- Press review: Can the George Floyd protests tilt the election and fuel spill hits Siberia
- 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
Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, March 13, prepared by TASS
Media: What awaits Idlib following Russian-Turkish negotiations
Russian-Turkish talks on the situation in Syria’s Idlib province are being wrapped up in Ankara. The parties seek to agree on a mechanism of joint patrols along the M4 highway and ways to drive militants out of the buffer zone. Sources familiar with the negotiations told Izvestia that both countries’ military delegations are close to signing a final agreement.
"Turkey has confirmed the seriousness of its intentions," military expert Vladislav Shurygin pointed out. "The groups that it backs have stopped their attacks. However, the question is whether Turkey will be able to rein in the radical Islamists. I don’t rule out that we will see Ankara take robust action against Jabhat al-Nusra (outlawed in Russia) in order to unblock the M4 highway," he added.
As work continues on an agreement concerning the M4 roadway in northern Syria, Russia and Turkey have resumed joint patrols in the 10-kilometer safety zone along the border. Patrols were suspended amid active hostilities in Idlib.
Meanwhile, the squabble over Idlib between Moscow and Ankara has started to have an impact on Turkey’s domestic policy, Kommersant notes. In particular, leader of the opposition Good Party Meral Aksener has criticized the country’s authorities for taking too soft a negotiating position. At the same time, the largest opposition force, the Republican People's Party, calls for direct talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Syria.
"A consensus has emerged in Turkey that the country’s Syria policy has failed and the only thing left to do is to prevent the crisis from expanding," said Timur Akhmetov, an Ankara-based expert from the Russian International Affairs Council. "However, there are different views on how to do it. In the meantime, people disappointed with Erdogan are falling into some kind of a grey zone, as they are undecided. It will become a serious challenge if predictions about an early parliamentary elections are confirmed," the expert emphasized.
Media: Investors across the world plunge into panic over coronavirus isolation risks
US President Donald Trump’s decision to isolate the country from the rest of the world has created global panic, triggering a stock market plunge, Kommersant writes.
Panic like this has not been seen since 2008, said traders and analysts interviewed by the newspaper. "The corporate sector has accumulated enormous debts and there is doubt that these debts will be paid if developed countries start falling into an economic recession. All this makes investors avoid risks," Sputnik Asset Management Director General Alexander Losev pointed out.
As for the Russian market, a decline in oil prices fuels further anxiety, as the United States seeks to self-isolate and a number of OPEC countries plan to reduce contract prices. Non-resident investors have also played a role in weakening the ruble. According to Credit Suisse economist Alexei Pogorelov, as global markets plummeted, some international investors faced a liquidity crisis, which prompted them to sell all liquid assets, including Russian government bonds.
The slowdown on the global stock and currency markets will be a major one, but many players have been waiting for it for a long time, witnessing the uninterrupted growth of the US market over the course of the past ten years, Head of KRK Group’s Luxembourg Office Nikita Ryabinin told Izvestia. Stability may return to markets as soon as in April, Promsvyazbank’s Chief Analyst Denis Popov noted, adding, however, that the negative effect of the current market stress would persist until the middle of the year.
Head of Oil and Gas at KPMG Global Anton Usov emphasized that in order to stabilize the economic situation in Russia, certain monetary measures are required, as well as steps to convince the people that food and medical supplies will continue uninterrupted.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US lawmakers move to tie Trump’s hands
The US Congress has passed a resolution, which significantly limits President Donald Trump’s opportunities to use the army against Iran. The move followed a rocket attack on a US military base in Iraq, which allegedly was carried out by Iran-backed militias, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
According to the resolution, Trump will have the right to use the US Army against Iran only if the United States declares war against Tehran or if he manages to get permission from Congress. The resolution was initiated right after Iranian General Qasem Soleimani had been assassinated in a US drone attack on January 3. And now, there is another reason to fear a war between the US and Iran. On Wednesday night, Iraq’s Taji Air Base came under attack, which killed two US troops and a British military medic. The attack took place on Soleimani’s birthday and is believed to have been carried out by Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi Shiite Militia.
Trump has already stated that he will veto the resolution because, in his words, it will prevent the US government from adequately responding to Iran’s hostile actions. Most Republicans will support him here, though there are many Republican Congressmen who oppose another war in the Middle East.
However, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies at Moscow State University Yuri Rogulev believes that the Republican Party will not clash with the head of state and its presidential candidate in the November election unless Trump leaves it no choice. However, that won’t happen, the expert noted. "The presidential election is close. Trump won’t benefit from a war against Iran at the height of the election campaign. He already is facing many economic issues and problems related to the coronavirus pandemic. On the other hand, the resolution is tying the president’s hands and Trump is not a fan of such things. So he may issue a veto to bring Democrats to heel but he won’t go to war," the expert pointed out.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Efforts underway to cut Turkey’s access to Libya
Special marine units have been formed in the Libyan National Army (LNA), which are tasked with blocking the maritime routes in the Mediterranean Sea that the Turkish Armed Forces use, Arab media reported. The units consist of Libyans but foreign countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, considered to be the main opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Libya policy, are taking part in these efforts, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.
Ankara has been actively supporting Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which opposes the Libyan National Army led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Turkey particularly provides military assistance to the GNA and most supplies are delivered by sea.
Meanwhile, experts are skeptical about the idea of creating new units within the Libyan National Army. "I have doubts that the LNA marines will be capable of effective action without serious support, but their own air force and navy cannot provide it," military expert Yuri Lyamin said. "The matter is that in January and February, Turkey used frigates to ensure the safety of vessels carrying the most precious military goods to Tripoli. The LNA has nothing that could compete with these frigates at sea in terms of combat capabilities," he added. According to the analyst, Turkey earlier delivered some goods by air, but maritime routes are used for the delivery of extremely precious and oversized cargo, particularly, armored vehicles.
Russian International Affairs Council expert Anton Mardasov, in turn, pointed out that the recent Berlin conference on Libya had only confirmed the status quo, where the Turkish military protected Tripoli and the Libyan National Army had no chance to carry out a breakthrough offensive. "Predictably enough, most provisions put to paper at the conference are being violated, including the one banning weapons supplies to Libya," the expert added.
Izvestia: Demand for thermal imagers skyrockets amid coronavirus pandemic
Russian manufacturers cannot keep up with the demand for infrared cameras and thermal imagers, which has skyrocketed due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. Railway stations, airports, shopping malls and other public places desperately need this kind of equipment. However, it is not easy to quickly step up production because manufacturers used to purchase components from China and there have been issues with those recently. Efforts are underway in Russia to create entirely domestic devices and the first one of them may be ready in the coming weeks, Izvestia writes.
"In the past, we received one thermal imager order a day and now we get hundreds. To fulfill all these orders, we need to increase output by 200 times, which is impossible," said Viktor Vasilyev, deputy director of the Tekhno-As company that has been producing such equipment for almost 30 years.
"These devices are not usually in high demand. Last year, we received only one order. It takes at least a month to make a device. And now, given the skyrocketing demand, we just don’t know if we should accept orders or not. When we finally assemble the equipment, it may turn out that no one needs it anymore," a source in the VVS-Teplovizor company noted.
"With sanctions in place, we buy components in China instead of Europe. But there aren’t many industry-oriented companies in China, and they are overwhelmed with orders at the moment. So we have to wait longer," Denis Piskunov, an expert on thermal insulation systems at VVS-Teplovizor, pointed out.
Meanwhile, efforts are underway in Russia to develop thermal imagers made solely from domestically produced parts, an official from the Ministry of Industry and Trade said. These endeavors particularly involve Shvabe Holding, part of the Rostec State Corporation.