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German Press Review: Terror or Accident

German papers Thursday speculated on whether the double plane crash in Russia is the result of a terrorist attack.

"Attack or accident?" wondered Berlin's Tagesspiegel "There's as yet no certainty as to the cause of the double plane crash in southern Russia, but it's another catastrophe that forces the world to focus on an almost forgotten conflict in the Caucasus." The paper warned that Europe has for too long turned its attention away from the troubled region and as long as Putin along with Schröder, Berlusconi and Chirac pretend there is no problem in Chechnya there will never be peace in the region, the daily concluded.

The Neue Presse from Hannover said the fact that the Russian intelligence agency FSB so quickly ruled out a terrorist attack is just as surprising as the Spanish government’s assertion, shortly before March's parliamentary elections, that the Madrid bombings were not the work of Islamic terrorists. The paper accused the Russian government of lying, after all, it suggested, Moscow has been waging a bloody war against the rebels who are seeking independence in the region. The last thing Putin needs in the run-up to regional elections in Chechnya is any sign of weakness, the daily maintained.

The General Anzeiger from Bonn was equally suspicious. "It's difficult to believe that the double crash was not a terrorist attack," the paper commented. "Even the denial from the Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maschadov does not exclude the possibility." But the paper remarked it's in the best interest of the Kremlin to play down the incident in order to convey the impression that the situation in Chechnya has improved, that the majority of the population rejects violence and that the rebels, despite the ongoing attacks, are under control.

The fact that two planes fell almost simultaneously from the sky killing all passengers immediately reminds us of the eleventh of September 2001, opined the the Leipziger Volkszeitung. "Naturally, it could be due to pilot error, technical failure or faulty plane fuel, but since it happened to two planes simultaneously and so soon before elections in the region, not many people will believe in a coincidence. There's a great suspicion that the Kremlin is trying to play down the incident ahead of regional elections and convey a positive image to the world." This image, the paper added, already has many cracks in it.

Just like the uncertainty over the use of toxic gas during the hostage drama in the Moscow musical theatre the Russian secret service this time has been quick to convey the impression that there is no evidence of a terrorist attack, the Westdeutsche Zeitung from Düsseldorf pointed out. "It will be interesting to see whether the public will ever find out the truth recorded on the airplanes black boxes," the paper wrote.

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