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German Press Review: Chechen Bombing Tears Apart Russian Illusion

German editorials on Monday focused on the explosion in Chechnya that killed President Akhmad Kadyrov and on the continuing revelations that U.S. troops abused Iraqi prisoners.

"The bombing in Chechnya amounts to a major political defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin," wrote the Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten. It pointed out that only two days the head of the Kremlin was inaugurated into his second term of office with much pomp and ceremony, announcing that Russia had averted the danger of international terrorism, and had safeguarded its territorial unity. "This illusion has now been brutally torn apart," the Dresden daily commented while warning: "If all Putin could come up with was threatening retaliation, the president’s political responsibility is put into question." In politics, revenge should not be the driving force, the paper admonished and said the entire strategy in Chechnya must be revised.

The Thüringer Allgemeine agreed with that assessment, saying the attack in Chechnya shows that Russia’s troops cannot stem the conflict in the break-away Caucasian republic, even if some 80,000 soldiers and police face only an estimated 2,000 rebels. "Threatening revenge is wrong," the paper said and noted there has already been enough violence on both sides in this conflict. "The question now arises as to how long the West will ignore human rights violations in Chechnya and leave Putin to his devices?"

The Darmstädter Echo viewed Sunday's bomb attack against Akhmad Kadyrov as "a heavy blow to Putin’s step-by-step efforts at defusing the conflict in the Caucauses. More violence and more victims are bound to be the result," the paper surmised. "All the same, Putin cannot afford to let Chechnya leave the Russian Federation," it commented, explaining that such an act would threaten its entire unity. On the other hand, the paper said, "Putin must fear the destabilization of the highly sensitive region – a development the West has no interest in, either."

Other German editorials commented on the continuing revelations of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers.

"What we’ve heard and read over the past days about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops amounts to a clear violation of human rights. And the fact that the U.S. army and its commander have so far shied away from calling the scandal by its name doesn’t make things better," the Nürnberger Nachrichten wrote. Neither President Bush nor Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld have uttered the word "torture;" they merely speak of shocking incidents, the paper observed pointedly.

"So Rumsfeld remains in office," the Münchner Merkur sighed. "This is the new, supposedly compassionate America," the paper said in a swipe at President Bush's former campaign promise. In reality, though, "lawlessness, whether in Iraq or Guantanamo, is the principle, and those responsible are allowed to continue with Bush's blessing," the paper commented. It lamented that such actions "don't bother the pious president who regards himself as the leader of a nation chosen by God to fight against evil." The paper concluded with a critical assessment of what has caused America’s popularity in the world to crash: "the bearer of the torch of liberty has, in the eyes of many, turned into a creature the West is ashamed of."

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