Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, March 29, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Washington against ending dialogue with Russia
The US administration is backtracking from the new scandal in the relations with Moscow after US President Joe Biden’s interview with the ABC channel. Biden called on EU partners to take Russia into account and invited Vladimir Putin to participate in the virtual Climate Summit in April, Kommersant reports. For his part, US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said that he has no plans to leave Moscow. These signals did not go unnoticed in Russia: Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed satisfaction over the fact that the US is entering "a remission in Russophobic seizures." Thus, Moscow and Washington do not abandon dialogue on separate issues, with the corresponding channels still functioning.
In this context, Russia continues to form a new approach to relations with the US, which will be developed on the outcomes of the consultations with Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov, who was recently summoned to Moscow. In an interview with TASS, Antonov said that Russia and the US "don’t have time to quarrel, they need to tackle particular issues and combat common challenges and threats."
Kommersant sources in the Russian government note that the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement, which said that Antonov was summoned to Moscow to reconsider Russia’s approach to bilateral relations, is true. The newspaper’s sources suggest that Moscow is likely to abandon attempts to build strictly bilateral relations with Washington.
"We will cooperate with the US only in areas that we need and that are of interest to us. Strategic stability, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the Arctic, Afghanistan and so on," a Kommersant source said, noting that the US has followed this approach for a long time: they consider all countries through the prism of how they can be useful when it comes to implementing US foreign policy priorities. "In case of the US, it’s time we moved on to this principle," the source stated.
Media: Experts weigh in on consequences of Suez Canal bottleneck
The Suez Canal bottleneck could cost the global economy about $6-10 bln a week, experts of the Euler Hermes insurance company cited by Kommersant inform. Daily traffic in both directions of the canal is estimated at over $9 bln. In 2019, about 19,000 vessels passed through the canal transporting 1.25 bln tonnes of cargo, which comes up to 13% of global trade, so the blockage may cause delays when it comes to the transportation of consumer goods. Alternative ways elongate the routes of vessels transporting goods between Europe and Asia by 9,000 kilometers, and the prices for fuel are rising considerably in neighboring ports.
The situation in the Suez Canal has already led to a rise in oil prices - on a daily basis, about 30% of global container deliveries come through the canal. According to the Kpler consulting company, the share of oil and oil products coming through the Suez Canal amounts to 4.4% of the global volume. The two main importers of oil through the canal are Saudi Arabia and Russia, while India and China are the biggest importers, Stock Market Expert at BCS Broker Igor Galaktionov told Kommersant.
Nevertheless, if the blockage does not last, the incident in the canal is unlikely to affect the global oil markets significantly, Deputy Director at the National Energy Institute Alexander Frolov told Izvestia. "The prices for gas dropped compared to the winter highs by the time the Suez Canal was blocked, which is due to seasonal factors, and the oil market showed a price correction. Right now, the prices for gas can rise, but not significantly. Besides, oil shows considerable volatility even without this incident. At the end of the day, the role of the Suez Canal is significant, but not defining in global trade," the expert concluded.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Belarus’ Lukashenko takes law enforcers under his wing to quell protests
The so-called "protest spring" in Belarus has failed to gain steam, however, public unrest did not go anywhere, and the situation can explode at any moment, experts cited by Nezavisimaya Gazeta suggest. In these conditions, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is betting on the law enforcers, and the government is ready for anything to maintain their loyalty.
Deputy State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Alexander Rakhmanov talked about additional measures to protect the law enforcers on Sunday in an interview with a Belarusian state TV channel. He noted that these additional measures would help protect the lives, health and property of law enforcement officers against any criminal action.
Experts note that Lukashenko only manages to stay in power due to the unprecedented level of violence and brutal repressions that still continue to this day, despite the government’s assurances that the wave of protests has petered out.
Belarusian opposition leaders called on their supporters to take to the streets on March 25 and March 27, and while some rallies took place, the scale of the protests was much lower than in August-November 2020, and the main reason for that is fear, the newspaper suggests. "The price of taking to the streets has grown considerably compared to last year. In the summer and fall of 2020, people weren’t as scared of being arrested: many thought that it wouldn’t last long... Right now, the situation is different," political analyst Valery Karbalevich said.
Thus, on the one hand, the government aims to convince the public, both in Belarus and abroad, that there are no protests, and on the other hand, it wishes to maintain the level of violence. The goal of the government right now is to scare people, not to punish them, experts point out. This is why there are cases of arrests among ordinary passers-by, people on their way to shops or waiting for buses.
The expectations of some and the fears of others did not pay off, Karbalevich pointed out, adding that while there were some local rallies, no mass protests were recorded. "There won’t be a repeat of the hot summer and fall," he said.
"The street protest phase, the one we witnessed last year, has been quelled," political analyst Artem Shraibman stated. Nevertheless, experts do not consider Lukashenko a winner in this case, as the dissatisfaction with the government did not go anywhere.
Izvestia: Cyber attacks in e-commerce up 77% globally
The number of cyber attacks on online shops and retailers across the world has gone up 77% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the corresponding period of 2019, researchers at Positive Technologies informed in a statistical report cited by Izvestia. During the pandemic, the sphere of e-commerce was developing rapidly, and many online shops were launched in a hurry with certain flaws, information security experts said. The hacking tools are ransomware and programs created to collect payment card data. Specialists say that in 2021, the number of cyber attacks is unlikely to decrease.
In most cases, hackers stole payment card data: in the fourth quarter on 2020, the share of payment card data fraud amounted to 33%, Positive Technologies inform. Identity theft comes in second (27%), followed by credentials theft (20%). The hackers also stole information considered a commercial secret (10%), medical information (7%) and client databases (3%).
On the whole, the trade sphere is of significant interest to the perpetrators, as it has the clients’ personal information and payment card data, Yana Yurkova, an analyst with Positive Technologies, said. In the fourth quarter of 2020, cases of hacking went up due to the holidays and holiday-related sales, she noted. Besides, the pandemic forced many companies that used to be skeptical about e-commerce to open online stores, the expert pointed out.
"Due to the lack of experience and the spontaneity of this move, not all companies worked out the issues related to the security of client data and their infrastructure on the whole, so they became a perfect target for perpetrators," the expert stated.
In 2021, hacker activity in the sphere of trade will continue to grow, researchers at Positive Technologies suggest. Specialists expect a new peak in cybercrimes in this area by the fourth quarter of 2021. However, online platforms have learned to counter ransomware better, Alexey Drozd, head of the information security department at SearchInform, told Izvestia, adding that it is likely that the so-called spyware, which can collect data for a long time without being detected, may go up in popularity.
Izvestia: Sputnik V vaccine developer talks about future of COVID-19 pandemic
The next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic may be the infection of domestic and farm animals, head of the Gamaleya Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology Alexander Ginzburg said in an interview with Izvestia. People are unlikely to get rid of their pets, therefore, the world may face another wave of the pandemic, so humanity should be ready to coexist with COVID-19 for a long time, the scientist said.
"Coronavirus has not reached its pathogen potential yet. The next stage is the infection of domestic and farm animals. When we protect humanity with good vaccines within a year, by that time, our domestic animals will be infected, and no one wants to get rid of their favorite pets. So we will always be around the hotbeds of the virus, which will continue to evolve at the same time. Thus, we need to be ready to coexist with this virus for a long time," he explained.
When asked about the possibility of expanding the deliveries of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Ginzburg said: "At first, when we were creating this medicine, I was personally convinced that no matter how much money the government gives us, I won’t be able to establish production that can cover the entire country. And now, the plans are much broader, to put it mildly. We are asked whether we can supply the whole world [with the vaccine]. We say that we can. Right now, we want to ship Sputnik V to 50 more countries."
"It was clear from the start that we had to involve all the production capacities of the country, and we did not delay it. We united immediately and started working together," he added.
The researcher said that it is unclear so far whether the components of Sputnik V need to be changed as new strains of the coronavirus appear. "I do not know this yet, we are researching this. We have shown that our vaccine works with the British strain, it protects against it. We are studying the South African one. But the main thing that worries me is that we need to constantly work on detecting new strains. In order to study the new properties of the virus, we need to use mice with a human receptor through which the COVID-19 pathogen enters our cells as models. We have such mice at our institute," he said.