Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, July 23, prepared by TASS
Media: Ukraine’s presidential party set to form new government on its own
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) should start to implement the Minsk Agreements following the Servant of the People party’s parliamentary election win, Head of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia. The presidential party will have the opportunity to form a new government on its own, giving the Ukrainian leader a free hand and freedom of maneuver.
Ukrainian political scientist Vladimir Fesenko, cited by Vedomosti, said that the outcome of the vote in single-mandate constituencies was the major sensation of the election, which was the result of Zelensky’s activities in July. Having achieved such a success, the Servant of the People party doesn’t need to set up a coalition, which is unprecedented in the history of independent Ukraine.
The landslide victory of Zelensky’s party stems from voter attitudes, as Ukrainians are tired of the previous authorities, Center for Current Politics Director Alexei Chesnakov said. According to him, "Zelensky dominated the media landscape during both the presidential and the parliamentary election campaigns." "Others lagged behind, unable to present any initiatives that could overshadow his agenda," the expert noted.
Kosachev explained to Izvestia that since the Ukrainian leader could rely on his own party without taking other factions into account, there were good prospects for resolving the situation in Donbass. "We used to hear Poroshenko say that he wasn’t able to push the laws stipulated by the Minsk Agreements through the fragmented parliament that was out of his control. Now, the situation is significantly changing," the Russian senator pointed out.
According to Moscow State Institute of International Relations Associate Professor Kirill Koktysh, Zelensky is truly interested in resolving the conflict and may now push for the implementation of the Agreements. As far as relations with Russia are concerned, Zelensky will probably opt to restore economic ties without improving political relations, said Russian Institute for Strategic Studies expert Vladimir Yevseyev.
RBC: Tanker war and spy scandal add to tensions around Iran
Relations between Iran and the West continue to deteriorate. The UK, the United States and the European Union demand that Tehran release a detained British tanker, threatening Iran with new sanctions. It is not in Iran’s interest to drag out the conflict, said experts interviewed by RBC.
On July 22, Iran’s Fars news agency reported that the country’s intelligence agencies had apprehended 17 people working for the CIA. The spy scandal is another result of rising tensions between Iran and the West. On July 19, Iran detained the Stena Impero British oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, citing a violation of international maritime rules. The detention had been preceded by a number of incidents in the waters off Iran.
On Thursday, US President Donald Trump announced that the US Navy had downed an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz. London, in turn, claimed to have prevented Iranian boats from seizing a British tanker in the Strait. Tehran denied involvement in the incident, as well as the downing of its drone. In early July, the British Royal Navy detained Iran’s Grace 1 oil tanker in Gibraltar’s waters, which, according to London, was carrying oil to Syria.
Iran’s decision to detain the Stena Impero British vessel may lead to two negative consequences, said Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies Vladimir Sazhin. First, such activities may persuade the UK and other EU countries to put active pressure on Iran. "Until now, the UK, France and Germany have stood side by side with Iran in its conflict with the US.
If EU countries stop containing US pressure, Iran will have to face great losses and the nuclear deal will probably collapse," he noted. Second, the expert did not rule out that if the tanker war continued to escalate, the United States might give a military response to Iran’s closure of the Strait of Hormuz.
By seizing a British ship and reducing compliance with the nuclear deal, Iran seeks greater concessions from the international community, Chatham House expert Sanam Vakil pointed out. However, in her view, if Britain and the EU join forces with Washington and increase pressure on Iran, Tehran’s activities may lead to the opposite result, increasing the damage that common Iranians are facing from sanctions. Vakil said that showing restraint and launching talks with Iran on the vessel’s release would be the best option for the UK.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Japan could shelve its territorial dispute with Russia
Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party won the recent House of Councillors election. However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expected to get a mandate to amend the country’s Constitution that would make it possible to restore Japan’s status as a military power. The party failed to win two-thirds of the seats in parliament, which was necessary for putting the plan into action. Now, the cabinet will focus on resolving a trade dispute with the United States and easing tensions with China. Tokyo will also continue peace treaty talks with Moscow, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
However, it is unlikely that Tokyo will succeed in getting closer to resolving its dispute with Russia over the southern Kuril Islands. Abe has held over 20 meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin since 2013. According to the Japan Times newspaper, there is little chance that Russia will agree to a compromise that would stipulate handing the islands over to Japan.
Moscow State Institute of International Relations Professor Dmitry Streltsov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that "Abe’s election win was expected. The status quo is preserved. The previously set agenda in relations between Moscow and Tokyo will gradually get implemented, at least, until 2021, when Abe’s term as prime minister expires. Talks will go on and a positive trend in bilateral relations will remain," the expert said.
According to him, Abe is a pro-Russian politician who seeks to boost political and economic ties, as well as joint activities on the Kuril Islands. "The launch of new big joint ventures can hardly be expected although the project to produce liquefied natural gas in Yamal, which involves Japan’s state investors, is rather significant, and its implementation will continue," Streltsov concluded.
Vedomosti: Moscow and Beijing to renew defense cooperation agreement
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed an ordinance, upholding the Defense Ministry’s initiative to make a cooperation agreement with China’s Defense Ministry. Apart from instructions to hold talks with China, the ordinance also points out that the initiative had been agreed with the Russian Foreign Ministry, Vedomosti notes.
The previous defense agreement was signed in 1993, but cooperation between Moscow and Beijing has gone through significant changes since then, said a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry. For instance, joint military drills now involve navies, ground troops and air forces, and include activities to train joint strikes on a potential enemy (like it happened during the aerial part of the Peace Mission 2018 exercise).
Since the current agreement was signed, relations between the two countries, including defense, have radically changed as well as the global situation, said another source close to Russia’s Defense Ministry. Since the early 2000s, Moscow and Beijing have conducted a large number of joint military drills.
Though Russian-Chinese relations in the defense area cannot be described as a military alliance, and, according to official statements, they are not aimed against third countries, ties continue to deepen. In fact, the two countries’ armed forces remain set to carry out joint activities on a wider scale, learning to respond to the growing number of crisis situations, a source close to the Defense Ministry emphasized.
According to Vasily Kashin, a Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, a new agreement will be more advanced and aimed at ensuring more complicated forms of cooperation in terms of modern day combat training and military drills. It may also cover preparations for activities such as joint air patrolling, the expert added.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Nord Stream 2 made Washington blind to new 'threat'
The United States is so focused on the fight against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project that it has overlooked a new "threat" for Europe, which is Russia’s liquefied natural gas (LNG). Washington keeps on warning Germany against boosting energy partnership with Moscow, insisting on the construction of LNG terminals. However, German experts point out that the EU imported more LNG from Russia than from the US last winter, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
Most of Russia's LNG supplies come to the European market from the Yamal LNG project operated by Novatek, which is forced to sell all of its LNG to Europe because its LNG plant had been constructed well ahead of schedule, Chief Analyst at the National Energy Security Fund Igor Yushkov explained. "LNG carriers are built on schedule, there is not enough of them. Besides, Novatek also lacks rented ARC4-class tankers," he said.
The lack of tankers is the reason why all Russian LNG from Yamal is delivered to the West. When gas prices drop in Asia and Central and South American countries, US LNG suppliers make more profit from selling gas to Europe, Yushkov notes. It creates a competition between Russia's and US LNG in Europe.
"The production cost of LNG in Yamal is rather low because liquefying doesn’t require much spending and there is a near total lack of taxes on the Yamal LNG project. It makes competing with US LNG that much easier," the expert explained.
Russia managed to catch up with the US in terms of LNG exports to the EU market in a very short time. It became possible mostly thanks to the launch of the Yamal LNG project, said Gennady Nikolyaev, an expert at the Academy of Finance and Investment Management. According to him, the European market is currently "full to the brink of bursting."
"This may explain Washington’s desire to impose sanctions on EU countries willing to cooperate with Russia in the energy sector. The US' whole ploy to enter the European market is about to fail. And since it is based on expected revenues and has been producing no profit, these activities can be expected to slow down in the near future," Nikolayev noted.