Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, July 31, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Detention of Russians in Belarus might force Moscow to keep border closed
Russia may postpone opening its borders with Belarus over the recent detention of its citizens in Minsk, the State Duma told Izvestia. The restrictions could have been lifted in August, but now this issue might remain open. So far, there is not even a clear understanding of what the 33 Russians are being accused of, the Federation Council noted, adding that if the case goes to court, Moscow will consider the possibility of requesting the extradition of Russian citizens. However, experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that it may not come to this. There is a chance that both countries will agree on the return of these Russian citizens through diplomatic channels.
Moscow wants to find out what happened just as much as Belarus does, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov told Izvestia. "So far, the accusations are vague. The Russians arrived in a group, they had camouflage uniforms, and they did not drink. So are these sufficient grounds for charges of organizing mass riots?" the senator said.
Extradition would be possible after the trial, and in the event that a criminal case against the 33 detainees is initiated in the Russian Federation and a corresponding request is received from the Russian law enforcement agencies, said Paul Kalinichenko, an expert at the Kutafin Moscow State Law University when speaking to Izvestia. However, Russia has no claims against these citizens, so it is better to resolve this issue through diplomatic channels, the lawyer noted
In order to minimize losses and not deepen the crisis with Moscow, the Belarusian leadership should take a break and invite representatives of the Russian special services to Minsk, political scientist Vladimir Evseev told Izvestia. "The Belarusian side has to present the information it has, without distorting the facts, so that both countries make an objective decision," the expert said.
According to the expert, the aggravation in relations with Russia may play into the hands of Lukashenko's political opponents. "Lukashenko's actions in the detention of the Russian citizens may provoke a response. This can lead to a decline in the domestic social conditions,” Evseev pointed out.
Some detainees are not only Russian passport holders but simultaneously have Ukrainian citizenship as well, which Moscow does not recognize, saying only their extradition to Russia is possible. The biggest mistake that would lead to a serious deterioration in relations between Moscow and Minsk will be the extradition of the detainees to Ukraine, the political scientist stressed.
Kommersant: Trump drops idea of dragging China into in arms control talks
The biggest negotiations between various government delegations from Russia and the United States in several years have come to an end in Vienna. The two parties discussed the issues of strategic stability and tried to hammer out "rules of conduct" in the new era. The last day of the talks was marked by a small sensation. The United States, it seems, no longer insists on China's involvement in arms control, Kommersant wrote. This could pave the way for the extension of the New START deal (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), the newspaper wrote.
This is a new approach by Washington. Previously, American officials have repeatedly insisted that further negotiations on limiting nuclear weapons should be conducted only with the participation of China. This was a key condition for their consent to Russia's proposal to extend New START, which expires in 2021, for another five years. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Kommersant that joining the arms control negotiations should be China’s "sovereign, and independent decision."
Whether the sudden change in Washington’s mood affected the talks in Vienna, remains to be seen, Kommerant wrote. On Thursday, Moscow generally praised the meeting’s results.
Andrey Baklitsky, an analyst at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies, stressed that President Trump's statements "must be treated with caution, not all of them are being actually implemented." "But in general, the task of reaching some kind of compromise will shift from impossible to simply very difficult," Baklitsky added.
Izvestia: Russia vows to support IT sector after US tech giants get grilled on Capitol Hill
The State Duma has no plans to summon Russian IT giants, the way US lawmakers just did with Silicon Valley. On Wednesday, Congress grilled the corporate leadership of the world's largest tech companies - Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon for almost six hours. The State Duma Committee on Information Policy told Izvestia that on the contrary, Russia plans to support the IT industry, even going as far as giving it a tax benefit. At the same time, according to experts, the problem of competition in the high-tech industry is also a pressing one for Russia. At present, 80-85% of the domestic IT market belongs to 10 giants.
"We hold that IT enterprises in this difficult period need first of all support, and not pressure or tough cross-examinations. It seems that now is not the time when businesses should be subjected to any kind of suppressive measures. On the contrary, we need to help them as much as possible to keep them afloat," Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technology and Communications Alexander Khinshtein told Izvestia.
To support the IT industry, last week, the State Duma adopted legislation on the tax maneuver. According to the document, from 2021 the income tax for IT companies will be slashed from 20% to 3%. However, this does not let the tech giants off the hook on antimonopoly legislation, Khinshtein stressed.
Meanwhile, the volume of the domestic IT market comes to 1.5 trillion rubles ($20.4 bln), and 80-85% belongs to 10 giants, with the remainder shared by 89,000 companies, said Evgeny Lifshits, head of the Cybersecurity Agency, and a member of the expert council of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, when speaking with the newspaper. This imbalance does not give small innovative companies a chance. He sees the solution in the development of technoparks, which could fulfill a large volume of orders for the state.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US dollar faces new decline ahead of elections
Even with the injection of trillions of dollars into the US economy, a quick recovery of the world's leading economy is failing. At the end of the Q2, America’s GDP plunged by almost 33% in annual terms and by 9.5% in quarter-on-quarter terms, the US Department of Commerce said. Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that oil prices might rise, but the Russian economy might not benefit from it, as the ruble always tends to weaken against the dollar.
The pandemic had a serious impact on the inflation rate in the US. Consumer prices in June rose by 0.6%, which was the largest increase since August 2012. Inflation in the United States, including food inflation, is a consequence of the extremely soft policy of the Federal Reserve System, aimed at stimulating the economy, BCS investment director Konstantin Cherepanov told the newspaper.
The greenback is falling against all key world currencies, including the euro, experts noted. At the same time, economists doubt that Russia can benefit from this situation. "The increase in oil prices due to a weaker dollar does not lead to higher incomes for Russian exporters and the budget. In this case, the rise in the price of a barrel in dollars is compensated by its depreciation in rubles, and ruble-based revenues from the export of energy resources are not growing," Chief analyst at TeleTrade Mark Goykhman said.
In addition, the Russian currency is significantly weaker than the greenback. Therefore, even if the dollar weakens, the ruble will not start to rise against it, Head of the analytical department at AMarkets Artem Deev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Some weakening of the exchange rate may lead to an increase in oil prices, but the Russian ruble, due to the weakness of the Russian economy, will always tend to decline against the dollar and the euro," Chief analyst at Alor Broker Alexei Antonov told the newspaper.
Kommersant: Russian tourists test international air travel
Despite the opening of international flights on August 1, the attempt to fly out of Russia at the closest dates will be expensive and associated with risks, Kommersant wrote. Ticket prices for next available flights are significantly higher than in the second half of the month, and the schedule continues to be adjusted. For example, Aeroflot customers massively reported cancellations of some flights to Istanbul. In addition, the list of three Russian cities with open international air traffic, according to Kommersant, is not yet planned to be expanded.
Russia will open international flights with Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Tanzania on August 1, but those Russians who are in a hurry to travel abroad in early August will have to overpay significantly. First it will be possible to fly to Istanbul, Ankara, London, and Zanzibar (Tanzania), and flights will be available only from Moscow, St. Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don. On August 10, direct flights will open to the most popular Turkish resorts Antalya, Bodrum, and Dalaman.
Given that after arriving in the UK, tourists will have to spend two weeks in quarantine, and Tanzania is still an exotic destination, the main share of foreign flights will be to Turkey. But there are already problems with them, Kommersant wrote. Ticket aggregator Tutu.ru reported that some airlines began to change the previously announced schedule and cancel flights in early August. According to Kommersant, there are many messages on social networks about cancelled Aeroflot's flights from Moscow to Istanbul and back. Aeroflot might want to maximize aircraft occupancy in order to increase profitability of flights, experts told the newspaper.
Flying abroad immediately is also expensive. Ticket prices in the first half of August are significantly higher than in the second, according to Tutu.ru. Thus, the price tag for a flight from Moscow to Istanbul in the first week of August starts from 26,000 rubles ($354.75) for some earlier dates, and for later dates - 10,000-12,000 rubles ($136-163).