- Press review: Opposition reacts to Lukashenko’s inauguration and Russian-led drills excel
- Press review: The ‘all or nothing’ New START bid and Lukashenko’s hush-hush inauguration
- Press review: What Putin offered the world in UN speech and US itching to oust Maduro
- Press review: EU backs down on sanctions and Israel to normalize ties with Sudan
Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, August 6, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: US ramps up Syrian oil plunder
The United States keeps "laying its hands on Syrian hydrocarbons," Izvestia writes: this time, a US company signed a deal on modernizing oil fields with the Kurdish units controlling areas to the east of the Euphrates. Expectedly, this step was harshly criticized by Damascus, but also by Turkey, the paper writes, adding that the Syrian oil plunder could trigger a serious political aftermath, which will be lambasted by many countries of the Middle Eastern region.
The deal on modernizing oil fields was announced by US Senator Lindsey Graham, who did not specify a particular US company. However, Al-Monitor wrote that this was Delta Crescent Energy LLC, which was registered in February 2019 in the Delaware state. Among its partners there are former diplomats, military personnel as well as businessmen involved in developing oil deposits.
Essentially, the new agreement has become another blow for Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity. In its turn, Ankara expressed regret over the US move, saying that it was tantamount to sponsoring terrorism. Turkey, fearing the prospects of an independent Kurdistan, has been stonewalling Washington’s steps in Syria. The US has to choose between Turkey and the Kurds, who have become bitter enemies amongst themselves.
Nevertheless, the US could make serious concessions for Turkey, but it is not going to fully stop supporting the Kurds, because a lot depends on them: the election campaign, the standoff with Iran, Israel’s support and probably the creation of an independent Kurdistan over a long-term horizon. Syrian oil in this case is becoming a pleasant bonus for Washington, the paper writes.
As for Tel Aviv, it is satisfied not only with the US policy aimed at containing Tehran, but also with the cooperation between the Americans and the Kurds. Israel understands that if an independent Kurdistan is established, which will incorporate parts of Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, this will deal a serious blow to the Islamic world, according to the paper.
Kommersant: Russia, EU launch talks on carbon border adjustment mechanism
The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) has submitted to the Ministry of Economic Development its proposals on the ways to reduce risks of a possible introduction of cross-border carbon regulation in the European Union. This means bringing national carbon standards closer to international ones and supporting measures to decrease carbon intensity in Russian products. In the worst-case scenario, Russia is likely to face litigation with the EU in the World Trade Organization, and even retaliatory measures could be introduced. According to Kommersant business daily, Russia and the EU will hold their first consultations on this new regulation on September 8. The new European measure could cost Russian exporters several billion euro per year.
The EU’s program dubbed the European Green Deal includes the introduction of a carbon border adjustment mechanism for certain economic sectors by 2021. So far, particular mechanisms are unclear but they are already raising concerns among Russian businesses: Russian exports are some of the most carbon-intensive in the world. According to estimates by KPMG International Cooperative, this mechanism could cost companies some 4 - 6 bln euro annually.
A draft EU budget for 2021-2027 says that the new measure could ensure from 5 to 14 bln euro per year and thus Russia’s share in this sum is equivalent to Russian exports in European imports.
In its official statement, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development said that the carbon border adjustment mechanism must not be discriminative, must be in line with the WTO’s norms and must not create obstacles in mutual trade. Some experts believe that the most effective measures of responding to these plans could be introducing the so-called "carbon price" and passing a law aimed at reducing emissions and implementing the principle that the "polluter pays" for greenhouse gases. In its letter the RSPP did not support such proposals saying that Russia’s economy expenses in case of introducing internal Russian fiscal mechanisms could reach nearly 1 trillion rubles ($13.7 bln) annually.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia, China, Iran come closer amid US sanctions
Russia, China and Iran are cultivating economic and political ties and are creating a new bloc, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The force bringing these three countries closer is the US sanctions pressure currently affecting them. These countries are already using their national currencies in mutual trade instead of the US dollar. They are also creating special mechanisms to bypass US sanctions. Iran is preparing new agreements on long-term cooperation with China and Russia. Iranian diplomats are talking about establishing a new Asian bloc, according to the paper.
Meanwhile, the current Russian-Iranian trade does not exceed $2 bln. Although the countries agreed to bring trade to $25 bln, Russia’s exports to Iran mostly include food and agricultural products, metals and chemical goods. Last year, Iran and Russia established communications between their national systems for sending financial data on payments without using SWIFT. Russia continues building the Bushehr-2 nuclear power plant in Iran, which is due to be commissioned by early 2026. Iran is also purchasing Russia’s S-300 missile systems and is fulfilling the International North-South Transport Corridor project jointly with Russia.
However, Russian experts don’t see a high potential for boosting Russian-Iranian economic cooperation. "The US policy on naming the countries which are reluctant to yield to Washington’s pressure as rogue states is inevitably bringing them together. After the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS, other associations could emerge and their participants will be acting in coordination with each other amid the current transformation of the unipolar world," said Mikhail Kogan, who heads the analytical research department of the Higher School of Finance Management. However, he believes that the expectations of Iranian diplomats are more linked to cooperation in foreign policy. Tehran and Moscow are actively coordinating their Middle Eastern policy and are cooperating as part of the "oil-for-food" program, but it’s early to speak about enhancing economic ties now. Amid plunging oil prices, Moscow and Tehran have to mostly rely on China and its investments, which could support the economy and create new jobs, Kogan said.
Kommersant: Beirut blast caused by ‘corruption and negligence’
The explosion at Beirut’s port, which killed more than 130 people, injured at least 4,000 and left 300,000 people homeless, is believed to have been mainly caused by "corruption and negligence", Kommersant writes. Before the tragedy at the port, Lebanon was a bankrupt state and international financial bodies refused to deal with it unless it carried out reforms. The Lebanese population was pushed into poverty, but politicians have failed to come to terms so far. The blast dealt a heavy blow to Lebanon’s entire economy, the paper says.
According to the country’s official version, the blasts occurred at the facility storing 2,750 tonnes of ammonia nitrate for six years, which had been seized from a Moldova-flagged Rhosus vessel. This ammonia nitrate was probably produced at the Azot plant in Georgia’s Rustavi, according to Kommersant. In October 2013, the ship was arrested by Beirut’s port authorities over gross violations of safety rules. Some crew members were allowed to go home, while the others were allowed to leave only in summer 2014. The cargo was supposed to be disposed of.
"The shady scheme with vessel registration negatively impacts sailors and could finally cause such tragedies like in Beirut with ammonia nitrate’s explosion. The owners can never be reached, the cargo has no owner and the sailors are abandoned," said inspector of the International Transport Workers' Federation in Novorossiysk Olga Ananyina.
"According to estimates, without taking into account COVID-19 consequences, Lebanon needed at least $93 bln even before the blast to avoid defaulting on its debt. Now it will have to spend more on Beirut’s restoration. We will wait for final calculations of the damage, but probably, they will need to at least double that sum in the end, if not more. It’s unclear where to borrow money," said Svetlana Babenkova, senior researcher at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Vedomosti: Sberbank gearing up to launch its own cryptocurrency
Russia’s biggest lender Sberbank is preparing to launch Sbercoin - digital money with a fixed value (stablecoin) in rubles - for transactions in digital financial assets, Vedomosti writes citing Sergei Popov, director of Sberbank’s Transaction Business Division. He explained that the new law "On Digital Financial Assets" allows issuing digital assets and exchanging them for other such assets.
Experts were not surprised by Popov’s announcement because Sberbank has been actively searching for new financial tools. "Sberbank’s specialists have been long exploring the technical and legal possibility of issuing Sbercoin as a tool for transactions and that’s why no doubt, the adoption of the law "On Digital Financial Assets" will become a trigger, significantly stimulating working in this direction," said Commercial Director of Waves Enterprise blockchain developer Igor Kuzmichev.
However, any practical steps on issuing digital currency are impossible until additional legislation is adopted. This is expected in autumn and next year digital financial assets could be a reality in Russia, the paper writes.
Despite the delayed start, the development of stablecoin in Russia is in line with international trends, said Head of the Russian Center for Competences and OECD Standards Analysis Anonina Levashenko. "Given that Sberbank is building its own ecosystem and is focusing not only on financial services, its stablecoin could be in high demand," she noted. The launch of this cryptocurrency could be explained by the wish to boost transactions inside the ecosystem and reduce their costs.