© AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, September 1st, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: EU scheme to put Afghan refugees in Central Asia may worsen ties between Brussels, Moscow
Another political point of contention is emerging between Moscow and Brussels and this now concerns the situation around Afghan refugees. The European Union wants them to be accepted by Afghanistan's neighboring countries, and it is ready to provide them with financial assistance. Moscow, on the other hand, opposes it, a source in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia. That said, Russia sees it as a national security threat, and neither Moscow nor its CSTO partners are interested in this. Meanwhile, the US met the deadline set by the new authorities and left Afghanistan a day earlier, on the night of August 31, their last evacuation plane departed. The 20-year war has ended there for the Americans.
Moscow opposes placing Afghan refugees in the countries of Central Asia, a source in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia, and Russia regards them as a threat to its national security. "Neither Moscow, nor the CSTO countries are interested in Afghan refugees in Central Asia," the source said. "Our allies see the issue the same way. The EU will have separate contacts with Central Asian countries, and various options and support measures will be offered, but there must be a consolidated approach. This is a danger to national security and Russia, as well," the source added, noting that Moscow and its CSTO allies would discuss a common position on the Afghan refugee problem in the near future.
According to an Izvestia source in EU political circles, the influx of migrants has become "too burdensome" for the European community, so the union should change its tactics and help them directly "in their region of origin".
Meanwhile, Moscow is awaiting information on what the new Afghan leadership will be like. "Now there is an active dialogue between members of various ethnic groups in Afghanistan on forming the government. Russia supports this peaceful dialogue. The Taliban (outlawed in Russia) is also interested in this," a source in Russia’s diplomatic circles told Izvestia.
Izvestia: Zelensky gears up for talks with Biden
The most important event in Ukrainian politics will take place on September 1. President Vladimir Zelensky of Ukraine will meet for the first time with US President Joe Biden. Washington postponed the negotiations several times, and Kiev considers that to be a bad omen. According to Izvestia, at the meeting, the leaders are expected to discuss corruption and judicial reform in Ukraine, and Zelensky’s candidacy for a second presidential term. Expert told the newspaper that the talks would not be equal.
The official agenda of the Biden-Zelensky summit is public, and the parties will discuss the issues of security, economics, and reform. Among the economic topics on the agenda, Zelensky is likely to touch upon Nord Stream 2. In addition, the politicians will discuss the fight against Ukrainian corruption. Finally, the Ukrainian leader may try to agree on his nomination for a second term.
Ukrainian political scientist Andrey Zolotarev told Izvestia that Zelensky will have to make an effort to keep Joe Biden awake during the conversation. "The most important thing for Zelensky is whether the Americans will agree on his nomination for a second term. If Washington does not support the incumbent president, then the opposition may begin to rock the boat,and the threat of a new Maidan will emerge. If the Americans agree, then the protests will not reach an intimidating scale," the expert predicted.
Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS Countries Vladimir Zharikhin said that the conversation will be disproportionate. "Zelensky will ask, and Biden will politely refuse. The President of Ukraine will probably try to persuade his counterpart to do something against Nord Stream 2, to make promises about the imminent admission of Ukraine to NATO. Biden, under plausible pretexts, will refuse. He will likely let the guest understand that the topic of Ukraine has taken a back seat, and the main thing now is the Afghan crisis. The US President may advise [Zelensky] to reduce the intensity of the struggle with Russia, explaining that the US now intends to deal more with China," the analyst noted.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow and Minsk are ready to sign Union programs
The next meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State of Russia and Belarus may take place on September 10, and programs for the development of Belarusian-Russian integration may be signed there. However, experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta they are not sure that the integration itself will follow this signing. The majority of experts believe thatBelarusian President Alexander Lukashenko no longer wants to fulfill his promises, judging by the foot-dragging on all processes including integration and the promised transit of power.
Political observer Igor Tyshkevich expressed doubts that the Belarusian authorities will fulfill their promises. It is important for Russia to sign integration roadmaps now, in the run-up to the elections to the State Duma. "Signing a week before the balloting gives United Russia additional points in the elections. For Lukashenko, it is necessary to agree on ‘something’ in order to get a respite from political pressure. This is acceptable for Russia," the commentator said, adding that Russia is in a hurry, seeing Minsk's attempts to find other points of support.
Political scientist Valery Karbalevich also does not rule out that now, being in a weak position, the Belarusian side will sign what Russia wants, "but will in every possible way sabotage the implementation of the agreements that it does not like." Also, in his opinion, the penned programs could contain reference norms, while filling them with specific content may take years and not reach implementation. The loss of sovereignty, most likely, is fraught with the loss of power for Lukashenko, so it would make no sense for him to strive for this, analysts believe.
Kommersant: Armenia complains to Russia about Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is not complying with the previous Nagorno-Karabakh agreements, signed with Vladimir Putin’s mediation on November 9, 2020, and already requires the conclusion of new ones, Ararat Mirzoyan, Armenia’s new foreign minister, tried to convey to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Moscow on August 31. However, Lavrov supported his colleague only on certain issues. Experts told Kommersant that Yerevan's rhetoric arose in response to Baku's attempt to conclude peace exclusively on its own terms.
Mirzoyan believes that "Azerbaijan is taking vigorous provocative steps, which are a direct encroachment on the sovereign territory of Armenia." By "provocative steps" the Armenian top diplomat meant relentless incidents at the border, for which Yerevan invariably blames Baku, while Azerbaijan points the finger at Yerevan.
Lavrov, in turn, as always, tried to adhere to neutrality in the dispute between Baku and Yerevan and supported the Armenian diplomat on only one issue: releasing POWs. In other matters, he only promised "not to weaken attention towards efforts to eliminate mutual aggravations in relations between Yerevan and Baku." He also mentioned that Moscow and Yerevan "confirmed the demand for the continued activities of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs" on Nagorno-Karabakh, but Baku now considers this format irrelevant.
According to Armenian political analyst Akop Badalyan, the demanding tone in Yerevan's rhetoric arose in response to Baku's attempt to conclude peace exclusively on its own terms. "A certain role can be played by the fact that, militarily, in terms of protecting its borders, Yerevan now feels more confident than a few months ago," he explained to Kommersant. It is possible that this confidence is fueled by the processes of restoring the country's defense capabilities. The expert noted that recently the Armenian side began to respond more often to Azerbaijan using force.
Vedomosti: Uber selling shares may signal exit from Russia
Yandex is buying up 33.5% of Uber's shares in Yandex.Eda, Yandex.Lavka, and Yandex.Delivery, the company announced on August 31. The deal, which is scheduled to be closed by the end of this year, will also include 18.2% in Yandex SDG, which deals with driverless cars and rovers. Yandex will shell out $1 bln, and its stake in these companies will reach 100%. The company will also buy out another 4.5% stake in Yandex.Taxi, increasing his stake in it to 71%. In addition, Yandex can acquire Uber's remaining stake in the company for $1.8-2 bln within two years, according to experts interviewed by Vedomosti, this deal virtually means Uber’s exit from its Russian business.
Anna Kupriyanova, a senior analyst covering the IT and telecom sectors at Gazprombank, noted that Uber has not been actively involved in developing its Russian business for some time. Infoline-Analytics CEO Mikhail Burmistrov noted that Uber will now focus on cultivating its business in its home market in the United States, where it has already faced a worsening financial performance due to a lack of drivers and increased regulatory pressure.
According to Burmistrov, its e-commerce projects in Russia are not strategic for Uber, and it was hardly interested in actively investing in them. However, representative of Yandex did not agree with this. The company representative told Vedomosti that Uber remains a co-owner of a joint venture that includes taxi, car sharing, and scooter rental services, and also the rights to use the Uber brand have been extended until 2030.
The deal with Uber will allow Yandex to independently cultivate its rapidly-growing areas in the e-commerce segment, including in foreign markets Data Insight’s Boris Ovchinnikov told the newspaper.