On Wednesday, German papers weighed in on Russian President Vladimir Putin's dismissal of his prime minister and cabinet.
The Süddeutsche Zeitung compared the dissolution of the Russian cabinet to dismissal of governments in other countries. Usually, heads of government fall after elections, the paper pointed out. But in Russia, the situation is a little different: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had to step down before the election. In three weeks, observed the Süddeutsche, Russians will vote for their future president, and it's already clear that it will be Putin again. The paper thought that what Putin is worried about is voter participation: A vote where the winner is already known is uninteresting, and many voters may simply stay home. The paper said Putin doesn't just want a victory; he wants a triumph -- and that's why he is now playing the role of the man with the iron fist. He could have dismissed Kasyanov after the election, but then it would have lost its political impact.
The Financial Times Deutschland also compared the Russian political scenario to that of other European countries and said such a move anywhere else in Europe would cause a crisis of government. But in Russia, it didn't cause any political upheaval. The paper attributed it to the fact that only one person calls the shots in Russia, and that's Putin, regardless of who the prime minister is.
Leipziger Volkszeitung also weighed in on Putin's personal motivation for the dismissals. Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, assessed Putin to be a man without qualities. Putin has however displayed himself to be the opposite, with the arrest of oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and now by firing Kasyanov. Putin has shown himself to be a uncompromising usurper of power, the paper observed.
The Handelsblatt from Düsseldorf saw the dismissal in the context of the legacy that Putin wants to leave behind. He has been taking action against the old economic power figures, the oligarchs -- and now against the Prime Minister who was thought to be sympathetic to them. Putin wants to go down in history as the man who doubled the strength of the Russian economy and freed his people from poverty, the paper said. To do that, he has to rebuild the banks and go after energy monopolies, and on a larger front, take the economy out of the hands of the government.
The Berliner Zeitung said it's rumored in Moscow that the next prime minister will be Sergei Ivanov, the present Minister of Defence. He's a man who comes from the same home town as Putin -- St. Petersburg -- and who also worked for the KGB.
The Wiesbadener Kurier said after the election Putin will probably fill his cabinet with members of his St. Petersburg clique. Where cliques are concerned, the paper wrote, Putin's Russia is looking more and more like its communist predecessors.