Press review: Moscow’s ‘Navalny’ medical council offer and Lukashenko’s expanded crackdown / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: Moscow’s ‘Navalny’ medical council offer and Lukashenko’s expanded crackdown

Press review: Moscow’s ‘Navalny’ medical council offer and Lukashenko’s expanded crackdown

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, September 7th, prepared by TASS

Izvestia: Russia proposes holding international medical council on Navalny’s condition

The Russian medical community is awaiting the reaction of German doctors to their request to provide information about the medical state of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who Germany claims has been poisoned, and their offer to hold an international medical council. Over the weekend, Leonid Roshal who heads the National Medical Chamber, proposed that Germany create a joint expert team. The German Medical association did not respond to Izvestia’s request for comment. The German Foreign Ministry stated that Berlin had given the go-ahead to Russia’s request for cooperation on Navalny, but, the doctors have not made any final conclusions on Navalny’s health yet. Meanwhile, Russian MPs are in favor of establishing a medical council, considering it the right solution under current conditions.

Russia’s former chief sanitary doctor and current member of the Russian State Duma (lower house) Gennady Onishchenko told Izvestia that he had put forward the idea to hold a Russian-German medical council in the first days following the incident.

"The only possible and correct solution on this issue is to hold a normal medical council, and in Navalny’s case, it is objectively necessary, as all the information on his main symptoms received during the first days, when he was on the brink, remains in Russia," Onishchenko said.

He noted that the names of Navalny’s doctors had not been mentioned in the press. The lawmaker said that this points to the political nature of the blogger’s treatment.

So far, Germany is acting the same way as Theresa May did during the Skripal saga, German political analyst Alexander Rahr told the paper. He added that Russia is correct in offering the Germans such an option, so that doctors can create a working group and compare all diagnoses. The expert hoped that Berlin would meet Moscow halfway; otherwise, it would be unclear why Germany does not wish to share information with Russian medics.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko cracking down on protest leaders

Active protests demanding the resignation of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko have been dragging on for a month already, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. However, violent mass arrests and selective detentions of local leaders have failed to put the brakes on the demonstrations. As a result, the Belarusian government has begun to crack down on protests leaders, forcing them to leave the country.

It was reported on Saturday that former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s authorized representative Olga Kovalkova had essentially been deported from Belarus. During a press conference in Warsaw, she said that she was brought to the Polish border from jail and released on neutral territory. A similar thing happened to Tikhanovskaya herself earlier.

On Sunday, Belarusians took to the streets once again demanding Lukashenko’s resignation, an end to repression and violence, along with the release of all political prisoners.

When commenting on the situation in Belarus, experts point out that the "secret" to the surge in the mass demonstrations is the government’s brutality. "With its actions, the government is reinforcing the social base of protests," sociologist Vasily Naumov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The expert noted that Lukashenko is a vindictive individual, and the protesters realize that. The demonstrators are not throwing in the towel, because they understand that if the rallies are subdued, "an unbelievable scale of repressions would begin," and Belarusians would see "an incredible level of violence." According to the expert, the demonstrations may wane if people find other effective ways to protest. For example, after the crackdown on IT companies supporting the protesters, a wave of attacks on state government websites was documented. Another notable thing is the rise of local dissent. Entire buildings, streets and districts unite daily to put up the national colors torn down by law enforcement, and taking MPs to task. "Lukashenko practically has no chances now to remain president," Naumov suggested, as the inevitable economic difficulties would only fire up street protests.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US employing Ukraine and Georgia in maneuvers near Russia’s borders

On Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during the closing ceremony of the International Army Games 2020 that NATO "aims to militarize the Black Sea region." In addition, Russia’s top brass reported that on Friday, September 4, three B-52H strategic fighter jets belonging to the US Air Force had been spotted near Russia’s southern borders. Four Russian jets - Su-27s and Su-30s - were sent to intercept the US bombers over the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

A former Russian air defense officer who preferred to remain anonymous told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that US jets had never been spotted over the Sea of Azov before. "The situation is especially serious because in addition to the goals listed by the Pentagon, the American bombers, using cover provided by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, possibly exercised an electronic launch of missiles or bombs on objects in Crimea and southern Russia," he said.

The expert also noted that a group of American and British reconnaissance aviation had been detected in the vicinity of Crimea along with the US-Ukrainian group. "The Russian army has an effective means to deter NATO’s aviation and land groups," Russian military expert Yuri Netkachev told the paper. "However, it is concerning that the alliance is concentrating its forces on the territory of post-Soviet states, namely in Ukraine and Georgia. Secondly, by expanding the number and quality of their weaponry, NATO compels [Russia] to take corresponding measures, which to some extent leads to an arms race. However, this is not Russia’s choice," Netkachev concluded.

Kommersant: Nord Stream 2 might be put on hold once again

Berlin is trying to protect the joint Russian-German gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2 in the wake of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s harsh statements over the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Both Merkel and Germany’s top diplomat Heiko Maas stated that Berlin’s reaction should not come down to the pipeline’s fate. However, there are calls even within Merkel’s party to suspend the project for two years, especially because this decision would not affect Germany’s energy security in the near future. In 2021, at least, Russia’s Gazprom will be able to supply gas even without the pipeline.

In all likelihood, Gazprom will enter 2021 without Nord Stream 2. This should not be a significant problem for the company, and it will be able to fulfill its contracts. According to Kommersant, Gazprom’s overall gas supply capacity to Europe (not counting Turkey, Finland and the Baltics) comes to about 300 mln cubic meters. This includes the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, the Yamal-Europe pipeline and TurkStream’s second leg. Besides, the company has a contract with Ukraine on the supply of 45 bln cubic meters a year. Furthermore, the company can take about 45-50 mln cubic meters a day from its repositories in Europe. The peak capacity in accordance with EU contracts reaches about 463 mln cubic meters, which Gazprom can fulfill successfully even without Nord Stream 2. What’s more, Gazprom has the opportunity to buy additional production capacity from Ukraine, Maria Belova, an expert with Vygon Consulting, told Kommersant.

According to the expert, Nord Stream 2 was planned to be launched no earlier than spring 2021, so the situation with Navalny won’t be able to impact the project in any significant manner.

On the other hand, Kommersant’s sources within the industry fear that Gazprom’s ability to supply Europe with gas without Nord Stream 2 might discourage German politicians from defending the project under such disadvantageous circumstances. "One delay leads to another, and Angela Merkel will leave the chancellor’s position in 2021, so suspending the project for even a year may turn out to be very dangerous," one of the sources told the paper.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian energy official says oil demand needs 2-3 years to recover

About two or three years are needed for oil demand to recover to the pre-pandemic level, Russian Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. According to him, the Ministry of Energy expects that oil demand might recover to 90-95% of the pre-crisis level rather fast, however, further recovery is likely to slow down.

The ministry hopes that international flights and tourist flow will recover fully, which would require 1-3 mln barrels of oil on a daily basis. This can happen if the global economy grows and if the demand goes up in Asia and Latin America, he added.

"The pandemic has significantly lowered the demand for traditional energy sources, simply forcing people to stay home," Sorokin said, commenting on the pandemic’s impact on the economic situation. "It has shown that the majority of things can be done online, instead of holding personal meetings. The majority of work trips, face-to-face talks and business travel can successfully be replaced with video conferences without a loss in quality. Naturally, this will affect the demand for energy sources, and the recovery process will take a while."

When asked about the prospects regarding alternative energy sources, Sorokin said: "So far, the infrastructure for alternative energy has not been fully established. There is no system of reservoirs, and there are no options on how to store energy received from renewable sources. For example, power lines are not always ready to receive a large amount of electric cars."

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