Originally published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta on July 10, 2003. For full article (in Russian) click here.

The Tushino bombing has tarnished Russia's international image after major efforts by the Putin administration to impress the West and the rest of the world at recent summit meetings and lavish 300th anniversary celebrations in St. Petersburg. However, last week's bombings will not have the international impact of the hostage-taking incident in Moscow last year.

More worrisome for Russia's international image, however, (and certainly tied to the ongoing electoral cycle) is the news of the detainment of Menatep head Platon Lebedev. There is a suggestion that the charge is tied to a battle in the Kremlin the part of those who believe Yukos is becoming too powerful following its major merger with Sibneft. If that is the case, it would also greatly tarnish what had been Russia's improving image in Western financial circles. Who will want to invest in Russia when it still appears the government can arbitrarily take down major business leaders at will? And who really believes that Mr. Lebedev, if it comes to trial, will be able to get a fair trial in the Russian court system? It is negative answers to these questions that can be most damaging to Russia's international image in the months and years ahead.