- Press review: Opposition reacts to Lukashenko’s inauguration and Russian-led drills excel
- Press review: The ‘all or nothing’ New START bid and Lukashenko’s hush-hush inauguration
- Press review: What Putin offered the world in UN speech and US itching to oust Maduro
- Press review: EU backs down on sanctions and Israel to normalize ties with Sudan
Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, July 23, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: UK blames Russia for attempts to undermine global world order
The United Kingdom has cooked up new accusations against Russia of allegedly trying to interfere in Western countries’ election processes. The British parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee published a report this week claiming that Moscow is not only meddling in British domestic politics, but also is seeking to undermine the rules based international order. Russian officials and experts in turn argue that these Russophobic accusations are far-fetched and believe that this report demonstrates the UK’s attempt to find itself in a changed modern world as well as search for a common enemy with the West, Izvestia writes.
According to experts, the British government had shelved the document’s publication for nearly one year and a half because the report mentioned Brexit, thus putting UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an unfavorable light. Disinformation, the use of 'trolls' for propaganda campaigns on the Internet and distortions in the coverage provided by Russian state-owned international broadcasters such as RT and Sputnik are on the list of accusations in the 50-page document. However, this report, like a dozen of similar others, lacks one but very important detail - evidence, the paper says.
The British MPs also voiced concerns over Russian businessmen who moved to the UK and many of whom allegedly maintain close relations with Russian authorities although some of them claim to belong to opposition circles. Meanwhile, the authors of the report say that Western countries can effectively counter Russia’s "aggressive action" through joint efforts and "a continuing international consensus" is needed against Moscow.
Program Director of Valdai International Discussion Club Timofei Bordachev notes that this report "reflects what accumulated and happened in British foreign policy, in relations with Russia and the EU - this is the continuation of the UK’s rather chaotic search for its place in the world." According to the expert, currently the United Kingdom is facing serious problems, and many among them are linked to the coronavirus pandemic. Furthermore, the British establishment seeks to bring back the practice used during the confrontation between the West and the Soviet Union. The current international environment is not in favor of the US and its allies, including the UK, so London seeks to take action.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan goads Greece to spook Haftar’s allies
Turkey is testing Greece’s "red lines" in the eastern Mediterranean region. Athens in turn condemned seismic exploration works by a Turkish vessel near a disputed maritime area as intervention and put its armed forces on standby. In response, Ankara rejected these claims. Experts believe that the Turkish leadership’s moves are linked to the Libyan conflict. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apparently seeks to "test" the reaction of his opponents, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The timing of Turkey’s operation is not a coincidence, said Jalel Harchaoui, a research fellow at the Netherlands-based Clingendael Institute. According to the expert, there is a link between Ankara’s steps and the latest moves of its regional opponent Egypt in the Libyan conflict. In June, Cairo, which supports Libyan National Army Commander Khalifa Haftar, put forward its initiative to iron out the military crisis in Libya. This month, after understanding that the Turkish-backed LNA opponents are unstoppable, Egypt warned that would send troops to its neighbor to protect regional security.
Ankara’s supposed ‘audience’ is both Greece and Egypt, Harchaoui noted. Athens and Cairo are in talks on the demarcation of an exclusive economic zone in the sea, which runs counter to Turkey’s position along the Mediterranean region’s borders. Ankara seeks to use its confrontational behavior as a way to bully Greece into being flexible in negotiations.
According to the expert, Russia is not expected to react to the maritime dispute. Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet made a strategic decision to directly join a lengthy war in Libya and ensure Haftar’s absolute victory, although there is such an opportunity.
Kommersant: Central Asia battles coronavirus pandemic
COVID-19 has hit the Central Asian region very hard. Russian military medics, who earlier helped Italy, Serbia, Armenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, were sent for the first time there. A plane from the Russian Defense Ministry transported doctors and humanitarian assistance consisting of medication and equipment to the tune of 150 mln rubles ($2.1 mln) to Kyrgyzstan. Hundreds of Russian doctors will be working in hospitals in Bishkek and Osh to treat coronavirus patients.
Although average population density in Kyrgyzstan is just 32 people per square kilometer, the coronavirus infection rate started rapidly climbing there, Kommersant writes. To date, more than 29,000 cases and 1,100 deaths have been registered in the country. As a comparison, in Moscow, where the average population density is more than 5,000 people per square kilometer and the population is at least twice as much as in entire Kyrgyzstan, some 600 new COVID-19 cases have been recorded. Meanwhile, Kyrgyzstan has recorded more than 1,000 cases. In June, official statements said that the situation in the Central Asian country was virtually critical.
Other Central Asian countries are also facing an uphill battle against coronavirus. The first COVID-19 case in the region was registered rather late - only on March 13, but by late June, the situation had sharply deteriorated. By July 22, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan had registered a total of 130,000 cases of the disease. Kazakhstan accounts for more than half of them, tallying up over 76,000 cases. Against this background, the authorities reinstated a national lockdown, which had been in force between mid-March and early May.
The best situation is now seen in Turkmenistan. The republic has not registered a single COVID-19 case. However, the authorities decided to close the main market in the capital in mid-July for sanitary measures and suspended train services until July 23. Cafes and restaurants were also shut down under preventive measures. Citizens were strongly advised to wear masks because of "an excessive amount of dust in the air." Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders, an international NGO, reported that in late March, the Turkmen authorities prohibited journalists to use the world "coronavirus" in publications and withdrew it from special booklets, which the Health Ministry sends to educational institutions, hospitals and offices.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russian gold heads out for export, not for reserves
Gold export from Russia in March-May saw an 11-fold surge compared with last spring to $4.2 bln and an 8-fold hike in terms of tonnes due to the increase in prices on precious metal and the Central Bank’s decision to suspend its purchases, according to research by the FinExpertiza international audit and consulting network, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Precious metals - primarily gold - are seen as a traditional safe asset during crises. Over the past years, the Russian Central Bank has been pumping up the share of gold in international reserves, but announced that it would stop purchasing gold on April 1. Experts believe that there are several reasons why the Central Bank stopped buying gold from domestic producers. The share of gold in reserves reached a rather high level (20%) and due to huge demand, the cost of the real metal was significantly higher than on its futures trading. Another possible reason is that the regulator helped producers to earn money.
According to chief analyst at TeleTrade Mark Goykhman, Russia produces nearly 330 tonnes of gold per year (as of 2019) and is ranked third in the world. "It’s impossible to sell that volume on the domestic market," he said. Until April 2020, the Central Bank was the main buyer. As of March 1, 2020, the regulator had 2,290 tonnes in its reserves. However, in the near future, the Central Bank is unlikely to resume massive gold purchases.
"This does not only allow, but also forces gold producers to increase the export of the precious metal. There is no point in restraining their activities in production and export. On the contrary, given the current environment, all parties would benefit. The country receives an inflow of foreign exchange revenues, to some extent partially replacing the decline in revenues from oil and gas. Exporters are significantly improving their sales, income and profits. Accordingly, in the foreseeable future, the sales of the precious metal abroad from Russia are likely to increase," the expert believes.
Izvestia: Retail online trade revenues nearly triple in Russia
The coronavirus spread gave a serious boost to developing retail online trade. This May, its volume grew 2.8 times higher than the same period last year, according to Russia’s official statistics. Retailers began actively entering online market. The demand in new domain names (most of them are names of famous brands) grew 60%. Some 37% domain buyers opened Internet shops, while 24% created promo sites, Izvestia writes.
During the lockdown, Russians got accustomed to online shopping, and accordingly the sales of food and snacks skyrocketed, the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s press service said. "If before the coronavirus spread, Internet trade was used as a convenient channel for purchasing large-sized goods, which are rarely in demand, during the pandemic people started actively buying goods on the Internet to satisfy their everyday needs," the ministry explained. However, after the coronavirus restrictions were lifted, online sales dropped, it noted.
President of the Association of Internet Trade Companies Artem Sokolov told Izvestia that the coronavirus situation drastically changed the landscape of online trade. "Right in front of our eyes, new forms of delivery were created, unique digital solutions for shopping in one click came into our lives via mobile apps, and the whole world was able to look at distance shopping not only from the point of view of convenience when shopping, but also from the point of view of security," he said. "The most convenient store is not the one located in a separate building, but on a smartphone in a person’s hands." The expert is sure that this trend will remain since millions of people wish to obtain essential necessities without leaving their home. Businesses will invest more resources into cultivating new technologies to satisfy high demand through Internet shopping.