- Press review: How hard has Russian GDP been hit and Kiev still seeking NATO, EU membership
- Press review: Turkish air power threatens Haftar and China vows to tackle US meddling
- Press review: NATO to suffer from US Open Skies exit and Trump sees fraud in mail-in vote
- Press review: Russian regions lift quarantines and Sweden isolated for being lockdown-free
Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, March 18, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Russia’s constitutional vote likely to be delayed over coronavirus
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Tuesday on holding the nationwide vote on constitutional amendments on April 22. The president noted that the vote would be held on that day if the epidemiological situation in the country permitted. Earlier, representatives of the Golos movement for protecting voters’ rights and journalist Alexei Venediktov called for postponing the vote due to the coronavirus pandemic, Kommersant business daily writes. The Golos activists believe that the coronavirus spread hinders campaigning for and against the amendments and poses risks of contracting the coronavirus at polling stations in addition to having problems with opening polls overseas.
The president published the decree on setting the date for the constitutional vote after the Constitutional Court had approved the plans. Within three days, a procedure for holding and preparing the vote will be approved, creating legal grounds for launching a campaign to inform the public.
Experts interviewed by Kommersant pointed out that the coronavirus outbreak could last for two or three months. The first coronavirus cases in Russia were officially confirmed in February. Moscow’s mayoral office started introducing its first quarantine measures in the first weeks of March. So, the constitutional vote could be postponed until the summer, according to the newspaper.
A source in the Central Election Commission said the election authority was "working on preparing for the vote rather than on putting it off." At a meeting with Russia’s election chief Ella Pamfilova, Putin hoped that the CEC would ensure the vote at the highest level and in full compliance with law. No threshold for voter turnout has been set and the amendments will enter into force if more than half of the voters endorse them.
Izvestia: Germany mulls lifting anti-Russian sanctions amid coronavirus
German politicians are calling for canceling sanctions against Russia amid the coronavirus pandemic, Waldemar Herdt, a member of the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Izvestia. Nations should help each other during hard times and the current crisis will deal a heavy blow to the entire EU economy. The move to lift anti-Russian sanctions could boost trade in Europe, the MP insisted. The German parliament is expected to discuss the proposal at the upcoming meeting in a week, which could be held online.
"These sanctions should have been canceled before this crisis caused by the coronavirus. However, now when the borders are closed this issue is even more pressing," the politician said. "I think this crisis will harm the economy of both Germany and the entire EU. No doubt, we should have closer ties with our neighbors and restore trade with Russia, this will do good for the entire economic system and will be timely."
Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Interim Commission on Information Policy and Cooperation with the Media Alexei Pushkov told the newspaper that the chances that Berlin’s initiative would be backed by all EU members were slim. The major stumbling block is the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he noted. However, if the coronavirus crisis continues, the EU will have to give up its Russophobia, the politician stressed.
German political scientist Alexander Rahr agrees that the idea of cancelling anti-Russian sanctions would be logical, but now EU leaders should understand that it’s advantageous for them to seek closer ties with Russia. The key problem here is ideology and it’s hard for them to cross the line that they have drawn for themselves, the expert noted. The behavior of the EU or its members will now depend on the coronavirus situation in Russia. If everything remains as is, the Europeans could restore cooperation, he explained.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Experts warn $25-a-barrel oil will shatter Russian ruble
The price for a barrel of oil in rubles has slipped much lower than the level, which the Russian Energy Ministry feels is acceptable for commercial production. Today, a barrel of oil costs some 1,800 rubles instead of the "tolerable" level of 2,500 rubles. The profitability of Russian oil companies could be restored by weakening the ruble by one-third, according to a forecast by foreign experts. Russians should now start preparing for 100 rubles per dollar. Until there are signs that the coronavirus pandemic could be taken under control, the ruble remains vulnerable, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.
The price of Russia’s Urals oil has dropped to $25 per barrel, Director at Analytical Department at Locko Invest Kirill Tremasov said. "It’s not far away from the 2016 minimum when at a certain point oil plunged to $23.50. Then the ruble rate was 82 per dollar, and now it’s nearly 74," the expert wrote on his Telegram channel, not ruling out a further decline of the Russian currency.
Deputy Head of the Alpari analytical center Natalya Milchakova notes that that a lot will depend not only on oil prices but also on macroeconomic data, including on inflation of consumer prices in Russia as well as the demand or the lack of demand in Russia’s government bonds. "Should investors flee from Russian state debt amid new sanctions or an economic slump the ruble could dip even below earlier levels," she warned.
Izvestia: Coronavirus outbreak forces UEFA to postpone Euro 2020
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) has officially declared postponing Euro 2020 for a year. The tournament will be held on June 11-July 11, 2021. This is the best solution amid the current coronavirus pandemic, experts interviewed by Izvestia said. The matches will be held in 12 cities across the world and Russia will be one of the hosts.
It was obvious that it would be impossible to hold the Euro championship as scheduled. Almost all of the continent’s football championships have been suspended and now it is unclear when they will resume. Even if the situation with the coronavirus in Europe normalizes soon, it will be unrealistic to play all the missed matches by mid-June, the paper says.
"All of Europe has been engulfed by this pandemic," prominent Russian coach Sergei Silkin told the paper.
"There are no countries on the continent, which have not been hit by this disease. So, it seems to me that even if one country had been picked as the Euro 2020 host, it would have been postponed anyway. UEFA has introduced an interesting experiment with 12 hosts, but now it’s not going to happen. Let’s wait for a year."
The European football’s governing body decided to hold the event in 12 cities in Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of the first continental Cup. The hosts will remain unchanged: Russia, England, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Azerbaijan, Spain, Scotland, Hungary, Romania, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Victory Day parade preparations underway despite coronavirus
Harsh measures on preventing the spread of the coronavirus have not fazed the Russian Defense Ministry’s units and facilities. The troops in Alabino, near Moscow, continue preparing for the anticipated parade marking the 75th anniversary of the USSR’s Victory in the Great Patriotic War, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes citing military sources.
More than 10,000 servicemen are currently involved in the effort despite a ban on mass open-air events in the Moscow Region and in the Russian capital itself.
The Defense Ministry reports that the Baltic Fleet has sent more than 500 marines to Moscow to prepare for the march on May 9. Some 1,000 cadets from the Military Academy of Strategic Missile Forces are preparing for the parade. More than 450 paratroopers from Kostroma will also arrive in Moscow to take part in the parade. They will be accommodated and train near the Alabino firing range on a special platform emulating Red Square.
The scale of this training shows that the Victory Day parade will involve more than 15,000 troops and 375 pieces of equipment, the paper writes.
Meanwhile, public activists and parents of the cadets have voiced concerns that these preparations, which are taking place amid the coronavirus threat, could affect the participants’ health.
However, a military doctor assured the paper that "there would be no COVID-19 breakout in the army and the fleet," stressing that "military medicine is still strong in Russia." Russia could also adopt the experience of China, Italy and France in combating the coronavirus. Russia’s medical units could help the National Guard ensure a curfew in big cities to prevent the spread of the disease, he explained.