- Press review: EU won’t close borders over coronavirus and Bishkek clings closely to Moscow
- US, NATO policy delays efforts on creating nuclear-weapons-free world
- Press review: Estonia drops territorial bid and Russia sanctions may rattle global markets
- Lavrov meets with heads of international organizations at UN in Geneva
Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, January 27, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Russian, Ukrainian delegations to meet in PACE after lengthy hiatus
A regular session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is kicking off in Strasbourg. The assembly will gather in full for the first time in the past three years, including the Russian and Ukrainian delegations, Izvestia writes.
The Council of Europe’s mechanism of sanctions is expected to top the agenda. The issue at hand is a joint procedure of the Committee of Ministers and PACE involving the secretary general, which envisages measures, going as far as expulsion from the organization, against states violating their statutory obligations. The reason for the decision to create that mechanism was the Russian delegation’s situation, where it had been stripped of the right to vote and refused to make contributions to the council in response to that.
Members of the German delegation told the paper that PACE was expected to approve the mechanism at the upcoming session. One of them, Andrej Hunko, stressed that the procedure would help prevent conflict situations in the organization.
According to Russia’s chief negotiator, State Duma (lower house) Deputy Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy, Moscow is ready for constructive work and will pay special attention to the proposed mechanism.
"Our delegation believes that the sanctions procedure should be applied in extraordinary circumstances. The assembly’s task is not to punish anyone, but to build Europe without dividing lines. That’s why in order to impose them on a certain state, it is necessary to boost the quorum," he told Izvestia.
Kommersant: China coronavirus is getting stronger
The now-infamous novel coronavirus virus first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan is becoming increasingly more dangerous. According to Chinese officials, the disease is now more easily transmitted from one person to another. The coronavirus has claimed scores of lives so far, while over 2,000 have been infected, Kommersant writes.
Coronavirus cases have been reported in more than ten countries. Major events have been cancelled and borders are have been closed because of the spread of the disease. The World Health Organization’s head said on Sunday he would travel to China over the novel coronavirus-induced pneumonia outbreak.
"A comparison of the virus genome with already known ones shows that it is a ‘close relative’ of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), that is, atypical pneumonia, which claimed over 700 lives in 2002-2003 (having a mortality rate about 9%)," the paper quotes Irina Yakutentko, a molecular biologist and science journalist, as saying. "The trend is quite worrisome, considering that this is a virus. Viruses mutate very quickly. This is particularly true of RNA viruses, which include coronaviruses."
Test systems for identifying the virus have already been developed, the expert noted. She added, however, that using thermal observation devices and taking one’s temperature at airports was "useless, since this type of pneumonia has an incubation period of five to six days, when the symptoms are not yet visible but a person has already been infected."
Meanwhile, Russia’s consumer watchdog announced that all of its diagnostic laboratories had the necessary equipment and specialists to use the diagnostic tools developed "once the information on the novel coronavirus’ gene structure had appeared."
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia reduces gas transit to Europe
Kiev has said that Russia’s energy giant Gazprom had curtailed gas transit to Europe by more than 50% of the planned supplies. This move stems from excessive gas reserves in European storage facilities, which were made because of the uncertainty in Russian-Ukrainian relations, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Now that Russia and Ukraine have signed a five-year transit contract, fuel prices in Europe have dropped.
Experts pointed out that declining gas prices in Europe are caused by a market glut and a warm winter in Europe. In January 2020, Gazprom reduced gas supplies to Europe by 25% compared to last January from 17.6 bln to 13.3 bln cubic meters. Lower figures were recorded in 2015 when exports fell to 11 bln.
There are several reasons for the drop in the supplies of Russian pipeline gas, Head of AMarkets’ analytical department Artem Deev informed the paper. "To begin with, in the autumn, European gas storage facilities were filled to capacity (the EU was gearing up for potential interruptions in supplies via the Ukrainian route). Secondly, Europe is experiencing a warm winter, so consumption has fallen at least 20% compared to forecasts. Thirdly, liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar and the United States poured into the European market. Because of that, prices on Russian gas supplies fell more than 30% in the second half of the year compared to the ones at the beginning of the year," he explained.
The European gas market is oversaturated, prices are low and will be even lower, Stanislav Mitrakhovich, an expert at the National Energy Security Fund, told the paper. "For Gazprom, this is a problem in terms of revenue reduction. However, the situation can turn out to be even more complicated for Gazprom’s competitors, because Gazprom can endure the race for survival amid falling prices longer than they can," he pointed out, adding that "given the oversaturation of the EU market, the importance of transit countries, such as Belarus and Poland, is decreasing."
Kommersant: German ambassador evaluates prospects for Moscow-Berlin ties
Russia and Germany have maintained significant relations in many areas, including along the economic, scientific and cultural tracks, German Ambassador to Russia Geza Andreas von Geyr said in an interview published by Kommersant.
He noted that in the political sphere, the two countries focused on specific issues, which their governments believe pragmatic cooperation is necessary. In pursuit of the best solutions, Moscow and Berlin need to analyze the situation together and jointly promote certain initiatives, he stressed, adding that that was the objective of the Libyan negotiations held in Moscow some time ago. He also highlighted the need to find solutions to the challenges that the world faces.
According to the ambassador, as far as politics is concerned, the time has not come yet to go back to the previous relationship that both countries had. We have so far had many complex issues, on which we disagree, and sometimes have opposite points of view, he pointed out.
At the same time, the envoy hoped that Moscow and Berlin could restore confidence and resolve disagreements, thus fully unlocking the potential for cooperation. That concerns not only bilateral ties, he stressed, because German foreign policy is also part of the EU’s foreign policy.
When asked whether Berlin was going to take measures to protect German companies’ investment in the Nord Stream 2 project, the ambassador stressed that the German government did not recognize extraterritorial sanctions similar to those the US slapped on Nord Stream 2. He noted that the project would help ensure Germany’s energy security and contribute to the diversification of supply routes.
The envoy pointed out that this was a business project, and not the German government’s project. That’s why companies themselves must deal with the sanctions and any fallout from them, he emphasized.
Izvestia: Social networks, messengers steer Russians away from mobile calls
The demand for mobile telephony in Russia has been decreasing steadily, Izvestia writes citing data provided by the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media.
In January-September 2019, the total duration of mobile phone calls in Russia amounted to 335.5 bln minutes, a 1.3% decrease over the past year. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, voice traffic has been declining more dynamically (2.5% over the past year).
TMT Consulting Director General Konstantin Ankilov explained that interest in traditional mobile telephony was on the decline because Russians began to communicate more by messengers and along social networking websites. Interest in them is growing, so the drop in voice traffic will continue, the expert noted.
The reduction in traditional voice traffic is a global trend related to growing penetration of smartphones and messengers, the paper quotes Vlad Wolfson, MegaFon’s Chief Commercial Officer, as saying. That does not necessarily mean that the total number of conversations is declining. For example, on New Year’s Eve the number of phone calls deceased by 5.5%, while the volume of voice traffic in messengers grew by 85%, he explained to Izvestia.