- Press review: Biden’s likely policy on China trade and EU’s plan to cut US defense leash
- Press review: Pompeo’s surprise Tbilisi tour and Russia’s revenge against Silicon Valley
- Moscow-London: contact made, what's next?
- Press review: Russia’s humanitarian response in Karabakh and is the dollar doomed in 2021
Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, October 26th, prepared by TASS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Opposition's ultimatum for Belarusian president expires
The ultimatum that Belarusian opposition figurehead Svetlana Tikhanovskaya had set for President Alexander Lukashenko expired on Sunday. There were three major demands: an end to the crackdown on the government’s opponents and protesters, a release of political prisoners and Lukashenko’s resignation. The opposition leader warned that if the authorities failed to fulfill these demands, a nationwide strike would erupt in Belarus, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to participate in opposition protests on Sunday. The government's supporters were expected to hold a large-scale rally in response but their demonstration was cancelled on Friday. Lukashenko explained the decision, citing the risk of a stampede and mass coronavirus infections.
However, experts don't rule out that there also is an external reason. Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin visited Minsk on Thursday. "Perhaps, the main goal of the visit was to remind Moscow’s Belarusian partner of the promises he had given to the Kremlin in return for its support amid a deep political crisis in Belarus," political expert Alexander Klaskovsky noted.
Analysts point out that the time that Moscow had given Minsk to launch dialogue has already run out. "Russia believes that Lukashenko is wrong to think that the crisis can be resolved by he use of force, while there is a need to make concessions to the public. Those concessions should include constitutional reform based on dialogue with society, which is important, as well as an early presidential election," political scientist Valery Karbalevich said.
On Saturday, Lukashenko held a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Its details, as well as the details of his talks with Naryshkin, remain unknown. Several experts in Minsk suggest that Lukashenko seeks dialogue with the US in a bid to resume his favorite game of balancing between the East and the West.
Vedomosti: One week left before US presidential election
The US presidential race has entered its final week, with the election scheduled to take place on November 3. According to most opinion polls, Democratic nominee Joe Biden has the lead over incumbent President Donald Trump both nationwide and in swing states, on which the election’s outcome will depend, Vedomosti writes.
According to political scientist Israel Marques II, Biden has every chance of winning the presidential race. The reason is that the Democrat has been successful in the most crucial states, namely Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
"In order to win the election, Trump needs to secure a victory in Florida and another two of those four states. The problem is that these states tend to support Biden at the moment," the expert pointed out. Trump has been doing well in the pro-Republican (red) states of Ohio and Texas but the situation is unlikely to change in the coming week.
"Things that fundamentally affect elections don’t happen very often. However, there is still a week before the vote takes place and anything is possible. The course of events is totally unpredictable, which is particularly true for 2020," the expert emphasized.
At the same time, in his view, early voting and mail-in ballots have spared the Americans radical changes. As of October 23, as many as 51 mln voters have cast their ballots, and that doesn't leave much to chance.
The political scientist also noted that Democrats have good chances of winning a majority in the US Senate. "And the Democrats will hardly lose the elections to the House," he concluded.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: India concerned about potential alliance between Russia, China
Washington and New Delhi plan to strike a deal on sharing satellite intelligence. India has also invited Australia to participate in joint drills with the United States and Japan in the Indian Ocean. New Delhi is gradually abandoning its policy of non-alignment particularly amid fears that Russia could form a military alliance with China, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.
According to experts, the Indians were alarmed by the statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made at a Valdai Forum meeting that Moscow could form a military alliance with Beijing.
Dhruva Jaishankar, Director of the US Initiative at Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, points out that Russia remains India’s main arms supplier so New Delhi is concerned about growing ties between Moscow and Beijing.
Moscow State Institute of International Relations Professor Sergei Lunev believes that "India’s departure from its policy of non-alignment cannot be ruled out." "However, it’s not quite possible at the moment because the dangers of relying on the US and retreating from the country’s foreign policy fundamentals are clear to Indian leaders. There has been a nationwide consensus since the 1960s. India has pursued a policy of balancing between blocs and now some leaders in India are calling for relying on the United States, but they have so far failed to win the elite over," the expert noted.
As for a potential alliance between Moscow and Beijing, India is extremely sensitive to Russia-China ties. "New Delhi is confident that China will become India’s major opponent in the future. The Indian public is set against China. Naturally, the prospects for such an alliance cause much concern to the Indian government and experts," Lunev emphasized.
Izvestia: Ukrainian president’s party suffers defeat in local elections
The Servant of the People party could have done better in Ukraine’s local elections had the president and his associates succeeded in fulfilling their promises to resolve the Donbass issue and improve relations with Russia, said experts interviewed by Izvestia. Candidates from the president's party failed to enter the mayoral runoff elections in Kiev and Odessa, and a number of irregularities in the vote undermine the credibility of the country's election system.
The Ukrainian president’s party failed to clinch a victory in big cities because of the government’s inaction, Director of the Kiev Center for Political Studies and Conflictology Mikhail Pogrebinsky explained. "The Servant of the People party’s defeat in key regions marks the end of the ‘green wave’ that had covered Ukraine’s political map in the presidential election and continued in the parliamentary election. This short period is coming to an end because the head of state is not keeping his promises. Vladimir Zelensky has failed to change the aggressive anti-Russian and pro-Western policy that the country pursued under [President] Pyotr Poroshenko," the expert told the newspaper.
The outcome of the elections has made it clear that the public is disappointed by the activities of the president and his team, Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov emphasized. "Many trusted Zelensky and his Servant of the People party. However, over a year has passed, and there is still no result," the politician stressed.
Political scientists have also criticized the president's initiative to hold a nationwide survey on the election day, asking voters for their views on plans to introduce life sentences for corruption convictions, create a free economic zone in Donbass, reduce the number of Verkhovna Rada (parliament) members and legalize cannabis for medical use, as well as on "the security guarantees laid out in the Budapest Memorandum for restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity."
According to political commentators, the event was mostly aimed at scoring points for the president and using the survey’s results to justify political decisions. Political scientist Rostislav Ishchenko noted that the objectivity of the study’s results could be questioned, particularly because the poll had been organized by the ruling party.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Spring plunge in oil prices unlikely to be repeated
The slow recovery in oil demand and the rise in coronavirus infections in many countries are setting off alarm bells that oil prices could drop again like they did in the spring. However, the oil market is now better prepared for trouble and will manage to pull through another period of declining energy consumption. Besides, the current evaluation of economic losses caused by the pandemic does not contribute to the reintroduction of restrictions, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.
"Although ‘the second wave’ of the pandemic is proving to be stronger than the spring one and the number of cases is higher, national political leaders aren’t announcing quarantine measures on the scale that they did in the spring," Commodity Market Analyst at Otkritie Broker Oksana Lukicheva noted.
Without full-scale quarantine restrictions worldwide, oil demand won't plummet to the April and March level, and given the current output cut, a drop won't have a significant impact on prices, unlike what happened in the spring. "The spring plunge in oil demand is unlikely to be repeated because as long as prices remain at about the $40 per barrel mark, the market volume appears balanced," KPMG Global Head of Oil and Gas Anton Usov said.
It doesn’t mean that the market will go through the second coronavirus wave in a painless way. The slow recovery of demand, let alone a drop in demand, will affect export opportunities. "All producers will face roughly the same losses, unless OPEC+ makes new agreements to tighten quotas in its oil cut deal," said Director of ACRA’s Corporate Ratings Group Vasily Tanurkov.