Press Digest: What will become of latest Russian ‘soldiers’ held in Ukraine?

Yevgeny Yerofeyev lies on a bed at a hospital in Kiev, Ukraine, 19 May 2015. Ukraine claims that Yerofeyev is one of two Russian soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine. Source: EPA

Yevgeny Yerofeyev lies on a bed at a hospital in Kiev, Ukraine, 19 May 2015. Ukraine claims that Yerofeyev is one of two Russian soldiers captured in eastern Ukraine. Source: EPA

RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on international events, featuring analysis of the possible fate of the Russian ‘soldiers’ recently captured in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, the upcoming meeting between the EU and participants of the Eastern Partnership in Riga, and Republican Lindsey Graham’s decision to enter the U.S. presidential race.

Prisoner exchange possible solution for Russian ‘soldiers’ captured in Donbass

The business daily Vedomosti reports that representatives from the OSCE (the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), Amnesty International and the mass media have visited the two Russian ‘soldiers’ captured in the Lugansk Region of eastern Ukraine, Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov, in a military hospital. In video recordings distributed by the Ukrainian authorities the two Russians say that they are serving in the 3rd Brigade of the Special Forces based in Togliatti. However, the Russian Defense Ministry claims that the two detainees are no longer serving in the Russian army, though they did undergo military training in the past. The newspaper explains that the SBU, Ukraine's Security Service, is investigating them in relation to a crime under the "terrorism" article, while Moscow is calling on Ukraine to release the two.

A source close to the Russian Defense Ministry told Vedomosti that some kind of exchange is inevitable, yet it will not happen soon. Ukrainian political analyst Vladimir Fesenko says that Moscow will not agree to exchanging the two for captured Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, since Russia does not admit the participation of its soldiers in the conflict in the Donbass. "But Kiev will try to use their detention in an information war as much as possible," says Fesenko. According to Alexei Chesnakov, director of the independent Center for Current Politics, in any case Kiev will try to capitalize on the story and will use it as proof of "Russian aggression."


Riga to host talks between six post-Soviet countries and EU

The RBK daily newspaper is covering the next EU Eastern Partnership Summit, to be held in Riga on May 21-22. The publication reminds its readers that one of the most newsworthy summits in the program was held in Vilnius in 2013, which was supposed to lead to an association agreement and the creation of a free trade zone between the EU and Ukraine.

"The Vilnius summit played a significantly negative role in the evolution of the situation in Ukraine, one of the leading participants in the Eastern Partnership, and now everyone is curious to see what conclusion the EU will draw from the situation," says Deputy Director of the Russian Academy Sciences’ Institute of Europe Vladislav Belov.

The main subject of the talks in Riga will be bilateral relations between Europe and the six ex-Soviet participants of the program (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). Taking into consideration the level of the countries' involvement in the project, the summit's attendees will discuss the EU's differentiated approach to each of the countries. This is related to the fact that some of the project's countries have chosen to participate in the Eurasian Economic Union, said a high-ranking EU source who preferred to remain anonymous.

According to the source, a framework agreement is expected to be signed with Armenia. The newspaper adds that earlier Yerevan had planned to sign an agreement on association and a free trade zone with the EU, but in 2013 chose the path of Eurasian integration. However it remains interested in cooperation with the EU, but has postponed the discussion of concrete issues.


Hawkish Senator Lindsey Graham announces White House ambitions

The centrist newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that on June 1 South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham will officially announce his decision to take part in the U.S. presidential race. The newspaper analyzes the new candidate's influence on the American election campaign.

Lindsey Graham believes that the current situation in the world is "the most dangerous in history," while President Barack Obama is incapable of countering global threats. No less expressive were his comments on Russian politics: After Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was brought down over eastern Ukraine, Graham immediately wanted to supply the Ukrainian armed forces with weapons and introduce personal sanctions against the Russian president.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta remarks that foreign policy is the ace that Graham wants to use to build his campaign and in his pre-election announcements he portrays foreign policy issues in a very harsh light. The newspaper underlines that Russia could become a victim of this process. Experts agree that America's next president will be more severe toward Russia in comparison with Barack Obama, for whom the improvement of relations with Russia was an important objective during his first term in office. 


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