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Russian President Vladimir Putin is taking part in the two-day G8 summit which begins in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, on Monday. Newspapers note that for the first time in his presidential career, he will be an opponent, in the discussion of the Syrian issue, of all other participants.
The head of the Russian state left for London on Sunday, in order to have talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron before the G8 meeting, the Rosiiskaya Gazeta writes. One of the main topics of the talks was the situation in Syria, not in Turkey, taking into account the U.S. statement on boosting aid to the Opposition, against which the Syrian authorities had allegedly used chemical weapons. The Russian president made it clear that Moscow only saw one option to resolve the Syrian problem, i.e. through diplomacy.
"I'm confident that it is possible to completely settle the problem and sit all the parties at the negotiating table only through joint efforts, with the consent of all the parties," he underlined. In this connection, he believes that the idea of the international conference for Syria is still viable.
The G8 summit will discuss the situation in Syria; and this topic may take precedence over all others, the newspaper notes. "My guess is that the Syrian issue alone may "eat up half of the dinner" because the situation is very tense, and there have been few optimistic moments," Yuri Ushakov, an aide to the Russian president, said.
On top of that, the U.S. authorities announced last week they had evidence that the Syrian leadership was using chemical weapons against the insurgents which may add fuel to the fire of the discussion between G8 leaders.
The Russian president will hold a number of bilateral meetings, including talks with U.S. President Barack Obama, the Vedomosti notes. A month before, the two presidents exchanged letters; Russian and U.S. diplomats said the whole agenda of relations would be discussed. However, Putin's aide for foreign policy did not commit himself to predicting which questions would be discussed, as the Syrian issue might take too much time.
On Sunday, Cameron and Putin discussed the Syrian topic in London. The task is to convince Putin to contribute to a peaceful settlement, Cameron said, everybody acknowledges it is necessary; they differ in how to achieve it.
Over two and half years of the Syrian conflict, the attempts to convince Russia to adopt a resolution denouncing Syria at the UN Security Council have yielded no results, the newspaper notes. Nor has the West succeeded in securing Moscow's non-execution of arms contracts with Damascus. Putin's talks over this topic with western leaders ended in not only the phrases about different approaches, but also declarations about the necessity of peaceful solution.
"At the summit, Putin will find himself alone against "the seven," he has to psychologically prepare for it; it's very important to dot one's "i's" in order to show that Russia is not to be guided and that it will dictate its own agenda," president of the Washington-based Center on Global Interests Nikolai Zlobin commented.
"Russia is taking over the G8 presidency, but the talk has to be conducted in such as manner as not to provoke Obama's refusal to participate in the G20 summit," Zlobin noted.
"Putin will encounter concerted misunderstanding of the Russian approach," the Vedomosti quoted political analyst Fyodor Lukyanov as saying. "But his position will not change because of that: over two and half years of the conflict, there have been no signals to indicate that, and the summit will result in Putin's vetoing all the initiatives of the West."
"The disagreements over Syria, even if it is tough, will not lead to a serious split with the West; Obama will arrive anyway," Lukyanov summed up.
"Putin is becoming increasingly alien to the West; isolationism is growing," political analyst Boris Makarenko notes, "as Russia was admitted to the G8, the efficiency of the group has somewhat decreased; but the issue of Russia's staying in the club will not be raised for a long time."
"The G8 summit promises to become the only of its kind," the Moskovsky Komsomolets said, "not so much by the level of topics slated for discussion as the unique organization."
There are bombs at the venue of the G8 leaders meeting on the "menu" and Potemkin Villages. The Russian delegation was given a particularly "warm" welcome, from taking the television crews off the flight to Belfast to accommodating Vladimir Putin at the building which used to be a lunatic asylum.
The British did their best in preparing to meet the Russian delegation, the newspaper notes. I was clear as early as April that despite the outward appearance of warmer diplomatic relations, London had not forgiven Moscow the death of Alexander Litvinenko. The tough visa rules for the Russian delegations were not eased even on the occasion of the summit.
The flyover group of the presidential administration and the Federal Guards Service which routinely should inspect Putin's route in Lough Erne, were only issued 48-hour visas, whereas Russian tourists can get them for six months.
Aside from that, part of the Russian delegation was moved to the neighboring Ireland /which requires extra visas/, under the pretext that there was not enough place in Lough Erne. Though Putin was not separated from other leaders, the local mass media said it had been planned to accommodate him in a hotel converted from a lunatic asylum.
Here is another scandal. The Russian delegation /the journalists of the presidential pool are part of it/ were issued unique ten-day visas compared to all other delegations': yellow forms where the data was written in a handwriting reminding of Arabic ligature, with preliminary fingerprinting, iris-scanning, videoing of facial expression and the cost comparable to the cost of 12-month visas issued to ordinary Russian citizens.
Political parties preparing for Moscow mayoral election
Russian political parties have already launched preparations for the Moscow mayoral election on September 8. Leader of Civil Platform Mikhail Prokhorov withdrew from the race, and his Party will not nominate a new candidate. For his part, Opposition activist Alexei Navaly was nominated by RPR-PARNAS and has repeatedly stated in the past two weeks that he would compete for the post of city mayor.
Last Saturday, the candidates for the post presented the main points of their programs at the 4th annual forum of municipal deputies, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. City parliamentarians were unable to select the one they would support. The Coordinating Council of the Opposition /KSO/ will announce its candidate within the next view days after Internet voting. The documents for registration by the Central Election Commission have been submitted by Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin and blogger Alexei Navaly, supported by RPR-PARNAS.
The experts are confident that the latter's chances to overcome the signature barrier are minimal. The do not rule out that the Opposition will eventually consolidate around Mitrokhin who may get registered.
It is unknown who will be able to gather 110 signatures in the city's municipalities. At the end of the congress, the independent municipal deputies who numbered around 500, could not decide whom they should support.
The Communists announced that their candidate Ivan Melnikov, deputy Party chairman, will run for the post.
Despite the plethora of Opposition candidates, experts are in no hurry to predict rivalry between them because of the above municipal filter. Late on Friday, RPR-PARNAS nominated Alexei Navalny. He was the only candidate on the list and gathered 88 of 96 votes.
The KSO failed to reach a consensus either; at the meeting last weekend, two KSO members objected to supporting Navalny: nationalist Nikolai Bondarik and economist Andrei Illarionov.
Vice-president of the center for political technologies Rostislav Turovsky, cited by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, is confident that Navaly has no chances to get through the municipal filter.
The expert did not rule that the Opposition, willy-nilly, will have to select Sergei Mitrokhin as their single candidate. "The main question is whether he will be able to mobilize the protesting electorate." Mitrokhin is quite capable of coming to terms with city authorities about support. Yabloko needs it in order to come in the limelight before the election to the Moscow parliament. It is unclear whether the authorities want it.