Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, August 10, prepared by TASS
Media: Lukashenko officially wins his sixth presidential election
Incumbent Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has won his sixth presidential election, according to an exit poll conducted by the government-affiliated Youth Laboratory for Sociological Research. He is said to receive 79.9% of the vote. His main rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has garnered 6.8%, Vedomosti wrote, citing the exit poll. However, members of the Overseas Exit Poll project told Izvestia that according to their surveys, conducted in 24 countries including Russia, Tikhanovskaya had garnered 79.69% of the vote, while Lukashenko had only 6.25%.
An unauthorized opposition protest began in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Sunday evening. Media reports said it involved tens of thousands of people. Similar demonstrations emerged in other cities. Dozens of people are reported to have been detained in Minsk.
Andrei Skriba, a researcher at the Higher School of Economics’ Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, emphasizes that the election has split society and if Lukashenko is declared the winner, more people will lose trust in him. Besides, in Skriba’s words, the difficult economic situation in Belarus only adds to public discord. The expert believes that "both Russia and the West will take a break following Lukashenko’s election win," he told Vedomosti.
Yevgeny Preigerman, an analyst at the Minsk Dialogue expert initiative, in turn, says that the Minsk protests will not lead to political changes because the country’s people are not prepared for a long-term standoff. Another issue with the Minsk protest is that there is no clear leader. "A leadership vacuum creates huge problems as the authorities have no one to make agreements with," the expert pointed out.
Izvestia: What do Beirut protesters want?
Demonstrators in the Lebanese capital of Beirut are determined to continue their protest until the entire government steps down and honest elections are conducted in the country, people taking part in protests told Izvestia. According to the Lebanese media, nearly 500 protesters and dozens of police officers have been injured in clashes. Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab has announced that an early parliamentary election will take place within the next two months.
The situation in Lebanon had been tense even before last week’s devastating blast rocked Beirut, said Vyacheslav Matuzov, an expert in Asian studies. According to him, the Lebanese people had opposed corruption and the steps of authorities at various levels, which eventually led to a government change but the system remained the same.
"Today, protesters demand major political reforms, first and foremost, the renunciation of the system of confessionalism that reserves the highest offices for representatives of certain religious communities," the political scientist pointed out.
According to Matuzov, regional organizations, namely the Arab League, and the United Nations could help find a way out of the crisis.
However, despite violent protests, new forces can hardly be expected to come to power in Lebanon, leading expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Oriental Studies Alexei Sarabyev noted. Although protesters demand that Hezbollah be disarmed (particularly out of suspicion that the group used the ammonium nitrate that detonated in Beirut’s port area for military purposes), it is unlikely to step back, the expert added.
For any new power to emerge and the system of confessionalism to cease to exist, the entire Lebanese society needs to undergo a complete change, but so far, there are no signs showing that it is possible, the expert emphasized.
Media: Defense Ministry clarifies Russian nuclear deterrence strategy
An article titled "On the foundations of Russia’s State Nuclear Deterrence Strategy", written by Major General Andrey Sterlin and Colonel Alexander Khryapin, has been published in Krasnaya Zvezda, the official newspaper of the Russian Defense Ministry. Sterlin is a senior official at the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff, and Khyrapin is a leading research fellow at the Military-Strategic Studies Center of the General Staff’s Military Academy. Vedomosti’s sources say that the article seeks to explain to a foreign audience Russia’s document on strategic nuclear planning, which was published on June 2, for the first time in history.
The article can be viewed as a continuation of the policy aimed at making the Russian government’s views on the country’s nuclear strategy open to the public, Russian International Affairs Council expert Alexander Yermakov said. According to him, the article emphasizes that the only goal of Russia’s nuclear forces is to ensure strategic deterrence by making it clear to adversaries that they could "suffer unacceptable damage".
According to Mikhail Barabanov, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, the main message of the article is the following: "There is a specific answer to the question about the goal of aggression against Russia, a power with significant nuclear capability: the destruction of Russia as a state." That said, the article views any military aggression against Russia as reason enough for using nuclear weapons and even becoming the first to use them, the expert added.
"We won’t try to figure out what kind of missiles they have and whether they are nuclear. Once a missile attack is launched towards our country, a decision will be made on a retaliatory strike on the country from where the attack is coming," military political scientist Alexander Peredzhiyev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. According to him, it is not only about countries that produce such missiles but also about countries that have given permission to deploy missiles on their soil.
Vedomosti: German officials stand their ground on Nord Stream 2
Mayor of the German city of Sassnitz Frank Kracht has said that Mukran port, where pipes are stored for the completion of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and a vessel involved in the project is moored, will ignore the threat of US sanctions. According to the mayor, municipal and port authorities won't let US politicians decide which projects Germany should participate in, Vedomosti writes.
Three US senators earlier sent a letter to Mukran port operator Faehrhafen Sassnitz, threatening that technical assistance in efforts to complete the pipeline's construction would entail serious consequences. Chairman of the German Bundestag Committee on Economic Affairs and Energy Klaus Ernst slammed the letter as a direct threat.
Strong comments by German businessmen and officials make it clear that the United States and Germany have entered a new round in the standoff on Nord Stream 2. However, experts say Washington has not taken any effective steps yet that could hinder the construction of the pipeline.
"US President Donald Trump and his administration will hardly opt to raise tensions with Germany and the European Union, particularly amid a presidential election campaign," Deputy Director of the Institute for Energy and Finance Alexei Belogoryev explained. He says that given Washington’s uneasy relations with China and Iran, a squabble with Germany will create additional problems, particularly because Berlin is capable of introducing retaliatory sanctions.
Meanwhile, Chief Analyst at the National Energy Security Fund Igor Yushkov believes that once the pipeline is complete, new difficulties may emerge that will be related to certificates for Nord Stream 2. "Germany will need to issue operation permits, which may lead to more pressure from the US," the expert said.
Kommersant: Internet providers struggle with growth despite lockdown benefits
The number of households with internet access rose by 290,000 to reach 33,790,000 in the second quarter of the year amid Russia’s coronavirus self-isolation, according to TelecomDaily. All major providers saw an increase in customers in the second quarter, Kommersant writes.
However, despite a positive trend for new users, providers find it difficult to ensure revenue growth, TelecomDaily Director General Denis Kuskov admitted. According to him, deteriorating economic situation, rising unemployment and declining purchasing power make people choose cheaper options for Internet access.
However, Kuskov believes that "if the self-isolation scenario does not repeat itself, the market will start to slightly grow once again."
The Er-Telecom company expects corporate Internet service to become the main driver behind the industry's growth.
Meanwhile, Rostelecom expects that convergent offers, which particularly include TV and mobile services along with Internet access, will contribute to the growth of fixed Internet services in the second half of the year.