Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, October 2, prepared by TASS
Media: Russia, France and US call for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
The three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France and the United States - have called for an immediate ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh and talks without any preconditions. Azerbaijani lawmakers told Izvestia that the statement alone was not enough as Baku needed guarantees of Yerevan’s readiness to "de-occupy" (withdraw from the Armenian-controlled seven districts adjacent to the disputed region). Armenian parliament members, in turn, pointed out that their country saw no alternative to peace talks but expected a specific initiative from the Minsk Group.
"Such unity among the three global political power centers - Russia, the US and France, which embodies the EU, - is a rare thing to see. No matter what Baku and Yerevan say, it will be very difficult for them to keep raising tensions now," Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Temporary Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty Andrei Klimov told the paper.
Meanwhile, President of the Society of Caucasian Studies Experts Alexander Krylov believes that the Minsk Group needs to send its "representatives to the military headquarters in both countries - with the consent of Baku and Yerevan, of course - in order to begin the withdrawal of troops."
Leading Research Fellow at the Center for Studies of Caucasus at MGIMO University Nikolai Silayev, in turn, told Vedomosti that the OSCE Minsk Group's statement was a strong diplomatic move. "It is important that the countries that don’t see eye to eye on any issue, have shown such solidarity this time," the expert emphasized. However, it is too early to draw any conclusions about how the statement will influence the situation. According to Silayev, the statement by Russia, France and the US is targeted at the warring parties, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Although Turkey is directly involved in the conflict, the document does not condemn Ankara’s actions. Nevertheless, the trilateral statement has great authority, the expert pointed out.
Kommersant: Navalny faces accusations of working for CIA
Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov and State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin have accused Alexey Navalny of working for Western spy agencies following the blogger’s interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, in which the opposition figure had said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind his ‘poisoning’. Experts believe that Navalny is likely to be charged with libel and treason, Kommersant writes.
In response to Peskov’s statement, Navalny wrote on his blog that he would sue the Kremlin spokesman and demanded that "evidence and facts proving his cooperation with CIA experts be made public." Head of Navalny’s regional offices Leonid Volkov told the paper that the authorities’ move to brand the opposition leader as a CIA agent would in no way affect the activities of his supporters.
According to political commentator Mikhail Vinogradov, the government is sending numerous signals to Navalny that it doesn't want to see him back in Russia, but it's hard to say if a treason case will be opened against him. Political scientist Alexander Pozhalov shares the opinion that the authorities are doing everything possible to prevent Navalny from returning to Russia and if he does come back they will "at least limit his movement to Moscow through court rulings."
Political analyst Yevgeny Minchenko is confident that if the opposition figurehead returns, he is "sure to face sentences" on at least two charges, treason and libel. Besides, it is becoming increasingly dangerous to cooperate with Alexey Navalny, the expert noted. "It is one thing when you provide assistance to an opposition blogger but if he is a foreign intelligence agent, it is a whole different ballgame," Minchenko pointed out.
However, political scientist Oleg Matveichev does not believe that Navalny will face treason charges because "he does not have any official duties that imply access to classified information."
Media: Denmark grants operations permit for Nord Stream 2 pipeline
The Danish Energy Agency’s move to give the Nord Stream 2 AG company permission to operate in the country’s waters may be an attempt to escape US sanctions. The decision won’t influence the gas pipeline’s launch deadline, said experts interviewed by Izvestia.
Independent analyst Dmitry Adamidov believes that the decision may prove to be a positive step because it was Denmark’s stance that used to be a stumbling block preventing the project from being completed.
However, Deputy Director General of the National Energy Institute Alexander Frolov pointed out that Denmark’s decision would have little impact on forecasts concerning the gas pipeline’s completion and "what is more important is when the final stage of construction work begins." "It the work started right now, the first string of the pipeline could have been completed by mid-November and the second one in the first quarter of 2021. But the longer the delay, the harder it will be to implement the project," Frolov emphasized.
Denmark’s green light is a positive sign, particularly because the country’s position wasn’t very constructive in the past, Research Director at Vygon Consulting Maria Belova told Vedomosti. Copenhagen has made it clear that it considers Nord Stream 2 to be a business project in spite of the Navalny case, she added.
The Danes have realized that the Navalny incident has brought US sanctions against the pipeline nearer, and rushed to solve all legal issues, said Igor Yushkov, a leading expert at the Russian government’s Financial University. However, the completion of the pipeline’s construction is now taking center stage and Germany may take advantage of the situation to put political pressure on Russia, the expert noted. That said, Nord Stream 2’s launch may be delayed either until the end of the first quarter of 2021 or until the third quarter of 2021, the expert concluded.
Izvestia: Things are looking up for Russia’s ruble
Russia's national currency, which has been strengthening for two days, can grow even more if geopolitical risks decline, said analysts interviewed by Izvestia.
The ruble’s growth was triggered by media reports of a government directive ordering state companies to sell some of their currency assets, the Central Bank’s additional interventions and the easing of geopolitical tensions around Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia’s fundamental advantages - low public debt and inflation, as well as a positive GDP trend - are still there, so the ruble may strengthen to the 70-75 per dollar level by the end of 2020.
On Thursday, the presidents of Russia, France and the US released a joint statement calling on the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to declare a ceasefire and come to the negotiating table. In fact, the move minimizes the possibility of Russia’s involvement in the conflict unless Armenia is attacked directly, and reduces the risks of Western sanctions, said analysts from Otkrytiye Broker. According to their estimates, a drop in the geopolitical risk premium can strengthen the ruble by another 3-5%.
The reasons behind the current growth are that sanctions risks are overestimated and there are no fundamental forces to push the ruble down, Finam Strategy Director Yaroslav Kabakov explained.
Freedom Finance analyst Alexander Osin expects that the demand for Russian assets will continue to grow. According to him, this expectation is indirectly based on the Finance Ministry’s decision to issue federal loan bonds worth over 2.3 bln rubles ($29.6 mln). A rise in the emission of bonds always improves the Russian currency’s trend, the expert pointed out.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Up to 40% of big city residents may move to teleworking
Up to 40% of workers in big cities may continue to work remotely at least until the end of the year, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, citing experts on labor relations. At the same time, the Russian Labor Ministry is providing much lower figures, saying that only 2.5 mln employees kept telecommuting in the early fall.
According to Lyudmila Ivanova-Shvets, an associate professor with the Human Capital Development Department at the Russian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, after the spring restrictions had been lifted, about 20-25% of Russians continued to work remotely. Another 60% returned to the office, while others keep rotating between the office and home. "The recent rise in infections should prompt employers to think about taking care of their workers and shift them to telecommuting. That said, the number of those who work remotely will grow by another 10-15%," the expert said.
Professor Natalya Loktyukhina from the Academy of Labor and Social Relations specified that due to the increased risk of a second coronavirus wave, educational staff, and state and municipal officials may switch back to telecommuting. However, for them, remote work is a temporary option for the duration of restrictions.
"The number of people working remotely due to Covid-19 depends on how tough the restrictions get. I am sure that state agencies will soon overcome their conservative approach to telecommuting but as far as civil servants are concerned, legislation needs to be changed. It is important for them and businesses that consolidating combined employment be enshrined in the legal code as soon as possible,” Loktyukhina pointed out.