Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, June 13, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Boris Johnson emerges as frontrunner to be UK’s prime minister
Former London Mayor and ex-British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is highly likely to become the UK’s new prime minister, experts interviewed by Izvestia said. After Theresa May stepped down on June 7 as the Conservative Party’s leader, 10 candidates have tossed their hats into the ring to become the Conservative Party’s leader, which is a springboard for the premier’s seat. The party members will elect the best candidate by the end of July. However, political scientists say that the Tories are likely to back the most ardent supporter of Brexit, who will be able to finally withdraw the UK from the EU. This will probably help avoid early parliamentary polls, where the Conservative Party could suffer a crushing defeat.
According to The Telegraph newspaper, Johnson’s chances of success are 63%, while the chances of his closest rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, are estimated at 14%. "Now, the Conservatives want to be led by a bright and committed Eurosceptic, who won’t curtsy in either direction," Professor at the History and Politics of Europe and America Faculty at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Natalya Kapitonova told the paper. "If the Tories had been ahead of their opponents, they would have chosen a more representative candidate. But amid the split, only a politician like Boris Johnson can save the situation, because he is a little bit ridiculous, rumpled and with a not very respectable past (when he was London’s mayor, he admitted to using marijuana and cocaine in his student years)."
Today, the position of the UK’s premier is probably the most unenviable job in the country, and such a great number of contenders in the race is very surprising, the paper notes. The situation with Brexit, which should be carried out by the October 31 deadline, is in a deadlock, and that’s why not only a political career but also the fate of the entire Conservative Party is at stake now.
The parliament won’t let the new premier carry out Brexit without a deal and it’s also impossible to start talks with the EU or ask about extending the deadline, Yelena Ananyeva, Head of the UK Studies Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, explained. Against this background, the new premier will face a tough dilemma: either to hold the second referendum on leaving the EU or early parliamentary polls, where the Conservatives are highly likely to be defeated.
Media: Release of investigative reporter Golunov acts as signal to society
Investigative correspondent from the Meduza media outlet, Ivan Golunov, who was taken into custody on June 6 for allegedly trying to sell drugs, walked free on Tuesday afternoon after the criminal charges had been dropped. Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev personally announced that forensic tests had not confirmed Golunov’s guilt and that two members of the police's top brass would be sacked. The journalist’s release has also sparked a debate about a march in his support, which was held in Moscow on Wednesday. Police said 200 out of 1,200 participants were detained, including opposition figure Alexei Navalny and a number of journalists.
At the moment, it is most important that Golunov has been freed and the charges have been dropped, but the investigation has not ended and it is too early to draw any conclusions about any signal to the criminal justice system and the real repercussions of this case, Head of the ISEP Fund Dmitry Badovsky, told Vedomosti.
"What we see now is an exception to the rule, rather than a new norm. The power of civil self-organization, mutual assistance and corporate solidarity has shown that there was also the support of the elites and this is vital. It’s unclear now whether these mechanisms will work and the system of civil rights protection will work in other cases," he said.
According to political scientist Alexei Makarkin, the elites are very dissatisfied with how law enforcement structures operate. "And each of them who backed Golunov, are concerned, pondering to themselves whether they are likely to end up in such a position: will they plant something on me if I get into a conflict with someone?" But the role of civil society was crucial here, the expert emphasized, explaining that no agenda between the elites could be possible without the initiative coming from civil society, without pickets outside the Interior Ministry and the court, and without a powerful campaign on the Internet.
In the wake of the Golunov case, Russian senators will study the practice of implementing Article 228 of the Criminal Code concerning possession of drugs, Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building Andrei Klishas told Izvestia. The senators will send a request to the Supreme Court on analyzing this practice and a discussion in the legislature will be held in autumn, he noted. "And then we will hold a debate, also with the expert community, on the particular amendments," Klishas said.
The uproar over Golunov’s detention signals that on the one hand, there is a strong healthy civil society and journalism in Russia, and on the other hand, the authorities listen to the public and protect those who are innocent, political scientist Anton Khaschenko said.
Izvestia: SCO summit to prioritize the economy
At the upcoming summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization due on June 13-14 in Kyrgyzstan’s capital of Bishkek, the leaders will focus on the economy, the organization’s Secretary-General Vladimir Norov told Izvestia. Even in the Afghan direction, the economy will be a priority this year.
For the first time ever, a project of the SCO-Afghanistan roadmap will be put up for discussion. According to a high-ranking Russian diplomat, along with traditional areas of cooperation, such as combating illegal drug trafficking, ensuring border security and fighting terrorism, the proposals will include several infrastructure and energy projects to be developed in Afghanistan under the SCO’s auspices. Another important area of the organization’s work is supporting transportation infrastructure. SCO participants want Afghanistan to join a new deal on creating favorable conditions for international automobile transportation, which will make it possible to use the country’s territory for the transit of goods.
At the summit, the leaders are expected to endorse more than 20 agreements. "There won’t be any landmark documents, but all of them are valuable and necessary and they will make it possible to stimulate practical work in various areas," the Russian diplomat said.
Meanwhile, the summit’s participants have decided not to discuss the issue of bringing new members into the group. "Expansion is not a goal for the SCO. Today, the task is to boost the effectiveness of our organization, given the accession of such countries as India and Pakistan (in 2017). With them, our organization has become trans-continental, and that’s nearly half of the world’s population or some 60% of Eurasia’s territory," Norov pointed out. According to him, it is more advisable to discuss granting observer status to new states, and there are a dozen aspiring candidates, he noted.
Kommersant: Moldovan oligarch seeking US support may copy Trump’s ‘Jerusalem move’
The new Moldovan authorities, who established a foothold in the parliament on June 8, have been unable to start working in the government’s key building. Like other structures, it is controlled by Vladimir Plahotniuc’s Democratic Party, which still hopes to retain power, Kommersant writes. The Democrats, whose defeat has been recognized by both Russia and the European Union, are now trying to secure Washington’s support. In order to obtain it, the government has decided to move Moldova’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The intrigue now is how Washington will react to the events in Moldova, and it is not ruled out that its response will be quick, the paper says. US Ambassador to Moldova Dereck Hogan has just returned to the country and held meetings on June 12 with President Igor Dodon, Parliament Speaker Zinaida Greceanii and Prime Minister Maia Sandu. According to the parliament’s press service, Hogan praised the new parliament and its secretariat.
According to Kommersant, at the closed-door meetings, the US ambassador was told that the decision to move the Moldovan embassy to Jerusalem, made by former ministers of the Democratic Party, was an attempt by Plahotniuc to "buy US loyalty." The sides also called on him not to support the oligarch.
One of the sources told the paper that Hogan had discussed the Moldovan crisis with his Russian counterpart Oleg Vasnetsov. The ambassador’s meeting with the oligarch was not ruled out. Meanwhile, Plahotniuc together with his allies has been trying to describe the recent events as the Kremlin’s plot, while pretending to defend Moldova’s independence and democracy from "the Russian threat."
The ruling coalition believes that street protests could be held unless the opponents unblock government buildings and ensure a calm transition of power. "We are supported by a growing number of people, even in state structures. A little more and the process of their transition to our side will be irreversible," Vice Parliament Speaker from the Dignity and Truth Platform Party Alexander Slyusar said. The crisis, created by the Democratic Party, is harming people, because this affects the country’s governance, he insisted.
RBC: Russian business community alarmed by mounting state pressure
More than 90% of the Russian business community have complained about increasing interference by domestic law enforcement structures in commercial disputes, RBC writes citing its new opinion poll carried out in late May-early June. The poll, titled RBC Market Researches, questioned more than 3,200 respondents, half of them businesspersons and senior and mid-level managers.
A survey earlier conducted by the Federal Protective Service showed that 70% of entrepreneurs believe that doing business is unsafe in Russia, while another 55% do not trust the judicial system. This trend is confirmed by the growing number of requests submitted to business ombudsman Boris Titov, a 23% increase from last year.
Criminal prosecution has fully or partially destroyed the business of 84.3% of entrepreneurs, a survey conducted by the Federal Protective Service revealed. The pressure on businesses has been caused not only by the arbitrariness of law enforcement bodies, but also due to excessive regulation, Professor at the New Economic School Natalya Volchkova stressed.
The interference of law enforcement agencies into commercial disputes reduces the business community’s faith in the legal system. Nearly half of the respondents noted that the criminal case against Baring Vostok founder Michael Calvey has affected the country’s investment climate. Alexei Kudrin, Chairman of the Accounts Chamber, said this criminal case became a shock for Russia’s economy. According to him, since the beginning of the year, capital flight from Russia has doubled reaching $40 bln. Meddling by state and law enforcement structures was the main reason for the decline in foreign investment in Russia’s economy, some 70% of the respondents said.