Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, February 25, prepared by TASS
Media: Trump pays first visit to India as presidential campaign gains steam
US President Donald Trump is paying his first visit to India, which is set to become a major demonstration of support for the US leader abroad. During the tour, which comes as the US presidential race is gaining momentum, Trump is expected to win more points by striking a deal on supplying helicopters for the India Air Force to the tune of nearly $3 bln, Kommersant business daily writes.
Trump’s official visit to India has become an ideal background for his election campaign since the level of his support in India, the world’s second most populous country after China, exceeds 50%. Unlike many of Washington’s allies, India was able to avoid a serious confrontation and a sanctions battle with the US. Despite certain trade contradictions, bilateral relations are on the rise and the US remains India’s key trade partner.
Trump, who considers himself as an experienced negotiator, has come to India to convince the government led by Narendra Modi to freeze or even backpedal on a deal to purchase Russian weapons, Anton Fedyashin, a professor at American University in Washington D.C., said. "This will not happen, but now Donald Trump can always recall that he had warned Narendra Modi against closer ties with Russia."
The purchase of weapons is a national security issue for Indians, Tatyana Shaumyan, Director of the Center for Indian Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "They will buy them where advantages for them are seen... Military and technical ties with Russia were established more than half a century ago. I believe that India is absolutely not interested in toning down its ties."
The Indian National Congress opposition party has already criticized the government for letting Trump use this visit for his election campaign goals.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia, Turkey need EU’s help to cool off Idlib crisis
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced an international summit on Syria to discuss the situation in the Idlib Governorate, the site of two combat operations being carried out simultaneously by the Turkish military and Assad’s Russia-backed forces. The Anadolu news agency reported that Russian aviation had conducted a major bombing of areas beyond Damascus’ control.
Turkish media outlets, citing sources among the moderate opposition, claim that a total of 18 settlements in the Idlib and Aleppo Governorates had come under the airstrikes. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said these were retaliatory attacks, which targeted terrorists’ positions.
According to data from the conflict zone, Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces are not attacking Turkish troops, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Neither Moscow nor Ankara have confirmed the reports on these steps. Meanwhile, Turkey is in a violent confrontation with Assad’s forces.
Against this background, Erdogan announced that a summit on Syria would be held on March 5 in Istanbul, which is expected to bring together Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. When naming the exact date of the summit, Erdogan was apparently in a rush and this shows that Russian-Turkish dialogue is facing hurdles. Another sign that the situation is serious is that the talks will be mediated by France and Germany. "Russia and Turkey cannot achieve a compromise together anymore since the two countries’ interests clash in Idlib. That’s why they needed an international moderator," Russian International Affairs Council expert Yulia Kudryashova told the paper.
The leading European countries, which hold sufficient political weight are the best choice for a mediator because both Ankara and Moscow will listen to them, she noted. Besides, the European countries want to iron out the Idlib crisis because they fear that a new migration crisis could flare up. Another potential candidate for the moderator’s role is the US, but it does not hold a neutral stance.
Izvestia: Russian diplomat slams US as largest debtor to UN
The United States owes more than $1 bln in contributions to the United Nations’ budget, making it the biggest debtor, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva Gennady Gatilov said in an interview with Izvestia. Due to this, the UN is facing major hurdles in its daily operations with holding events and all this complicates its work. "This comes largely due to the US failure to meet its financial obligations," Gatilov told the paper.
The diplomat noted that this debt had been piling up for years. "This policy of both the current and the previous administration is carried out on a permanent basis and contributions are regularly underpaid," he pointed out.
Besides, the US fails to meet its obligations as the host of the UN headquarters because it refuses to issue visas to the delegations of certain states, Gatilov noted. "Unfortunately, the visa issue, and in a broader sense, the problem with US compliance with its obligations in hosting the UN keeps deteriorating. <...> We have raised the issue of moving some UN bodies from New York to alternative venues. Although no such decisions have been made, we see that most states understand our complaints and concerns."
Right now, it is impossible to move the UN headquarters from New York or hold the UN General Assembly’s sessions outside the US due to some budget-related reasons. Nevertheless, it would be realistic to move one of the UN bodies, such as the Disarmament Commission or the First Committee that debates disarmament issues, to Vienna or Geneva, "where the situation is more favorable," Gatilov noted.
The diplomat excoriated Washington’s failure to issue US visas to the representatives of certain countries as an attempt to crank up pressure on these countries. "This is a gross and direct violation of the principles and foundations of the UN’s activity," he stressed.
The US visa issuance dilemma has become a regular obstacle for holding events at the UN’s headquarters. During the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, 18 Russian delegates, including those participating in the United Nations High-level week in September, did not receive US visas.
Izvestia: Experts warn novel coronavirus could spread to Russia from Central Asia
The novel coronavirus is spreading from China by leaps and bounds. Europe is facing a major outbreak of the deadly disease as Italy has reported more than 230 infection cases and seven deaths. Experts told Izvestia that it was too early to speak about an epidemic in Europe, but this risk has significantly grown.
"The number of those ill outside China is rising steadily, by 10-15% per day on average," said Alexander Lukashev, Director of the Martsinovsky Institute of Medical Parasitology and Tropical Medicine. It’s difficult to judge whether the speed of the coronavirus’ spread depends on the climate, he noted.
For Russia, migrants from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan could pose a major threat, becoming a large source of the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, the scientist warned. These Central Asian states lack an effective surveillance system and reliable data, while the scale of migration is huge, he explained.
Tajikistan’s Healthcare and Social Protection Ministry reported that some 967 people who had come from China were quarantined as of February 13. In neighboring Uzbekistan, the quarantine has ended and the health ministry announced that no one had contracted the coronavirus.
Amid the coronavirus spread, a member of the State Duma (lower house of parliament) Healthcare Committee Tatyana Solomatina has suggested checking all passengers arriving in Russia by planes both from China and other countries.
Vedomosti: Souring prices trigger closure of Russian sugar plants
Three sugar mills in Russia with the total capacity of 150,000 tonnes won’t operate in August 2020-July 2021 due to low sugar prices, Vedomosti writes citing Chairman of the Board of Directors at the Russian Union of Sugar Producers (Soyuzrossakhar) Andrei Bodin. This concerns Bashkiria’s Meleuzovsky mill (part of Prodimex farming group), the Nurlatsky mill in Tatarstan (owned by Agro-invest group) and the Tovarkovsky mill in the Tula Region (owned by Rosselkhoznadzor).
All three mills produced nearly 1 mln tonnes of sugar beet in the 2019-2020 season, accounting for some 2% of this commodity countrywide, according to the Russian Union of Sugar Producers. The price level over the past three years has not permitted the plants to maintain a profitability level, Bodin notes.
During the 2016-2017 season, nationwide sugar production exceeded domestic consumption. Russia’s production growth coincided with the slump in global sugar prices, which became lower than the product cost in Russia. As a result, sugar was not sold out, leading to an excess, which crashed domestic prices.
Russia’s plants need to increase the efficiency of their production, reduce spending and develop logistics, while farmers should downsize sugar beet harvesting, Bodin explained.
On February 6, the Russian Union of Sugar Producers predicted that during this season, Russia’s sugar production would hit 7.7 mln tonnes, a record high for the country.