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Press review: Trump challenges Iran on nuclear deal and Russia eyes legalizing bitcoin

April 21, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, April 21

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US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump

© AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Kommersant: Trump administration challenges Iran on nuclear deal

US President Donald Trump can initiate Washington’s refusal to implement the Iran nuclear deal and review the previous administration’s decision to lift sanctions against Tehran despite the fact that Iran abided by the terms of the agreement. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke about revising American policy towards Tehran at a news conference in Washington. The policy of containing Iran, who the US accuses of supporting international terrorism and subversive activities in Syria, Yemen and other Middle East countries will be a priority for Pentagon chief James Mattis, who kicked off a tour of the Middle East, starting with a visit to Saudi Arabia, Kommersant writes. 
Statements made by the key members of the Trump administration – Secretary of State Tillerson and Defense Secretary Mattis – offer a better understanding of the White House’s future priority policies in the Middle East. 

The new US strategy will be based on a tough standoff with Tehran on all fronts at that, the paper notes. This approach is strikingly different from that of Barack Obama’s team, which tried to tackle the nuclear issue through dialogue and succeeded in that to no small degree. Now all these efforts, including the international agreements on Iran’s nuclear program, could be completely erased. 
“The US under Donald Trump actually looks at Iran through the eyes of Israel seeing the Ayatollah regime as an uncompromising opponent, which virtually rules out any possibility for dialogue and compromise,” Vladimir Sotnikov, Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, explained in an interview with Kommersant. 
One of the consequences of this policy could be an increase in anti-American sentiment while Iranian conservatives may harden their stances in the run-up to the presidential election in Iran scheduled for May 19, the paper notes.

 

Izvestia: Former deputy PM says Serbia’s future linked to Russia

Serbia’s future is linked to Russia, to integration into the Eurasian Economic Union and accession to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), leader of the Serbian Radical Party and former Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj told Izvestia. While noting that Russian-Serbian relations “have always been excellent”, Seselj added that the current problem in bilateral ties is that “the government in Belgrade has pursued a pro-Western policy since 2000.” 
“The European Union, NATO and the US are trying to drive a wedge between Russia and Serbia and antagonize them the way they did with Montenegro. Aleksandar Vucic is trying to play a double game pressing ahead with EU integration, while maintaining good relations with Russia. However, this cannot last long. One of the terms at the talks with the EU is imposing sanctions against Moscow. As soon as the issue is raised point-blank, he will have to make a final decision,” the politician stressed. 

According to Seselj, the anti-Russian sanctions turned out to be an utter failure. He noted that in the long term, they will be more detrimental to the West than to Russia. 
Vojislav Seselj, one of the most prominent politicians in the Balkans, voluntarily surrendered to the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia back in 2003. After spending nearly 12 years behind bars, he was acquitted of all charges. It is noteworthy that he waived his right to counsel and defended himself during the trial.   
“That was a challenge for me. The Hague Tribunal was established for the sole purpose of putting the blame on the Serbs for the war in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo, the wars the Serbs did not start. I succeeded, and I am proud of this. My decision made it possible for me to leave my mark on the world,” he emphasized talking to Izvestia.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: OPEC’s oil cut plays into Moscow’s hands

On the one hand, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members seem to be quite pleased with the way the deal on reducing and freezing oil production is being carried out. On the other hand, they are not particularly enthusiastic about the fact that oil prices are recovering very slowly, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. There have been proposals to extend the production freeze indefinitely until a balance in prices will have been attained.

On May 24, the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee in Vienna will evaluate the implementation of the agreements on reducing oil production signed by all OPEC members and 11 non-OPEC countries. The impending conference of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which is expected to focus on extending the agreement by another six months, will be held on May 25.

The experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta assume that Russia will agree to extend the production freeze.

"The deal to cut production has awarded its participants their main objective - the stabilization of the market at an acceptable level of $50-60 per barrel. Russia receives an additional $100-150 mln per day, and that cannot be called a negative result," Oleg Bogdanov, Chief Analyst at Teletrade Group, said. "One can be 90-percent certain that Russia will support the extension of this agreement, as this will allow it to receive additional funds and does not interfere with increasing the market share in the Asian region, which has now become the chief consumer of energy resources."

His viewpoint is echoed by Daniil Kirikov, Managing Partner at the Kirikov Group. "Russia will support the deal to cut oil production, since it helps stabilize the market. If a new collapse in oil prices occurs now, Russia will face another fall in incomes and a fluctuating ruble, which will have an adverse effect on the economy in general and especially on consumers. Taking into account the upcoming elections, the authorities will do their utmost to sustain the growth of incomes and market stability," the expert emphasized.

 

Vedomosti: All eyes on first round of France’s presidential race

France will hold the first round of its presidential election on Sunday. The second round is scheduled for May 7, and parliamentary elections will be held a month later. Of the 11 candidates, four have real chances to win the race. They are conservative ex-Premier Francois Fillon and right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen along with the leader of the far-left Unsubmissive France movement, Jean-Luc Melenchon, and former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron who describes himself as a centrist candidate.
The election campaign dynamics has repeatedly taken a U-turn, Vedomosti notes. In January, Fillon considered to be the frontrunner at the time was in the focus of the now infamous fake jobs scandal. After that, Macron became the chief rival of Marine Le Pen. However, former outsider Melenchon has gained the lead over the past two weeks.

It’s up to two blocks of voters to solve the puzzle of who will make it to the second round, the paper quotes Antoine Jardin, a researcher at Sciences Po University in Paris, as saying. In his view, the first group of strategic voters are young, educated urban French citizens who will vote to stop a worsening scenario, the other, the less mobile suburban residents with the economically vulnerable working class among them. The online polls actively used during the campaign, which often did not cover the provinces or elderly voters, have made the situation more confusing.
According to Jardin, the candidates’ main task is to “steal” votes from their rivals, hence, the strongest criticism of Macron who is portrayed as an elitist detached from reality who protects corporate interests and supports globalization. On the other hand, Le Pen and Melenchon are actually unable to expand their electoral base. Therefore, their key objective now is to mobilize their voters, the expert noted.

 

 

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia mulling legalization of cryptocurrencies

The Finance Ministry is taking a new approach to financial security and currencies. Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies should be legalized to make them a product that can be bought, even in banks, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Alexey Moiseyev told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"The world still remains bewildered by cryptocurrencies. The leading powers do not understand how to move in this direction. However, the idea that we have supported has been the most popular of late. These cryptocurrencies should be regulated like any other financial product," he maintained.

The Russian Finance Ministry is also planning to reduce the risks for investors in the stock market, Moiseyev noted. "The first course is tightening the rules for classifying citizens as qualified investors and reducing the investment threshold for non-accredited investors. We expect the Central Bank to change these rules soon. The second course is the introduction of pre-trial defense, that is, the advent of a financial ombudsman institution. That’s the priority for us now. We hope the bill on the financial ombudsman will be passed by the State Duma (lower house of parliament) in 2017," he said.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press reviews

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