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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sadly, Putin's Reforms May Be Beside the Point

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In response to "So What About the Reforms, Then?" a comment by Olga Romanova on Sept. 12.

I found Olga Romanova's comment insightful and refreshing. In my opinion, President Vladimir Putin is well aware that in Russia it's more important to appear strong, charismatic and determined than to have a clear and long-term agenda. Whether or not he has a real agenda is immaterial to most people, and nothing short of a civil war or a sudden drop in oil prices can significantly shake his authority.

As 2008 draws nearer, the question will arise: If it's not him, then who else? Millions of people will fear that their stability is at stake, and will beg Putin to stay in power, or at least that's the way the media will portray it. What decision will be taken at that point remains a mystery.

The sad thing is that reforms, long-term economic solutions and a real improvement in people's living standards are beside the point when it comes to electing a president in Russia.

Alex Semakin

Blame for Air Crash

In response to "Turning his Back on Growing Anger," a comment by Georgy Bovt on Sept. 8.

On reading the first two paragraphs of this article, which compared the investigation into the 2002 Bashkirian Airlines collision with that into the Beslan tragedy, I was deeply alarmed by the author's ignorance about the facts of the air crash.

The official investigation pointed out that Russian rules do not meet European air navigation standards and have to be changed.

The crew of the Bashkirian Airlines jet was not trained properly to use the Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance Systems installed on the aircraft.

The voice recorder from the crashed jet evidenced a complete break down in communication between the crew members and their inability to handle the situation. They decided to overrule instructions of the onboard instrument -- the main purpose of which is to correct mistakes of air traffic controllers.

The investigation also pointed to mistakes and shortcomings in procedures and management practices of the Swiss-based Skyguide air traffic controllers. The murdered controller, Peter Nielsen, however, was not blamed outright for the disaster.

Ian Geninson
Sydney, Australia

Patriarch's Mild Reaction

In response to "Patriarch Slams Church's Move to Kiev," an article by Stephen Boykewich on Aug. 24.

I disagree with the interpretation of the reaction from the Moscow Patriarchate to the move of the headquarters of the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church to Kiev. Of course, the move was meant to generate a negative reaction and it complicates the relationship between the two churches. Yet I find the tone and wording of the patriarch's statement surprisingly mild.

Both Moscow and the Vatican seem to have done their best to minimize the negative effect of this development. The Vatican did not send any high-level delegation for the Aug. 21 ceremony in Kiev. The ceremony could thus be seen as a purely internal Ukrainian event.

All this leads me to believe that a meeting between the heads of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches is in fact nearer today than ever. There seems to be a clear desire on both sides not to waste the positive impulse generated by the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

Andrei Zolotov Jr.

Break Point

What has happened to Russian women's tennis? Last year Anastasia Myskina and Svetlana Kuznetsova won the French and U.S. Opens. This year, each was eliminated in the first round of their attempts to defend their titles.

Maria Sharapova did a little better, but she was beaten in straight sets in the semifinals by a player not even ranked in the top 10, winning only one game in the deciding set.

No Russian woman has even played for a Grand Slam title this year, much less won one, whereas last year they collected three of four. Sharapova recently became the first Russian woman to receive a No. 1 ranking, but was able to hold the top spot for just one week.

It is such a tragic characteristic of Russian life that every great step forward must be followed by two enormous steps backward.

Kim Zigfeld
New Haven, Connecticut

Targeting the Super Rich

In response to "Russia's Super Rich Feel at Home in Sardinia," an article by Francesca Mereu on Aug. 30.

I offer you and any interested Hollywood screen writer a plot for a future blockbuster, which will be an absolute hit in Russia.

Russia's super rich enjoy life on their sumptuous yachts, wild parties in lush places, sex, deceipt, intrigue -- Hollywood knows how to film it perfectly. But in the meantime in a secret war base a group of military officers living in poverty plot their revenge for their stolen future. They watch and track the idle rich through a military spy satellite.

The president arrives for war-games and missile tests. Little does he know that the missiles have been reprogrammed to hit a dozen luxurious yachts belonging to the super rich.

It may all sound like pure fanstasy. But the hard facts are that while the chosen few skim the cream, many Russian servicemen and excellent scientists live on a couple hundred dollars or less a month in miserable living conditions.

Albert Shelenkov
Geneva, Switzerland