Russian media talk up Putin's speech

AP News
Posted: Sep 28, 2015 2:11 PM
Russian media talk up Putin's speech

MOSCOW (AP) — In an hours-long marathon of commentary, Russia's two main TV stations on Monday talked up President Vladimir Putin's speech at the U.N. General Assembly as tough and uncompromising.

Putin is in the United States for the first time since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and threw its support behind separatist rebels in Ukraine. What is more, Russia's recent military buildup in Syria has raised concern in the West about Putin's future steps there.

In the run-up to Putin's speech, Russian media covered the preparations with a bated breath. One channel ran a countdown to the speech on its screen all day and another promised "a speech that will change the world."

The speeches by Putin and President Barack Obama at the U.N. served as a public preview of their private meeting late Monday. The sit-down marks their first face-to-face encounter in nearly a year and comes amid escalating Russian military engagement in Syria.

While Obama was halfway through his speech, the Rossiya 1 channel switched the feed from the U.N. headquarters to a live broadcast of Putin's arrival in New York.

Putin opened his remarks by criticizing a "single center of dominance" and threw a few more jabs at the U.S. without actually naming it.

While Putin's speech sounded rather moderate, Russia state media sought to make it sound more bellicose than it was and reaching out to the world.

Pro-Kremlin bloggers and even mainstream media like the RIA Novosti news agency posted messages on Twitter on Monday with a #PutinPeacemaker hashtag in order to highlight Putin's international outreach while two main TV channels, Channel One and Rossiya 1, ran marathon talk shows discussing Obama and Putin's speeches. Both began at 6 p.m. Moscow time and at least one of them is expected to run through 2 a.m. Tuesday so that the pundits could discuss Obama and Putin's upcoming bilateral meeting.

Kremlin-connected lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov noted the fact that Putin had avoided naming the U.S., but said it was as harsh as Putin's 2007 speech at a security conference in Germany which was seen as his first aggressive statement of geopolitical ambitions.

"He made an intentional omission in order not to create a negative background before the Obama speech," Nikonov said on Rossiya 1, adding that "that was probably the harshest speech against the United States after Munich."

Other pundits didn't shy from overt accolades.

"It's a message to all of humanity: Russia in its speech gave its vision of key international issues and offered ways to solve them," military analyst Igor Korotchenko said. "During Obama's speech, people were yawning. When Putin was speaking there was a tense attention on the faces of friends and enemies."

Channel One in its 8 p.m. newscast ran the entire Putin 20-minute speech while Rossiya 1 showed excerpts in a 20-minute segment.

Rossiya 1's Olga Skabeyeva, in New York, sought to underscore Moscow's growing international importance and willingness to help solve global problems:

Putin "tried to open the eyes of the world and explain what a short-sighted policy of the United States could lead to."