- Press review: Russia, UK play game of ‘battleships’ and Taliban move on Tajikistan border
- Press review: Anti-Belarus sanctions could harm Russia and Bitcoin crackdown crashes price
- Saudi operatives involved in Khashoggi killing underwent US paramilitary training
- Geopolitical processes becoming increasingly turbulent
Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, May 13, prepared by TASS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan urges Putin to teach Israel a ‘strong lesson’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has put forward the idea of ending the new wave of clashes between Israel and Palestine by sending a peacekeeping contingent to the conflict zone. Erdogan asked Russian President Vladimir Putin in their phone conversation to back the initiative, highlighting that Moscow and Ankara share stances on the Jerusalem crisis. Turkey, which has recently achieved reconciliation with Israel, is calling on the world community to teach it "a strong and deterrent lesson."
Given Israel’s cautious attitude to foreign meddling in the crisis around Jerusalem and Gaza, it’s easy to predict its stance. The Palestinian side has a different view, stressing that there is no other solution than the world community’s interference. Palestinian Ambassador to Moscow Abdel Hafiz Nofal highlighted that the Middle East Quartet - Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States - could play an effective role in resolving the conflict.
Head of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies Yuri Mavashev laid out the reason why Erdogan, a long-time supporter of Palestinians, has shown interest in Putin’s mediation in the crisis. "Sources have been saying for a long time that Putin has a special relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu," the analyst notes. "It’s not an exaggeration to say that Bibi does not have such relations with any other world leader. Of course, the Turkish president is well aware of this." Besides, Russia has acted many times as a peacekeeper and mediator in the Middle East over the past six years.
"Erdogan is traditionally trying to involve a third actor in ironing out a vital international issue for Turkey," Mavashev noted. "This is done out of pragmatic considerations - it will be always possible to say later: we proposed, we talked and we engaged the interested parties, but we were not heard and everything went wrong." Besides these reasons, Turkey is also creating and expanding a field for maneuvering. It’s easier to do this when there are at least three actors. The expert did not rule out that the Arab League could also join the process. A lot will depend on its position, especially those members, who have recently normalized relations with Israel.
Izvestia: Russia beefs up forces in Kaliningrad in response to NATO threat
Russia’s Defense Ministry is completing the creation of a new motorized rifle division in Kaliningrad. The 18th division will be ready for action by this autumn, and its three motorized rifle regiments and one tank regiment will be re-equipped. The reinforcement of the Russian grouping in the Kaliningrad Region is ahead of schedule. According to earlier plans, the process it was supposed to be completed in the exclave by the end of 2021. Experts say the creation of a fully equipped division in the region is an effective response to NATO’s maneuvers near Russia’s borders, Izvestia writes.
Plans for the coming creation of a fully equipped motorized rifle division were revealed by the Baltic Fleet’s Admiral Alexander Nosatov in December 2020. Izvestia writes that the backbone of the new division is the 79th Guards Motor Rifle Brigade. The division is a self-sufficient unit, which has all the necessary tools for conducting various types of combat actions.
Head of Department of Management and Social Technologies at the Northwestern Institute of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) Inna Vetrenko notes that Russia has been beefing up its forces in the Baltic Region from Kaliningrad for a long time. "It’s certainly necessary to reinforce this region given the geopolitical threat from on the western front. There are infowars carried out by Poland and other NATO states, and territorial claims are being made."
The expert links Russia’s fast-tracked creation of the new formations to the recent NATO drills in the Baltic states. "After these maneuvers, an analysis was carried out and weak spots for reinforcing military groups of strategic importance were pinpointed," Vetrenko explained.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukraine accuses opposition politician and Moscow ally of high treason
Kiev has accused opposition politician and the Russian president’s ally Viktor Medvedchuk of high treason and an embezzlement charge over Crimea. The Ukrainian authorities are taking steps to establish Medvedchuk’s whereabouts and take him into custody. Nationalists and radicals in Ukraine have always considered the politician as a representative and one of the leaders of "Moscow’s fifth column," still, Medvedchuk felt safe and conducted talks with Russian officials and Donbass representatives, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Political scientist Vladimir Fesenko earlier told Radio Svoboda that former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko and Medvedchuk had been in contact with one another, but their relations were business-like rather than friendly. Poroshenko needed Medvedchuk as a person, who directly had contact with Putin. "This cooperation between Poroshenko and Medvedchuk certainly existed, but it was very cynical on both sides. The needed each other," he noted.
According to political scientist Andrei Zolotarev, the situation could be more complicated than it seems at first glance. "The Minsk Agreements definitely included a non-public part, thanks to which Medvedchuk had "the green light" in business and immunity. It seems that Poroshenko treated this deal much more seriously than the Minsk Agreements. During Poroshenko’s presidency, Medvedchuk was under protection, and without this, it would have been impossible for him to receive financial, media and political resources. "And he got that in the amount that he did not get under any president…All threats and loud declarations remained just empty talk and did not translate into any particular decisions."
Experts in Kiev noted that the leaders of the Opposition Platform — For Life political party (where Medvedchuk heads the Political Council) have regularly met with the Russian leadership in public, bringing Moscow’s proposals on resuming direct Russian gas supplies and producing Russia’s COVID-19 vaccines in Ukraine. Moreover, this was the only political party in Ukraine which insisted on direct talks with the Donbass leadership and on the Minsk deal’s implementation in the particular order that had been outlined on paper. However, here, Medvedchuk’s party holds a standpoint that runs counter to Kiev’s views and sides with Donbass and Russia.
Izvestia: EU gears up to slap new sanctions on Belarus
The European Union is preparing to pass a fourth package of sanctions against Belarus in the coming weeks. This time, Brussels has accused Minsk of persecuting its Polish minority, but Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed these claims. In recent years, Warsaw has been actively using its tools of "soft power" in the neighboring state, Izvestia writes. Poland has been expanding its influence using cultural projects. The Polish authorities have been promoting many scholarship programs, which enable young Belarusians to get a free education in Polish universities and also sponsor private schools and educational establishments, where children study both the Polish language and Poland’s history. Warsaw also introduced a Polish card, which enables foreigners to obtain a long-term visa and legally work in Poland without any special permission. However, having Polish family roots are among the conditions, but they are not essential. Over the past years, the issuance of these Polish cards has been on the rise and this program is most actively functioning in Belarus. The Polish authorities have realized that they got an effective tool of influence on the Belarusian society.
Senior Researcher at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) with the Russian Academy of Sciences and expert at the Russian International Affairs Council Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky notes that in case the West’s sanctions pressure steps up and the economic situation deteriorates in Belarus, more Belarusians will try to obtain Polish cards and move to Poland.
Minsk has been cautious about these Polish cards from the very beginning. According to the expert, Belarus has decided to increase pressure on a pro-Warsaw organization of the Polish minority to irritate the EU. He also points out that the EU is now acting in a different way since the political situation in Belarus has changed. "The anti-Lukashenko protests in Belarus have run out of steam and this has transformed Europe’s approaches. By the way, they have an accord with the Biden administration, and they agreed to act in concert with the Americans. These are not the last sanctions against the Lukashenko regime," the expert said.
Vedomosti: Russia projected to have one of its largest grain harvests in history
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its forecast of grain harvest in 2021, according to which Russia is projected produce 126.5 mln tonnes, including 85 mln tonnes of wheat and 41.5 tonnes of feed grain. Director General of the ProZerno think-tank Vladimir Petrichenko notes that this is a very high and upbeat estimate, Vedomosti writes.
The expert notes that the US method of calculation differs from Russia’s, which also takes into account Crimea (where the grain harvest is expected to reach 1.7 mln tonnes this year) as well as pulses and buckwheat (some 4-5 mln tonnes). Given this volume, this year’s harvest could be on par with last year, which was the second-largest in history and hit 133.5 mln tonnes.
This year Russia will see a good harvest in its southern regions due to favorable weather conditions, said Dmitry Rylko, Director General of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies (IKAR). However, the harvest could be delayed and take place in the summer heat, leading to a reduction in volume.
According to the USDA forecast, Russia is projected to export 40 mln tonnes of wheat to the global market in the 2021-22 season. However, Director of Sovecon Andrei Sizov estimates this figure at 33-35 mln tonnes. IKAR and Rusagrotrans put the figure at 38 mln tonnes and 40 mln tonnes, respectively.
On June 2, Russia will introduce a floating export tax, which will affect the country’s export potential, Rylko notes. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, this agricultural year, Russia will export 44.7 mln tonnes of grain, 7.9% more than in the previous period of last season. Without these restrictions, this figure could be higher, Rylko says.