Donald Trump’s campaign promises of not spreading democracy beyond the United States have started coming to fruition, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. This was demonstrated during the recent visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow, who didn't hold any meetings with the opposition, or even with representatives of civil society, according to Richard Weitz, Valdai International Discussion Club expert. This is part of Trump's new strategy, which involves attempting to mend ties with Moscow and curtail criticism of Russia's (and other countries') domestic policies, he said.
Trump is already facing criticism in the US for refusing to meet with the opposition in Russia and Turkey. Although no clear breakthrough in relations with the Kremlin has been made, the expert is sure that Trump is preparing to lift sanctions against Russia. This has not happened so far due to pressure from the EU and the US Democratic Party's calls for expanding those sanctions over the Syrian crisis.
But apparently, Trump’s administration has moved against broadening sanctions, or even introducing any new ones, he said. Russia’s opposition has criticized Trump’s policy accusing the US of double standards, according to the paper.
"Trump’s administration has no aim to change the regime in Russia. The task is to improve relations with the Kremlin and that’s why it is better not to push it, or exacerbate it by heightening interest in Russia’s domestic affairs. The US understands that Putin is indeed president of the majority," Head of the Political Expert Group Konstantin Kalachev said.
Nikolay Mironov, who heads the Center for Economic and Political Reforms, also sees elements of detente with Russia in Trump’s policy towards the opposition. "No doubt, this is a new format in Russian-US relations. The Russian opposition won’t be left without support at all, but this is not a very good signal for it," he said.
Last year, the Bank of Russia was the largest gold buyer of all other central banks worldwide, even outstripping China. Russia accounted for 78% of the global state sector's demand for gold, according to a report of the National Rating Agency on precious metals, Izvestia writes. In order to reach this goal, the Bank of Russia may have shelled out up to $10 bln in 2016.
The National Rating Agency believes that if the situation in global economy does not improve, the purchases of gold are unlikely to increase and developing countries will be forced to continue selling gold. The Russian central bank’s demand for the yellow metal may be due to its desire to “diversify reserves” and a convenient moment for these purchases as the price is “rather attractive” now, it says.
In the first quarter of 2017, the Bank of Russia had already bought 60 tonnes of gold, according its data. Alexey Kalachev, an analyst at Finam investment predicts that the Russia's central bank may purchase more than 200 tonnes of gold this year.
In 2016, the Bank of Russia bought almost two-thirds of all gold produced in Russia (289 tonnes). The state became a reliable buyer of the yellow metal produced by Russia’s major companies - Polyus Gold, Polymetal, Kinross Gold, UGC Gold Mining Company and Petropavlovsk Gold Mining Company. Commercial banks also bought 45 tonnes of gold last year, the paper said.
According to Kalachev, the Russian central bank signs deals at market prices and hardly presses for any great discounts from producers.
During the mid-April talks in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov handed US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson a letter from the mother of imprisoned Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who is serving a 20-year sentence in the United States, two Russian diplomatic sources told Izvestia.
In her letter, the pilot’s mother, Lyubov Yaroshenko, called on the US president to show a humane disposition “towards the innocent Russian citizen who was unfairly charged and is dying in a US jail.”
Lavrov also gave Tillerson a 61-page report in English proving Yaroshenko’s innocence. The text had been put together by Alexey Tarasov, a lawyer for the Russian pilot. “All legal avenues in the Yaroshenko case have been exhausted. The only hope is that the US leadership shows its will,” he told the paper.
According to Izvestia, following that meeting between Lavrov and Tillerson some progress emerged in the Yaroshenko case. In particular, after the departure of New York Federal Prosecutor Preet Bharara, who had handled the case, the environment towards the Russian pilot started changing. Moreover, closed-door talks on the possibility of sending the pilot back home began in Washington, the paper said. But it is still unknown if there is any hope that Yaroshenko will come back to Russia.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will be paying a working visit to Uzbekistan on Wednesday, during which he is scheduled to meet with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and discuss expanding economic cooperation, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Despite its current slump, Turkey is ready to invest in Uzbekistan’s economy. At the same time, it plans to lobby Tashkent to remove visa requirements for Turkish citizens visiting the Central Asian country. However, a source in the Uzbek government told the paper that Tashkent is not rushing to make this step.
Turkey is trying to compensate for the economic loss in the West by restoring ties in the East, the paper writes. According to Turkish experts, Ankara miscalculated the situation when it overestimated its planned accession to the EU in the 1990s. While Turkey’s foreign policy was focused on reaching this goal, its influence in Central Asia was waning. Now it seeks to regain those positions, entering into a geopolitical rivalry with Iran and Saudi Arabia for a place in the Muslim world.
“Turkey understood that by starting a confrontation with the West, it must have an alternative ally. Russia turned out to be closer to Turkey in many ways. As for Uzbekistan, given the power change in the republic, Ankara expects some adjustments to Tashkent’s foreign policy in this direction,” Director of the Risks Assessment Group Dosym Satpaev said.
The visit by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Uzbekistan in November last year was seen as a reset in the Turkish-Uzbek ties, the paper says.
“Turkey understands very well that Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are two key players in Central Asia and if Turkey has very good relations with Kazakhstan economically and politically, then it can bring Uzbekistan back to the sphere of its political interests,” Satpaev explained.
The current gas transit accord between Russia and Ukraine expires in 2019 and at precisely that time, Russian energy giant Gazprom plans to have completed construction of the Nord Stream-2 pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea, Vedomosti business daily writes. Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller has said deliveries through Ukraine after January 2020 will be cut back to possibly around 15 bln cu m per year, but the flow will not stop completely.
“I think this (plan to continue gas transit) is a concession to the European Commission and Southeast Europe, primarily Bulgaria and Romania, which oppose Nord Stream-2 as they do not want to lose transit revenues – some 15 bln cu m of gas are supplied to Turkey and Greece through them every year,” Sberbank CIB analyst Valery Nesterov said. It is easier with the northern route as Gazprom promises that Slovakia won’t suffer due to the reduction in Ukrainian transit and may receive gas through Nord Stream-2, he said.
“First, this is a concession to European politicians who keep pushing their political demand of maintaining transit through Ukraine,” Alexey Grivach, Deputy Head of the National Energy Security Fund, said. “Second, for some countries such as Moldova, Hungary or Romania, logistics through Ukraine may be convenient.”
It won’t be an easy task to agree on the parameters of the new transit agreement with Ukraine since due to this small volume, the country will try to compensate for a drop in revenues by increasing tariffs, Director of Small Letters Vitaly Kryukov said. It will be also difficult to ensure the reliability of Ukraine’s gas transmission system and outlays on transportation will increase due to the low pressure in the pipes, he explained.
On the other hand, Ukrtransgaz, the operator of the Ukrainian gas transport system, will need much less funds for reconstructing the exhausted facilities, Grivach said.
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