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European Press Review: No Miracle Cure for Terrorism

European editorialists on Wednesday criticized Russian President Putin’s security policy in the wake of a rebel attack in the Russian republic of Ingushetia which left at least 67 people dead.

Chechen rebels are suspected of leading attacks on towns in neighboring Ingushetia, which primarily targeted police and security officers. Russia daily Kommersant says the attacks reveal the failure of President Vladimir Putin’s policy not only in Chechnya but in the entire North Caucasus.

Many Russian papers commented that the incident is a major defeat for the government and

security forces, including Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which posed some awkward questions: Why did this attack once again catch the military and civilian leadership completely unawares? Do we have any kind of functioning military intelligence service in this country? And what exactly are the domestic secret services doing? The paper asserted that Russia has no control over the Russian republics Ingushetia, Chechnya and Dagestan, where, it said, the initiative is clearly in the hands of the separatists.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that it was obvious the situation in Chechnya wasn’t going to calm down, even after the presidential election. It detailed the different interests fighting for supremacy in the region, a complicated mixture of Islamic militants and militant separatists. The Caucasian dilemma has many facets, the paper wrote. Moscow counters the violence with brutal oppression and indirect rule through Chechens it’s put on its payroll. This strategy, the paper wrote, has failed.

Austria’s Die Presse wrote that there is no miracle cure for terrorism, something Israel has known for years and that the Americans are also beginning to realize. Only Russia continues to employ a single medicine against the underground fighters -- cracking down as brutally as possible without any attempt at a practicable political solution.

Switzerland’s Basler Zeitung pointed out that when announcing a fresh offensive last week, Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov emphasized that he was still open to negotiations to end the conflict. Not only did Putin not take up this offer, the paper said, he also reinforced his disastrous policies with the slogan “find and destroy the terrorists.” The way things are going Putin’s second period in office will also be accompanied by thousands of deaths, in Chechnya and beyond, the paper wrote.

Austria’s Kurier drew parallels between the conflicts in Chechnya and Iraq. The main fighting in both regions was declared over long ago, it said, yet people are still dying there on an almost daily basis. The Kremlin chief wants to install a government in Chechnya that’s loyal to him. However, it will enjoy as little trust among the population there as the painfully constructed Iraqi interim government does. And the paper pointed out that strategic interests come into play in both the Caucasus and Iraq. Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world, while Russia’s only viable pipeline to transport oil from the Caspian Sea runs through Chechnya.

Belgium’s most hated man, convicted pedophile and murderer Marc Dutroux, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Tuesday for multiple rape and murder. Het Laatste Nieuws in Brussels wrote that he will probably never be freed, commenting that while this is a heavy punishment, it’s a just one, and mild in comparison to the fate of his victims.

Another Belgian paper, Le Soir, said the long sentences handed down to Dutroux and his accomplices reflect the horror of their crimes. But it too says these will never bring justice for the dead victims. The paper commented that the girls’ relatives are still no wiser as to how they were killed; only Dutroux and his ex-wife know the truth, and the real reason why they were abducted. The Dutroux affair has traumatized Belgium, wrote the French daily La Nouvelle République du Centre-Ouest in Tours. But the paper identified a positive side, saying that the case also mobilized the Belgian people against child sex offenders. The paper said they had managed to awaken the conscience of the politicians and the media, who until then had maintained an embarrassed, cowardly silence on the issue. Now, the paper wrote, others must also be taught this lesson. Children everywhere must be protected from this disgraceful sex trade regardless of where it’s conducted -- whether in private homes or on the sidewalks of Manila, Brussels or Paris.