Press review: Armenian-Azeri conflict heats up and Trump's Supreme Court pick woes / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: Armenian-Azeri conflict heats up and Trump's Supreme Court pick woes

Press review: Armenian-Azeri conflict heats up and Trump's Supreme Court pick woes

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, September 28th, prepared by TASS

Media: Conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh re-enters hot phase

Armenia and Azerbaijan are in dire need of mediators, namely Russia, in order to resolve a new conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, experts and politicians told Izvestia commenting on the resumption of combat actions on the contact line in the disputed region. The efforts to iron out the problem in the framework of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe over the past 26 years have failed to yield results. The clashes between the Armenian and Azerbaijani forces broke out for the second time in the past six months. Last time tensions boiled over Nagorno-Karabakh in mid-July, but the latest deterioration, which began on Sunday morning, turned out to be more serious. The sides have reported about casualties among the military and civilians, while the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders have de facto declared war and started mobilizing citizens, Izvestia writes.

According to Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on CIS affairs, Eurasian integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov, Russia should play a key role here as a mediator. "We have good relations with both parties. This issue needs to be sorted out immediately. The conflict can be resolved if two presidents (of Azerbaijan and Russia) and one prime minister (of Armenia) sit down at the negotiating table. Then this problem can be settled. In my opinion, peacekeepers are needed on the contact line," Kalashnikov told the newspaper.

Director of the Institute of Peacekeeping Initiatives and Conflictology Denis Denisov noted that Russia should offer new alternative mechanisms of settlement. "In my view, a security zone should be created and in other words, peacekeepers are needed. Otherwise, every three or six months we will see new shelling," the political scientist pointed out.

Experts share the opinion that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement is in a deadlock and a fragile status quo could turn into a large-scale disaster at any moment. Therefore, Yerevan and Baku should start negotiations as soon as possible in order to map out a long-term reconciliation plan with the help of a mediator.

Senior research fellow at the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO University Nikolai Silayev told Vedomosti that several scenarios were highly likely in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. "If Azerbaijan seeks to take revenge for the events in the Tovuz region, where Armenia established control over one of the border checkpoints, then the situation could result in a slight change in the contact line in Baku’s favor," the expert believes. In this case, an early de-escalation of the conflict will follow. If this is an attempt at a large-scale offensive, then the parties will return to a full-scale war, the expert noted.

In case Armenia’s forces launch a counter-offensive, the situation could develop in different ways, including with the full-scale military involvement of Turkey, he said. Meanwhile, Russia cannot be involved in the conflict in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization as Armenia is also its member-state, Silayev pointed out. In his view, Russia will avoid being engaged in the conflict because Moscow sincerely seeks to stop combat actions.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Tensions exacerbate in Belarus after Lukashenko’s inauguration

Belarusian authorities declared at the United Nations’ tribune that they managed to quash a color revolution. Local human rights activists believe that it is early to make such a statement because the protests in the country have not stopped while repressions are gaining momentum, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. This Sunday saw the 50th day of the Belarusian protests. Minsk keeps insisting that the protests were orchestrated by the foreign forces, although no evidence to substantiate this claim has been provided, the paper says.

Alexander Lukashenko, who managed to strengthen his positions lately, has begun repressions. After placing all protest leaders behind the bars, the authorities started clamping down on those who help protesters and inform the public about the events. The authorities are also detaining all those who could even claim the status of a protest leader.

The unprecedented number of security forces on the streets of Minsk, the efforts to block traffic and detentions, as well as the rainy and windy weather did not prevent protesters from gathering for a rally against Lukashenko’s secret inauguration on September 23. According to observers, the event drew some 70,000-100,000 protesters. In Brest and Grodno, people were detained and were subjected to tear gas. Some 100 protesters were detained at the beginning of the event. A day earlier 150 people were apprehended at the traditional "Women’s March."

Since the election campaign started some 15,000 Belarusians have been detained, more than 50 criminal cases have been launched and 68 people have become political prisoners. Meanwhile, the Belarusian protesters don’t have leaders anymore since all of them are in jail, the paper reports.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia approves national economic recovery plan

The Russian government has endorsed a nationwide action plan for restoring employment and household profits, economic growth and long-term structural changes in the economy. More than 500 events are scheduled to be carried out by the end of next year. Some 5 trillion rubles ($64 bln) will be allocated to finance them. According to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, some measures are being successfully implemented and are in sync with the draft budget for the coming three years.

Among the Russian economy’s sectors, which have been most affected by the pandemic, are tourism, car transportation, restaurants and cafes, all types of transport, culture and sports, non-food retail, entertainment and media, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes. According to the Economic Development Ministry, the coronavirus crisis has affected 6.7 mln people, including 5.3 mln working in small and medium-sized businesses.

The support measures offered by the government include an interest-free loan for paying salaries (in effect since April 1), a salary fund loan at a rate of 2% with a write-off option (launched on June 1), extended financial assistance to businesses on loans, a delay and reduction of tax and insurance payments. In particular, this is a 6-month grace period for all taxes, except VAT, as well as insurance premiums for the most affected industries.

The program of preferential loans at 8.5% for businesses was also expanded. Thus, 779 bln rubles ($9.9 bln) has already been allocated to 11,500 recipients. The businesses received a grace period and exemption from rental payments.

According to Alexander Shirov, Deputy Director of the Institute for Economic Forecasting at the Russian Academy of Sciences, the anti-crisis measures aimed for 2020-2021 will become the first impetus for the Russian government’s new strategy.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US election outcome depends on Trump's Supreme Court pick

In October, the US Senate is due to hold a meeting to confirm 48-year-old Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee. The choice of the new Supreme Court Justice to replace late Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be crucial for the outcome of the November presidential election. Although Trump’s decision was quite predictable, it made a huge and rather negative impression on the incumbent leader’s opponents, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Many in the US want to see another successor to Ginsburg, the icon of American liberals. Barrett, a faithful Catholic, the mother of seven, is a proven conservative, a critic of abortions, who also calls for restricting illegal immigration. Barret will hardly make a choice that will benefit the Democrats and will be disadvantageous for the Republicans. However, Trump’s opponents are outraged not only by this. The new Supreme Court Justice should be approved by the Senate, which is now dominated by Republicans. The meeting is scheduled for October 12. Given that the judge will start fulfilling duties immediately after confirmation, it turns out that Barrett will join the Supreme Court during the presidential race.

According to opinion polls, Democratic candidate Joe Biden leads Trump among potential voters but this lead could be overcome. In case of any doubt whether the vote is fair, the Supreme Court should have its say.

"From an ethical point of view, the situation with Barrett's confirmation is certainly not very beautiful. Trump is allowed to do what Obama was not allowed, and this is done by the same people, the same Republican faction. But the incumbent US president has no time for decency. The Democrats have a rather good chance of taking control of the Senate after the November 3 election, and then Trump definitely won’t manage to have his judge," said Pavel Sharikov, Director of the Center for Applied Research of the Institute of the United States and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

RBC: Coronavirus pandemic hits Russia’s middle class

The coronavirus crisis has forced 6.1% of middle-class Russians to slide into poverty, according to research carried out by the Higher School of Economics. The key causes of this were lost jobs and plunging revenues, experts said in their report "Russia in a new era: the choice of priorities and the goals of national development," according to RBC.

Before the pandemic, some 24% of employed Russians belonged to the middle class, experts said. Due to the pandemic, the profits of the middle class fell less than those of other categories, but still this plunge demands extra measures of economic growth stimulus, the authors of the report said.

According to the economists, during the pandemic some 8.7% of middle-class Russians lost their jobs and 3.9% were affected by the business downtime. "For 6.1% of the middle class this resulted in shifting into poverty," the experts noted.

Meanwhile, Russia’s shrinking middle class is a temporary trend, which is not going to last for long, said senior research fellow at the Institute for Social Analysis and Forecasting at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation (RANEPA) Alexandra Burdyak. "The middle class are often highly qualified well-educated specialists, who will be able to recover their revenues in the coming year or two," she predicted.

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