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Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, October 8, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Russia has no plans to interfere in Kyrgyz political crisis
Protests against the outcome of the latest parliamentary polls continue in Kyrgyzstan and demonstrators have seized the majority of government buildings. However, on October 7, it became clear that the opposition was split: two coordination councils were set up and two candidates are fighting for the prime minister’s seat. Their supporters staged a 3,000-strong rally outside the House of Government and nearly started clashes. Bishkek residents told Izvestia that looting has occurred in the city at night and volunteers have tried to stop them. The crisis in Kyrgyzstan is still far from over, experts say.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Moscow was concerned about the ongoing unrest in Kyrgyzstan but hoped that the problem would be resolved peacefully. Russia sees no grounds for interfering in Kyrgyzstan’s political situation and so far it has received no requests for military assistance to quash the upheaval in Bishkek, Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Kostantin Kosachev told the newspaper.
"I don’t see any grounds for such a request from President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, I deem the events to be Kyrgyzstan’s domestic affairs and that the country should deal with the situation itself," the senator stressed. He also noted that there were no reasons to say that the Central Asian republic could alienate itself from Russia amid the protests. Kyrgyzstan understands that Russia is an important trade and economic partner and Bishkek’s participation in the Eurasian Economic Union has certain advantages that no one wants to lose. "That’s why I see no threat to our bilateral relations, if a third party does not hinder them, of course. However, unfortunately, we are observing such attempts now," the politician noted.
Even in case of pressure against President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, he is unlikely to request Russia’s assistance, said senior research fellow at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS) Azhdar Kurtov. According to the expert, Jeenbekov does not have any legal basis for this. Bilaterally, Russia and Kyrgyzstan don’t have documents that would compel Russia to interfere.
Although this procedure is stipulated by the Charter of the post-Soviet security alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, first a request should be filed and second, all member-states should endorse the move. "In the current situation, it’s unlikely that some countries will back this step, for example Belarus, which some time ago hosted fugitive [Kyrgyz] president Kurmanbek Bakiyev," the expert stressed.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US Democrats eye sanctions against Azerbaijan
US Senators and the White House will soon discuss the legal grounds for halting military cooperation with Azerbaijan. Some Democrats hold a pro-Armenian stance. Earlier, Ankara accused Canada of having double standards over the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, pinning the blame on the efforts of anti-Turkish lobbying. Azerbaijan could lose Turkish drones equipped with Canadian sensors and optics over Ottawa’s moves, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
This time the situation in the United States is unfolding so that supporters of pro-Armenian foreign policy in the South Caucasus could indeed have a major impact. US Senators from the Democratic Party wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggesting sanctions against Azerbaijan. They also called for cancelling all US contacts with Baku in the defense field, criticizing the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and its aggression in the region.
The assistance provided by Washington to Baku, though not revealed, is not small. Last year, Azerbaijan received $42.9 mln from the Pentagon, according to the Washington-based Center for International Policy. The US views Azerbaijan as a potential foothold in the event of a military conflict with Iran, the newspaper wrote.
Experts note that there are pro-Armenian, pro-Turkish and pro-Azerbaijani lobbies in the US. It is very unlikely that in the run-up to the election US President Donald Trump will decide to drastically change his foreign policy course and quarrel with Turkey’s ally Azerbaijan, said Pavel Sharikov, director of the Center for Applied Research at the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The expert noted that it was likely that the Democrats wrote the letter while understanding very well that Trump would reject their proposal. This means that they could accuse him of weakness and hesitation, and this is needed by the Democrats right now, he explained.
Vedomosti: Poland hits Gazprom with huge fine over Nord Stream 2
Poland’s anti-trust regulator UOKiK decided to fine Russia’s energy giant Gazprom 29 billion zlotys ($7.6 billion) after an investigation over the Nord Stream 2 project. Gazprom’s partners in the project - France’s Engie, Austria’s OMV, Royal Dutch Shell and Germany’s Wintershall Dea and Uniper were fined to the tune of over 234 mln zlotys ($61.4 million). The Polish watchdog claims that by its steps Gazprom and European companies are increasing oligopolistic concentration on Europe’s gas market. Gazprom dismissed the Polish regulator’s stance, saying that the unprecedented size of the fine showed that Warsaw wanted to do whatever it takes to sabotage the Nord Stream 2 project’s implementation.
Following the Polish regulator’s decision, Gazprom and its partners have 30 days to challenge the decision in court, said special adviser on sanctions law at Pen & Paper law firm Sergey Glandin. In his view, the court will most likely back these six companies. "The European giants entered this project because they definitely had enough conclusions from international law firms and arguments proving that they don’t violate legislation," the lawyer noted.
However, if the court supports the Polish regulator, Gazprom and its five European partners will face both expenses on challenging the decision in other courts and risk huge fines and the potential termination of partnership agreements, Glandin explained.
The fine’s price tag is on par with the project’s construction budget and the Polish regulator will hardly manage to get this money from Gazprom, Fitch expert Dmitry Marinchenko told the paper.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Navalny seeks to spook Kremlin by his imminent return
On October 7, Germany again castigated the alleged poisoning of Russian blogger Alexey Navalny. The opposition figurehead carried out his ‘media offensive’ against the Kremlin on Vladimir Putin’s birthday. Navalny obviously seeks to intimidate Russia’s authorities by his imminent return and is not revealing any exact dates on purpose, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Meanwhile, he is calling on Europe to cobble together a "Putin blacklist." In his opinion, oligarchs, officials and other beneficiaries of the Kremlin, including individuals from the music and art community such as famous conductor Valery Gergiev, should be included on this sanctions list. However, Navalny opposes any sectoral sanctions against Russia.
Navalny is directly accusing Moscow of crossing all red lines in its pressure on the opposition. He also predicts that in the end, he or his team could be blamed for their role in the poisoning saga.
Meanwhile, he insists that a real struggle for a beautiful future in Russia cannot be carried out in exile.
The blogger is receiving powerful media support and the major goal of this activity is to boost his political weight. However, he is not naming the date of his return to Russia, citing doctors, who insist that he needs a couple of months for rehabilitation.
The opposition apparently expects to use this time to scare the Kremlin as much as possible with the consequences of any use of repression. Another goal is to force the authorities to keep "advertising" Navalny and in the end to turn his arrival from Germany to Moscow into a triumph.
Izvestia: One in five Russian companies plan to lay off staff
By late 2020, one in five (22%) Russian employers plan to sack staff, according to a survey conducted by Hh.ru for Izvestia. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly half of Russian companies (47%) have laid off staff. Experts note that over the past week there was a negative trend with the number of open vacancies. Therefore, further growth in unemployment (currently more than 4 mln people have lost their jobs) is highly likely. Besides, companies’ financing situation is worsening over the transition to distance work. Many cannot afford this and put their staff on leave without pay.
The majority of those who were fired are specialists (68%). The current situation also affected Russians’ salaries, with 37% of staff complaining about cuts. Another 11% companies are planning to do so.
If the second coronavirus wave is as fierce as the first one, the situation on the labor market will be very challenging and more staff will be fired, according to Head of Hh.ru press service Alexander Dzhabarov. In his turn, Superjob founder Alexey Zakharov noted that after the coronavirus restrictions were lifted and many enterprises resumed their activity, salaries returned to the pre-crisis levels. However, only IT specialists should expect adjustments for inflation. The expert stressed that nearly all sectors were affected by the crisis and only pharmaceutical companies and alcohol producers gained.