Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, May 24th, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Belarus to face repercussions over forced plane landing, detention of opposition figure
President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has drawn the wrath of Europe over the arrest of Roman Protasevich, editor of an opposition Telegram channel and ex-editor of Nexta. A flight bound for Vilnius from Athens carrying Protasevich was forced to land in Minsk, allegedly due to possible explosives onboard. The threat turned out to be false, and the plane, without Protasevich, continued on its way to its destination. According to Kommersant, leaders of the EU and NATO, as well as their member countries harshly reacted to Lukashenko’s action. The subject of Belarus is almost guaranteed to top the agenda at the EU summit opening on May 24.
The incident with the forced landing of the plane to allegedly arrest Roman Protasevich also triggered a strong reaction among the Belarusian opposition. Many of them called the case "unprecedented", and branded Minsk’s move as "an act of state terrorism."
Member of the Coordination Council of the Belarusian Opposition Pavel Latushko said that the fact that airliner belonging to Ryanair was forced to land in Belarus with the use of the Belarusian air force, is more evidence that international law is being violated in Belarus. Later, he said that not all passengers left Minsk: according to his information, in addition to Protasevich, another Belarusian citizen and four Russians did not leave the country. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Lukashenko’s main rival in the 2020 presidential election, has no doubt that the events were an operation by the Belarusian special services.
Leaders of the EU and European capitals, including influential the ones such as Berlin and Paris, condemned the plane landing. Meanwhile, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen promised not to leave the incident without consequences. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg castigated the incident as a dangerous move that required an international investigation. The Austrian Foreign Ministry also spoke in favor of a probe. Conclusions will definitely be drawn from the situation, and very soon, whether there is a probe or not, Kommersant writes.
Poland has already taken specific steps. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that he appealed to the EU leadership with a request to expand the agenda of the EU summit scheduled for May 24 in order to discuss Belarus. He also stated that Belarusian airline flights over the territory of the EU should be banned.
Kommersant: London spearheads global campaign against Moscow
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace called Moscow "the number one threat", when reporting on the increased activity of Russian warships off the coast of the country. The Defense chief's statement in the run-up to the June G7 summit in the UK was the latest signal of London's determination to mobilize its allies to confront Russia, Kommersant writes.
London’s move to occupy the role as Moscow's main opponent during the UK's G7 presidency is linked to the Global Britain strategy, which is being implemented by Boris Johnson’s cabinet. It is designed to assert a new world role for the United Kingdom after Brexit, the newspaper writes.
"The Armed Forces are called upon to play a growing role within the current global UK strategy. This role will be connected, on the one hand, with the country's participation in containing Russia in the North Atlantic and the Arctic and, on the other hand, with more active support for the US’ Indo-Pacific policy. The UK expects to partially regain its importance as an ally of the United States, which has fallen after leaving the EU, and also to increase its level of participation in Asian politics," Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive and European Studies at the Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin told Kommersant.
Repeating the line that Moscow has become the "number one threat" not only for the UK but also for its Euro-Atlantic allies, London hopes to make the issue of collective containment of Russia one of the key topics during the G7 summit in Cornwall on June 11-13.
Izvestia: Russian senior diplomat says chances of improving Donbass situation not lost
The Minsk agreements remain the only option for resolving the conflict in southeastern Ukraine, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko, who oversees relations with CIS countries. Tensions in Donbass remain, but there is a chance that the alarming situation will improve. Everything depends on the will of Kiev, Rudenko said in an interview with Izvestia.
"Unfortunately, tension in Donbass remains. The Ukrainian Armed Forces have not stopped shelling settlements, including the suburbs of Donetsk," the diplomat said, adding that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are using weapons prohibited by the Minsk accords. "Nevertheless, we are convinced that the chances of improving the current worrisome situation have not been lost. Everything depends on the political will of Kiev," he emphasized.
Deputy Foreign Minister Rudenko said that the Russian side has consistently called for the use of the Minsk complex of measures and the fulfillment of the obligations through direct dialogue with Donetsk and Lugansk. Russia, as a mediator in the settlement process, is actively working within the framework of the contact group and the Normandy format and is assisting the parties in fulfilling their obligations, he stressed.
That said, Rudenko noted that the meaning of the Minsk agreements is "extremely simple". "Kiev should grant Donbass a special status within Ukraine and guarantee it in the country's constitution," he said, adding that "the residents of Donetsk and Lugansk agreed to remain a part of today's Ukraine precisely based on these conditions".
Kommersant: Google launches legal battle against Russian media watchdog
Google is challenging claims by Russia’s media watchdog to remove 12 links to "illegal content." According to Kommersant, on May 11, the Moscow Arbitration Court accepted a lawsuit from the Silicon Valley-based tech giant against the service, filed on April 23. This is the first time, the company has filed any lawsuit against the department, before it only acted as a defendant in proceedings. Experts associate the change in strategy with the Russian federal government’s ramped-up pressure on Google.
The media watchdog told Kommersant, that the lawsuit challenges the requirement to block 12 links to "illegal content" posted on YouTube, owned by Google, including links to YouTube videos, which the service describes as calls for minors to participate in unauthorized opposition rallies in January 2021.
Experts told the newspaper they associate the IT giant’s sudden move to litigate in court with increased pressure from the authorities. "Recently, government agencies have stepped up their demands to remove content from Google's websites, and the list is constantly widening, so the company has to react, defending its interests," lawyer for Roskomsvoboda Yekaterina Abashina said.
The reason for this litigation could be possible "tactical calculations", expert believe. "Google deliberately filed a lawsuit on behalf of the parent company ... in the hopes of challenging decisions in other jurisdictions, for example in a European court," lawyer and managing partner of AVG Legal Alexey Gavrishev said.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow will try to reconcile Bishkek and Dushanbe
Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Kyrgyz counterpart Sadyr Japarov to pay a working visit to Russia on May 24. The heads of state will exchange views on regional problems, including strengthening stability on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, the Kremlin press service said. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, one of the main issues to be discussed at the meeting between Putin and Japarov in Sochi will undoubtedly be the situation on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border, when at the end of April, 55 people were killed on both sides and over 300 were injured.
"Russia is interested in resolving the situation on the Kyrgyz-Tajik border, since any conflict escalation could have unpredictable humanitarian and political consequences for Central Asia and pose risks to the national security of Russia," said Alexander Vorobyev, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Central Asia and the Caucasus, Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, in an interview with the newspaper.
He noted that Russia is ready to act as a mediator, similar to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, but there are certain limitations. "Dushanbe, which is in a stronger position than Bishkek, still believes that the border issue is a matter of bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan," the expert said. In his opinion, in such a situation, Moscow will most likely "look after" the parties and stop any possible escalations in the future. However, even such a scenario will be much preferable to an open conflict, Vorobyov stressed.