Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, May 7th, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Experts weigh in on US-USSR Lend-Lease cooperation during WWII
This year marks 80 years since the start of cooperation between the US and the USSR within the Lend-Lease program. In recent years, American experts and some Russian historians have pointed out more often that the Soviet Union would not have been able to deal with Nazi aggression without American help, branding the lend-lease program the real weapon of victory. However, experts with the Russian Military Historical Society disproved this notion to Izvestia, pointing out that the Soviet Army won all the key battles of the war using its own equipment, without American aid.
April 25, the day Soviet and American troops met at the Elbe River in 1945, is acquiring special significance now, amid a new wave of tensions in the relations between Russia and the US, given the mutual exchanges of sanctions and diplomatic expulsions. This event 76 years ago marked the highest point of bilateral cooperation between Moscow and Washington, the newspaper points out.
The cooperation between Moscow and Washington started within the Lend-Lease program in November 1941, eight months after its launch and five months after the start of military activity on the Eastern Front. The Lend-lease program sought to provide American aid to US allies within the anti-Hitler coalition: the US supplied weapons, equipment, fuel, raw materials and food.
US historian Albert Weeks referred to the lend-Lease program as "Russia’s life-saver" in his book on the topic, providing readers with the following figures: over 92.7% of railroad equipment in the USSR was produced with the aid of Lend-Lease, which included 1,911 locomotives and 11,200 rail cars.
Mikhail Myagkov, Scientific Director with the Russian Military Historical Society, disagreed with this position, noting that it is "immoral" to say that the USSR would not have been able to win without the US.
A historian with the society Nikita Buranov points out that the aid of the allies was significant, however, it cannot be said that it played a key role in the defeat of Hitler.
"We need to consider the statements of military officials of that time. For example, Mikoyan (Anastas Mikoyan, who was in charge of organizing the transportation of food and supplies to the Red Army during WWII - Izvestia) said that the Americans put our army on good wheels, but we would have won without them. Yes, perhaps we would have fought longer, but we would have won," the expert told Izvestia.
He noted, however, that in some areas, America’s aid to the USSR was significant indeed, but it was more in the area of trains, boots, aluminum, gunpowder, and food rather than tanks and planes. It was impossible for the Soviet Union to organize production of those items quickly, as the lion’s share of industrial facilities for the production of those materials was on the occupied territories, the historian stressed.
Former US defense attache in Russia (in 2012-2014), retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack told Izvestia that Russia and the United States would need time to meet current challenges together, just like during WWII, and the path towards this would not be easy. However, he stressed that both superpowers must do it.
The current relations between Moscow and Washington are based on a great deal of mistrust and the lack of understanding of each other’s main interests and threat perceptions that drive both nations, the military expert said.
RBC: Experts question Moderna being branded ‘world's best’ COVID-19 vaccine
The US-produced Moderna COVID-19 vaccine being branded the world’s best one is likely to be a politically-loaded decision, experts quizzed by RBC pointed out. Earlier, the annual World Vaccine Congress recognized Moderna as the best jab in the world. That being said, the criteria for judging the vaccines failed to be specified.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was also lauded at the event. Russia’s Sputnik V jab, along with Janssen and Novavax (US), Medicago (Canada), AstraZeneca (UK/Sweden), Bharat Biotech (India) and a COVID-19 vaccine for animals Zoetis also made it to the shortlist of awards.
Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out after the event that it would take several years to estimate the real effectiveness of Moderna, after many years of use and a thorough analysis of its results.
Alexander Chepurnov, professor of virology and an employee of the Novosibirsk Federal Research Center of Basic and Translational Medicine, provided a comment to RBC on the choice for the best vaccine. "I don’t really understand the point of this competition. This resembles politics more than science or healthcare. The expert choice is clear: a significant part of healthcare officials is part of the Western world, they are tied to the United States of America. They have heard about these drugs and they have strong ties to their pharmaceutical companies. There is a certain degree of politicking," he told the paper.
Nevertheless, he pointed out that Moderna and Pfizer are ahead of their competitors when it comes to the vaccination rate. "I think about 200 mln people have been vaccinated with them. Sputnik V and AstraZeneca are lagging behind in this regard. But it’s too early to discuss which shot is more effective. This will be clear in about six months or in a year," Chepurnov said.
Izvestia: Russia registers one-dose COVID-19 vaccine dubbed Sputnik Light
Russia has registered its fourth COVID-19 vaccine "Sputnik Light," which only requires one shot, Izvestia informed. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, this option would work for seniors, since it causes the least amount of side effects. Sputnik Light is effective against all new strains of the coronavirus, its developers assured.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia is ready to support lifting intellectual property protections on all COVID-19 vaccines developed globally, which will help boost the vaccination drive. So far, Russia is the only country in the world that hands over its vaccine production technology to other countries. However, experts note that it would be difficult to organize production of the jabs in underdeveloped nations.
"Having a wide spectrum of vaccines is very important, this is why the registration of Sputnik Light is important," Viktor Zuev, leading researcher at the Gamaleya Research Center, explained. "Each person’s immune system is different. Some are better suited for Sputnik V, some for Sputnik Light. The experience of using these vaccines is not very broad so far, therefore, it will be accumulated. It is likely that Sputnik Light will be a more suitable option for seniors, simply to lower the risk of side effects."
Putin also informed earlier that Russia is ready to support the proposal on lifting the patent protection of COVID-19 vaccines so that the jabs can be used all over the world. However, the problem is not only about patents, it is about the technological production process, experts point out, noting that it would be hard to organize vaccine production in underdeveloped countries.
"Rejecting intellectual property does not mean transferring the technology to all those who wish to produce the vaccines," General Director of DSM Group Sergey Shulyak said. "This is a difficult technological process that requires a lot of money to be launched and maintained. Especially considering that the produced vaccine should have the same quality as the original jab. It is more likely to be a political step."
However, the expert pointed out that some countries, like India, would benefit from producing vaccines on their territory. India is a technologically developed country, namely in the pharmaceutical sphere, Shulyak stated. However, it would not be in the interest of small countries to produce vaccines on their territory, as the production costs would exceed the money spent to purchase the drugs.
Shulyak stated that Russia is unlikely to produce foreign vaccines, as it already has four of its own jabs, counting Sputnik Light. As for the production of Russian jabs abroad, the Russian Direct Investment Fund agreed to hand over Sputnik V’s production technology to a number of states, including Kazakhstan, Belarus, Italy and India.
Kommersant: Russia’s business activity on the rise in April amid high inflation
Russia’s business activity in the service sector and in the industrial sphere continued to grow in April, leading indicators of IHS Markit and the Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy report. While the rise in the industrial sphere's business activity showed a slow increase compared to March, the service industry demonstrated record growth over the last seven months due to heightened demand and new orders. Experts quizzed by Kommersant suggest that the Russian economy is recovering amid the ongoing pressure of costs and inflation.
On Thursday, the Markit agency released the April figures for the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which indicate an ongoing increase in business activity. In April, the index amounted to 54 compared to 54.6 in March (if the index is higher than 50, this points to an increase in activity). The index’s growth rate for April has been the highest since August 2020.
"The unprecedented shock of 2020 first led to a record drop of the index, and then to a sharp surge, and now the figures are stabilizing. Meanwhile, demand (both local and export) is rising confidently, forcing companies to find new employees. The expectation indicators remain high as well," Dmitry Polevoy with Loko-Invest said, adding that the business activity in the service industry continues to climb faster than the average rate.
High inflation pressure continues to accompany the recovery, showing record-high figures when it comes to the service industry, although the inflation rate in April dropped to a three-month low. "In April, Russian industry’s inflation expectations continued to grow, rising by 4 points compared to the March figures, which duplicated the record of 2010 and 2015. The next "record" that the pricing policy of Russian industry may beat is the pre-crisis level of July 2008, by a mere 5 points, not a lot under the current conditions, left," Sergey Tsukhlo, an expert with the Gaidar Institute said.
"On the whole, the April PMI report confirms the confident recovery of the economy under the current conditions of high inflation," Polevoy concluded.
Kommersant: Russian stock market records drop in foreign shares
April was not the best month for trading foreign stock in Russia, Kommersant informs, noting that the volume of deals with foreign shares on the Saint Petersburg Exchange dropped by nearly a third compared to March, while the Moscow Exchange recorded a decrease of 14%. Experts note that the main reason for the decline is the influence of the Western market, which recorded a drop in trading volume after the peak March figures amid decreased volatility.
In April, the value of deals made with foreign securities during primary trading at the Saint Petersburg Exchange amounted to $27.67 bln, while a month prior to that, this figure equaled $39.17 bln (a 30-percent drop). The April figures were the lowest in the past five months.
The behavior of Russian investors on the Saint Petersburg Exchange when it comes to foreign shares reflected the behavior of investors on original platforms, such as NYSE and NASDAQ, Pavel Pakhomov, head of the exchange’s analytical division, noted. According to him, the first quarter of 2021 was marked by the positive outlook of investors amid the vaccination drive and the approval of a large-scale plan for renovation of American infrastructure. This optimism peaked in March, however, it became clear in April that the approval of the plan is unlikely to happen soon, and the vaccination rate slowed, which added some negativity to the predictions of investors, the expert told the paper.
The Moscow Exchange’s volume of deals made with foreign shares reached 46 bln rubles ($619 mln) in May compared to 53.7 bln rubles ($713 mln) in March, showing a drop of 14%. The Moscow Exchange recorded "a shift in interest towards Russian companies," namely due to the arrival of the "dividend season," with many Russian companies known for paying high dividends.