Russian television news has broadcast extensive coverage of the tsunami in the Indian Ocean that has killed thousands of people so far, leaving many more homeless.
The Russian government is shipping aid to Southeast Asian nations affected by the killer wave. TV news features massive Russian cargo planes being loaded with supplies. It's not just politics. Among the victims were Russian tourists, spending the Novi God holiday in the warm climates of India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. TV news featured Putin meeting with is minister of emergency affairs, other ministers, spokespeople for travel agencies, and the families of loved ones lost in the worst natural disaster in years. When Putin gets involved personally, on TV (they show him talking to his ministers at a little table, actually discussing the actions government will take, not simple photo opportunties like in the US), it is a high priority for the government of Russia. Russia also has a history of friendly relations with India and other nations in Southeast Asia (remember Vietnam?).
The footage of death and destruction Sri Lanka has been affecting, particularly since two years ago we stayed at the Bentota Beach Hotel, in the southern part of the Island. Our rooms was on the ground floor, right on the beach, and we can imagine the horror facing tapped tourists in their last moments. There are very few roads in Sri Lanka, and it would have been difficult to evacuate the coastal villages, even with proper warning. The tragedy is all the more horrible because Sri Lanka has faced years of civil war between the Hindu Tamil Tigers and the the Buddhist majority. That is why our hotel cost only $20 per person, while a similar room in the Maldives cost about a thousand dollars.
It was Tamil tigers who pioneered the use of suicide bombers. And they kept at it until India dropped support after the assasination of their prime minister by a Tamil extremist (the Tamils originally come from Tamil Nadu, a state in India also hit by the tsunami). Without state support, the terrorism and extremism dropped off. A lesson for our own war on terror, and a reminder that suicide bombers are not peculiar to Islam.
By the time a temporary cease-fire took effect a couple of years ago some 60,000 Sri Lankan's had been killed in Tamil Tiger violence.