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European Press Review: Yukos Crisis Fuels Investor Fears

European newspaper editorials on Friday discussed the fallout from the freeze on Yukos shares and considered the implications of humanitarian agencies pulling out of Iraq.

On its front page, the Financial Times showed a Russian Babuschka doll -- the sort that opens so that smaller dolls can be hidden inside. This one showed the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin as he "puts the lid on Khodorkovsky", as the caption read. While focusing on the fear of international investors following the Thursday freeze on Yukos shares, the paper also analysed the larger political picture, contending that Khorkovsky’s arrest is an assault on Russian law. The Financial Times wrote that even though the seizure of Yukos stocks might be legal, it is out of proportion to the charges laid against him. "If Mr. Putin has no care for democracy, he must realize that his actions jeopardize something that he craves -- economic growth."

German daily Die Tageszeitung declared the freeze on Yukos shares spells the end of Glasnost and Perestroika. The paper said the Russian prosecution authorities' decision has brought about the end of Mikhail Gorbachev’s experiment of the mid-1980s, and concludes that under Putin, Moscow is returning to an era of misery and isolation.

"Good Morning Venezuela," wrote the Russian paper Wedomosti, suggesting that Russia is seeing something no one dared to imagine -- powerful ministries redistributing private property. The paper maintained that the accusations raised against Russian oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky could be levelled against almost any Russian businessman, and concluded that stocks from every Russian company should now be confiscated and turned into public property.

Other European dailies focused on the decision by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations temporarily to withdraw their staff from Iraq after the latest series of bloody attacks.

Terror triumphs once again, wrote the Italian La Republica. The paper said the UN’s decision as a clear message directed at the United States, saying America was caught unprepared by the Iraqi guerrilla attacks and was therefore unable to oppose them. According to La Republica, Bush knows he's in trouble and has asked the U.S. administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, to speed up the transition of power to the Iraqi police.

Humanitarian organizations exist, argued the Swiss Baseler Nachrichten, because they provide help in difficult times. That’s why the UN and the International Red Cross have to find a balance between demonstrating a visible presence in Iraq and at the same time ensuring the lowest possible risk for their staff. The paper said that the current situation in Iraq shows that the strategists who talked about modern warfare -- without any American casualties -- had badly miscalculated.

And finally, European papers were also speculating about the effect of record-breaking U.S. growth figures on European markets. Europe still can’t manage to stimulate economic performance on its own, wrote the conservative French paper Le Figaro, but remains dependent on stimulus from elsewhere. It said that Europe has to try harder, especially since positive knock-on effects are not to be expected any time soon. Europe has to keep believing in its own abilities, and to continue on its path of structural reforms. One American swallow doesn’t make a European summer.