Press review: Lavrov’s meeting with Lukashenko and Pashinyan’s martial law gamble / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: Lavrov’s meeting with Lukashenko and Pashinyan’s martial law gamble

Press review: Lavrov’s meeting with Lukashenko and Pashinyan’s martial law gamble

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, November 27, prepared by TASS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kremlin pushing Lukashenko towards constitutional reform

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Minsk and met with President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Officially, the main topics of the talks between Lavrov and Lukashenko were trade and economic cooperation, as well as cooperation within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). However, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the Russian leadership reminded Lukashenko that the Sochi agreements must be fulfilled. At the same time, the public is only guessing their content. Experts believe that Moscow is persuading Lukashenko to transfer power, and plans to discuss deep integration with a new head of state.

Indeed, the first words from Lavrov during the meeting were about the agreements in Sochi. These agreements were not officially announced, however, based on insiders and public statements by officials, experts assumed that Lukashenko had promised Putin "deeper integration" and a peaceful transition of power. "Lukashenko is not fulfilling the timetable for the transit of power, which he promised Putin," political expert Valery Karbalevich told the newspaper.

The expert also assumed that the Kremlin would not agree to support the option of a revolutionary change of power and that Russia would not cooperate with the West in putting pressure on Lukashenko. "Russia considers Belarus to be its sphere of influence and will not cooperate with the West on this matter," Karbalevich believes. The commentator is convinced that Moscow will continue to push Lukashenko towards constitutional reform, which will create pro-Russian forces in the country and pursue a policy loyal to Russian interests.

Karbalevich believes that Russia will resolve the issues gradually, "First, the transition of power, then deeper integration.”

Kommersant: Armenian ruling elite using martial law to stop protests

The Armenian parliament rejected the opposition parties’ proposal to abolish martial law introduced on September 27. Although the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh have ceased, the ruling bloc asserts that "there is a threat of renewed war." Sources in Yerevan told Kommersant they are convinced that the real reason for such a decision is completely different. The authorities need martial law in order to have a legal basis to disperse protest rallies.

"The refusal of the ruling elite and Nikol Pashinyan to abolish martial law is for one goal only: to hold on to power by any means in order to curb popular discontent with the limitations of martial law. Besides the shameful defeat that they led the country to, the ruling elite’s departure is now a matter of state security. Nikol Pashinyan must leave," Arman Abovyan, secretary of the "Prosperous Armenia" parliamentary faction, told Kommersant.

Political scientist Hrant Mikaelian agrees with the opposition's point of view. "Pashinyan is pursuing martial law in order to be able to legally arrest opponents and disperse rallies in order to hold on to power," he told Kommersant.

Meanwhile, the ruling bloc admitted that armed clashes may erupt again. "Although the ceasefire declaration signed by the three presidents put an end to the full-scale war, the situation in the conflict zone is still largely unstable. In light of the fact that many issues have yet to be resolved, various incidents periodically arise, and provocations in the conflict zone are possible," Mikael Zolyan, a deputy from the "My Step" alliance, old Kommersant.

Izvestia: Russia’s national debt could grow to 24% of GDP in 2021

In 2021, Russia's public debt may reach 24% of GDP, which is 3.7 percentage points more than the draft budget. According to a government plan, in 2021, 2022 and 2023, the country's national debt should not exceed 24% of GDP, while the draft budget talks about 20.3%, 20.8% and 21.3% - the most secure levels in the opinion of the Ministry of Finance. The increase in borrowing relative to the plan is not critical and may occur if the economy is under pressure from the pandemic for the entire next year, experts told Izvestia.

The Ministry of Finance told Izvestia that 2020 is a unique year for the Russian budget. "We will adhere to flexible tactics in determining the supply of securities, allowing to set up a margin of safety should market conditions deteriorate," the Ministry said, noting that government borrowings are not the only source of financing the budget deficit, and, according to the draft changes in the long-term budget forecast, the level of public debt won’t exceed 24% of GDP until 2036.

An increase in government debt to 24% is possible under a conservative scenario, if the global and domestic economy remain under pressure for the entire next year due to the pandemic, Chief Economist at BCS Global Markets Vladimir Tikhomirov told Izvestia.

The state debt of 24% of GDP does not pose a threat to Russia, Director of the RANEPA Regional Policy Center Vladimir Klimanov believes.

Considering that the planned amount of borrowings for 2021-2023 is 20-21% of GDP, it is quite logical that the government sets the maximum possible level of 24% of GDP, Managing Director of NKR rating agency Andrey Piskunov told the newspaper. Going beyond this threshold may entail investors reassessing the risk of the Russian public debt, the expert warned.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia tightens approaches to cryptocurrency

The Russian government wants to shift the development of cryptocurrencies in a "civilized direction" so that its owners can protect their rights. Operations with cryptocurrencies in Russia are not yet legally regulated, and the authorities are in a hurry to close this gap. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin promised to amend the Tax Code, where digital financial assets will now be recognized as property. Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the recent regulatory changes did not make the legal standing of cryptoassets clearer, which Russia needs to develop the market.

The Ministry of Finance has hammered out amendments to the Tax and Criminal Codes, and Administrative Offenses Code, which introduce fines and imprisonment for failure to declare transactions with cryptocurrencies. Individuals and organizations will be required to declare transactions with cryptocurrencies amounting to over 600,000 rubles ($7,926) per year. There is a 10% penalty for concealing transfer transactions. In July, the State Duma adopted the law that from January 1, 2021, would allow transactions with cryptocurrency and its use for savings and investments. However, the purchase of goods and services will be prohibited. Advertising payments with digital money is also banned.

Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the law has not removed doubt around the tax implications of using cryptocurrencies. Government agencies will always be wary of cryptocurrencies, slowing down their integration into internal the economic processes and tightening regulatory requirements for cryptocurrency owners, Head of the Corporate Finance and Corporate Governance Department of the Financial University Konstantin Ordov told the newspaper.

"Without adequate and well-thought-out internal regulation, contributing to the development and expansion of the market, the situation with crypto-assets will always be in a ‘grey zone’ conditionally protected by legislation. However, in reality this pushes people to withdraw assets from the country, and transfer business to favorable jurisdictions of other countries or even exiting the country," Executive Director of the Russian Association of the Crypto Industry and Blockworkers (RACIB) Alexander Brazhnikov told the newspaper.

 Izvestia: Russian research center works on vaccine against both coronavirus and measles

The Russian State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Vector, in addition to a vaccine against coronavirus, the Russian State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology Vector is working on a recombinant drug based on the measles virus, which would provide protection from both diseases, the research center told Izvestia.

"The key feature of the bivalent vaccine under development is its focus on forming protection against both measles and COVID-19," Vector told Izvestia. The drug will be based on the Leningrad-16 Soviet measles virus strain, which is approved for use in children.

"Measles is a very contagious disease. It is enough for one sick person to enter a medium-sized room and breathe there for several minutes to infect absolutely everyone. Therefore, the measles virus is an extremely ‘effective’ carrier. The measles vaccine Leningrad-16 has already passed all safety tests, but new proteins from SARS-CoV-2 are being introduced there. This once again requires new tests. The situation resembles Gamaleya’s Sputnik V vaccine, where adenoviruses are used as a carrier instead of measles," Head of Genome Engineering lab at MIPT Pavel Volchkov told the newspaper.

At the moment, Vector is developing four different vaccines, one of which is already registered.

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