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Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, January 30, prepared by TASS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ draws mixed reaction
US President Donald Trump’s plan for ironing out the Middle East crisis, dubbed "the deal of the century," has received a mixed reaction worldwide. Europe has generally backed the US leader’s peace initiative, while the Palestinians and Tehran have strongly condemned it. On the contrary, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf monarchies have made rather ambiguous statements, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The reaction to the White House’s peace plan, unveiled on January 28, clearly shows that the time when Islamic nations were ready to act together against Israel has become a thing of the past. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has described Trump’s proposal as the dream project of a bankruptcy-ridden real estate developer and "a nightmare for the region and the world." Turkey is apparently ready to support Iran’s position. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slammed the idea of handing over control of Jerusalem to Israel as unacceptable.
Those regional states, which are expected to be involved in "the deal of the century," stopped short of criticizing it. The only exception was Lebanon, which showed solidarity with the Palestinians. The supposed sponsors of the initiative approved it in general. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas assuring him that the Palestinian people would back him. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry made a similar statement. Other comments in support of the proposal came from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman.
An expert on the Middle East and chief researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe Alexander Shumilin told the paper that the Arab world’s reaction was expected. Meanwhile, he noted that one should not hope that support for the deal from the leading regional states (except for Turkey and Iran) would guarantee its successful implementation.
"Trump’s plan has fixed a new reality: it won’t be possible anymore to return to the 1967 borders. And other terms of peaceful settlement for the Palestinians would be worse than these," Shumilin said.
Izvestia: US presidential hopeful Sanders poised to grab lead in Iowa race, poll shows
Bernie Sanders, a 78-year-old Democratic candidate, is in the lead ahead of the first caucuses in Iowa due on February 3 and the February 11 primaries in New Hampshire. Although his lead over ex-Vice President Joe Biden was within the poll’s margin, the mere fact that this "democratic socialist" is popular signals that the upcoming struggle for the nomination will be fierce, Izvestia writes. Opinion polls in Iowa showed that Senator Sanders has all chances of winning the first US state, which is crucial for the entire presidential election campaign.
Although more than a dozen Democratic candidates will vie for the Oval Office, the major struggle is expected to be between former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Biden, who was considered as favorite in the Democratic race, has lost ground since the start of Trump’s impeachment trial and in the wake of corruption allegations against the former vice president’s son Hunter in connection with Ukraine’s Burisma oil and gas company.
Sanders is the oldest among three Democratic leaders but he enjoys strong support among the youth, the paper writes. According to a survey by Emerson, 44% voters under 50 plan to support the legislator from Vermont. His growing popularity is not surprising, Anders Aslund, a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, said, explaining that this is the result of mounting inequality in US society over the past 40 years. According to him, Sanders has a real chance of winning the presidential nomination, but apparently, Trump also wants this. The US leader sees Sanders as his ideal rival, while he is anxious about Biden, who has better chances of winning, he explained.
Kommersant: Russian exporters facing logistic hurdles in China
The spreading coronavirus in China poses a threat to Russian exporters of foodstuffs to the country. China has stopped several batches of Russian fish products and halted talks on new contracts, while falling consumer demand has cut prices on poultry 10-15%. Market participants have not yet adjusted their plans but report logistic problems in China, Kommersant writes.
The Chinese are a major importer of Russia’s foodstuffs. In January-November 2019, the supplies grew 23.7% to $2.72 bln, the Russian Export Center told the paper citing the Federal Customs Service. According to figures, frozen fish accounted for more than $1.2 bln, crustaceans for over $250 mln, sunflower oil for more than $200 mln, and poultry and chocolates for roughly $100 mln each.
Managing Director at Dobroflot fish trading company Alexander Efremov confirmed problems with exporting foodstuffs to China. At least two batches of Russian fish, which were to be supplied for Chinese processing plants, have been held up, he said. "Perhaps, production at the enterprises has been suspended due to the quarantine. Or Chinese manufacturers fear that their goods won’t be bought globally due to the coronavirus," Efremov assumed.
President of the Walleye Pollock Producers Association Alexei Buglak said that prices on his type of fish dropped 15%. What’s more, unless the situation with the coronavirus stabilizes within a week, Russia’s fish exports could face more negative consequences, he warned. President of the All-Russian Association of Fish Breeders German Zverev notes that China’s demand for crabs has significantly declined, and the prices have dropped to $7 per kg from $15-$18 per kg last year. According to the association, some Russian crab producers have suspended harvesting.
Izvestia: Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges to fly home soon
Naama Issachar, an Israeli-American who was sentenced in Russia to seven and a half years in a penal colony on drug smuggling charges, was pardoned ahead of the January 30 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The woman’s release was not linked to Israel’s decision to return the Alexander Metochion in Jerusalem to Russia, Netanyahu’s adviser Ariel Bulstein told Izvestia. During Putin’s visit to Jerusalem on January 23, media reports said that Tel Aviv had launched the process of handing over the mission to Russia. The official in Netanyahu’s administration also voiced doubt over Israeli media reports that Naama Issachar would return home on one plane with the prime minister. He stressed that Netanyahu’s key goal was to discuss Trump’s "the deal of the century."
"There is no talk that Naama Issachar would come back to Israel on the same plane with Netanyahu, there is no such possibility. Perhaps, the prime minister had known in advance that the Russian president could pardon the woman today or tomorrow, but this visit was not timed especially for this," Bulstein stressed.
Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli publication, reported that the Israeli embassy’s staff would escort Naama Issachar to the prime minister’s plane on Thursday and they would return home together. The official also dismissed rumors that the woman’s release was linked to the transfer of the Alexander Metochion in Jerusalem to Russia. Earlier, Middle East media reports said that Israel would return the historic buildings to Russia in exchange for pardoning the woman.
"These stories are not related. Deals and exchanges take place between unfriendly states. As you know, Israel and Russia have friendly relations, although from time to time their interests and positions on some issues may not coincide," he explained.
Naama Issachar’s attorney Vadim Klyuvgant told Izvestia that her release was expected and it had been planned in advance.
Kommersant: Gazprom seeks to boost production in Bangladesh
Russian energy giant Gazprom has set its sights on ramping up gas production in Bangladesh and has signed agreements with Bangladeshi state-run companies Petrobangla and Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration & Production Company Limited (BAPEX). The move signals that the Russian energy giant apparently seeks to launch direct gas supplies to Indian consumers, Kommersant writes. Analysts say that Gazprom is interested in potential cooperation not just to produce gas, but in order to be able to sell liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the future.
Gazprom International has been operating in Bangladesh since 2012 and has drilled 17 gas wells with the total capacity of 7 bln cubic meters. According to Sergei Kapitonov, a gas analyst at the Energy Center of the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, given the current output rate (nearly 27 bln cubic meters per year) the reserves could be enough for 10 or 12 years. Gazprom seeks to boost gas production in Bangladesh in order to gain access to India’s rapidly growing market, the paper says. The Russian monopoly has been showing interest in this for many years. However, it is impossible to supply Russian pipeline gas to this market. According to Kapitonov, Gazprom is interested in working in Bangladesh to secure a presence in the strategic region given its future growth rates. Besides, the established ties in Bangladesh’s oil and gas sector could be useful when discussing future projects on LNG supplies to the country’s market. The presence in Bangladesh offers prospects with neighboring India, where the potential growth of the gas market looks much more attractive, he notes.