Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, January 11th, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: What’s behind the new impeachment crusade against Trump
The Democrats are determined to launch another impeachment process against outgoing US President Donald Trump ten days before he leaves office. The Republican Party will inherit a serious crisis from the 45th president of the United States, Izvestia writes.
"The situation seems rather absurd because the goal of an impeachment process is to remove the president from office. It’s not a court trial. Courts may go after the head of state after he is dismissed and loses presidential immunity. This is what can happen after January 20," Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canada Studies Valery Garbuzov pointed out. On the other hand, although there is little time left to conduct the impeachment process, there is some practical sense to it, said Nikolai Zlobin, president and founder of the Washington-based Center for Global Interests. "If the initiative succeeds, Trump won’t have the chance to run in the 2024 election and may find himself completely shut out of politics," the expert explained.
"The party’s short-term task is to get out from under his shadow. Republicans want a leader who is an expert in the nitty-gritty of politics and knows how to build contact with the Democrats even in the toughest situations," Garbuzov stressed. Republicans have lost everything - the House, the Senate and the White House. "There is a split among the Republicans since some of them are lining up with the Democrats, while others continue to back Trump, though not as strongly as before," Zlobin added.
Meanwhile, the recent developments have brought forward yet another problem. A whole slew of social media networks, including Twitter and Facebook, have suspended Trump’s accounts. "The main reason provided is that they are private companies and can do whatever they want. But in fact, this amounts to a double standard. It’s a legal issue that is going to gain traction because the blocking of Trump’s social media accounts highlights the main problem of today’s America, which is the erosion of the right to vote and freedom of speech. In addition, it is a serious blow to democracy," Zlobin emphasized.
Media: Kyrgyzstan braces for another round of protests
On January 10, Kyrgyzstan held its early presidential election and a referendum to decide on either a presidential or parliamentary form of government. The ballot has been declared valid though voter turnout was below 30%. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted that voters have grown tired of politics.
Political scientist Kubat Rakhimov expects that most of the electorate will support the presidential form of government because parliamentary democracy has been thoroughly discredited. "However, it doesn’t mean that our country needs to completely get rid of its parliamentary system. The next two years will see a search for a new model that will be based on the people’s idea of justice on the one hand, and on the other, the specifics of the state system. At the same time, in order to prevent mob rule, there is a need to keep in mind that what is popular will not always be effective, especially as far as economic development is concerned," the expert pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Kyrgyz Interior Ministry has announced its readiness to quell any potential riots. A spokesperson said at a press conference in the country’s capital of Bishkek that the ministry had received information about the possibility of provocations and law enforcement officers were on standby to do their duty.
Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov told Izvestia that people in Kyrgyzstan had grown tired of weak governments. "The Kyrgyz people want a determined leader who will address their problems. This is why it is logical to expect [former Prime Minister] Sadyr Japarov to secure a win in the first round of the election. As for relations with Russia, the politician and his team have never expressed any desire to worsen them, they have never supported those who call for rooting out the Russian language. On the contrary, they have said that they would boost relations with Russia," the lawmaker noted.
Izvestia: What’s in store for Nord Stream 2 in 2021
About 150 kilometers of conduits are left to be laid before the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is completed, Izvestia writes, citing Nord Stream 2 AG. The company said that the pipeline was 94% complete but declined to reveal any launch date.
Experts have no doubt that the project will be completed. Nevertheless, difficulties may emerge once it is launched. The main question is to what extent the pipeline’s capacity will be used and when it will reach its full capacity, said Director of the National Energy Institute Sergei Pravosudiov.
In 2019, the European Union amended its Gas Directive, which stipulates that the Nord Steam 2 operator should be independent from Gazprom, Russia’s energy giant, and 50% of the pipeline’s capacity should be reserved for gas supplied by other providers. This is why the pipeline may remain half empty for an indefinite period of time. However, Washington’s sanctions are the paramount problem at the moment. Congress has recently passed the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which expands the sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream gas pipelines.
"The sanctions will target companies that provide insurance and technical upgrading services, as well as financial institutions involved in the project, certifying organizations and the like," Valdai Discussion Club Program Director Ivan Timofeev elaborated. "However, the document notes that these restrictive measures won’t apply to state companies and Washington will need to hold consultations with its European allies before introducing restrictions," he added.
It looks like the restrictions won’t cover the project’s investors. At the same time, the situation for pipe-layers is less vulnerable now than it used to be. The Fortune pipe-laying vessel has changed its owner and now belongs to the Moscow-based KVT-Rus company, which doesn’t seem to care much about US sanctions. As for companies that insure vessels, that question remains open. It is quite possible that a Russian company will provide the insurance services in question.
Kommersant: Virtual currencies keep setting records
The prices of leading cryptocurrencies have grown by 40-80% since the beginning of the year amid high investor interest and expectations of a further weakening of the US dollar. Experts believe that prices will keep rising but corrections are possible if regulations are tightened, Kommersant writes.
Bitcoin has gone up by more than 40% since the beginning of 2021, and the price of the second popular cryptocurrency, Ethereum, has skyrocketed by over 80%.
According to financial gurus, the surge in price of cryptocurrencies is particularly due to expectations of a further expansion of the US monetary easing program. US President-elect Joe Biden said on January 8 that he was determined to prioritize emergency measures aimed at supporting the economy. This is essentially leading to a rise in inflationary concerns and expectations of a further decline in the value of the dollar.
Bitcoin will continue to climb, analysts say, though they believe that price corrections are possible. According to Yuri Mazur, chief analysis at CEX.IO Broker, the fundamental situation does not augur well for the global economy though much will depend on the effectiveness of coronavirus vaccinations.
"If vaccines help radically reduce the number of new cases, the pressure on national currencies will decrease and the economic recovery processes in developed countries will get a boost. In that case, investors may to some extent lose interest in defensive assets, which is what Bitcoin was in 2020," Mazur noted.
According to Director of Binance Russia Gleb Kostarev, if regulators decide that Bitcoin poses a threat to national currencies and work to create obstacles for new players seeking to enter the cryptocurrency market, prices may go down.
Media: Coronavirus pandemic returns from holidays
A one-week decline in new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Russia doesn’t mean that the epidemiological situation is stabilizing but is a result of the holiday season, Izvestia writes, citing experts. According to specialists, the reason behind a slight decrease in newly identified cases may be that people had fewer opportunities to test for the coronavirus during the holiday season.
Chief Physician at the Lider-Meditsina clinic Yevgeny Timakov said, when speaking about the decline in infections, that people with symptoms of respiratory diseases were less inclined to request medical assistance during the holidays. "Those who got infected during the recent celebrations are now going through the incubation period," he added.
"On Monday, we resume our normal work and this week will show what the real situation is like," head of Novosibirsk State University’s Laboratory of Biotechnology and Virology Sergei Netesov pointed out. The expert believes that a large-scale vaccination campaign will help contain the infection. "Things will become clearer after 20 to 30 million people are vaccinated. According to the Health Ministry, a little over one million people have received vaccines in Russia so far, which is not enough to stop the pandemic," he noted.
According to Netesov, fewer number of cases will be recorded in the summer, compared to the same period last year, provided that vaccination will gain pace and at least five to ten million people will get the shots every month. At this point, there is no reason to ease coronavirus restrictions, the expert stressed, emphasizing the need to wear face masks, wash hands more often, keep social distancing and limit personal contacts.