- Press review: Russian regions lift quarantines and Sweden isolated for being lockdown-free
- Russian nationals arrive in Moscow after exhausting repatriation trip from Fiji
- Press review: US to leave Open Skies treaty and Russia, Turkey hash over reviving tourism
- Press review: US production may exit China and Abbas runs to Putin over annexation fears
Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, August 9, prepared by TASS
Media: Ex-Kyrgyz leader’s arrest does not end political crisis
After a long armed standoff, Kyrgyz security services on Thursday detained former President Almazbek Atambayev in his hometown near the country’s capital of Bishkek. Now the ex-leader, who was earlier suspected of corruption and was labeled as a witness, will be a defendant in a case into taking several servicemen hostage and killing a security officer during a failed raid of his home on Wednesday, when more than 50 people were injured. Atambayev, who led Kyrgyzstan between 2011 and 2017, was the country’s first president to step down in line with the constitution. His predecessors Askar Akayev and Kurmanbek Bakiyev were toppled.
Russian political scientist Andrei Kortunov told Vedomosti that the situation in Kyrgyzstan has been very unstable, citing weak institutions, a divided elite and deep social and economic problems as the reason. Hopes that Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union would stabilize the situation did not pan out, he noted. Russia cannot allow an uncontrolled development of events in Kyrgyzstan, the expert said. "We have no borders. If something serious starts there, the flow of refugees, not labor migrants, will grow," he explained, not ruling out additional loans and aid programs.
According to political scientist Evgeny Minchenko, the long-running conflict between the north and the south is the root cause of the current crisis in Kyrgyzstan. "Each ensuing clan assuming power steamrolls over everything, leaving no room for the others," he explained. Atambayev, who nominated incumbent President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, had an illusion that he would remain an informal leader. "This did not happen and Jeenbekov started cleaning out all of Atambayev’s supporters very harshly, and then him as well." Kyrgyzstan is really facing the risk of a dangerous civil conflict potentially breaking out, Minchenko noted. Even if Atambayev’s supporters are quashed, this won’t put an end to the conflict between the north and the south. "And if Atambayev ends up behind the bars, this does not mean that his political career will have ended."
Atambayev’s lawyer Sergey Slesarev told Izvestia that his defense team could file a lawsuit with international courts, even with The Hague Arbitration Court, in order to solve the conflict in the country and release the politician. The lawyer noted that the security forces, who stormed Atambayev’s residence, had not shown any arrest warrant. "There should be an understanding that the former president was elected by the people of Kyrgyzstan and his status should be taken into account. But they treated him like a terrorist," he stressed. Late on Thursday, Atambayev’s headquarters declared an indefinite rally in Bishkek demanding that the incumbent president resign.
Izvestia: Turkey walking a tightrope between Russia and Ukraine
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky paid a visit to Ankara on Wednesday, holding talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Over the past several years, relations between the two countries have reached a new level of strategic partnership, focusing on building up defense cooperation and economic ties. The rapprochement between Kiev and Ankara started growing amid a sudden rift with Moscow after Turkey's Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber and rocky relations with the European Union, which forced both countries to seek each other’s support, Izvestia writes.
Turkey is teetering between Russia and Ukraine: while not supporting Crimea’s reunification with Russia, Ankara opposes Western sanctions against Moscow, saying that the restrictions have dealt a serious blow to the Turkish economy as well. Meanwhile, Kiev is not glad about Ankara’s position and is also concerned over the construction of the TurkStream pipeline that will bring Russian gas to the EU bypassing Ukraine.
During his talks with Erdogan, Zelensky apparently tried to achieve some concessions from Turkey, a leading research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky told Izvestia. "Friendship against Russia is what unites Ukraine and Turkey," he said. Touching on TurkStream, the expert said that Turkey had a real chance now to become an important hub on supplying Europe with gas, and Ankara would not lose its advantages.
Turkish political scientist Serkan Demitras is sure that TurkStream’s construction won’t mar cooperation between Ankara and Kiev. "The two states, which have access to the Black Sea, started fostering ties shortly after the Soviet Union’s collapse," the expert said. "Ukraine seeks integration into various Western bodies — NATO and the EU, viewing Turkey as a good ally for help on these issues. Turkey sees Ukraine as an important force in the region and a good economic partner. While observing what close ties Russia and Turkey have now, Kiev wants to use Ankara as a mediator at its talks with Moscow."
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: India, Pakistan on brink of war
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the country justified the government’s decision to revoke the special status of the Jammu and Kashmir state and make it a "union territory." The prime minister insisted that this step was vital to eradicate terrorism and ensure economic development. Pakistan responded by recalling its ambassador from New Delhi and downgrading its ties with India. Pakistani politicians and military say that they would support a 'liberation struggle' in the former state.
Editor and consultant at the India Strategic magazine Vinay Shukla told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that this was not a surprising step, explaining that in its election manifest the Bharatiya Janata Party had declared that it would amend the Constitution on the status of Jammu and Kashmir. According to him, over the past 70 years, this status has not brought any progress. The state was not integrated with the rest of the country and basically, three clans dominated its political and economic life, deciding on the distribution of resources. The expert compared Jammu and Kashmir with Russia’s North Caucasus before the situation stabilized there. "Now everything in Kashmir will depend on what program the center will pursue there. An economic miracle is needed to quash the rebellion, which has carried on for many years."
Sergey Lunev, a MGIMO Professor, told the newspaper that after the move, the situation would sharply deteriorate in the state and in South Asia in general. "Pakistan, which earlier helped militants, will have a free hand and will do this openly now. Even clashes between communities in other areas of India may be on the horizon. In my opinion, this decision on Kashmir won’t bring anything good to India."
In its turn, China has not stayed on the sidelines from the dispute between India and Pakistan, condemning New Delhi move, the paper writes.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian lawmaker slams sanctions as US tool to bully global community
Regardless of the personal intentions of US President Donald Trump, who vowed to mend ties with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his election campaign, Washington’s general course can be described as a second Cold War against Russia, Federation Council member Alexei Pushkov wrote in his article published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Economic and individual sanctions against Russia, which were introduced under the Obama administration, have been significantly widened and in 2019, Moscow was under more than 70 various US sanctions.
It is noteworthy that the sanctions policy has turned into one of Washington’s key tools on the global arena. Some 10-15 years ago, it only targeted the so-called rogue states, namely Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Starting from 2014-2015, Washington has significantly expanded its restrictions. As a result, by mid-2019, a whole number of states have been affected by US sanctions, including UN Security Council member-states — Russia and China.
The US also started actively using such a tool as the mere threat of imposing sanctions, for example against any state willing to buy Russian weapons. The new stage of Washington’s sanctions policy was characterized by slapping sanctions on its NATO allies, in particular against EU companies involved in economic cooperation with Iran.
The new intensity of the US sanctions policy is merely related to Washington’s intention to bolster its competitiveness on global markets, the senator notes. However, there is also another reason, which is more vital from a long-term perspective: the broad use of these blacklists is linked not to its growing influence, but rather to its decline on the global arena. The expanded usage of sanctions, which are extraordinary measures by their nature, is attributed to Washington’s failure to achieve its goals by traditional means such as diplomacy, political and psychological pressure and also media campaigns. Although these traditional means are also actively employed by the US, in critical situations they do not yield their desired results, which Washington is pursuing.
Washington’s policy is overwhelmingly hostile towards Moscow and it is only limited by a number of factors, mainly Russia’s nuclear might, which is ruling out any rational military scenarios, and the need for the US to maintain minimum dialogue with Russia on major crises such as Iran, Syria and Ukraine as well as the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The goal of this limited dialogue, especially for Trump, is to keep relations with Moscow under some control. It’s too dangerous to burn all bridges, but given the differences on Venezuela, Syria and Ukraine and also the growing number of US sanctions, there is almost no oncoming traffic on these bridges.
The US doctrine stipulating sanctions and pressure against Russia with limited cooperation in vital areas is virtually not working. This was confirmed by the report about the early resignation of US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, who has in fact acknowledged that Washington has pushed its relations with Russia over the edge, Pushkov writes.
Kommersant: Russia’s trade over past five years declines with top partners, except for China
China remains Russia’s only major trade partner, with which bilateral trade has grown over the past five years. According to the Federal Customs Service, mutual trade with nine of Russia’s top 10 partners in the first half of 2019 was lower than the figures of the same period in 2014, Kommersant writes. Nevertheless, these countries’ rankings have remained the same over the past five years, while having faced sanctions and low oil prices. However, only Ukraine is no longer on the list. Since 2014, Russian-Ukrainian trade has dropped to a third from $18.5 bln to $6.9 bln in the first half of this year.
Besides China, Russia’s top trading partners are the Netherlands ($25.9 bln) and Germany ($25.2 bln). Russia’s trade turnover with Italy, Japan and Turkey has also declined. The country’s trade with major partners in the Eurasian Economic Union, Belarus and Kazakhstan, has remained roughly the same.
In the first six months of 2019, Russia’s foreign trade reached $318 bln, the Federal Customs Service said. If the current results were compared with the same period before the crisis in 2014, the fall would be much more significant. Russia’s foreign trade in the first half of 2014 stood at $396.3 bln, and the current figure is nearly 20% lower, the paper says.
Russia’s export has also plunged 19.3% from $254.7 bln in the first half of 2014 to $205.5 bln in the same period of this year. The import fell 20.5% from $141.6 bln to $112.6 bln. Meanwhile, the reasons behind the declining export and import are different. The revenues from export have been affected by falling oil prices. In the first half of 2014, the average Urals oil price stood at $107 per barrel while in January-June 2019 the price was just $66 per barrel. Meanwhile, the volume of import has been influenced by several factors: Western sanctions and Russia’s food embargo; the ruble depreciation; and a sharp growth of prices on imported goods as well as falling consumption.