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Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Russian press review
Russian press review
President Putin's address to the nation, in which he gave Russia's permission for the US to use airbases in the former USSR to launch strikes against Afghanistan, came too late for the Tuesday edition of many Russian newspapers. But some waited long enough to comment:

The business daily Kommersant sees a deal being cut between Moscow and the US - you hit Afghanistan, and leave us alone while we hit Chechnya.

"Immediately after describing how he will help the international fight against terrorism, Putin gave the remaining guerrillas in Chechnya 72 hours to stop all contact with international terrorists and start disarmament talks with the Russian authorities," Kommersant writes.

"In 72 hours from now, Russia will be able to act in Chechnya without worrying about the opinion of the international community. And the latter, led by America and if, of course, it agrees with Moscow's terms, will have a free hand in Afghanistan."

The mid-market daily Vremya MN is firmly behind Putin and has little time for his opponents.

"All day yesterday we had conflicting reports from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The Americans have started landing men and equipment there. Or maybe they haven't. The only thing the reports said in common was that President Putin is ready to back the operation against terrorists with all available means," it writes.

Spheres of influence

"Meanwhile, there was a demonstration in Moscow over the weekend against war with the Taleban in alliance with the USA... In fact, it wasn't much of a demonstration but rather a bunch of communists and anti-Semites shouting at passers-by.

"People like these call themselves 'patriots'. But there was little of the patriotic in what they were saying. Rather, it was fear that Russia will defend its southern boundaries together with the USA, and that it could take its proper place in the post-war carve-up of spheres of influence."

There are dissenting voices but Putin has shown a rare prescience, Vremya MN believes: "An alliance against war, against Russia and against the president is shaping up in the country. Against the president because Vladimir Putin, to judge from all the signs, has firmly decided to fully support the USA.

"Against Russia because in this instance the president has risen to the occasion and shown an understanding of what is in Russia's national interests. Something rare indeed in the history of Russia."

The English-language daily Moscow Times thinks that the Central Asian states now offering to help the US against Afghanistan are partly to blame for the conditions in which the Taleban flourished.

Anti-Muslim policies

"Paradoxically, Central Asian states - primarily Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - have done much to strengthen the Taleban's cause in the region," it writes.

"Russia and the West, to the extent that they exert influence over the ruling elites of these countries, have also made their contribution. Despite conciliatory public statements regarding Islam, these regimes continue to pursue policies that are essentially anti-Muslim.

"These regimes are successors (and also pupils) of the repressive system that prevailed under the Soviet Union and have proved incapable of shaking off the Soviet approach that views religion as 'dangerous free-thinking' with the potential to undermine the state's control over the hearts and minds of its subjects.

"This approach has long been a source of tension among large swathes of the Tajik and Uzbek populations for whom Islamic values are of paramount importance. This is particularly true in Uzbekistan, on whose territory is located the Ferghana valley - the most radically Islamic region of Central Asia - along with the historically important Moslem centres of Bukhara and Samarkand."

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.

See also:

12 Sep 01 | Europe
Russian press review
25 Sep 01 | Europe
European press review
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