Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, July 16, prepared by TASS
Media: Russia opposes EU sanctions against Turkey for Cyprus drilling
Moscow is against the European Union’s decision to slap sanctions on Turkey over mounting tensions in the Mediterranean, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told Izvestia, pointing out that such steps would only aggravate the years-long unresolved conflict in the region. However, this doesn’t mean that Russia supports the activities of Turkey, who has recently sent ships to drill in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone for oil and gas.
Ankara believes that restrictions won't affect the country’s economic situation as much as they will impact relations with Brussels. In particular, the association agreement between Turkey and the EU may be put at risk.
Russia insists that the United Nations Security Council address the issue of Cyprus in earnest. In particular, Russian Ambassador to Cyprus Stanislav Osadchy told Izvestia that the UN Security Council’s permanent members - Russia, China, France, Great Britain and the US - could act as guarantors. As for bilateral relations with Cyprus, the two countries maintain good cooperation and Moscow expects the status quo to remain in place, the envoy noted.
Director of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies Amur Gadzhiyev, in turn, told Kommersant that the EU Council’s decision to impose sanctions wouldn’t persuade Ankara to make any concessions. "All Turkish political forces have a common understanding of the Cyprus issue," he pointed out. "This is why Ankara definitely won’t abandon its consistent policy.
Besides, it has a serious trump card in the form of Syrian refugees residing in Turkey," the expert added. According to Gadzhiyev, "the European Union is trying to impose its will on Turkey without contributing to resolving the Cyprus issue," even though a full-scale solution could help overcome the existing differences.
Turkish political scientist, Professor at the Sutcu Imam University in Kahramanmaras Togrul Ismayil has a similar view of the matter. "The Europeans should have known better when they admitted Cyprus to the EU," he said. "The current activities will have only one result: first the Europeans and then the Americans will simply lose Turkey," the expert stressed. When speaking about Ankara’s possible retaliatory steps, Ismayil suggested opening the border to Syrian refugees who dream of reaching Europe.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Japan debates sending ships to Iranian waters
Japanese politicians are debating whether the country should join a US-led coalition in order to ensure oil supplies from the Persian Gulf. Ruling party members who support the idea say that the nation’s interests are at stake, while the opposition points out that Japanese legislation makes it impossible to send troops to participate in a potential conflict with Iran, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Japan’s Constitution, established by the Allies after winning World War II, limits the country’s use of military force. Meanwhile, a special law was passed in 2009 that allows Tokyo to take part in international maritime defense operations. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and nationalists from the Liberal Democratic Party seek to either abolish or amend the Constitution’s pacifist articles.
According to the law, the Japanese Self-Defense Force can protect foreign ships only if those are threatened by pirates. If the danger comes from vessels controlled by other governments, the Japanese cannot engage in fighting.
Head of the Department of Oriental Studies of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Professor Dmitry Streltsov told the newspaper that "ahead of the upcoming House of Councillors election, the government is very sensitive to any steps that could impact the vote. Sending a fleet to the Strait of Hormuz has its pros and cons as far as the Japanese cabinet is concerned. The pros are that it will be a proof of Abe’s active policies on the international stage and will also strengthen Japan’s global influence based on military power.
On the other hand, there is a large number of pacifists among Japanese voters who oppose the use of the Self-Defense Force abroad. So this means that Abe has actually found himself ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea.’ It is hard to predict what the election’s outcome will be, and what decision the government will make," the expert said.
However, since the Japanese government mostly relies on nationalist voters, it is highly possible that the country’s ships will eventually depart for the Middle East, Streltsov emphasized.
Kommersant: Beijing using Washington’s favorite economic weapon against the US
China has vowed to impose sanctions on US companies that will supply weapons to Taiwan, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said. The measure was announced after the US Department of State had approved a $2.2 bln arms deal with Taiwan, the largest in recent years.
The sanctions won’t hurt the US arms producers because weapons sales to China have been banned since 1989. However, their civilian business may face some negative impact as many of the companies that could fall under these restrictions have been cooperating with China for a long time, selling elevators and aerospace equipment to the country, Kommersant notes.
Last Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on Washington to stop playing with fire and immediately abandon plans to sell weapons to the island. The US Congress has a chance to nix the deal by August 10 but judging by lawmakers’ statements, they won’t do that.
Since US President Donald Trump came to power, Washington and Beijing have engaged in several conflicts, including a trade and a technology war. The parties have imposed numerous sanctions of various kind against each other but in the military field, only the United States has had the initiative until now. In September 2018, the US introduced sanctions on China’s Equipment Development Department (EDD) and its head Li Shangfu over the purchase of the S-400 missile systems from Russia.
Program Director at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Ivan Timofeyev pointed out that it wasn’t the first time China employed economic sanctions but it usually preferred to do it in a less formal way. "The 1992 sanctions on France over its decision to sell 20 Mirage 2000-5 fighters to Taiwan is a notable example in this regard," the expert said.
"At the time, France lost its consulate in Guangzhou, while French companies working in China faced huge difficulties. As a result, the decision on the fighters was cancelled," he noted. Timofeyev also mentioned covert sanctions against South Korean companies imposed after Seoul had agreed to let the United States deploy its THAAD missiles to the country in 2017.
Izvestia: Sweeping war on corruption carries on, Russian Investigative Committee chief says
The battle against corruption in Russia continues at all levels, Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin told Izvestia.
"The fight against corruption is aimed at ensuring the inevitability of punishment, regardless of the position or merits. However, it takes more time to prove the involvement of high-ranking officials in corruption crimes," Bastrykin said when asked if he shared the opinion that only minor officials were prosecuted for corruption.
In this connection, the Investigative Committee chief mentioned the sentences handed to the former governors of the Sakhalin and Kirov regions, Alexander Khoroshavin and Nikita Belykh, and the former Mayor of Vladivostok Igor Pushkarev, as well as the case of ex-Interior Ministry Colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko.
He also pointed to the case of former Moscow Region Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Kuznetsov extradited from France, which has been sent to court. According to investigators, the damage from Kuznetsov’s activities and his accomplices exceeds 14 bln rubles ($223.3 mln).
According to Bastrykin, work to offset the damage from corruption crimes is being stepped up because such crimes hinder the development of the Russian economy. In 2018, money and jewelry worth nearly two bln rubles ($31.9 mln) were seized from defendants in corruption cases. Besides, they voluntarily paid 1.6 bln rubles ($25.5 mln) to offset the damage they had caused.
In addition, the defendants’ property worth over 15 bln rubles ($239.3 mln) was arrested last year in order to secure claims or collect fines.
"However, there is a need to develop specific initiatives to increase the effectiveness of this work," the Investigative Committee chairman noted. In particular, there are plans to bring confiscation of property back into the list of penalties stipulated by the Russian Criminal Code for corruption offences.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Consumer sentiment remains negative in Russia
Russia’s consumer sentiment index rose by one percentage point in the second quarter of the year, reaching minus 15%. The current figure is close to the average of the past 20 years. Even if a positive trend remains, it will take more than two years for the index to reach the positive zone, researchers from the Higher School of Economics’ Center for Business Tendencies Studies said, cited by Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
The Center’s Director Georgy Ostapkovich believes that most positive economic events have little effect in terms of improving people’s living standards or quality of life. According to him, real disposable incomes and inflation rates are what determines consumer sentiment trends in Russia.
"Given a five-year decline in real incomes, it is safe to assume that the situation won’t change much in 2019 because the economic doctrine of the government and monetary authorities is the reason," Finam Analyst Sergei Drozdov pointed out. "Although the policy based on a weak ruble helps finance the budget, it doesn’t contribute to GDP growth.
It negatively affects people’s quality of life and prevents the development of companies focused on the domestic market," the expert said. According to him, there is a need to reduce poverty and increase people’s real incomes through promoting small and medium-sized businesses and fostering industries other than commodity production.
Business Insider Lead Analyst Anar Ismailov agrees that 2019 may become the sixth year in a row when people’s real incomes will fall but he is also hopeful that it will be the last year of decline. "Some things indicate that it is possible: according to official statistics, the inflation rate continues to decline, the ruble keeps on getting stronger, the economy continues to grow, if slowly," Ismailov emphasized.