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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 05:33 GMT 06:33 UK
European press review
European press

As the rift between Russia and Georgia grows, Thursday's European papers debate on how it should be handled.

Two German dailies examine a court ruling that bans the use of swastikas even in anti-Nazi protests.

And in the Czech Republic, praise is heaped on former President Vaclav Havel on his 70th birthday.

Enemy number one

Romania's Curentul observes that Georgian children are now being turned away from Moscow classrooms as Russia's relations with Georgia deteriorate.

The crisis sparked by Georgia's arrest of four Russian army officers "seems to have thrown Russia into a kind of hysteria," the paper says.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has done a great disservice to the Georgian people
Russian business daily Vedomosti describes how Russians are enthusiastically backing "harsh statements by top politicians and a propaganda campaign on television" against Georgia.

"Georgia is now our enemy number one," the paper says.

It warns, however, that Moscow's harsh response is "not only cynical but also stupid politics".

A better way for the Kremlin to fight the present Georgian government would be to get closer to its own Georgian community rather than antagonising it, it thinks.

But government paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta argues that Russia has simply taken the opportunity "to teach a lesson to several categories of foreign citizens at once", a task which it "proved itself to be equal to".

Vulnerable independence

An editorial in French daily Le Monde pays tribute to Georgia's ancient civilization and to its brief periods of independence.

"The collapse of the USSR in 1991 let the Georgians recover their independence at last," it says, and emphasises that "they must be helped to keep it".

No line crossing out a swastika can be as big as the flaw in the thinking of some judges
Berliner Zeitung
Serbia's Politika says that Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has done "a great disservice to the Georgian people".

The economic sanctions imposed by Russia "will surely hit ordinary citizens the most," the paper writes.

But Moscow daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets takes a lighter view of the situation.

"Following the introduction of a transport blockade against Georgia, 'Great Georgian Street' and 'Little Georgian Street' have been closed off in Moscow", the paper quips in its daily jokes column.

Swastika question

Germany's Berliner Zeitung criticises a court ruling which last week banned the sale of items showing crossed-out swastikas for use in anti-Nazi protests.

"No line crossing out a swastika can be as big as the flaw in the thinking of some judges," the paper wryly remarks.

"A court which looks exclusively at the letter of the law without inquiring into its spirit will certainly reach a verdict", it says, "but this has little to do with the dispensation of justice".

People trusted him and continue to trust him, because he is a man of such longevity
Jan Ruml
Fellow Berlin paper Der Tagesspiegel is less dismissive of the ruling.

The paper says that criticism of the case as an "absurd" example of judicial interference in political debates is understandable.

Still, it points out, the judges believe there is a "danger of getting used to" the breaking of the swastika taboo even when used in a critical manner.

"It is true that, as commercial products, anti-Nazi logos featuring the swastika on T-shirts, decorative badges or coffee cups do play with offensiveness and frivolity," it says.

In Havel's heart

Prague's Mlada Fronta Dnes congratulates Vaclav Havel on his 70th birthday, saying that his acts through time "testify to his being a person of great integrity."

"He kept revealing the Communist regime's lies and was ready to go to prison for that", notes a commentary by Havel's fellow dissident Jan Ruml.

"People trusted him and continue to trust him, because he is a man of such longevity."

Left-wing Czech daily Pravo marks the occasion with the headline "In his heart Havel has remained a Socialist".

It is a mistake to talk of the former president as an anti-Communist, the paper thinks.

"Havel does not subscribe to Socialism, but he has always remained a Socialist by his attitude to social and international solidarity," it concludes.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.


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