Press review: Russia fumes over US visa fiasco and Maduro arrives in Moscow / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: Russia fumes over US visa fiasco and Maduro arrives in Moscow

Press review: Russia fumes over US visa fiasco and Maduro arrives in Moscow

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, September 25, prepared by TASS

Media: US visa fiasco prevents Russian delegates from attending UN General Assembly

A new scandal has broken out between Russia and the United States. The US Embassy in Moscow did not issue visas to ten members of the Russian delegation who had been expected to accompany Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on his trip to New York to participate in the United Nations General Assembly. A sharp condemnation from Moscow was swiftly provided. The Kremlin accused Washington of violating its international obligations, while members of the State Duma called for relocating the UN headquarters from the US to somewhere else, Kommersant writes.

According to Special Counsel on Sanctions Law at the Pen & Paper bar association Sergei Glandin, as far as the heads of the foreign affairs committees of the upper and lower houses Konstantin Kosachev and Leonid Slutsky are concerned, their appearances on US blacklists turned out to be a crucial factor. "They don’t fall into the ‘head of state and prime minister’ category so they could not have received entry permits directly from the US Department of State," he explained.

This is quite a routine occurrence, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Andrey Kortunov told Vedomosti. "In theory, as the host of an international organization, the US is obliged to create conditions for its work but these obligations conflict with national laws: in this case, it is legislation blacklisting Russian officials," the expert pointed out. In such situations, if it is about international events, European countries make exceptions but "the US is always more sensitive about domestic laws and is not usually inclined to make concessions."

Russia can’t provide a tit-for-tat response since there is no UN office in Moscow, Kortunov noted. However, Russia, too, has blacklists and some US lawmakers have already been denied entry to the country this year, he said. In addition, Moscow may furnish an asymmetrical response, particularly by expanding its list of undesirable organizations, Kortunov emphasized.

Vedomosti: Another Brexit delay almost inevitable, says expert

The British Supreme Court has ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament was unlawful. The country’s parliament will reconvene on Wednesday following a two-week break, Vedomosti notes.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is important here and now, particularly for Johnson and his Conservative Party, but it won’t have any crucial constitutional consequences, Director of the Europe Insight research company Andrei Kulikov said. The British prime minister has lost because his representatives did not even try to explain the reasons behind his decision to the Court, the expert pointed out.

"Johnson is not like [previous Prime Minister Theresa] May, who used to have a plan B. He got himself caught in a trap by making uncompromising promises, which are nearly impossible to implement given the current makeup of parliament. If Johnson once again requests a snap election, it is very likely to be rejected because in this case, parliament won’t have enough time to ask for another Brexit delay at the European Union summit set to take place in mid-October," Kulikov explained.

In order to avoid breaking his promises, Johnson could resign and one of his cabinet members could take office as prime minister. "If he steps down, parliament will be able to negotiate a delay with Brussels because many in the European Union are ready for it," Kulikov noted. Even if Johnson stays, he may try to go back to the May-brokered deal and make amendments to the political declaration, the analyst said.

"Nevertheless, Johnson will hardly succeed in modifying the deal and persuading a majority of lawmakers to back it within the prescribed time limit, so another delay seems almost inevitable," the expert stressed.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Maduro arrives in Russia amid new sanctions

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has arrived in Russia for an official visit. His talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin will focus on bilateral cooperation and the West’s interference in Venezuela’s domestic affairs, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Maduro is a frequent guest in Russia. He has already visited the country three times, in 2013, 2015 and 2018. However, the current visit is somewhat unusual. Up until the very last moment, the media had remained in the dark about where and when the two president’s talks would take place.

Upon arrival in Moscow, the Venezuelan leader stated that his visit was aimed at "strengthening our historical and very positive relations, and mutual respect between our peoples."

Maduro’s visit to Russia comes amid rising tensions in Venezuela’s relations with its neighbors and the United States. The foreign ministers of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (or the Rio Pact) members, which include most countries in Latin America, agreed on Monday to impose economic sanctions on Venezuela’s authorities. The Rio Pact countries will identify individuals and organizations linked to Maduro and his immediate circle, and freeze their assets.

Director of the Center for Ibero-American Studies at St. Petersburg State University Viktor Kheifets believes there could be a link between Maduro’s Russia visit and the sanctions against Venezuela announced by the Rio Pact. "It shows that Caracas is not alone. One may say that the visit is more important for Maduro than it is for Russia. The US and its allies certainly seek to turn up the heat on Venezuela through the Rio Pact’s sanctions. By visiting Russia, Maduro once again is reminding them that he isn’t facing global isolation and his adversaries can do nothing to him," the expert pointed out.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Egyptian leader faces mounting unrest

Anti-government protests continue in Egypt, while the country’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is on a visit to the United States. Experts point out that economic demands aren’t crucial for protesters, but a portion of the population has grown tired of the authorities’ control over various areas of life. As seen in videos released on social media, protesters called on el-Sisi to step down.

According to experts, the current situation in Egypt is different from what it was in 2011, when protests led to the arrest of President Hosni Mubarak.

"The key thing is that the economic situation is completely different," said Grigory Lukyanov, a senior lecturer with the Social Sciences Department at the Higher School of Economics. "El-Sisi initially came to power because Egyptians wanted stability that former President Morsi and the 2011 events had failed to ensure. Now they have stability. The country’s economy is growing steadily, Egypt holds a balanced position among major regional and global players, including Russia, the United States, the African Union and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf," he explained.

"On the other hand, the cost of stability and economic growth is political control, which has been constantly and inevitably growing in all areas of public life, ensured by the army, police and intelligence agencies, as well as President el-Sisi’s personality cult," Lukyanov emphasized.

Program Coordinator at the Russian International Affairs Council Ruslan Mamedov also pointed to Egypt’s good economic performance. He noted that "people may certainly take to the streets, but anyway, if we take GDP figures, Egypt’s economy is growing with every year."

Vedomosti: Low economic growth rates and risk of new sanctions hamper Russia’s development

The current sanctions and the threat of new ones continue to create risks for Russia’s economy, said Senior Director of Fitch Ratings Sovereign Group Erich Arispe. Moreover, a decline in the GDP growth rate and foreign investment is already negatively affecting the country’s credit rating, Vedomosti writes.

Fitch analysts believe that an increase in budget spending in the second half of 2019, as well as a recovery in private consumption and foreign demand, may support the Russian economy. The structural factors that constrain economic growth include delays in the implementation of investment projects, low private investment growth rates, and the slow reduction of uncertainty and the government’s role in the economy.

The sanctions risks have faded into the background, since it is unclear when a new wave will strike, but still the structural task of increasing economic growth rates will definitely have to be accomplished, said Alpha Bank Chief Economist Natalia Orlova. Meanwhile, Alexandra Suslina from the Economic Expert Group think tank says it is not enough to just spend money, it has to be spent wisely. True stimulus spending by the government should take the economy to a higher growth trajectory but now, increasing outlays will only pave the way for a short-term recovery, she pointed out. If the National Projects cover infrastructure, education and healthcare, then expenditures may prove effective, argues Oleg Shibanov, academic director of the Research Center for Financial Technologies and Digital Economy at Skolkovo-New Economic School. However, there are other ways to stimulate the economy, and reducing the tax burden on businesses is among them, he noted.

The lack of institutions and a quality judicial system, along with corruption and uncertainty about the future impede effective spending, Suslina noted. As of now, 71% of executives and entrepreneurs consider the business environment in Russia to be unfavorable, as demonstrated by a summertime poll conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center. Businessmen are forced to focus on risks instead of opportunities, which makes them narrow their planning horizons and abandon long-term projects, Suslina concluded.

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