugee integration. For a long time, Islamic terrorism had bypassed Germany, but now it looks like it has arrived in that country. Even if Sonboli has no relation to ISIS, there are huge numbers of adolescent refugees who cannot be integrated into society.
Recruiters from ISIS try to influence these individuals and then radicalize them. How to solve this problem and ensure security, at a time when a teenager can easily obtain guns and open fire in a shopping center, remains an open question.
Trump nominated by the Republican Party
In order to make sense of the nomination of Donald Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, the business newspaper Vedomosti asked for comments from specialists on American affairs. These, in particular, noted a deep split in the ranks of the Republicans, who have not been able to find a compromise candidate to be a counterweight to Trump.
At least to partly solve this problem, Trump chose Mike Pence as his vice-presidential candidate just days before the convention. For the Republicans, Pence helps to concentrate the most conservative parts of the party.
However, this choice for the post of vice-president does not solve another serious Trump problem – attracting such voter segments as women, young people and Latinos. The independent media publication Slon said that Trump could become “the gravedigger of the famous American democracy.” A conman, opportunist and a showman by nature, Trump has brought these traits into respectable American politics, thereby demolishing the foundations of the democratic system and devaluing politics in the eyes of the public.
Ultimately, according to Slon, this can put an end to U.S. power and influence in the world. That’s because, in addition to its economic and military power, the U.S. has always relied on its democratic model for influence.
The opposition Novaya Gazeta also wrote about the split within the Republican Party. Many prominent Republicans have not only refused to support the candidacy of Trump, but also did not even bother coming to the convention, which is unprecedented for a presidential campaign. Initially nobody believed that Trump would succeed, neither in the party, nor in the expert community, but the American voters made their voices heard.
Tired of traditional candidates with their “internal squabbles” and political correctness, the voters ran into the arms of the populist Trump, who is promising to restore American greatness. The weak spots in his strategy are women and Hispanics, who, with great probability, will vote for the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Developments in the Russian doping scandal
On July 18, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued a report on the systematic use of doping in Russia, which led to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) suspending Russian athletes from participating in the Olympic Games in Rio. Other athletes fell under the threat of being banned as well, but on July 24, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided not to punish the entire Russian team. Those involved in the doping scandal were high-ranking officials, including the Minister of Sport, Vitaly Mutko.
Moskovsky Komsomolets talked about the future of Minister Mutko. With many public demands being made that he resign, Mutko will nevertheless remain in his post, simply because the time has not yet come to remove him. The removal of Mutko must coincide with a large-scale renovation of the entire Russian sports industry, and not just as a response to this scandal and the pressure from the West and international organizations.
The publication also emphasizes that, even if Mutko is not guilty of the actions that he is accused of, he is still apparently too weak a functionary to defend the sports honor of Russia in international bureaucratic battles.
The business newspaper Vedomosti writes about the consequences of the doping scandal in Russia. At issue is not so much the participation in the Olympic Games in Rio, but in general the negative baggage with which Russian sports is now burdened. This doping stigma will be very difficult to brush off, and Russian athletes will have to earn, once again and with great difficulty, their credibility. This will take more than one year and will impact the way Russian athletes are viewed in Rio.
The opposition media outlet Novaya Gazeta is outraged that the Russian officials themselves had brought this collapse of Russian sports. With its own hands, Russia is destroying its sporting future, burying almost the only remaining bright spot in the life of Russians. The scale of violations of anti-doping legislation clearly shows that at issue here is not just “dirty politics,” as the officials are claiming, but the bureaucracy itself, trying to win at all costs, while justifying their actions as “service to the fatherland.”
The unexplained murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet
On July 20, the Russian-Ukrainian-Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet was the victim of a car bomb in Kiev. The well-known critic of Belarusian and Russian authorities has been living for many years in Ukraine, where he continued his professional career. Ukrainian authorities immediately declared a “Moscow trail” in Sheremet’s murder. However, in Russia, not all are inclined to see in the death of the journalist “the bloody hand of the Kremlin.”
The opposition Novaya Gazeta noted that Sheremet’s death could be beneficial to a variety of powers. On the one hand, Kiev is now able to ratchet up its aggressive rhetoric against Moscow and accuse it of being against the freedom of the press. On the other hand, similar accusations are being made against Kiev, which is not capable of ensuring the security of those living in its territory.
The death of Sheremet could also be useful for the Ukrainian opposition, or even the Ukrainian establishment. Both of these could use the death of the journalist to push forward its own agenda. Anyway, the murder of Sheremet once again raises questions about how vulnerable are those who are simply doing their jobs and seeking to tell people the truth.
The pro-government Izvestia believes that the employer of Sheremet and owner of the anti-Russian website Ukrainskaya Pravda (Ukrainian Truth) Alyona Prytula may be behind the murder. Her name has often come up in connection with dubious events, including the tragic murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze in the 2000s. However, they are hedging their bets at Izvestia, suggesting that Prytula might have been the real target, but Sheremet got behind the wheel of her car instead.
The independent media outlet Slon calls the killing of Sheremet a “demonstrative act of deterrence.” The publication does not speculate as to the potential culprits, but it does believe that the death of the journalist will be a real test for the Ukrainian authorities. The central task for them now is to keep the situation under control, because any outbreak of dissatisfaction threatens to breach the delicate balance of power that has been established in the country.
Also read: "The Russian doping scandal: Who is to blame?"
Quotes of the week:
Two-time Olympic champion pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva on the potential ban of Russian athletes: “This isn’t fair. Accusations of doping, I can say, are coming from all sides... those athletes, who are working honestly and win, should not fall under this punishment.”
Vitaly Mutko, Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation, on the WADA report: “We absolutely regret that, while preparing the report, the experts did not bother simply to interview those they were accusing, to check the facts, which they assumed to be correct. We do not see any possibility of admitting that there exist any state programs that support the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the country. This is simply unacceptable.”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, in his speech at the Republican National Convention: “The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponent is that our plan will put America first. Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo.”