Press review: Medvedev weighs in on Russia-West ties and Egypt mediates Gaza conflict / News / News agency Inforos
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Press review: Medvedev weighs in on Russia-West ties and Egypt mediates Gaza conflict

Press review: Medvedev weighs in on Russia-West ties and Egypt mediates Gaza conflict

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, June 1st, prepared by TASS

Kommersant: Moscow-West ties have catastrophically deteriorated in recent years, says ex-PM Medvedev

Russia's relations with Western countries, including the United States and the European Union, have dramatically soured in recent years, however, this is not Moscow’s fault, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council and Chairman of the United Russia party Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with Kommersant. According to him, these tensions have had a negative effect on the general situation throughout the world.

He stressed that Russia needs "stable, good-neighborly, mutually beneficial relations with the European Union, the United States, and with all other countries." "But the question is what position our partners adhere to," Medvedev stated.

According to him, Russian-US ties are currently in worse shape than they were during the Cuban missile crisis. "And they are worse because our partners believe that Russia can be neglected," Medvedev added.

Western policymakers could have reacted more subtly to a number of decisions made by Moscow, including Russia’s reunification with Crimea, "and not destroy relations with us and at the same time utter some of their concerns", yet they chose the path of confrontation, he noted.

At the same time, Medvedev believes that a constructive approach in relations between Russia and the West can be revived. "In this situation, we certainly were not the initiators of this kind of confrontational spiral. But this must be treated without fatalism. Everything can be returned," Medvedev explained.

The much-awaited Putin-Biden summit set to be held in Geneva on June 16 will become an opportunity to tackle the toughest issues for the two countries, he added. "This is at least an opportunity to discuss the most complex and most controversial topics," Medvedev believes.

Izvestia: Belarus’ Ryanair incident might tarnish Russia-EU relations

Russia and Belarus will be able to agree on returning Russian national Sofia Sapega arrested in Minsk back home to her native country along the lines of the existing legal framework between both countries and the agreements within the Union State. Sapega’s lawyer told Izvestia that charges might not be brought on June 1. According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, the proceedings are just one part of the larger situation around Belarus after the Ryanair incident, which can become a new factor in exacerbating the already tense relationship between the European Union and Russia.

Chairman of the Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots of the State Duma Leonid Kalashnikov told Izvestia there is a possibility of reaching an agreement between the countries on the Sapega case. "Not only do we have the legal grounds for this, but also a pact on the creation of the Union State. If something hinders us, we will be able to adopt new laws, and the Russian State Duma also supports this," he said.

Meanwhile, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia, the whole Ryanair incident may tarnish Moscow-EU relations further. Earlier, EU member-states said they might introduce another fourth round of sanctions against Belarus over the incident. With that in mind, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was ready to "protect" its neighbor to the West in the event of mounting sanctions. At this past weekend’s meeting in Sochi, Putin and Lukashenko agreed on the second tranche of a state loan to Belarus to the tune of $500 mln.

"The Belarusian situation is a new large-scale geopolitical contradiction between the EU and Russia, similar to the Ukrainian crisis. The only difference is that there is no direct military conflict. The European Union wanted to reorient Belarus towards the West, but Russia ruined this game by supporting Alexander Lukashenko," Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics Dmitry Suslov told Izvestia.

Kommersant: Egypt seeks to reconcile Israel with Gaza before changes in Israeli government

Cairo is trying to achieve a lasting ceasefire between Israel and Hamas before any changes in the Israeli leadership. Hamas is ready to negotiate the return of the Israelis held in the Gaza Strip, but in the coming days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may step down from his post, which he held perpetually for more than 12 years, Kommersant writes. The mediators would need time to establish contacts with the new leadership of Israel.

According to the newspaper, it was largely thanks to Egypt and Washington's support for its proposals that Israel and the Palestinian movements in Gaza agreed to end the hostilities that had lasted from May 10 to May 21. Now, these agreements have to become long-term. In addition, there is the issue of rebuilding the Gaza Strip, where more than 1,500 housing units, medical facilities, and other infrastructure have been destroyed by Israeli airstrikes.

In the coming days, serious negotiations on the unification of the Palestinian position will be held in Cairo, Kommersant writes, where the questions of the legitimacy of power within Palestine, the restoration of Gaza, as well as the topic of the release of prisoners will be discussed.

Egypt is rushing to settle the question of Gaza’s future before the change of power in Israel. According to Kommersant, they consider how many times Netanyahu got out of desperate situations, as well as knowing the volatility of the opinion of Naftali Bennett, the possible new prime minister, who at the height of the war in Gaza refused to negotiate even with parties on the left supporting him. Israeli analysts are afraid to make loud statements about the departure of the Netanyahu era and are waiting to see the new cabinet. If it happens, Cairo would have to renegotiate with the Israelis the terms of the agreement with Hamas. This would not be easy and would test the new government, which must include parties with opposing ideological views, Kommersant writes.

RBC: Russian banks have backup plans in the event of new US sanctions

The Bank of Russia and market players have a plan in case the US ramps up its restrictive measures against state banks, VTB CEO Andrey Kostin said in an interview with RBC. The state will support them, primarily in terms of working with depositors. At the same time, Kostin does not believe that Russia will be cut off from the SWIFT system since the United States has other tools to hit the Russian financial sector.

"We [the banks] adopted a plan back in 2018 together with the Bank of Russia," Kostin said. "The state will help such banks, [it] will support them primarily in terms of working with depositors. All such scenarios have been worked out. We are gradually updating them, taking into account how the situation unfolds. Of course, the financial and banking sector will fulfill its obligations," Kostin told RBC.

Blocking sanctions against banks would deprive them of their ability to function in their current form and would not allow them to carry out settlements in foreign currencies, he added.

At the same time, Kostin does not believe that Russia will be disconnected from SWIFT. "I don't believe that SWIFT will be shut off because they don't need SWIFT to punish our sector. Moreover, this is a European company, and this issue requires the participation of European governments," he noted, adding "Why would the Americans need to use this? They have their own tools. They have disconnected our banks and Iranian banks before that from dollar settlements with the introduction of secondary sanctions against European banks".

"They almost did it with French banks when there were claims of violations of sanctions against Russia. It scares the Europeans too," Kostin explained.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US intelligence revisits China's alleged involvement in coronavirus pandemic

The lab origin version of the coronavirus pandemic has been revived in the West, after having been touted for a while as an unlikely theory, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Western politicians continue to say that Beijing has obstructed the World Health Organization's objective investigation in the country and call for a larger investigation. US President Joe Biden instructed US intelligence services to establish where the virus came from in 90 days.

The laboratory leak is only a hypothesis based on circumstantial evidence - COVID-19 was first discovered at a market in Wuhan in just 12 km from the Institute of Virology. Establishing the truth is necessary in order to prevent similar outbreaks in the future, politicians argue.

Senior fellow at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vasily Kashin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "The US is trying to prove that China is guilty, and China will do everything to absolve itself of any responsibility. China took measures to establish control over the information about the early stage of the spread of the virus at the beginning of last year." "In general, China is talking about the possibility of an international investigation. But it will be tough to select experts. A commission that satisfies China will most likely not be accepted by Western countries. And a commission that will satisfy the West will never be accepted by China," the expert added.

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