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Russian Media for the Week of 6/27/2011 – 7/03/2011

Russian media this week has seen the emergence of a number of prominent stories, including themes related to Russia’s budget and banking system, political appointments, energy politics, Russia’s relations with neighboring countries, bills being debated by the Duma, and concerns over forest fires in the country’s far east.

Week of June 20 – June 26 (Red) Compared to June 13 – June 19 (Blue) for Five Major Russian Media Segments (TV, Pop Blogs, Random Blogs, Mainstream Media, Government):

New issues related to domestic politics and finance seem to dominate the overall week-to-week comparison cloud, indicated by the emergence of new high frequency words (in red) such as “банк” (bank), “бюджет” (budget), “газа” (gas), and “национальной” (national).  The frequent discussion of banks this week is in part accounted for by the catastrophic failure and subsequent bailout of the Bank of Moscow, Russia’s fifth largest bank.  In what is reputed to be “the largest bailout in modern Russian history,” the bank will receive as much as $14 billion in state-backed loans, with the state-run VTB Bank increasing its stake in the company to 75%.

The Russian budget and budgetary constraints were also an important theme in this week’s news.  On Wednesday, 6/29, President Dmitry Medvedev delivered an address to the Duma laying out his three year budget guidelines for the 2012-2014 period.  Focusing on governance efficiency, modernization, competitiveness, long term development, and living standards, the President laid out 12 vital areas of budget policy that will be central to achieving national economic goals in the coming years.  In addition to his ongoing emphasis on modernization, Medvedev stressed the need for economic decentralization, with development occurring on a regional level and not just in and around the capital cities.  Budgets were also discussed in several other contexts this week, helping to account for the appearance of “бюджет” in the week’s overall word cloud.  Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made headlines for drawing attention to the need to ensure the new budget would be deficit-free.  New stories also discussed the protests in Greece related to that country’s budget debate and the possible implications for Russian oil revenue.  Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on a new study that shows Russians on average spend 30% of their household budget on food, with poorer families spending as much as 50% of their income.  The discussion of Medvedev’s budgetary plan and related topics clearly dominated the Government media segment for the week.  New high frequency words there such as “развивать,” (develop), “реализации” (implementation), “региональных” (regional), “современные” (modern), “экономики” (economy), “экономической” (economic), and “технического” (technical) indicate the frequent discussion of some of the main components of Medvedev’s plan.

Week of June 27 – July 3 (Red) Compared to June 20 – June 26 (Blue) for Russian Government:

A couple of last week’s major stories continued to attract attention this week, with related terms showing up in purple in the week-to-week comparison cloud.  These include, for example, the nomination of St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko to become Speaker of the Federation Council.  With the approval of Medvedev and Putin, this week Matvienko agreed to accept the new position.  Opposition formed in Saint Petersburg, with young Yabloko party members protesting in the street on Wednesday and the formation of an opposition bloc entitled “St. Petersburg against Matvienko.”  As the city’s governor since 2003, Matvienko had become increasingly unpopular.  Resented by local residents for her government’s failure to clear the streets of snow and ice in the winter, many have speculated that Matvienko’s move was part of an effort to buoy support for the United Russia party in preparation for the upcoming Duma elections this December.  This story’s continued prominence is indicated by the frequency of words such as “петербург” (Petersburg), “федерации” ([of the] federation), and “совет” (council) in the week’s overall cloud.  Drilling down into specific media segments, the attention garnered by Matvienko’s high profile move becomes even more apparent, with her name (“Матвиенко”) and the word “губернатор” (governor) appearing among the new high frequency words in this week’s Mainstream Media word cloud.

Week of June 27 – July 3 (Red) Compared to June 20 – June 26 (Blue) for Russian Mainstream Media:

Some additional prominent topics in the week’s news also become more apparent on examining some of the other week-to-week comparisons for particular media segments.  The ongoing controversy surrounding the corruption accusations against and trial of former Orange Revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine, for example, attracted the attention of some news segments more than others.  The former prime minister was indicted last December for abuse of power, with President Victor Yanukovich claiming that she illegally used $425 million in “Kyoto money” (money received from the sale of of carbon emission quotas) to finance pensions.  If she is found guilty, Tymoshenko will be banned from holding political office.  While some variant on “Украина” (Ukraine) appears as a high frequency word over the last couple of weeks in the Mainstream Media and the Popular Blogs word clouds, this topic appears not to have received equal attention in all media segments.  A comparison between popular blogs and TV media shows that this story appears to have gotten significantly more attention in the blogosphere than in television news coverage – demonstrated by the appearance of “Украины” in red in the word cloud comparing these two media segments.

Russian Popular Blogs (Red) versus Television (Blue) for Week of June 27 – July 3:

A similar contrast can be seen in the coverage of ongoing conflict between Russia and Belarus over unpaid electricity debt for April and May.  Belarus, which has been suffering a deep economic crisis over the last several months owes Russia some 1.2 billion rubles ($43 million) – a situation which came to a crisis this week, with the Kremlin threatening to cut off Belorussian electricity supplies if this debt was not repaid by Wednesday.  Though the immediate crisis was resolved by week’s end with Belarus promising to pay its debt and Russia restoring power supplies, the tension between the two countries continued, with disagreement as to the extent to which natural gas prices should be reduced in light of the recent Belarusian currency devaluation.  This story, as with that concerning Ukraine, appears to have received more attention in some media segments than others.  In contrast to the Ukrainian trial, this story seems to have been covered more by television and mainstream media and received less scrutiny in the blogosphere.  Note the appearance of “Белоруссия” (Belarus) in blue in the word cloud comparing high frequency words in the week’s TV and Popular Blog media segments.

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