Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, August 29, prepared by TASS
Media: Russian journalist’s release improves chances for swap deal between Moscow, Kiev
On August 28, Editor-in-Chief of RIA Novosti Ukraine Kirill Vyshinsky was released after spending over a year in Ukrainian custody. It is a clear sign that a major prisoner swap between Russia and Ukraine may take place in the coming days. Experts interviewed by Kommersant say that Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky will do everything he can to make the exchange happen because it is his personal initiative and he is very much interested in carrying it out.
The framework that the parties have agreed on particularly stipulates the release of the Ukrainian sailors detained in the Kerch Strait in November 2018. However, neither Russia nor Ukraine has made the exchange lists public.
"Undoubtedly, there will be some rumors but in my view, the exchange will eventually take place," Konstantin Skorkin, an expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, told the newspaper. "If it occurs before the new Verkhovna Rada begins its work, it will create a winning situation for Zelensky’s team," he added. According to the expert, resolving the issue will bolster the peace process. "Perhaps, some other steps will follow, which would be related to the disengagement of troops and a ceasefire," Skorkin said.
Russian Council on International Affairs expert Alexander Gushchin, in turn, pointed out that Vyshinsky’s release was "a symbolic step that would have been impossible under the previous [Ukrainian] government." "It increases Zelensky’s authority in the eyes of his Western partners. This is how he is demonstrating his readiness to make concessions in the humanitarian field, which, however, contain very few political obligations," the expert noted.
However, Russia and Ukraine still may have disagreements on certain prisoners or the number of Russians on Kiev’s exchange list. However, a delay doesn’t translate to failure because the prisoner swap would benefit both Moscow and Kiev, providing them with an opportunity to show goodwill ahead of the resumption of the Normandy Four dialogue, Russian International Affairs Council Director General Andrei Kortunov told Vedomosti.
Izvestia: Is there a new Trump-Kim summit on the horizon
US President Donald Trump has mentioned North Korean leader Kim Jong-un several times recently and, given the White House occupant’s actual indifference to Pyongyang’s increasing missile launches and his hints at another potential summit with Kim, many have started to debate the possible resumption of talks between the leaders. However, experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that both parties are content with the current pause and no summits can be expected to take place in the near future.
Pyongyang won’t come to the negotiating table with Washington until it makes sure that the US will come up with appropriate offers, including security guarantees and the removal of sanctions. The Hanoi summit failed to result in an agreement, which created difficulties for Kim. However, Trump doesn’t seem to be interested in lifting sanctions, head of the Korea Center at the Stockholm-based Institute for Security and Development Policy Sangsoo Lee told the newspaper.
According to Konstantin Asmolov, an expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, the two leaders are pragmatic through and through so they understand that the denuclearization issue cannot be resolved for the benefit of both parties, so both are currently comfortable with the process on hold.
"It allows Trump to say: ‘I have saved everyone, there is no war, and ICBMs aren’t flying.’ At the same time, Kim may point to the lack of rising tensions so that North Korea can develop certain weapons since there is no total ban, and continue to rebuild its economy," Asmolov emphasized.
Director of the Institute for Korean Studies at the Ohio State University Mitchell Lerner believes that a new summit is possible no sooner than 2020. According to him, rather than resolving the nuclear issue, the US president will be focused on gaining political points ahead of the next presidential election by touting his foreign policy successes.
Vedomosti: Missile systems’ share in Russian arms exports rising
The share of missile systems in Russia’s arms exports increased to 20% in 2018, head of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugayev said on the sidelines of the MAKS 2019 International Aviation and Space Salon, Vedomosti notes.
According to the newspaper’s source in the defense industry, the growing share of missile equipment in arms exports is thanks to the international sales of the S-400 Triumf systems. In the future, the export of the S-350 Vityaz systems and after-sale maintenance will make it possible to retain the 20% level, the source said.
This year, Russia will complete its delivery of S-400s to China, while also implementing an S-400 contract with Turkey. So, according to a source close to Russia’s state arms exporter, the missile systems’ share may even hit 25-30% in 2019. That said, in 2020, Russia may begin fulfilling a major contract with India.
The increasing sales of missile systems indeed stem mainly from the S-400 deal with China and outstanding agreements with Turkey and India, said Konstantin Makiyenko, an expert with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. As a result, the S-400 systems have replaced the Shukhoi fighter jets as a symbol of Russia’s arms exports, he noted. However, no new big contracts on the delivery of warplanes can be expected in the near future so, in Makiyenko’s words, there is a need to make new long-term deals to deliver warplanes to the Russian Aerospace Force, because most contracts made in accordance with the 2020 State Arms Program have already been completed or are about to be completed.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington bankrolling Hong Kong protests
As October 1 draws closer, the date when China is going to celebrate its 70th anniversary, Beijing is showing mounting resistance to Washington’s attempts to spoil the party. China has published information on who in Hong Kong is receiving funds from the Americans, and how much. At the same time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has reprimanded US National Security Adviser John Bolton for his criticism of China’s aid to poor countries, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
Judging by articles in the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, the country’s intelligence agencies have managed to figure out how foreign powers sponsor antigovernment protests. The rallies are led by an organization named Human Rights Monitoring in Siangan (Hong Kong), which had been getting funds from the US non-profit soft power organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) since 1995. According to NED’s 2018 data, the human rights organization has received more than $3.95 mln. However, the Americans had another trump card up their sleeve in the undeclared ideological standoff with the Chinese, and they did not hesitate to use it. Rumors have it that the Chinese Communist Party’s cells, which used to be silent in the undergrown, have stepped up their activities in Hong Kong.
Leading Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies Vasily Kashin told the newspaper that "it is no surprise that the Americans used Hong Kong as a weak spot in China’s defense system, supporting local non-governmental organizations. On the other hand, there are the Chinese Communist Party’s clandestine cells. The Communist Party did not abolish underground membership after it had seized power in 1949. In fact, such groups indeed may be active in regions like Hong Kong, where it is not practical to advertise the activities of the Party’s bodies," the expert noted.
He pointed to two possible scenarios for Hong Kong. "China would prefer an option where the protests lose momentum and it becomes possible for local law enforcement agencies to mow them down. However, the negative scenario includes the deployment of security forces from the mainland. It would deal a severe blow to the One Country, Two Systems idea," Kashin emphasized.
Izvestia: Increasing coffee and chocolate sales indicate economic anxiety
Chocolate and coffee sales in Russia respectively grew by three percent and 11% this summer season, according to data released by Gfk Rus. At first thought, a cold summer is the reason but experts disagree. According to them, people react to overall instability by drinking coffee and eating chocolate, Izvestia writes.
Science Director of the Scientific Research Institute of Nutrition Viktor Tutelyan said that the increasing consumption of those products had more to do with the economy, including fears of rising prices, rather than with the weather. Reputed nutritionist Alexei Kovalkov shares this view. He pointed out that as far as the production of feel-good chemicals was concerned, chocolate wouldn’t help in rainy weather because the level of serotonin in the body increased only under bright sunlight. According to the expert, people often drink coffee instead of having dinner because a cup of coffee eases hunger for up to an hour and a half.
Senior analyst at BCS Premier Sergei Suverov agrees that people are distressed nowadays. "People are afraid of a coming global financial crisis and face declining incomes," he noted. "On the whole, it is a well-known fact that in the times of volatility, people start saving money on serious things: for instance, they stop buying cars, jewelry and gourmet food. At the same time, the demand for chocolate usually grows because chocolate is a cheap and effective way to cheer up," Suverov said.
It is easy to understand those who try to comfort themselves with chocolate and coffee instead of having dinner. But healthy food experts warn against going too far. According to Kovalkov, the World Health Organization recommends drinking no more than six cups of coffee per day. Tutelyan suggests having only one or two cups, adding that people suffering from high blood pressure should be particularly cautious. He also suggested that those with insulin and obesity issues should limit their consumption of chocolate.