Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, May 13, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Oil market might re-balance itself by the end of the year
By the end of the year, the oil market might re-balance itself, as excess stocks will continue to be reduced, with the price of Brent crude potentially reaching $40, Izvestia reported. Russia’s oil major Rosneft may сut back its investment program by 200 bln rubles (about $2.7 mln) as a result of previous decisions to shrink production, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin said regarding the outcome of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. According to Sechin, this is a necessary move to maintain the oil producer’s financial and economic stability.
Putin and Sechin discussed maintaining an optimal volume of investment during 2020, with the head of Rosneft admitting that the company will be forced to cut back some of its capital expenditure due to the current situation on the global oil market and the decisions made to decrease production. The Rosneft chief executive stressed that a milder policy of bank lending might improve the position of the company, its contractors and suppliers. Besides, Sechin asked Putin to postpone Rosneft’s tax payments in the field of geological exploration. He also stressed that transport tariffs and their adjustment to current oil prices remain a key issue. The Russian leader promised to discuss those issues in detail.
Russian Senator Vladimir Dzhabarov told Izvestia that the oil industry needs support during such a difficult time, taking into account the situation in the world, the new OPEC+ deal and the drop in oil prices. He stressed that Putin’s focus on the oil industry is crucial in these conditions.
Kommersant: CIS jointly combating COVID-19 pandemic, says Russian top diplomat
On Tuesday, the foreign ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) held a video conference, during which they discussed the COVID-19 pandemic. During the press conference on the outcomes of the video call, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Kommersant that despite the lack of reports on the joint combating of COVID-19 by CIS states, the commonwealth is working together to fight the pandemic.
There are few reports about any collective steps made by the CIS to combat the spread of the disease due to the different approaches taken by various member states, Kommersant notes. For example, Turkmenistan claims that there are no cases of COVID-19 in the country. Tajikistan used the same approach earlier, however, in late April, it began to report cases of the disease, with the total number of people infected reaching 661 as of May 12. Meanwhile, Belarus refuses to impose strict quarantine measures despite nearly 25,000 recorded cases and about 150 deaths, even holding a Victory Day parade amid the epidemic.
When asked by Kommersant whether a common approach is possible when each member state has a different policy regarding the coronavirus pandemic, Lavrov said a special coronavirus working group had been created within the CIS Coordination Council on Sanitary Protection of Territories from Infectious Diseases. The working group has put together special recommendations to fight the pandemic, which will be considered at the CIS Council of Heads of Government on May 29. The Russian foreign minister dismissed Kommersant’s claims that CIS states did not have a coordinated approach to this issue. "I think that these steps are rather serious. Perhaps, not much is known about them, but what is important here is the actual task at hand, not the publicity," Lavrov stated.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Syrian MP says Kremlin cannot dictate its will to Damascus
Warning signs have appeared in relations between Russia and Syria, Nezavisimaya Gazeta revealed. Prominent Syrian MP Khaled Al-Aboud stressed in an emotional post on Facebook that the Kremlin cannot dictate its will to the Syrian government, as Russia’s political future depends on Syria.
This statement came as a reaction to multiple reports in the Arab media claiming that Russia is considering unseating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Another triggering statement was made by Russian diplomat Aleksandr Aksenenok earlier, who said in an essay published by the Russian International Affairs Council that Damascus lacks foresight and flexibility when it comes to political affairs.
Al-Aboud claimed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was the one who allowed Putin to become a major international player. He stressed that Syria aims to develop relations with Iran, not with Russia, noting that if needed, Damascus can lower the priority of its relations with Moscow. The Syrian lawmaker claimed that the Russian military campaign in Syria was only needed to avoid US intervention.
The Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported that other Syrian MPs have asked Al-Aboud to retract his statement and apologize, however, he refused to do so, noting that his opinion does not reflect the official position of the Syrian government.
Independent Syrian political analyst Mahmoud Al-Hamza told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the Syrian ruling elite had a negative reaction to the reports in the media on the souring of relations between Russia and Syria. In this regard, officials in Damascus used Al-Aboud in order to inform the Russian government of their position. Al-Hamza noted that the threats made against Russia sound strange in this situation, yet, anything can be expected from Damascus. He noted that currently military activity had ceased, while conflict situations began to arise between Russia and Syria, and Russia and Iran, who used to be allies during the war.
Izvestia: Venezuelan opposition leader Guaido may lose international support
Due to the scandal caused by the failed coup against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with the aid of Colombian militants and US contractors, leader of the Venezuelan opposition Juan Guaido may lose the trust of Venezuelan citizens and the support of international players, experts interviewed by Izvestia noted. The paper claims that Guaido’s position is precarious even in Washington.
In the course of the failed operation planned for May 3, American contractors and Colombian militants sought to enter Venezuela by sea, reach Caracas, kidnap Maduro, and bring him to the US. Guaido’s advisors Sergio Vergara and Juan Jose Rendon were among the signature parties of the staged operation, as revealed by Maduro. They were forced to resign. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan opposition leader has not spoken to the press since the failed coup.
Ronal Rodriguez, a Colombian political analyst, told Izvestia that when faced with an authoritarian power, Guaido was forced to use the same means as the regime, in this way delegitimizing his own democratic claims.
The expert assumed that the US, Colombia and some European states who expressed support for Guaido previously may abandon him in the wake of this coup, as building democracy through armed intervention violates the norms of international law.
Jesus Castello Molleda, a political analyst with the Venezuelan University of Rafael Urdaneta, also told Izvestia that Guaido’s image had suffered, as he failed to act in the same vein as his supporters.
Kommersant: Pavel Durov shuts down TON blockchain project after US court ruling
Telegram founder Pavel Durov announced that his Telegram Open Network (TON) blockchain project, which raised $1.7 bln in investments, had been shut down after a US court ruling declaring that Grams (TON blockchain currency) cannot be distributed not only in the US, but globally. The US Securities and Exchange Commission won the legal battle against Durov’s TON, barring Telegram from launching TON or distributing its gram tokens.
"This court’s decision implies that other countries don’t have the sovereignty to decide what is good and what is bad for their own citizens. If the US suddenly decided to ban coffee and demands coffee shops in Italy be closed because some American might go there — we doubt anyone would agree," Durov said on his Telegram channel.
Vladimir Smerkis, co-founder of TokenBox, a multi-fund of cryptocurrencies, and one of TON’s investors, told Kommersant that the situation is worse than expected. "This is sad news. I believed until the last moment that Pavel [Durov] would fight and attempt to implement this project in other jurisdictions, and that the investors’ money would be used to carry out TON, and not just be used for Telegram," he stated, adding that there were alternative ways for the platform to develop.
Smerkis noted that the investors are now faced with three choices: take the money they poured into it back, taking into account that 28% of the investments had already been spent, leave them in the form of credit for Telegram, or sue the company. He told Kommersant that several investors are planning to take this matter to court.