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Saturday, 26 August, 2000, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Russian media loses its sting
papers
Initial reports launched scathing attcks on the Russian hierachy
By Russian affairs analyst Stephen Dalziel

Shortly after the first news broke about the loss of the submarine Kursk, the Russian media began to criticise the Russian Government and President Vladimir Putin in a way hitherto unprecedented since Mr Putin came to power.

Some observers predicted that it was the start of a new era for the media but Mr Putin seems to have won the day following his televised apology for errors he had made.

The Russian media's new-found confidence in the wake of the Kursk disaster was summed up by a front-page headline in the newspaper, Moscow News, which read: After the Kursk tragedy, our country will be different.

Scorn

Russian journalists had dared to criticise the president for his apparent indifference in the face of national crisis - the country was in shock and he continued to swim in the Black Sea.

President Putin
President Putin faced angry relatives
They had attacked the government for doing little, other than sending Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov to Murmansk.

The military leadership were ripe for scorn, after their guarded accounts of what was supposed to have happened to the submarine were found to be inconsistent and full of inaccuracies.

Perhaps the most stinging attack of all came from Argumenty i Fakty on the Day of National Mourning.

Its front-page carried a cartoon of a battleship topped by the Kremlin towers and called Battleship Indifferent. Beneath the waves it was breaking in two a submarine bearing the words Faith, Hope, Love.

At the top of the page, the paper declared: "We are all living in a nuclear submarine."

But whether because of Mr Putin's television address later that same evening, in which he apologised for the mistakes he had made, or whether because of a general weariness as anger gave way to more genuine grief for the dead and their loved ones, by the end of the week the sting had gone out of the Russian media.

The Kursk
The Kursk went down with all hands
Certainly, the tone of Mr Putin's address made further criticism of him difficult.

When the man at the top holds up his hands and says, "Yes, I made mistakes", it's very difficult for his critics to keep on attacking him.

Furthermore, the president announced that he would not be accepting the resignations of his senior officers, including the Minister of Defence, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, until an investigation had revealed exactly what happened.

The Russian media may have shown that it can cry "foul!" if something happens in which mistakes have clearly been made. But it is yet to show that it can be a permanent watchdog over the errors - or worse - of the country's political leaders.

The Kursk submarine accident

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26 Aug 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
25 Aug 00 | Media reports
21 Aug 00 | Europe
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