© EPA-EFE/Sgt. Samuel Ruiz/US Marine Corps
Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, August 31st, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: US wraps up evacuation from Afghanistan
Over two weeks of a massive operation to evacuate foreign citizens and Afghans from Kabul, the United States and Western countries managed to remove about 140,000 people. After a series of attacks on Kabul airport last week, which killed more than 200 people, the airport came under rocket fire on August 30. Meanwhile, the US and Western countries were not able to extract everyone they wanted from Afghanistan who had the right to leave, Izvestia writes. The new authorities are being called on to allow everyone who wants to leave the country to "do it in a safe way" regardless of the deadline. And this became the main point of a draft resolution, which the UN Security Council planned to discuss after midnight on August 31. But how the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) will respond to this remains unclear.
It is too early to end the evacuation on August 31 and not allow the Americans and their allies to continue the operation to repatriate their remaining citizens there, Central Asian expert Arkady Dubnov believes.
"One way or another, the Taliban will have to deal with the United States in the further stages of their accession to power. On the other hand, based on the experience of the recent terrorist attack, the Americans will begin to weigh all the risks of continuing the operation any further. Will they be willing to take risks if the Taliban says no to them?" the expert suggested.
According to Dubnov, it is possible that so far the Taliban wants to demonstrate their adequacy to the world and show that those foreigners who remain in Afghanistan are not in danger even after August 31. But whether this will affect Afghans with the right to be admitted to Europe and the United States will become clearer following the results of the meeting in Kandahar these days between Taliban leader Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada who returned to Afghanistan with other heads of the movement.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kiev believes Washington won’t abandon Ukraine after Afghanistan fiasco
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and his delegation flew to Washington on Monday, as previously planned, although his negotiations with US President Joe Biden were postponed again. The Ukrainian opposition saw Zelensky off with angry statements about the escalation in Donbass. Meanwhile, Zelensky hopes to sign Ukrainian-US defense agreements. Ukraine expects that the US will not leave the country after the fiasco in Afghanistan, however, experts believe that not much will change after the talks, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Recently, the Ukrainian presidential press service announced preparations for the signing of three agreements on a defense partnership, along with cooperation projects in the space sector also being set for approval. However, the details were not disclosed.
Political expert Valentin Gladkikh did not foresee any surprises from Zelensky's US visit. He highlighted two topics that primarily concern Kiev: Washington’s participation in the Donbass peace process and Biden's position on Nord Stream 2. According to the commentator, significant progress on these issues is unlikely. Nonetheless, it would be realistic to expect to see more details on the agreements reached between Merkel and Biden in terms of Ukrainian interests.
Political scientist Viktor Nebozhenko believes that right now Kiev can get more. "After Afghanistan, the US will definitely not abandon Ukraine. First, because the US ... urgently needs to restore its international prestige. Second, for the simple reason that Afghanistan is far from Moscow and has no territorial claims to Russia, and Ukraine is close and determined to return its land ... Thus, the US automatically gets an incredibly convenient platform in the center of Europe for powerful pressure on a quietly rebellious Germany and a self-confident Russia."
Izvestia: Volume of contracts at Eastern Economic Forum may reach around $60 bln
This year, the volume of contracts concluded at the Eastern Economic Forum will reach 4-4.5 trillion rubles ($54.51-61.33 bln), exceeding the previous forum, analysts interviewed by Izvestia said. They noted that the sixth forum transformed the agenda and shifted the focus from the development of the Asia-Pacific region to solving problems of a global scale. According to experts, the revision of the existing model of international trade and logistics is not far off.
The key topic of the upcoming event will be devoted to the possibilities of the Far East in a changing world. The participants intend to discuss the Greater Eurasian Partnership and business dialogues between representatives of Russia and ASEAN, as well as South Korea, Japan, China, India, and Europe. The forum’s highlight will be the plenary session, which will be held on September 3 with the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Delegates from more than 60 countries will come to EEF 2021. However, the number of participants will more than halve gathering 4,000 people compared to 8,500 in 2019.
The pandemic will become one of the forum’s central topics, given that new strains of coronavirus threaten to make this problem chronic on a global scale, said Dmitry Babin, a market analyst at Russian brokerage BCS Investments. Against this background, the existing model of international trade and logistics will have to be revised, as supply chains suffer, causing interruptions in production and periodic downtime of many enterprises, he believes.
This year, the amount of agreements concluded at the forum will be over 4 trillion rubles ($54.51 bln) amid post-crisis recovery in investment activity, Chief Economist of the Eurasian Development Bank Evgeny Vinokurov estimated.
Amid deferred demand, the volume of contracts concluded within the framework of the forum may become a record, Chairman of the Board of Freedom Finance Bank Gennady Salych said. The commentator emphasized that the forum is important for the development of Russia's export potential, which has good prospects in the current global situation.
Vedomosti: Russia’s Antimonopoly Service hits Apple with warning about App Store practices
On August 30, Russia’s Antimonopoly Service (FAS) announced receiving requests from users and developers regarding the current rules of the App Store, where users can pay for goods with a 15-30% Apple commission, not knowing about the opportunity to buy the same thing cheaper on a seller's website. The service has warned Apple to address any signs of violation of the law before September 30, Vedomosti writes.
Apple occupies a dominant position in the market for the distribution of applications for the iOS operating system with a 100% share, a representative of FAS explained to Vedomosti. "The reason for issuing the warning was consumer requests. With regard to other operating systems, there are currently no signs of violation of antimonopoly legislation," the service said.
"The Federal Antimonopoly Service was not the first to focus attention on the App Store’s activities. In 2020, the European Commission conducted an investigation into it, which concerned, first of all, Apple's agreement with platform participants, namely the mandatory use of its own in-app purchase system for distributing paid content," attorney Irina Akimova, a partner at BGP Litigation explained. Should the tech giant fail to comply with the warning, Apple's actions would be considered as an antitrust violation case in Russia, she added.
The current warning goes hand in hand with Apple's litigation with video games published and developer Epic Games over the way content is sold to App Store users, Raiffeisenbank analyst Sergei Libin said. "Apple could meet developers halfway, and this would primarily benefit large players who can create their own payment systems and are published in the App Store - Yandex, Mail.ru Group," he said.
Vedomosti: Gas price in Europe reaches new record before fall-winter season
Spot gas prices in Europe on August 30 for the first time in history broke the benchmark of 600 per 1,000 cubic meters. Experts interviewed by Vedomosti believe that the current situation in the European gas market is associated with the reorientation of suppliers of liquefied natural gas to the Asian market, the unclear fate of pumping additional volumes of gas through Ukraine, as well as with record low volumes in underground gas storage (UGS) facilities in Europe. As of August 30, European UGS facilities were only 66.3% full.
Europe is also experiencing a shortage of gas amid a temporary decrease in Russian gas supplies via the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline after the accident at the Gazprom plant in Novy Urengoy on August 5. At the same time, even Gazprom's statements about the imminent launch of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline could not significantly reduce gas prices in the EU, Vedomosti writes. The prices are affected by the negative news regarding the pipeline. On August 25, the pipeline operator Nord Stream 2 AG lost a court case against the Federal Network Agency of Germany, which refused to remove the pipeline from the EU gas directive.
Deputy Director of the National Energy Security Fund Alexei Grivach told Vedomosti that Gazprom would not rush to fill its European UGS facilities. Given the current situation, it makes no commercial sense for the company, he said.
The expert also believes that European UGS facilities will be filled to less than 80% this fall-winter season, and in the event of cold weather, the level of reserves may be even lower. Thus, according to the expert, there are no fundamental reasons for the decline in prices and demand for gas in Europe. A significant decrease in prices - by 20-30% from the current level - will occur only after the launch of Nord Stream 2, he added.