Press review: Armenia, Azerbaijan say no to ceasefire and Lukashenko laughs off EU leaders / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: Armenia, Azerbaijan say no to ceasefire and Lukashenko laughs off EU leaders

Press review: Armenia, Azerbaijan say no to ceasefire and Lukashenko laughs off EU leaders

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, September 30, prepared by TASS

Izvestia: Yerevan and Baku reject prospect of ceasefire negotiations

During the three days that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict had ratcheted up, the warring sides have not come closer to an armistice. According to the latest data, so far over 80 people have died in Nagorno-Karabakh alone, which exceeds the official information about the victims of the April 2016 war. Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan’s president believes that there can be no negotiations with Armenia, taking into account the current position of its leadership. Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan also said that the violence must end before engaging in any dialogue. Experts interviewed by Izvestia noted that so far none of the parties is ready to sit down at the negotiating table, largely because the societies of both Armenia and Azerbaijan have demanded a military solution to the conflict.

Without external pressure from third countries, mainly Russia and other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - France and the United States, the conflict could drag on for a long time, political scientist and Valdai Club expert Farhad Mammadov told Izvestia. "International attention will influence the duration of the conflict, which has now flared up, and it is possible that pressure will be exerted on the warring sides in order to end it [the conflict]. But in both countries there is public demand for a military solution to this struggle. Therefore, quick decisions from the political leadership should not be expected," the expert said.

At the same time, Vice President of the National Assembly of Armenia Alen Simonyan told the newspaper that Yerevan expects Russia not to allow Ankara to intervene in the conflict by force. "Russia should not allow Turkey to start introducing equipment and conducting military operations on the territory of the Caucasus, or Transcaucasia, which would undermine the entire region," the politician stressed.

Russia considers it "superfluous" to invite Turkey as a mediator to the upcoming peace talks on Karabakh, Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia. "Turkey is not neutral, its multilateral participation seems unnecessary and will strengthen one of the parties to the conflict. So, the goal is not to support, but to galvanize a rapprochement and find points of contact. This is only possible with the participation of neutral intermediaries. Therefore, Russia is needed in this format," the lawmaker stressed.

Izvestia: Putin urges Russia to stay vigilant about COVID-19

The COVID-19 situation in Russia is difficult, but there is no reason for panic, politicians and experts told Izvestia, commenting on President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with members of the government. According to the experts, it is important for all Russians to adhere to basic precautions, and the authorities should pay more attention to informing the public about the threat. Meanwhile, according to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova the daily incidence rate in Russia increased 1.7-fold.

Putin noted the fact that a greater number of cases were reported in Moscow, which means that the Russian regions must be ready for any development of the situation, the president emphasized. Putin added that people are tired of masks, social distancing, and various restrictions, but the realities of the current situation have to be explained to them patiently. Meanwhile, Golikova noted that 80-85% of patients who contracted coronavirus did not follow the mask regime and took part in mass events. In addition, the morbidity of children and people over the age of 65 has recently increased.

The daily increase in the number of infections suggests that we need to be prepared for various scenarios, Director of the National Medical Research Center for Preventive Medicine of the Ministry of Health Oksana Drapkina told the newspaper.

This situation with coronavirus was expected, since the school year has begun, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor of the Department of Virology, Faculty of Biology, Moscow State University, Alexey Agranovsky told Izvestia. According to him, even in the spring, Russians did not always follow the basic precaution measures, and after the summer they completely forgot about the safety guidelines. "The future of the situation depends on us, and everyone should focus. There is no need to panic, but it must be taken seriously," the physician insisted.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko laughs off European leaders’ sentiments

Former Belarusian presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has been making her rounds, meeting with European leaders. Her most recent meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron was aimed at trying to persuade President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus to engage in dialogue with civil society by way of mediation through other countries. Meanwhile, experts doubt the EU's ability to influence Lukashenko, who has chosen scorched earth tactics, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. At the same time, Members of the Coordination Council are looking for ways to approach Russia.

Minsk reacted to the meeting between Tikhanovskaya and Macron with its usual indifference, according to the newspaper. Belarus is rolling out its sanctions against Baltic countries, most actively supporting the Belarusian protesters and the opposition's figureheads. At the same time, the United Kingdom and Canada are imposing restrictive measures against Lukashenko, his son Viktor, and the heads of law enforcement agencies involved in violence against civilians.

The expert community does not believe that Europe’s leaders can successfully influence the situation in Belarus. According to experts, the path chosen by Lukashenko to maintain power means that there is no turning back and no dialogue whatsoever.

"Macron's meeting with Tikhanovskaya is purely symbolic support for Belarusian society in its conflict with the regime. It can have very little effect on the situation in Belarus," political scientist Valery Karbalevich told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The EU will not be able to act as a mediator for the simple reason that Alexander Lukashenko categorically refuses to enter into any negotiations with opponents inside the country. Therefore, all of the EU’s efforts in this regard will have no effect," he added.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: External risks bound to slow down Russia’s economic recovery

The official dollar exchange rate in Russia is now close to 80 rubles. Since the beginning of the year, the greenback has risen in price in Russia by almost 30%. This sort of weakening of the ruble is bound to lead to an accelerated increase in prices, which would hold back the Bank of Russia from reducing the key rate in the near future. As a result, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, the recovery of the Russian economy may slow down.

“If the ruble exchange rate continues to take a turn for the worse, then inflation will inevitably accelerate. ... Inflation may rise to 4% in the coming months. Under such conditions, it is very likely that the Bank of Russia will end the cycle of rate cuts," Chief analyst at TeleTrade Mark Goikhman told the newspaper. However, a weakened ruble may contribute to an economic recovery in the future, the economic guru noted. "The strengthening of the dollar and euro gives exporters and the budget higher revenues. This is generally positive for the economy and covers import losses," Goikhman said.

The recent devaluation of the Russian currency is attributed to a wide range of unfavorable factors, primarily external ones, the newspaper writes. "The general decline in risk appetite on financial markets is the result of a new wave of the pandemic, a slow recovery in business activity, and uncertainty ahead of the US elections. The ratcheted-up anti-Russian sanctions rhetoric over the Navalny poisoning, and the events in Belarus can be added to this. The armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, where Russia may be involved to one degree or another, is also very acutely perceived," Goikhman noted.

Meanwhile, some experts believe that the ruble’s weakening might help the Russian economy. "A cheap ruble is largely beneficial to the Russian budget. It would make it possible to fill the gaps. The forecasts of 85 rubles per dollar and 95-100 per euro are still relevant," Alexey Krichevsky, an expert at the Academy of Finance and Investment Management, told the newspaper.

Vedomosti: Russians' spending in cafes and restaurants drops sharply due to COVID fears

On September 21-27, expenditures by Russians in public catering spaces like cafes, bars, and restaurants dropped 17.7% lower than the same week in 2019, according to a study by Sberindex, the analytical portal for Sber. The plunge in spending accelerated noticeably: the week of September 14-20 lagged behind last year's data by only 3.9%. According to Vedomosti, due to the news of the rise in the incidences of COVID-19, many Russians chose not to visit crowded places.

The situation is worse than the data from Sberindex, Aleksey Vasilchuk, co-founder of the restaurant group RESTart Vasilchuk Brothers told the newspaper. Regardless of a restaurant’s status, for the week of September 21-27, the group’s restaurants saw a decline in revenue that was 27-30% lower than the previous week. For Ginza Project Moscow, this figure fell by 20% over the same period, partner and CEO Maxim Polzikov told Vedomosti. Vasilchuk believes that consumers are panicking over news of a second wave of the coronavirus.

The recovery of the market after the lockdown is already very slow, Vedomosti writes. From the end of March to mid-June, restaurants and cafes could only work for take-out or delivery. The trade turnover in January - September 2020 was 20% less than the trade turnover in January - September 2019. Meanwhile, there are no plans to close restaurants and cafes again due to COVID-19 in Moscow, spokesman for the Moscow Department of Trade and Services told the newspaper.

Only fast food establishments are not complaining about sales. Burger King attracted about 10% more guests in many regions than last year, the company’s spokesman said. This week was good in terms of traffic and sales, a KFC representative said. McDonald’s did not notice a decline in sales either.

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