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European Press Review: Risky Russian Roulette

The German chancellor's visit to Moscow prompted several European dailies to discuss the dangers of the Russian government's campaign against oil giant Yukos. Other papers commented on the crisis in Sudan.

The French daily Le Monde accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of launching a guerrilla campaign against the firm. The paper warned that Putin is taking a big risk in jeopardizing the country's economic growth by trying to bring down the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky just because he made the mistake, in Putin's eyes, of financially supporting an opposition party.

Die Tageszeitung from Berlin said Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder should have raised the issue of Yukos during his recent trip to Moscow, saying "Russia has Europe in its grip." The paper commented that Russia can do what it pleases because it knows that Germany, just like Japan and other nations, need Russian oil and gas. With its 145 million potential consumers, Russia is also Europe's largest trading partner, the paper said.

Commenting on the crisis of confidence in Russia's banking sector, the British Financial Times suggested Moscow needs to show more skill on bank reform "Vladimir Putin has put great store on maintaining Russia's oil-fired growth rate of the past few years into the future. But to achieve this he also needs to maintain the confidence of Russian savers and foreign investors." However the paper warns this could be jeopardized by botched banking reform as much as Putin's vindictiveness towards Yukos.

The plans by the African Union to send peacekeepers to the Dafur region in Sudan was welcomed by the Dutch paper De Volkskrant. If the resources come together for such a peacekeeping mission, remarked the daily, it will convey an important political message -- that in the future Africa will be responsible for solving and preventing its own conflicts. The African Union's predecessor, the Organisation for African Unity, tended to look the other way, noted the paper, but the African Union wants to show a different side: democratic, active and willing to rap some of its member states on the knuckles. The Belgian paper De Standaard disagreed, saying it seems as though African leaders are too weak to avert the humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Ten thousand people have died in the past few months in the western region of Dafur, wrote the daily, adding "that's why the United Nations has to play a role and the international community should consider accepting a UN resolution which will sanction military intervention. Past examples like Rwanda and Somalia should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing."