Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, June 22nd, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Pashinyan wins Armenian parliamentary election
Political strife in Armenia should move from the streets to the parliament, experts quizzed by Izvestia point out, commenting on the victory of Nikol Pashinyan’s party "Civil Contract" in the June 20 parliamentary election with 53.92% of the vote. The results do not give the opposition many chances to contest them, Izvestia reports. According to political analysts, Acting Prime Minister Pashinyan received a carte blanche from the nation, which has expressed a wish for change, but not for a change in government.
The majority of parties approved the election results, however, the Armenia and "I Have the Honor" blocs expressed doubt in their legitimacy. The Armenia bloc plans to contest the results in the Constitutional Court.
However, experts point out that Civil Contract’s victory was decisive, so it is unlikely that the vote will be contested in any serious way.
"We can talk about separate violations, but there is no doubt at all that Pashinyan won by a large margin. There was no ballot stuffing. There were other violations, but there weren’t any that could cause us to say that if not for that, Kocharyan [former Armenian president and head of the Armenia bloc] would have won. As for smear campaigns, unequal access to media, and so on, this should have been brought up before the vote. If this gets pointed out after some of the political forces did not like the results, this is not an argument for contesting the election," Armenian political scientist Grant Mikaelyan told Izvestia.
He noted that the statements made by the Armenia bloc are more of a political than legal nature.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian integration and Relations with Compatriots Viktor Vodolatsky, an observer at the Armenian election, told Izvestia that Russia is interested in Armenia’s return to stability.
"It is necessary that both those, who won, and those, who lost, find the courage to sit down at the negotiating table and for the sake of Armenia's development find compromises to resolve the issues that have accumulated," the Russian lawmaker said.
He added that it is important to consider the votes of those, who did not make it to the parliament, and invite representatives of those parties to act as experts in order to develop an action plan for the upcoming years. Otherwise, the country risks holding another snap election in the future, and "neither Armenia, nor Russia as its ally" would want that, the politician concluded.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: EU slaps individual sanctions on Belarusian officials
EU foreign ministers have approved individual sanctions against 86 Belarusian individuals and legal entities with connections to the country’s government. The EU is expected to follow this up with sectoral sanctions over the next several days, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. In response, Belarus showed no desire to abandon the policy of escalation, discontinuing the presence of the UN human rights adviser in Minsk.
On Monday, the EU Foreign Affairs Council held a session in Luxembourg, attended by Belarusian opposition figurehead Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. After her speech, ministers of 15 EU countries asked her questions about sanctions, the domestic situation in Belarus, and the fact that the Belarusian crisis can be resolved peacefully through joint means of putting pressure on the government.
As predicted earlier, the EU's top diplomats approved individual sanctions against 78 people and eight enterprises. All the individuals on the list are banned from entering the EU, and any of their potential assets in the EU will be frozen.
Experts pointed out earlier that the entry ban would not hurt the Belarusian officials in any significant ways, as they tend not to travel, especially with COVID restrictions in place, and considering the ban on direct flights to and from Belarus, the newspaper notes.
When asked about the consequences of the sanctions, experts point to a greater dependence of Belarus on Russia. Sectoral sanctions are planned to be approved next week during the Special Meeting of the European Council on June 24-25. The restrictions will affect the potassium, oil and financial spheres of Belarus. According to analysts, the sanctions may affect up to 4% of Belarusian exports, which last year amounted to $29 bln.
The Belarusian government has shown no desire to alleviate the tensions in its relations with the EU. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Monday that Belarus terminated the activity of the UN human rights adviser in Minsk. The relations between Belarus and the EU have reached their highest escalation point in modern history, experts conclude.
Kommersant: Second international conference on Libya opens in Berlin
On Wednesday, another international conference on Libya will take place in Berlin, Kommersant reports. The goal of the conference is to prepare for a general election in the country, and to review the reconciliation process launched in October of last year. The pullout of foreign mercenaries from Libya remains the most controversial unresolved issue for all sides party to the conflict, the newspaper points out.
The final declaration, planned to be signed on Wednesday after the second Libyan conference in Berlin, will include a call for the immediate pullout of foreign mercenaries in Libya, along with the address to the Libyan government asking it to make every effort to hold a general election on December 24. The declaration should touch upon such issues as security, political process, economic and financial reforms, adherence to international humanitarian law and human rights. Reporters stress that the text and the structure of the document may yet be changed.
This is the second conference on Libya hosted by Germany. This time, the event will be held at the ministerial level. According to Kommersant, Russia will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, and the US will send its Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will start his European tour in Berlin. For the first time, Libya will be represented at the conference as a full-fledged participant of the talks.
The issue of foreign mercenaries and troops in Libya remains the most controversial one. According to the UN, there are about 20,000 of them in the country. The ceasefire agreement signed in October demanded that all foreign forces leave Libya by January 23, however, since then, the situation has not changed much, Kommersant says, noting that Turkish troops and Syrian mercenaries sent to Libya by Ankara are in the country by agreement with the Government of National Accord. Meanwhile, mercenaries from Chad, Sudan, Syria, and Russia’s Wagner Group support the Libyan National Army.
It is unlikely that any realistic plan for the withdrawal of foreign militants will be approved or even offered at the conference, Jalel Harchaoui, a researcher specializing in Libya at the Clingendael Institute, told Kommersant. Nevertheless, he said that holding another international conference in Berlin is very important, adding that the election may take place this year due to the pressure on the Libyans by the international community.
Vedomosti: Russia records a spike in electric car sales
The number of electric cars sold in Russia has hit 650 vehicles in the first five months of 2021, which is seven times higher than in January-May 2020 and 5.5 times higher than the corresponding period of 2019, according to the Avtostat analytical agency, as cited by Vedomosti. In May 2021, car sales went up 10 times compared to May 2020 and nearly 5.5 times compared to May 2019. A total of 148 electric cars were sold last month in Russia, the newspaper reports.
According to VTB Capital analyst Vladimir Bespalov, the rise in electric car sales in Russia can be explained by the fact that the zero-duty policy on the import of electric cars ends in late 2021. There is also a deficit of new vehicles with internal combustion engines on the market, especially in the premium segment. "People want to buy an electric car before it inevitably goes up in price, supposing that the zero-duty policy won’t be prolonged," Kirill Zhanaidarov, an expert with the Skolkovo Foundation, told Vedomosti.
However, the electric car market in Russia remains very small, and even this spike does indicate any significant progress in adoption, Bespalov pointed out. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, sales of electric cars in the EU rose by 59% in the first quarter of 2021, reaching 146,200 vehicles sold. Germany remains the largest electric car market in Europe, with 64,800 units sold in the first quarter (+149% compared to the previous year), Vedomosti informs.
In the spring of 2020, the Eurasian Economic Commission introduced zero duties on the import of electric cars to the Eurasian Economic Union until the end of 2021, the newspaper added. This was done to stimulate the formation of the necessary charging infrastructure, considering the lack of domestic production, and a spike in currency exchange rates. In May 2021, the Russian media reported that this measure is unlikely to be prolonged.
For his part, Sergey Udalov, CEO of Avtostat, noted that the situation on the Russian electric car market can be influenced by the arrival of new Porsche and Audi electric models, the development of a charging stations network, and the fact that owning an electric car is becoming fashionable among the wealthy segments of the population.
Izvestia: Moscow starts testing COVID-free zones at restaurants
Moscow is starting to test the initiative of "COVID-free" restaurants, Izvestia reports, noting that since June 22, four restaurants in the capital will only serve vaccinated customers. These restaurants will be allowed to work 24/7, unlike other spots that are banned from serving clients during nighttime hours. In total, several dozen restaurants offered to take part in the experiment, proposing to create separate areas for vaccinated clients or remain open at night to serve those, who have received the COVID jab, Sergey Mironov, Vice President of the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Russia, said. He noted that the Moscow government had not agreed to these measures so far.
Russian entrepreneurs are trying to follow the example of Israel, which introduced a total lockdown that was only lifted after the majority of the population was vaccinated, Igor Bukharov, Vice President of the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Russia, told Izvestia.
"Over there, they allowed businesses to only work with vaccinated clients. This helped lift all restrictions. Of course, there is a risk that many clients will refuse to come to such restaurants. However, if the number of cases continues to grow, we are in for a second lockdown. In these conditions, we should use all the opportunities to work," Bukharov stressed.
The idea of introducing "COVID-free" restaurants is a good one, medical expert Yevgeny Timakov told the newspaper. "So far, it is not clear how people, who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, can attend these places. In theory, they can show a medical certificate that confirms that they cannot be vaccinated, while they enter. But we need to set a percentage of such guests in one room. There should not be more than 10-20% of such clients in a COVID-free restaurant," the expert said.
According to him, other restaurants could take part in this experiment by allocating separate days for vaccinated customers.