Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, February 12, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Russia believes negotiations with European Union will continue
The Russian leadership did not link the expulsion of European diplomats with the visit of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell to Russia on February 4-6, Russia's Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said in an interview with Izvestia. He stressed that if anyone was given a signal, it was Germany, Poland and Sweden, whose diplomats took part in unauthorized protests. At the same time, he noted that negotiations between the European Union and Russia will continue, especially between Lavrov and Borrel.
"There are calls in the EU for his [EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell] resignation, but they were not supported by either the majority of members of the European Parliament or member states. Therefore, we proceed from the fact that the conversation, based on the Lavrov-Borrel meetings, will be continued. As for when and where [this will occur], that remains to be agreed upon. But this is necessary," he said.
According to the envoy, the wave of condemnation against Borrell after his visit to Russia is unjustified. "I regard this criticism as unjustified and undeserved. In my opinion, Borrell clearly worked with the general policy of the EU countries, but the fact that he arrived should be regarded as a reflection of serious intentions and independence in decision-making," Chizhov explained. "The very fact that this trip took place, I think, is already positive," the diplomat added.
Chizhov noted that from the moment the seasoned Spanish politician took office, Borrell tried to launch a discussion on the prospects for the further development of relations with Russia within the European Union, however, according to the Russian diplomat, so far, he has failed. He also added that restarting bilateral ties largely depends on the EU. "If the European Union is ready for such work, then, as they say, we shall not be found wanting," Chizhov concluded.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Democrats seek to shut Trump out of politics even if impeachment bid fails
As the impeachment trial of Donald Trump in the US Senate winds down, the trial’s main intrigue, however, is not even whether it will end with the impeachment of a president who has already left office, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Trump may be banned from running for elected government office on the basis of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, thereby deep-sixing his political career.
No matter how heated the trial got, there is no reason to believe that Trump will be impeached, according to the newspaper. This requires all 50 Democratic senators and a minimum of 17 Republican senators to vote for it, and that is unlikely. Only six Republicans voted for the impeachment procedure in the Senate. Perhaps not all of them will vote for the impeachment itself.
"Having failed with impeachment, the Democratic Party wants to save face, so it flip-flops. But the question arises as to the legality of applying the 14th amendment to Trump’s case. The former president no longer holds any elected government office. Does the Senate have the right to prohibit an individual from engaging in politics? In my opinion, if there is such prohibition, Trump has a good chance of challenging it in court," Vladimir Vasiliev, chief researcher at the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the newspaper.
The political aspect also bolsters the chances of a judicial victory for the ex-president. In the Supreme Court, conservative judges hold the majority, and they, to one degree or another, share the views of Republicans rather than Democrats. "They are unlikely to be inclined to support a legally dubious initiative, the sole purpose of which is to exclude Trump from politics," Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
In addition, Vasiliev noted, depriving a person of the opportunity to run for office runs counter to US political culture. "A democratic society believes that only voters can decide the fate of a politician. Only they can decide whether a person is worthy to be in power through elections. Banning Trump from running will only boost his rating," the expert believes.
Vedomosti: Lukashenko vows to adopt new Belarusian constitution in 2022
Speaking at the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, President Alexander Lukashenko promised a referendum for a new constitution, which, he noted, would redistribute powers, but he did not elaborate on it any further. He named peace and order and no protests nationwide along with protection for his current supporters, as the main conditions for him to potentially give up the presidency. Experts interviewed by Vedomosti believe that Lukashenko is trying to gear himself up for a new role in the country’s political system in the future.
Valery Karbalevich, a leading expert at the Strategia analytical center, said that adopting a new constitution does not mean early presidential elections in Belarus. "We can assume that the constitution will be adopted in 2022, and it will come into effect in 2025, when Lukashenko’s current presidency ends," Karbalevich believes, noting that under a new constitution, the powers of the head of state will probably be weakened.
That said, the expert believes that Lukashenko will not take part in the next presidential election at all. The Belarusian leader did not clarify what would happen to the status of the presidency, once his term will have expired. According to the expert, he proposed giving the All Belarusian People's Assembly constitutional status. In that case, Karbalevich noted, Lukashenko might lead the assembly and remain in power, but under a new status. "This is a scheme similar to the one that Nursultan Nazarbayev carried out in Kazakhstan," the expert noted.
Izvestia: EU countries looking into direct purchases of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine
Although Sputnik V is not part of the European vaccination strategy, EU members can negotiate directly with drug developers, the European Commission told Izvestia. After the article in The Lancet, the Russian jab was included only in the list of vaccines that passed the agency’s scientific advice. However, some EU members are considering the possibility of independently approving the inoculation, as Hungary has already done. European virologists interviewed by Izvestia believe that the jab’s effectiveness indicates its great chances to get into the EU’s vaccine portfolio.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic of Slovakia had earlier advocated for this opportunity, noting that Sputnik V could be produced on the territory of the Central European country, and Bratislava would send the drug to EU nations. But so far this statement remains just an idea, Izvestia writes.
Italy was another EU member that tried to promote the idea of purchasing Sputnik V. Regional Health Counselor Lazio Alessio D’Amato noted that Rome was highly likely to use the Russian vaccine to combat COVID-19. According to him, Sputnik V can be obtained quickly, without wasting time on bureaucratic procedures.
Italian virologists interviewed gave the jab positive feedback. Epidemiologist at the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research Antonio Clavenna believes that the results presented in The Lancet are promising. The Russian jab’s effectiveness is higher than other vector-based vaccines, he noted.
The WHO Regional Office for Europe also told Izvestia that the results of the Sputnik V vaccine study published in The Lancet are encouraging news.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Sales of Russian raw materials to fall due to new quarantine measures
The UN painted a gloomy picture in its new report for the Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The report shows a stalled global economic recovery, a slower-than-expected recovery in the transportation sector, the eurozone up against a recession in Q1 2021, and the recovery pace of global trade at the start of 2021 coming out significantly lower than in the previous quarter. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the main reasons for the slowdown in the recovery are the new quarantine restrictions. For Russia, this could mean losing demand for raw materials, analysts predict.
Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the UN's gloomy forecasts for the recovery of trade and the services sector give reason to expect a slowdown in demand for basic commodities. "For Russia, the negative impact of the global lockdowns is reflected through the weakness of oil demand due to the limited mobility of the population around the world," said Olga Belenkaya, head of the macroeconomic analysis department at Finam.
"The slow recovery of the global economy means that there will not be a quick rebound in our country either. Weak recovery rates mean lower demand for Russian goods, primarily raw materials such as oil, gas, metals, and so on," Head of the analytical department at AMarkets Artem Deev agrees.
Belenkaya believes that the demand for energy resources may improve starting from the second half of the year, as mass vaccination progresses and quarantine measures are weakened. "This may slightly improve the conditions for Russian exports, but its full recovery back to the level of 2019 will not happen," she forecasted.