Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, June 10, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: EU to automatically extend sanctions against Russia
The European Union is expected to make a technical decision on extending sectoral economic sanctions against Russia for another six months in June, two European diplomatic sources told Izvestia. This extension will be similar to the one announced in December 2018. Five years after the sanctions were introduced for the first time, Moscow is remaining calm about the news, the paper says. Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov says the issue of anti-Russian restrictions has not even been put up for discussion in order not to deepen the split between its supporters and opponents, whose countries suffer the most serious losses due to the sanctions.
"The sanctions have been formally extended by the EU Council. Previously, the leaders listened to reports by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron about the Minsk deal’s implementation and then a week later the sanctions were extended automatically. I think this time everything will go according to the same scenario," one of the sources told the paper. The upcoming EU summit is due on June 20-21, and the sanctions are expected to be extended on June 27-28 at a conference of EU ambassadors in Brussels.
Moscow is not surprised about this procedure. Russia’s EU envoy Vladimir Chizhov said that wise European politicians have realized that the sanctions against Russia are not working. In particular, the representatives of such countries as Hungary, Greece and Italy have repeatedly come out against such restrictions, but this did not stop them from supporting another extension. "The EU is extending sanctions without even putting the issue up for discussion," Pushkov said. "This happens because dialogue on this issue would shine the spotlight on the contradictions between EU countries, which have many problems to tackle.
Program Director at the Russian International Affairs Council Ivan Timofeev believes that despite the discontent of certain EU members, Brussels will continue extending the restrictions. "Without progress on the Minsk agreements, the EU won’t speak about any cancellation of the sanctions," the expert said. According to Pushkov, Brussels will continue cranking up pressure until a wave of resistance rises up inside the EU. Meanwhile, the upcoming reshuffle in the bloc after the elections to the European Parliament won’t bring any significant changes, he said.
Kommersant: Russia, EU find common ground, ready to work with new Moldovan authorities
Outside players are getting drawn into the domestic political crisis in Moldova one by one. Moscow was the first to back the coalition set up in the local parliament consisting of pro-Russian Socialists and the pro-Western bloc ACUM. Later Brussels welcomed its creation. The United States is refraining from any clear support for the new authorities. Meanwhile, leader of the Democratic Party Vladimir Plahotniuc, who is slipping into isolation, is taking steps to maintain control over the country, but he is unlikely to succeed, Kommersant writes.
The political crisis in Moldova, which erupted shortly after the February parliamentary polls after none of the key parties had managed to obtain the majority, deteriorated when on June 8 ACUM and the Socialists suddenly created a parliamentary coalition against Plahotniuc’s will. These political forces, that obtained 61 seats in the 101-member parliament, approved a new government led by the leader of the Party of Action and Solidarity Maia Sandu, elected Chair of the Party of Socialists Zinaida Greceanii as Parliament Speaker and passed a declaration that Moldova is a state seized by Mr. Plahotniuc.
The Constitutional Court, consisting of people who are part of the oligarch’s inner circle, called the coalition and its decisions unconstitutional. The judges insisted that the deadline for setting up the coalition was June 7, while ACUM, the Socialists and President Igor Dodon claimed that the deadline was June 9 and it had not been missed. The court ousted President Dodon and replaced him with Pavel Filip, a former prime minister. Since then, Moldova has been hurled into a dual power scenario. On Sunday, the Democratic Party’s supporters staged a mass rally in downtown Chisinau.
The European Union supported the new Moldovan government, expressing willingness to work with it. Earlier, Russia clearly backed the creation of the anti-oligarch coalition in the Moldovan parliament. Russia’s special presidential envoy for trade and economic ties with Moldova, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, who visited Chisinau on June 3, announced that Moscow considered the alliance of the Socialists and ACUM as the best solution to the crisis. Kozak also slammed the regime in Moldova before June 8 calling it criminal.
According to former Moldovan MP Mark Tkachuk, the statements by Moscow and the EU are very clear: "There are new authorities in Moldova, they are represented by the newly-created parliamentary majority and the legitimately elected government, and Russia and the EU are ready to work with these authorities."
Kommersant: Kazakhstan elects first new leader in decades
On Sunday, Kazakhstan held its presidential vote, marking a watershed moment in the Central Asian state’s history. This was the first election in over 28 years of the republic’s independence where Nursultan Nazarbayev wasn't running nor was he at the presidential helm. Experts interviewed by Kommersant believe that there is a chance that the republic’s political life will be liberalized, but amid the rift in the opposition this should be initiated by the authorities.
Although the official outcome of the presidential election will be announced later, it’s clear that in terms of the voter turnout and the number of votes secured by the winner it will be more modest compared with 2015. Although the law bans announcing the outcome earlier than five days after the vote, experts do not doubt that Incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, supported by the nation’s leader Nazarbayev, will be the winner. Tokayev’s key rival was Amirjan Qosanov, the candidate from the Fate of Nation public movement. According to exit polls, 7.9% of voters were ready to support him.
Sunday was also unique for Kazakhstan because for the first time during a presidential election, large-scale protests in two cities - the capital of Nur-Sultan and Almaty occurred. The protesters slammed the vote as illegitimate over its predicted result. However, the security forces were ready for such a scenario and warned protesters about the responsibility for holding unauthorized rallies on election day. Some 500 protesters, who are the supporters of the outlawed organization, the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, were hauled off.
Experts also note that another important feature of the vote is that the opposition in Kazakhstan has ultimately split. The vote may draw a political line, which may bring in new political players, "because there is a great demand for this," Kazakh political scientist Aido Sarym told the paper.
However, political scientist Dosym Satpayev believes that "after the polls, the authorities will feel like the formal winner," and no serious changes in the country’s political life will be on the horizon.
Izvestia: Russian track and field athletes to compete at 2020 Olympics under national flag
The International Association of Athletics Federations extended the suspension of the All-Russia Athletics Federation and asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to personally combat doping in the country’s region, the IAAF’s taskforce head Rune Andresen told a meeting in Monaco. After it, Russia had both good and bad news, Izvestia writes.
It is of great importance that the IAAF has officially recognized that if by the 2020 Games in Tokyo, the Russian Olympic Committee gets full rights, then Russia’s track and field athletes will be able to compete as part of their national team rather than under a neutral flag.
This means that regardless of the IAAF’s decision on the ARAF’s status, Russia will have its track and field athletes at the 2020 Games competing under their flag. The only question that would remain would be those athletes who won’t have access from the IAAF (neutral status). Most likely, if there are no changes, Russian track and field athletes will have to fight it out in the courts to compete at the Olympics.
"Everything is logic. If the ROC keeps its current status, our track and field athletes will go to Tokyo under the Russian flag. Certainly, this circumstance should cheer up the team leaders, although the issue on other major tournaments - the World and European Championships - remains up in the air. We can only compete under a neutral status," former ARAF head Valentin Balakhnichev told the paper.
He also believes that ARAF should challenge the IAAF’s decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). "From a legal perspective, the IAAF had no right to act like this since a roadmap had been compiled and all points of it had been fulfilled, and the decision should proceed from its implementation," he said. "This case can be won in the CAS."
Meanwhile, experts worry that the IAAF has switched from clear rules to vague wordings. If earlier the obstacle to ARAF’s reinstatement was the failure to fulfill the roadmap (paying compensation for the IAAF investigation, re-checks of the Moscow laboratory’s doping tests), now they demand something different from Russia: to cultivate zero tolerance to doping in all the country’s regions with President Putin’s personal control.
"Our president has always voiced a tough stance on this issue and recently a law was passed on making the use or an attempt to use doping by athletes or its distribution an administrative offense. The IAAF just does not want to reinstate ARAF and is looking for different reasons for that," a member of the State Duma (lower house) in charge of sports Dmitry Svishchev said.
Media: RBС, Kommersant and Vedomosti post same front page in support of arrested journalist Golunov
The arrest of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov in Moscow on drug dealing charges captured last week’s headlines. In terms of public discussion and international reaction, this story stole the spotlight from the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and even the speeches of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Kommersant writes. The situation with the journalist has sparked street protests in Moscow and other Russian cities, and also outside Russia’s embassies in the US and the UK. Major international media outlets published their stories about the prosecution of the now famous journalist in Russia, while the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe voiced their support for Golunov. The police continue insisting that the journalist was tied to drug trafficking. However, Golunov links his arrest to his investigation into ties between the funeral business and law enforcement agencies, due to which he had received threats.
Several facts have emerged pointing to certain violations in the case, namely that a chemical and biological examination was not conducted shortly after the drugs were found and swabs from his hands were taken only 48 hours after the detention. Besides, the procedure of searches was apparently violated, and the police had obtained the keys from the apartment before even launching the official searches. In addition, the police published photos of alleged "drug laboratory," which actually were not taken from this flat.
Russian newspapers Kommersant, Vedomosti and RBC issued a joint statement on Monday saying that they do not consider the evidence of Golunov’s guilt was convincing, while pointing to a possible violation of law during his detention. They have not ruled out that the detention is linked to the journalist’s professional activity and demanded detailed checks into the police’s actions.
RBC writes that drug cases are the most widespread in Russia. According to the Federal Penitentiary Service, in 2016 those convicted on drug-related charges amounted to a quarter of all inmates in Russian prisons. Researches show that falsification of evidence in these cases is very prevailing in Russia. The Golunov case was an example that any person can be prosecuted on drug-related charges, coordinator of Rus Sidyashchaya, a charity foundation providing assistance to the convicts and their families, Andrei Fedyarin, said.
Pavel Gusev, who chairs a commission of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, and heads the Union of Journalists of Moscow, told Izvestia that the Council would keep a watchful eye on this case’s investigation.
Head of the Public Council at the Russian Interior Ministry Anatoly Kucherena told the paper that the control over this high-profile case is very important and the council would ensure that the legislation is observed.