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- Press review: Will protests in Belarus continue and when will Russian oil industry recover
- Press review: Lukashenko wins sixth presidential vote and what do Beirut protesters want
Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, June 25, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Russia, Serbia deliberate US plan on Kosovo ahead of talks in Washington
The Trump administration plans to put forward its deal on Kosovo to Belgrade and Pristina at a meeting in Washington D.C. later this week. Its cornerstone is the so-called "Shenzhen formula," which stipulates the creation of an economic union between Serbia and Kosovo. This move takes its cue from a similar special zone in China, Kommersant writes. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic will fly to Washington D.C. after a meeting in the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin, who shared his advice and analysis on Kosovo ahead of the upcoming talks in the US, the Serbian leader said.
The talks in the US capital on Kosovo scheduled for June 27 were praised as a breakthrough. They are aimed not just at reviving the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue but also at laying the basis for normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina. The presidents and prime ministers of Serbia and Kosovo - Aleksandar Vucic with Ana Brnabic and Hashim Thaci with Avdullah Hoti have been invited to the meeting in the White House.
"The US obviously expects to author the formula for resuming Serbian-Kosovo dialogue in order to declare the start of normalizing ties between Belgrade and Pristina under its mediation. The key and most challenging settlement issues - the political ones - will apparently be left for the EU," a European diplomatic source told the newspaper. The Europeans will be able to clarify the intentions of Serbia and Kosovo ahead of the summit by Thursday. On that day, the Serbian president and Kosovo’s prime minister are scheduled to hold talks with the EU leadership in Brussels.
However, ahead of his visit to Washington D.C. the Serbian head of state’s contacts with the Russian leadership had much greater importance for Vucic. The talks with Putin in the Kremlin were held on June 23 and a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov took place in Belgrade on June 18. The two official visits focused on Kosovo and the upcoming negotiations in the US. So, the Serbian leader is coming to the US after receiving evaluations, advice and warnings from Moscow. Whether Vucic is ready to follow them will become clear as soon as he returns from the US, the newspaper says.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China, Russia bracing for SWIFT Iran-scenario embargo
An Iran-sanction-style financial blockade, like being switched off from the international payment network SWIFT - does not seem too far-fetched for major economic powers that find themselves clashing with Washington. Chinese officials have announced that Beijing should start really getting ready for this. Meanwhile, the Russian Finance Ministry is in upbeat mood, recalling that over the past six years of sanctions, Moscow has been building up its financial system. Obviously, Moscow does not believe in this gloomy outcome despite new threats by US Republican Congressmen to switch Russia off from SWIFT, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Many experts are also skeptical about this scenario, the newspaper says. "SWIFT is itself absolutely against these sanctions since the payment system could lose a huge number of clients because a contract on connecting to SWIFT is signed with each bank separately, not the country," Deputy Chairperson at Alpari center Natalya Milchakova explained. "In this case, the US could face severing ties with the EU or the US should impose its sanctions on SWIFT and threaten by switching off American banks." Iran conducts transactions through banks in other countries, but they don’t have such a big banking sector as do Russia or China, the expert noted.
Over the past six years of being under sanctions, Russia has undertaken a range of measures. In particular, the Central Bank established a national payment system known as Mir, stepped up international cooperation and actively developed the international market. However, experts declined to evaluate whether the measures were enough and Russia’s financial system was ready in case the US carried out its threats.
Kommersant: North Korea drops war plans against South, seeks dialogue
Pyongyang is halting preparations for military action against South Korea and is scaling back its propaganda campaign against Seoul. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally announced his surprise decision to abandon a military scenario against the South on Wednesday after a meeting with the country’s military leadership. Shortly after, North Korean media publications on South Korea changed their tone. Pyongyang’s reconciliation gestures are aimed at preserving the window of opportunities for dialogue with Seoul, which could be closed after South Korean President Moon Jae-in steps down and a new leader assumes power, who could talk with Pyongyang from the position of force, Kommersant writes.
The North Korean leader reinforced his reputation as an unpredictable politician by making another U-turn in relations with the South, the paper says. The latest Cold War between the two Koreas lasted for two weeks and ended as suddenly as it began. The conflict kicked off on June 6 when South Korea’s NGOs, created by North Korean defectors, sent anti-government leaflets to the North. Although the media attack ran counter to Seoul’s line towards normalizing ties with Pyongyang, the South Korean authorities failed to thwart it.
Meanwhile, it’s noteworthy that the speedy curtailing of ties between Seoul and Pyongyang came without Kim’s direct participation, according to the paper. The North Korean president met with his South Korean counterpart three times over the past two years. The latest steps by the North Korean leader show that he still seeks to maintain the window of opportunities for cooperation with the South given that Moon Jae-in has been demonstrating much greater patience towards his northern neighbor than his predecessors.
In May 2022, South Korea is due to hold a new presidential election, where a candidate from the conservative opposition could win. Thus, Seoul could return to the previous line towards containing Pyongyang. Given this, the North Korean leader apparently seeks to take advantage of the chance to foster ties with the South, which still exists now, but might disappear in two years, according to the newspaper.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Turkmenistan accuses US of fake news on coronavirus
Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry has dismissed a statement by the US Embassy in Ashgabat on the coronavirus in the Central Asian country as fake news. The US diplomatic mission earlier issued an advisory to US citizens in the country to observe safety measures and protect themselves from the coronavirus infection. The Turkmen authorities responded by shutting down the Ashgabat American Center and American Corners in Mary, Turkmenabat and Dashoguz.
Turkmenistan’s top authorities keep denying the presence of COVID-19 in the country, citing the effectiveness of its measures to prevent the infection, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Meanwhile, it is becoming harder to hide the spread of the coronavirus in Turkmenistan. Doctors on condition of anonymity told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about the coronavirus outbreak and that the situation was getting out of control. However, the authorities have not yet taken any steps.
Andrei Kazantsev, a research fellow at the MGIMO Center for International Studies, told the paper that Turkmenistan remained the world’s only country refusing to recognize the coronavirus outbreak on its soil. This is largely related to President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, who describes himself as a prominent specialist in medicine. "He is indeed a Doctor of Medicine and used to be a good dentist. It is believed that during his rule a very good medical system was created. So, recognizing any crisis in the healthcare sector would automatically deal a blow to Turkmenistan and Berdimuhamedow’s reputation. The country’s leadership obviously thinks so." In fact, the opposite thing is happening - now the world has developed a negative attitude towards those countries and leaders who are not serious about the epidemic, the expert said.
Meanwhile, Ashgabat is not afraid of spoiling relations by blaming the US for spreading fake news because it understands that there is not much to lose. "Under Donald Trump the US is steering clear due to its domestic social turmoil and the economy. Besides, their interest in Central Asia is declining," Kazantsev noted. The only blow could be dealt to the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, in which the US still has a political interest, seeing it as a project that bypasses Russia. However, the construction issue is unlikely to be solved soon due to other reasons, which are not related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Vedomosti: Russians, Americans unlikely to travel to Europe by late August
The European Union is drafting a plan on opening its borders starting July 1. An entry ban could remain in place for visitors from the United States, Brazil, Russia and India, where the biggest number of COVID-19 cases has been recorded, Vedomosti writes. According to the plan drawn up by the European Commission, the EU will open borders to travelers from nearly 50 countries, which have gotten the coronavirus infection spread under control. The list will be reviewed every two weeks and new countries could be added there if the situation improves.
The remaining entry ban for US citizens is a blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of Trump’s handling of the virus in the United States. Meanwhile, European countries could disagree with Brussels’ recommendations, Director of Europe Insight Andrei Kulikov told the newspaper. "Of course, countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are very interested in permitting international travel again, and as soon as possible. But I don’t think it will come to a conflict. Governments and relevant agencies strive to coordinate work so that the recommendations take into account the interests of the widest possible group of countries."
However, it is important that each country still has the right to impose anti-coronavirus restrictions such as a 14-day quarantine or medical control at airports, the expert noted. Here, the measures will differ regardless of the European Commission’s recommendations. As for Russia, the EU could cancel the entry ban by the end of summer, Kulikov said. "Some countries have already announced that they are waiting for tourists from Russia. But the optimistic scenario is possible only in one case: if the figures of new infections are on the decline here [in Russia] and there [in the EU]."