- Press review: Putin sets date for vote on amendments and Russia eyes doubling gold output
- Press review: How SpaceX’s success will impact Russia and Trump turns to Putin over China
- Press review: Moscow-Berlin hacker controversy and Russia monitoring NATO subs in Arctic
- Press review: How hard has Russian GDP been hit and Kiev still seeking NATO, EU membership
Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, August 23, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: West's China fears seen as driver for Russia's G8 comeback
The G7 will discuss Russia’s participation in that club at the group’s summit in Biarritz, France, which will kick off on August 24, the press attache of the Elysee Palace informed Izvestia.
She noted that French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed, talking to reporters, that the issue would be discussed at the summit, since Russia is a strategically important and reliable security partner. The spokesperson specified that the issue at hand was reviving the G8 framework.
Russia’s comeback to the club, from which it was expelled in 2014 over developments in Ukraine, came to the fore a few days ago when US President Donald Trump said it would be would be "more appropriate" to return to the G8 framework, which would include Russia. However, other G7 leaders, first and foremost, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are far more skeptical about this idea.
Meanwhile, experts interviewed by Izvestia noted that the West needs Russia in the club more than Moscow needs that group. According to Timofey Bordachev, Program Director of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, the G7 is no longer an "existential choice" between the West and the East for Russia. Currently, it is a tool of influence in global politics and systematic contacts with world leaders, he explained.
For his part, Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief of the Russia in Global Affairs magazine, believes that the revival of the G8 is quite feasible. He pointed to the experience of the Council of Europe, when Russia was reinstated to PACE after five years of weathering an uncompromising struggle. "Why does the West need Moscow’s participation? This interest stems from its desire to prevent further rapprochement between Russia and China. The latter is viewed as a threat in the Western world," he explained.
The expert added that the G8 was the club of the day when Russia wanted to be part of the Western world. Now the situation has changed, and "looking West" is no longer Moscow’s objective, he concluded.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump's alarm over China’s presence in Greenland sparked purchase bid
The United States and Denmark continue to be close friends and allies, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in Twitter post, commenting on his phone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The call was held shortly after US President Donald Trump said his administration was discussing buying Greenland from Denmark. He likened the idea to "a large real estate deal" and suggested the island would be of strategic value to the United States. Trump even cancelled his visit to Denmark when it turned out that Danish politicians were not eager to sell their territory, Nezavisimaya Gazeta recalls.
Those news analysts who believe that the White House occupant just made a controversial statement can be mistaken, Valery Zhuravel, Head of the Center for Arctic Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, told the paper.
"I would not rule out that Trump is deliberately testing the waters of public opinion, both in America and in Europe. Please note that he was talking about purchasing Greenland as a long-term strategic objective, and the island’s strategic importance for the United States, and not only for the United States, will be increasing," he stressed.
Greenland has oil, gas and uranium deposits, which are being explored by China. So, this clearly has raised the ire of Trump, who has set out on countering Beijing’s economic expansion, the expert explained, adding that the US could also be interested in Greenland because of glaciers as potential sources of fresh water.
"Last but not least, by maintaining a permanent presence in Greenland, the Americans will be able to effectively monitor the processes that occur in the Arctic Ocean. The ongoing global warming process, melting ice and rising sea levels create a new environment affecting many areas, including defense. That’s why control over the Arctic will be of particular importance," Zhuravel emphasized.
RBC: Moscow, Kiev nearing deal on prisoner swap
Russia and Ukraine are close to completing a prisoner exchange. According to the latest information, Moscow and Kiev are hammering out a "33 for 33" swap, which does not include Kirill Vyshinsky, RIA Novosti Ukraine Editor-in-Chief, a source familiar with negotiations, told RBC.
Another source close to the negotiation process noted that Moscow is not insisting on exchanging Vyshinsky. For Russia, it is fundamentally important to secure his release.
Ukrainian Defense Attorney Valentin Rybin informed the paper that his clients Maxim Odintsov, Alexander Baranov and Yevgeny Mefedov were getting ready for a prisoner swap.
Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioner Lyudmila Denisova has already arrived in Russia, two Russian sources familiar with the talks told RBC.
On Thursday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia and Ukraine maintained contacts on prisoner swaps. He also noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron discussed the issue as well.
Kommersant earlier reported citing a source close to Ukrainian President Zelensky’s team that Moscow and Kiev could exchange the individuals in custody by the end of August.
In mid-July, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said that Moscow and Kiev were exploring the possibility of swapping the Ukrainian sailors who had been detained in the Kerch of Strait last November for violating Russia’s state border.
The two countries’ ombudspersons earlier exchanged lists of Russian and Ukrainian citizens who were kept behind bars in both countries.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US shows interest in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
US Under Secretary of State David Hale has paid a visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. While in Nur-Sultan, the American diplomat met with Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and chaired a meeting of the C5+1 high-level group, which focused on assistance in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the implementation of regional transportation projects, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The C5+1 framework, which brings together representatives of five Central Asian countries and the United States, was established in 2015 to discuss and promote economic projects.
According to Stanislav Pritchin, Head of the analytical group at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Central Asia and Caucasus Research Center, that framework was unique when it was launched, because at that time the countries in the region had no dialogue platform of their own. The United States acted as a mediator in that project. However, when Shavkat Mirziyoyev was elected as Uzbekistan’s President, the Central Asian countries began to interact independently, without Washington’s participation.
"However, dialogue at the diplomatic level, at the level of political institutions and leaders remains important for Washington. This platform is equally vital for Central Asian countries. They received the opportunity for direct dialogue with the United States, the world’s leading economy and the nation, which has powerful military capability," he told the paper.
Experts note that Washington has so far shown particular interest in two Central Asian countries, specifically, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. "The United States seems to consider Kazakhstan some kind of a foothold in the region. To begin with, for the US, Kazakhstan is an important element of logistics as far as Afghanistan is concerned. Secondly, Washington is interested in Kazakhstan’s energy sector. Thirdly, despite Kazakhstan’s pro-Eurasian leanings, the country’s political establishment is mostly pro-Western, which is due to several factors, including the focus of its businesses on Western economic and financial flows," political scientist Zhanar Tulindinova told the paper.
Kommersant: Russia’s coal mining industry gearing up for unprecedented production growth
Russia will produce from 550 to 670 mln tonnes of coal by 2035, Kommersant writes citing data provided by the Energy Ministry. This is up to 52% more than the actual production levels in 2018.
The amended program for the industry’s development provides for the bulk of these volumes being exported to Asia-Pacific Region by rail.
One of the key points for ensuring export growth to the region is the expansion of the Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Trans-Siberian Railway providing access to eastern markets. The long-term development program for Russian Railways until 2025 envisages an increase in traffic along the eastern route of up to 195 mln tonnes. Even so, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak pointed out that this had to be synchronized with the development program for the coal industry.
However, independent experts are far less optimistic about the proposed moves. Dmitry Stapran, Director of Strategy and Operations Unit at PwC Russia, noted that China, India and Southeast Asia as a whole would continue to use coal to meet their demand for primary energy sources. That means that demand for coal as far as the mid-term perspective goes would remain.
According to Maxim Khudalov, Director of the ACRA Corporate Ratings Group, production at the level of 550 mln tonnes looks overly optimistic given current prices. Moreover, the potential of the export markets may not satisfy the ambitions of Russian coal companies, the paper quotes him as saying.