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- Press review: How hard has Russian GDP been hit and Kiev still seeking NATO, EU membership
Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, May 22, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Looming US exit from Open Skies Treaty may bring down New START
Moscow is awaiting an official notice from Washington on its decision to pull out of the Treaty on Open Skies. Until it arrives, retaliatory actions will not be taken, the Russian Foreign Ministry told Izvestia. According to the terms of the agreement, the official withdrawal from the treaty will happen six months after the US officially notifies other participants. Meanwhile, diplomats and experts interviewed by the newspaper agree that Washington’s looming exit from the treaty is another step towards the collapse of the international arms control system. The New START Treaty, which expires in 2021, could be next.
"The agreement was in line with the course towards strengthening trust and security measures. And trust is now needed more than ever, since its lack thereof is close to complete. Washington may be content with it, but in general I don’t see any benefit from the collapse of the system of international agreements for the United States," Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN Office and other International Organizations in Geneva Alexander Alimov told Izvestia.
According to Chairman of the Russian Public Council for International Cooperation and Public Diplomacy under the Russian Civic Chamber Sergey Ordzhonikidze, the current US administration is working to bring down all international arms limitation treaties. "From the point of view of the security of international relations, this will be a big mistake by the US leadership. This step will become a harbinger of a new arms race," the diplomat told Izvestia, adding that the treaty is closely related to the New START deal, which is also now in question.
Meanwhile, Valdai Club Expert Richard Weitz told the newspaper that Moscow may also withdraw from the deal. However, Russia will then lose the opportunity to monitor US military bases in Europe.
Izvestia: Russia, Turkey fail to agree on launching air travel amid pandemic
Moscow and Ankara have not yet agreed on specific dates for resuming flights, the Russian Embassy in the Turkish capital told Izvestia. The diplomatic mission emphasized that direct flights depend on the epidemiological situation in both countries. Meanwhile, Turkish Minister of Tourism and Culture Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told the newspaper that the country was ready to restore flights to Russia in mid-July, and also intended to abolish the two-week quarantine requirement for Russians. Representatives of the tourism industry told Izvestia that they expect international travel to open in August.
Ersoy also explained to Izvestia that all guests from Russia arriving in Turkey will be asked to provide a certificate confirming that they are not infected with COVID-19. If a tourist does not have such certificate, a test can be done at the airport. The minister also noted that all provinces of the country, including Antalya and Istanbul, would be open to Russians.
The Russian Embassy in Ankara told Izvestia that it is too early to talk about the exact timing of resuming air travel between both countries. The diplomatic mission stated that Turkey still has no domestic air service. In additional, no specific decisions on international air travel have been made yet. "In practice, it seems, resuming flights, and restoring tourist flow will depend on the development of the pandemic in our countries and on their willingness to send and receive tourists," the embassy explained.
Vice President of the Russian Union of Travel Industry Yuri Barzykin believes that Turkey will be open to Russians in August. "Even tourist regions within Russia are still closed and will open only by June-July. Foreign tourism won’t start earlier than August," the commentator told Izvestia.
In addition, Director of the Association of Russian Tour Operators Maya Lomidze noted that is not necessarily safe enough to resume tourism in Turkey right now. The country has detected 152,000 coronavirus cases, which is more than in any other country in the Middle East, the newspaper pointed out.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Donbass expects hostilities to re-ignite
Kiev is trying to initiate an extraordinary emergency video conference of the Minsk trilateral contact group due to a serious exacerbation of the situation in Donbass. The Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics have both recently accused Kiev of shelling and announced that they would put their troops on full alert. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that the situation has dramatically worsened both diplomatically and in the conflict zone in Donbass.
Head of the unrecognized Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin said that on May 1, the situation on the contact line had deteriorated. According to him, armed Ukrainian groups actively used weapons prohibited by the Minsk accords. He ordered the republic’s troops to be fully operational in case of further aggression by Kiev. President Vladimir Zelensky of Ukraine, in turn, said that Russia held sway over the unrecognized republics and therefore should deter them from any offensive action.
Political analyst Pyotr Oleshchuk noted that Zelensky had already tried to solve the problem. In early December, the Normandy Four summit was held for the first time since 2016. And although the Ukrainian side was able to seize the initiative to some extent, the settlement depends on Russia, the expert believes.
A Ukrainian military expert, who wished to remain anonymous, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the combat readiness of the republics is "Russia's reaction to the position of the Ukrainian delegation at the Minsk talks." "The Ukrainian delegation under Zelensky holds the same positions as Poroshenko: first, withdrawing troops, eliminating the republics, fully restoring Ukraine’s jurisdiction in the pre-war territory, and controlling the border, then, elections and a political settlement," the source said.
Meanwhile, the situation is becoming heated at the diplomatic level, the newspaper noted. The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized Ukraine’s position. In turn, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow was interfering in Ukraine’s internal affairs.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China mulls over response to US economic pressure
Sessions of the National People’s Congress and advisory body have started in China. These meetings, postponed due to the pandemic, should demonstrate that the virus has almost been defeated and the situation is normalizing, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. However, the Chinese economic recession in the first quarter and Washington’s measures to curb its exports and foreign investment have become an even more serious challenge for the Communist Party leadership.
The economic fallout is expected to dominate the meetings’ agenda, as well as accusations against Beijing made by Washington. Just before the meetings started in China, the US Senate had passed a bill to punish companies listed on US exchanges that violate reporting rules in the US. The measure is directed primarily against Chinese companies, the newspaper wrote. Over 150 such enterprises with a capitalization of over $1.2 trillion are registered in the United States. The bill, which should be approved by the White House and the House of Representatives, could be an obstacle for Chinese capital coming into the US.
According to President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University Wang Jisi, the US and China were always economic rivals, but now they are moving towards a full-scale confrontation on all fronts. And there is less and less space to find a compromise.
Director of the Institute of the Far East at the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexey Maslov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the Chinese leadership decided to intensify export-import operations, which can be seen as a response to attacks on China’s position by the US and other Western countries. "I think Europe will not support American pressure on China, since it needs China's investment and technology. Therefore, relations between China and the EU will develop contrary to Washington’s wishes," Maslov concluded.
Kommersant: Russia’s economic figures during lockdown may offer some surprises
The decline in Russia's manufacturing sector in April 2020 in annual terms amounted to 6.6%, which is comparable to the decline during the 2015 crisis, but significantly lower than expected, Kommersant wrote. The macroeconomic forecast presented by Russia’s Economic Development Ministry to the government included a larger recession in April — a 5% annual GDP decline with a further recovery to 2019 levels by the first half of 2022. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the country’s economy might be more modest, but may last longer than expected a month ago, the newspaper wrote.
Russia’s Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov, who presented the macroeconomic forecast for 2020-2023, stated that the ministry had expected a slightly larger drop in industrial production. At the same time, state statistics service Rosstat’s April figures may be adjusted. The agency collected them under extremely unusual conditions. However, even if the April figures are corrected, the May numbers are unlikely to be much worse, Kommersant wrote. The absence of a total pandemic in Moscow, the epicenter of large industrial production, as well as preserved budget expenditures help Russia’s GDP and industrial production, and also explain the general improvement in expectations.
"By the end of April, relaxed restrictions on people’s mobility and economic activity had begun, and then intensified in May. This factor will support the recovery of production. On the other hand, the decline in oil production and demand for a number of other commodities will begin in May. Thus, the May results may turn out to be worse than April’s, but not too significantly (by 0.5-1.5 percentage points)," Vladimir Salnikov from the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Range Forecasting told the newspaper.