Press review: What’s overshadowing the Geneva summit and will Belarus recognize Crimea / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: What’s overshadowing the Geneva summit and will Belarus recognize Crimea

Press review: What’s overshadowing the Geneva summit and will Belarus recognize Crimea

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, June 2nd, prepared by TASS

Kommersant: Russia, US seek to agree on joint presidential statement amid looming sanctions

Russia and the United States are trying to negotiate a joint statement that Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden could adopt at their upcoming Geneva summit. It will be an accomplishment for the parties if they manage to agree on specific wording because the Kremlin had failed to reach such an agreement with the previous US administration, Kommersant writes.

The newspaper learned about the efforts being made to agree on a joint presidential statement from several sources in Moscow and Washington. However, the sources were unwilling to talk about the contents of the document.

Meanwhile, preparations for the summit may be overshadowed by new US sanctions against Russia. Under the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, Biden is expected to decide on new restrictions against Moscow by June 2.

This act has become the legal basis for Washington’s restrictive measures against Russia following the alleged poisoning of Alexey Navalny because the US authorities had come to the conclusion that the incident had involved the banned Novichok nerve agent. In accordance with the law, the defaulting party has three months to prove that it has abandoned the use of prohibited weapons and has allowed international inspectors on its soil. Obviously, since Moscow strongly denies any involvement in the Navalny incident and insists that it has eliminated its chemical weapons stockpiles a while ago, these requirements haven’t been met.

"In light of the upcoming summit, Joe Biden may postpone a decision on the second round of sanctions. It’s happened many times before," Director of Programs at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Ivan Timofeev pointed out. "I don’t rule out that new sanctions against Moscow will be introduced after the Geneva summit and — if the meeting goes in a positive manner — they will be rather minor," the expert added.

Izvestia: Sixty-eight bln dollars worth of deals expected to be inked at SPIEF-2021

Major companies may sign five trillion rubles ($68 bln) worth of deals at the forthcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), business community members told Izvestia. St. Petersburg will host the largest discussion since the beginning of the pandemic, given that the forum was cancelled in 2020. This year, the event is taking place on June 2-5.

The SPIEF-2021 agenda is focused on the new economic reality in a world recovering from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The June 4 plenary session, where Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to deliver an address on the country’s socio-economic development and investment attractiveness, will be the highlight of the forum.

SPIEF is one of the most important events of this kind, which attracts a large number of international business players, Head of BCS Broker information and analytical content Vasily Karpunin emphasized. These conferences help find common ground in terms of ensuring foreign investment in the country. Besides, this year, the St. Petersburg forum will become a unique international platform for discussing mechanisms to overcome the negative consequences of the pandemic and the transition to a sustainable economic model, a representative of Russia’s PhosAgro fertilizer producer noted.

The forum’s financial agenda is centred around responsible financing involving ESG (environmental, social, and governance) projects and economic changes stemming from the pandemic and lockdowns, Rosbank Chairman and CEO Ilya Polyakov pointed out. In addition, technological development, digital trade, along with new risks and challenges will also be discussed.

Business Russia Coordination Council member Mikhail Sutyaginsky expects that about five trillion ruble ($68 bln) worth of deals will be signed at the 2021 forum, up from two to three trillion rubles ($27-40 bln) in 2018-2019. According to him, the pent-up demand for deals between major companies is the reason.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO countries embark on plethora of military exercises aimed at Russia

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization will step up its military activities in Eastern Europe, as well as in former Soviet countries, in order to counter Russia. This is one of the conclusions that can be drawn from Tuesday’s meeting of NATO foreign and defence ministers, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

A series of multi-domain military drills are currently taking place in Europe as part of Exercise Steadfast Defender Europe 2021, clearly aimed against Russia. Washington’s concept of multi-domain operations is quite a new trend, military expert Colonel Nikolai Shulgin explained. "For instance, a US B-52 strategic bomber conducted a flight over 30 European countries on Monday without a clear link to the Defender Europe exercise, particularly flying above Estonia and its Amari Air Base, where NATO’s Spring Storm drills are taking place. They involve about 7,000 troops from Estonia, the US, the UK, France, Denmark, Poland and Italy. Besides, Estonia is also hosting the Cyber Storm exercise," the expert noted.

According to Shulgin, NATO plans to carry out activities not only in the Baltic States but in other ex-Soviet countries as well. "The Sea Breeze 2021 multinational exercise will soon be held in Ukraine, followed by the Cossack Mace 2021 Ukrainian-British drills… A total of eight multinational exercises are planned to take place in Ukraine this year and another two in Georgia. One more exercise involving NATO members will be held in Kazakhstan," the expert said.

In his view, the Russian military has to learn to respond to such actions in several fields at once, that is, on the ground, in the air and at sea. "The Russian army will practice scenarios like these during its summer training period. However, the training has nothing to do with offensive plans, which is what US and NATO commanders talk about," the expert emphasized.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko all set to recognize Crimea as part of Russia

Moscow has promised Minsk to offset Belarus’ losses caused by Russia’s tax manoeuver, ensure oil and gas supplies and provide all its needed support, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said following a visit to Sochi. Belarus, in turn, will launch flights to Crimea. However, some experts don’t see it as a concession to Moscow, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

Lukashenko pointed out that there was a Belarusian health resort in Crimea and Belarusians used to travel there via Ukraine "in order to refrain from raising tensions." But it’s impossible now because "Ukraine has closed its airspace," Lukashenko said, adding that it gave him the right to open travel to Crimea via Russia. This is where the veteran Belarusian leader is playing a cunning game because even before Kiev had closed Ukrainian airspace, Belarus’ Belavia national carrier had not operated flights to Crimea, and as for ground routes through Ukraine, they remain open. That said, it’s not the situation that has changed, but relations between the countries.

Lukashenko also highlighted the full mutual understanding between Minsk and Moscow, adding that the parties had found solutions to all pressing issues and would stand united against foreign pressure.

Political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky believes that "Putin has a far more pragmatic view of the situation, it is important to him to lure his partner into a trap from which he cannot escape." "I am not sure that Putin is pressing [Lukashenko] on the Crimea issue, I think that it is more important for Moscow to find practical ways to tie Belarus to Russia so that it won’t move towards Europe and NATO under Lukashenko or once he’s gone. The focus of the talks most likely was on cooperation roadmaps and the transition of power in Belarus rather than on Crimea," the expert pointed out. "Lukashenko is more likely sending some sort of a message to Ukraine and the West, hinting that they put too much pressure on him, and he might recognize Crimea," Klaskovsky explained.

The political commentator was sceptical about the Belarusian leader’s statements on resolving all pressing issues with Moscow. "It’s crucial to Lukashenko to prove that he is still capable of making agreements with Moscow. His frequent meetings [with Putin] are PR stunts," the expert noted.

Vedomosti: Moscow joins top three cities for effective anti-coronavirus measures

The Russian capital has come in third after Oslo and Singapore among the world’s nine major metropolitan cities ranked for effective anti-coronavirus measures in terms of healthcare indicators and the economic situation, Vedomosti writes, citing research carried out by Ernst & Young.

The cities covered by the EY study can be divided into two groups depending on their strategy. The first relied on lockdowns (Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Paris and Oslo), while the second group adopted a flexible approach to restrictions and support measures (Moscow, New York City, Madrid and Stockholm).

According to EY Partner Olga Arkhangelskaya, Moscow’s approach can be considered as the most balanced one because it made it possible for the Russian capital to demonstrate the lowest unemployment rate and a minor economic decline amid moderate infection and death rates.

According to Ernst & Young’s preliminary estimates, Moscow’s economy declined by 4% during the pandemic. The only cities that showed better results are New York City (3.3%) and Stockholm (2.7%), but their infection and mortality rates are among the worst in the study. Moscow’s unemployment rate peaked at 3%, which is the best among the nine cities.

What is important is that the Moscow authorities introduced restrictions along with measures to support city residents and businesses, Arkhangelskaya pointed out. Increasing employer activities prove that these mechanisms are effective, Moscow Deputy Mayor Vladimir Yefimov noted. According to him, many industries in Moscow are on a positive trend as capital investment rose by 16.8% % in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period last year.

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