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- Press review: Political storm brewing in Tunisia and Russia eyes duty-free zone for Kurils
Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, October 7, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: West gears up for sanctions after OPCW conclusions on Navalny case
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced on October 6 that a substance similar to a Novichok toxic agent had been found in the samples of Russian blogger Alexey Navalny. One of the Novichok creators Vladimir Uglev told Izvestia that the substance, which allegedly poisoned Navalny according to the OPCW’s claims, had not been included in the list of chemical substances banned under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Now, Russia could also be accused of having failed to report the substance, which was revealed.
Some members of the European Parliament believe that the EU should cooperate with Russia's authorities and should not make unfounded statements, while others have chosen a guilty party in advance.
German political commentator Alexander Rahr noted that although Russian-German ties worsened after the Navalny incident, the West has not yet made any harsh accusations against Russia. "After Navalny ‘resurrected’ so quickly, the public still has doubts and that’s why no harsh accusations have been echoed. This will hardly trigger any economic sanctions but personal ones are more likely. Now everyone is watching the situation," the expert stressed.
Bulgarian member of the European Parliament of the Socialist Party Elena Yoncheva also cautioned against drawing any hasty conclusions. "A group should be set up on the Navalny case where all concerned countries will be represented. Now, no statements should be made that could affect Russian-EU economic and political relations. In this respect, pressure on Nord Stream 2 is out of place," the politician said.
Moscow is mulling a tit-for-tat response should any pressure be exerted. "The OPCW is not a structure that determines EU decisions. Its statement arouses great doubts since it was previously involved in carrying out a political put-up job with Syria. However, if the EU imposes sanctions, Russia will consider retaliatory measures," First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov told the newspaper.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Turkey nudging Russia out of the Caucasus
Ankara is beginning to play a more crucial role in ironing out the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev spoke of the chances to launch peace negotiations and repeated the words of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey should take part in the settlement process.
The Azerbaijani leadership insists that Turkey should join the OSCE Minsk Group in order to announce new demands for solving the conflict. Azerbaijan said the withdrawal of Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh was a pre-condition for launching a peace process in the region.
It is unknown whether the co-chairs of the Minsk Group will back the Azeri-Turkish proposal on pulling out Armenian forces from Nagorno-Karabakh, but there are grounds to think that this move would be unacceptable for Armenia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Meanwhile, Nagorno-Karabakh seeks to join the talks as a third party and most likely bloodshed in the region will continue. Judging by the current combat actions, Azerbaijan’s military potential with Turkey’s support is bigger than that of Armenia and the exhausting offensive by the Azerbaijani forces in Karabakh will bring them success. The arrival of tens of thousands of refugees from Nagorno-Karabakh could trigger a humanitarian disaster for Russia’s ally. "In geopolitical terms, this situation will be disadvantageous for Russia. Even if Yerevan endorses the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to the conflict zone, Ankara’s ally Baku will suggest the presence of Turkish blue helmets there," said military expert Shamil Gareyev.
Analyst Andrei Medvedev also noted that Ankara could play a growing role in a future peace settlement to the Karabakh conflict. Expert on Central Asia Robert Ten pointed out that Turkey has been consolidating its positions in Central Asia for several years.
Izvestia: Europe boosts contacts with Belarusian opposition figurehead
Moscow is not going to back the idea of a re-run presidential election in Belarus. Russia’s diplomatic sources told Izvestia that all further steps would depend on the constitutional reform, which Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had proposed. However, this approach greatly differs from the calls of the Belarusian opposition and the West. At a meeting between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya the sides discussed the idea of holding a new presidential election.
German political sources told Izvestia that this meeting did not mean that Berlin officially recognized Svetlana Tikhanovskaya as the Belarusian leader but at the new presidential election the stake will be placed on this candidate. According to Frank Schwabe, deputy head of Germany’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, it is obvious that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya will win the majority of vote in the presidential election.
Experts note that cooperation with opposition representatives of other countries is well-known practice in Europe. "That’s why the contact with Tikhanovskaya is European traditional policy aimed at trying to influence the situation in Belarus," said political scientist Dmitry Bolkunets. "It is absolutely evident that Moscow won’t hold dialogue with her because Russia has de facto and de jure recognized Alexander Lukashenko as president."
Editor-in-Chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine Fyodor Lukyanov pointed out that the EU’s joint stance is not to recognize Lukashenko’s victory. "The meetings with Tikhanovskaya are a symbolic act, which is aimed at showing that the Europeans don’t view Lukashenko as the country’s legitimate leader."
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kyrgyzstan rocked by power struggle
Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov on October 6 accused some political forces of seeking to seize power in the Central Asian republic. He called on fellow countrymen to preserve peace and not to fall for provocations but later disappeared. Shortly after, the power in Kyrgyzstan was seized by the rebels, who occupied the presidential residence and the government building. They dubbed themselves as the Coordination Council and started creating "the government of national confidence."
The Coordination Council has described Jeenbekov’s call on the opposition parties’ leaders to launch talks as an out-of-date move. According to the presidential spokesperson, the head of state is currently in Bishkek and controls the situation. A source told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Jeenbekov was in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on his evacuation from Kyrgyzstan.
The hastily formed Coordination Council consists of representatives of 30 political parties and is headed by leader of Butun (United) Kyrgyzstan party, Adakhan Madumarov. The Council also includes liberated political prisoners and former high-ranking officials accused of corruption as well as former president Almazbek Atambayev. The new head of the State Committee for National Security was also appointed. This is Omurbek Suvanaliyev, who was dubbed as ‘Commissioner Cattani’ for his fierce struggle against criminals. The rebels have divvyed up other government posts.
"No easy scenario of a solution is on the horizon. There is no doubt that there will be riots. Everything depends on whether the clans will be able to come to terms," said Central Asian expert Alexander Knyazev. According to him, the key reason for discontent was that two southern clans won the parliamentary elections, while no representatives of northern clans were elected. This outcome forced them to unite and form a kind of a coalition. "This is a traditional regional conflict," he noted.
As for Russia, there is no difference who will seize power in Kyrgyzstan. Moscow will carry on its policy of the past years. "Russia would now be better off waiting for real leaders to emerge and act only then," Knyazev said.
Vedomosti: Russian banks brace for second COVID-19 wave
Russia’s banking system is bracing for the second wave of coronavirus after learning the lessons of the past spring. Thanks to the central bank’s efforts, Russian banks were well-prepared for the coronavirus emergency unlike the crisis in 2014-2015, Director of ACRA’s financial institutions ratings’ group Irina Nosova told Vedomosti. In the worst-case scenario, capital adequacy could plunge to slightly over 10%, she said, noting that this was not bad.
Director of the Banking Institute at the Higher School of Economics Vasily Solodkov also believes that the second wave of the crisis is approaching but there are grounds to expect that this time Russia won’t impose a lockdown. "Most likely, the Swedish model will be chosen, which is not the best as far as healthcare is concerned, but this makes it possible not to push the economy into a lockdown," the expert noted. However, even in case of a lockdown banks will survive it since they learned self-isolation lessons better than other sectors and adapted to distance work, he explained.
Chief Executive Officer of Otkritie Bank Mikhail Zadornov pointed out that the real scenario of going through the coronavirus crisis was much better than bankers had predicted. Unlike the United States and Europe, Russia’s economy did not plummet that much in the second quarter. According to him, the biggest uncertainty now is over corporate loans because the lockdown risks could target entire sectors. "We don’t quite understand what will happen to cafes, restaurants and trade in the situation of uncertainty and restrictions. Potential losses are estimated at 700 bln rubles ($8.9 bln). This is a lot but is not critical for the system in general," Zadornov said.