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During the opening of the One Belt, One Road forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to pour $124 bln into the construction of ports, highways and other global infrastructure. China’s leader emphasized that Beijing does not seek to bolster its influence, but wants everyone to benefit from its project. However, some experts fear that the modernization of the China-Central Asia-Europe route could diminish the role of the Trans-Siberian Railway, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Alexander Larin, Senior Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, told the paper that the obvious advantage for Russia are dozens of major agreements, long-term contracts, joint projects, which make it possible to attract billions of dollars in investment into various sectors of the economy. However, so far their volume is insignificant compared to other countries.
"Russia is actively involved in the operation of the China-Kazakhstan-Europe Eurasian highway as a transit country. The modernization of this route and its more intensive use could give Russia, in addition to increased revenues from transit, a revival of traffic flow along internal routes and an impetus to develop the adjacent territories," the expert explained.
It is unclear now whether or not the Moscow-Kazan High-Speed Railway, which is supposed to be part of the future route, will yield profits. However, if it is not lucrative, the Russian government pledges to make up for the losses. Another downside for Russia stemming from the construction of the New Silk Road is China’s greater influence in Central Asia, with Moscow’s influence in the region likely to decline, Larin noted.
Meanwhile, Japan and India refrained from taking part in the forum fearing that the geopolitical ambitions of the world’s second largest economy are hidden under the slogan of development. In an interview with the paper, MGIMO University Professor Sergey Lunev, emphasized that India has always seen China as its key rival in South Asia. "India and China have a common approach to global issues. That’s why they cooperate within the Russia-India-China triangle and the BRICS group. The two countries have a full understanding on Afghanistan and Central Asia. But, as for South Asia, India has always considered itself the South Asian hegemon," he said.
Russians have stopped perceiving Turkey as an adversary and are in favor of reviving bilateral contacts on all fronts, Izvestia writes citing data provided by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center. According to sociologists, in 2016 70% of the respondents described Russian-Turkish relations as "tense" or "hostile," whereas now only 28% of those polled share that view.
According to Vladimir Jabarov, First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council International Affairs Committee, such changes are logical and natural.
"We know that our countries have recently taken a number of steps to meet each other halfway. The latest meeting between the Russian and Turkish Presidents, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was particularly successful, with the Turkish leader saying that he flew across the Black Sea and was met by a friend," the senator noted. "I believe that the normalization of our relations, the removal of restrictions and restoration of flights could hardly fail to have a positive effect on Turkey’s image in the eyes of Russians, all the more so because this is the favorite holiday destination of many Russian citizens."
Meanwhile, Amur Hajiyev, Director of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies, is confident that more intense top-level contacts between the two countries contributed to the overall process of improving bilateral relations.
"A number of positive statements concerning bilateral cooperation were made. Also, positive dynamics has been observed as part of the concerted efforts aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis," the expert explained talking to Izvestia. He added that efforts are in progress on removing obstacles in trade and economic cooperation.
Moldova’s pro-European Democrats have been working diligently to push for the electoral system to be amended in order to retain power, Andrei Popov, President of the Moldovan Institute for Strategic Initiatives, said in an interview with Kommersant.
“According to polls, Moldova’s Democratic Party is ahead of all other political parties in terms of the number of people who do not want to vote for them. The transition to a mixed system is a ‘magic wand.’ The democrats currently have 5% of the votes, which could turn into 50% under the mixed system,” the expert explained.
Moldova’s smaller opposition parties, in the meantime, resumed protests against amendments to the country’s electoral system. On Sunday, a mass rally organized by the opposition and NGOs protesting against shifting the current electoral system to a mixed one, was held outside the parliament building.
The paper notes that the proposed amendments were backed by the country’s opposing political sides, with the pro-European democrats led by tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc on one side, and pro-Russian socialists led by Moldovan President Igor Dodon on the other. On May 5, both parties voted for Dodon’s bill on the shift to the mixed electoral system.
Under this legislation, half of the lawmakers are to be elected by political parties and the other half, by single-seat constituencies.
Meanwhile, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin noted talking to Kommersant that Moscow is interested in dialogue with Chisinau developing “in a predictable and positive manner” and “is ready to support “the forces that advocate the fostering of bilateral ties.” “However, we do not interfere in internal political debates,” the official highlighted.
Nationalist sentiment is on the rise throughout EU member states, Pyotr Iskenderov, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Slavic Studies, told Izvestia, commenting on a rally honoring Croatian Nazi collaborators held in Austria over the weekend.
“This is, above all, a response to the hasty, politicized expansion of the pan-European space, which is seen by many peoples and countries as a threat to national identity and sovereignty,” Iskenderov stated.
About 15,000 people gathered in Austria’s Bleiburg on Saturday for a rally in memory of Nazi collaborators executed by Yugoslav partisans at the end of World War II. An official delegation of Croatian politicians led by two ministers took part in the event.
The Nazi-backed Independent State of Croatia led by the Ustase fascist movement was established during World War II. This far-right, ultranationalist political party founded in 1929 openly supported the Third Reich. In 1941, the party established the Jasenovac concentration camp where tens of thousands of ethnic Serbs, Jews and Gypsies were killed. At the end of the war, those Nazi collaborators tried to escape fearing reprisals from Yugoslav guerillas. The so-called
“Bleiburg massacre,” where partisans executed several thousand of Hitler’s accomplices, took place near the Austrian city of Bleiburg. In 1995, the Croatian parliament established Memorial Day for the Bleiburg victims, which is observed on May 15.
Repeated demands by Austrian rights groups to ban the event, which promotes Nazism and literally elevates former war criminals to the rank of heroes, have been futile.
Senator Hans-Jorg Jenewein from the Austrian Freedom Party told Izvestia that, in his view, such events should be banned throughout the world.
“The era of Nazism is over and we should be grateful for that. I am confident that such events should be outlawed in today’s society. Besides, glorifying the Nazi period is prohibited in Austria,” the politician noted.
Russia’s Kamaz truck manufacturer sent 544 vehicles and assembly kits to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in the first quarter of 2017, which is a 29-percent increase compared to the same period last year.
The share of the CIS member-countries in the company’s total exports, which grew 11%, has risen nearly 7 percentage points to reach 48%, Vedomosti writes citing the Kamaz performance report.
The increase in exports was ensured primarily by supplies to Kazakhstan, the company said. Despite dropping nearly 60% in 2016, in the first three months of 2017 exports doubled compared to the same period last year.
Kazakhstan’s economy is closely linked to Russia’s. It depends on export prices for hydrocarbon raw materials and metals, and changes in a similar way, says Andrei Tomyshev, CIS Automotive Group Head. Therefore, now that oil prices have surged, there is a trend towards a rise in the two countries’ economies, while production growth boosts demand for commercial vehicles, he noted. However, restoring demand to the pre-crisis level will take several years, Tomyshev added.
Reviving demand in Kazakhstan, which used to be the largest foreign market for Kamaz and other Russian automakers, makes it possible to implement the company’s strategy to boost the share of exports in total sales and reduce dependence on the situation in the Russian market, the paper quotes VTB Capital analyst Vladimir Bespalov as saying.
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