Russia’s presidential administration considers the outcome of Sunday’s nationwide elections, in which all new regional heads won, to be a demonstration of support for its course to renew the gubernatorial staff and establish a new generation of managers, a source close to the Kremlin and a federal official told RBC daily. By betting on some new faces, the president has given a signal that a new general of the management elite is being created, one of the sources said. Another source said that the results of the elections at various levels also highlight the high expectations for the ‘newcomers’.
The Kremlin will continue efforts to rejuvenate and renew the gubernatorial staff as around 10 heads of regions are expected to be reshuffled in the autumn, a source close to the Kremlin and another one close to the presidential administration told RBC. A federal official confirmed the information, saying that many resignations are planned. If they take place the resignations will "demonstrate an obvious process of the renewal of authority and the formation of Vladimir Putin’s new team" prior to the presidential election, Director of the Center for Current Politics Alexey Chesnakov said.
Vitaly Ivanov, political analyst, told RBC that the results of governors’ elections demonstrate two key trends. First, Putin’s resource can still be a basis for electing any candidate and "The president has been and remains to be the only source of political legitimacy." Second, the recent elections show that the necessity of the so-called COL-factor (competitiveness, openness, legitimacy) has substantially decreased, and governors were not required to register their opponents. Still, Ivanov assumes that the elections went smoothly, which demonstrates that excessive competitiveness is not required.
As a new round of the ‘diplomatic war’ between Moscow and Washington heats up, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that the ministry is now examining the conditions in which American foreign missions in Russia and Russian foreign missions in the US are operating in a move to make them totally equal. This comes after US authorities closed the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, the Russian Trade Mission in Washington and its office in New York rented by Russia in early September. Currently, Moscow is looking into several options to respond, Kommersant wrote citing diplomatic sources. First, the number of entry points to the country may be curtailed for American diplomats. "For now, there are more of these points for Americans in Russia than they have for us," a source said, pointing out that Moscow may add two more points - Sevastopol and Simferopol - but US diplomats are unlikely to use them since the country’s officials do not go to Crimea.
Second, the number of US diplomats allowed to freely leave certain zones around the diplomatic mission in Russia may be cut back, since it does not meet the parity principle now, the newspaper says. Third, the US diplomatic missions in Moscow and other cities may be stripped of special parking areas, since no such parking facilities are provided for the Russian diplomatic staff in the US. According to Yuri Rogulev, Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies at the Moscow State University, "any dialogue is crucial for relations" between the counties. "The US side is full of uncertainty, and it is unclear who makes decisions there," he said, adding that since "everything is focused on the anti-Russia campaign," President Donald Trump will make all decisions on relations with Moscow "while looking over his shoulder at Congress and public opinion, which wants drastic action and is going for the jugular."
Provided that they are undertaken, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s latest measures must be perceived as "a response to the US’ actions," Rogulev told the newspaper. "I don’t think this is Russia’s choice. The country faces a situation where not furnishing any responses would be out of the question and giving halfway responses are useless," he said. Meanwhile, the expert added that the new round of actions would not have a serious effect on bilateral relations, particularly due to the fact that the number of various events requiring the presence of US diplomats in Russian cities had declined earlier during the crisis. "But in any case all this creates a negative atmosphere, of course - an atmosphere that is playing a major role in Russian-US relations now," the expert noted.
Following Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement of a new level of ties between Tehran and Turkey, experts warn that this emerging alliance may be a signal to the US and Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says. According to the head of the Islamic Research Center of the Institute of Innovative Development Kirill Semenov, the improvement in relations between Ankara and Tehran has two elements. "The first is a real rapprochement on certain issues, in the face of threats and challenges in areas where they can really have common interests," he told the newspaper. "The second is a display of their ability for rapprochement, a willingness for closer cooperation, a display to show their partners and rivals, if their interests are not considered." Semenov added.
"In the first case, the sides can practically cooperate on the Kurdish issue. In the second case, it may be a signal both to the US and Russia, which have concluded a number of deals with the Syrian opposition on de-escalation zones in Syria without Turkey and Iran recently. Also, such actions narrow the gap between the positions that may be used on the ‘Qatari track.’ Here Ankara and Tehran have supported Doha in its opposition to Riyadh and Abu-Dhabi with various levels of engagement. One should not speak about a Shiite-Sunni antagonism itself here, as new fault lines are being drawn where each side has Shiites and Sunnis in its ranks, and they would stick to those sides," Semenov stressed.
However, some experts believe that the shift in ties between Iran and Turkey is temporary. "I think this is an alliance of convenience, largely tied to the Kurdish issue," Vladimir Sazhin, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Neither Turkey, nor Iran wants any sort of boost to Kurdish separatism either in Syria or in Iran. This is the main issue that unites them. On the other hand, Turkey and Iran are two biggest non-Arab powers in the region. In this respect, they are ideologically united. They have always had complicated relations, though their trade ties have been fairly good. Nevertheless, I don’t think they can have a serious alliance in the political arena," the expert emphasized.
A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) discussed a wide range of pressing issues with representatives from the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Collective Security Treaty Organization during talks in Moscow, including the situation in Syria, Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh and Afghanistan, ICRC’s Director of Operations Dominik Stillhart said in an interview with Kommersant business daily. Touching on the Syrian crisis, he noted that the situation has somewhat stabilized. There has been some stabilization in the east of the country as in some places, where the ceasefire agreements are being carried out, Stillhart pointed out.
However, regarding the de-escalation zones, the situation is different there. "The (de-escalation) zones operate in the country’s south where military activities and violence have almost ended. It is early to speak about the operation of de-escalation zone in the north, in the Idlib province, almost nothing has changed there," he said, adding that "violence has died down in the Homs and Damascus regions, though there are still armed groups both for de-escalation and against it active there."
When asked whether any of the Syrian refugees may return to their hometowns, Stillhart said that hundreds of thousands of Syrians are already returning, first and foremost to Aleppo. "And in this respect we are trying to give out not only essential products and medications, but to help renew water and energy supplies, for example," he said. However, it often happens that there are no required conditions, no infrastructure for people to get back to. "Everything is ruined, neither water, nor electricity are up and running. Many areas have not been demined yet, and explosive objects are discovered by children. And what is most important, one cannot force people to return to the regions that they themselves do not consider to be safe and appropriate to live in," ICRC Director of Operations said.
According to Stillhart, the Red Cross hopes that Russia will join a number of countries that contribute to the organization by next year. "We have long hoped that Russia will agree to become an ICRC contributor, and let’s hope this will happen in 2018," he told Kommersant.
Russian manufacturers are ready to take out loans and invest, Izvestia writes citing research carried out by the Center for Financial and Credit Support of ‘Delovaya Rossiya’. One-third of the 880 businessmen surveyed said they are willing to raise funds for development, with 3% being ready to invest in R&D. The situation has changed drastically over the past couple of years from the time when entrepreneurs were forced to take loans to support working capital, or could not afford investing in production, and even considered shutting down their businesses in some cases, the newspaper says.
Experts hope that growing demand for loans may herald a long-awaited increase in manufacturing. "The trend has indeed improved seriously," the author of the research Alexey Poroshin told the publication. "Only last year many entrepreneurs wanted to wrap up their business in order to take a 2-3-year pause, whereas now interest in investment has surged," he said, adding that a reduction in rates is one of the major factors that has been pushing this trend forward.
In 2015, Russia’s Economic Development Ministry launched a program to support investment called ‘6.5%’, a source in the ministry’s press service told Izvestia. Another program on subsidized lending has been launched as well. "Starting August 1, loans are granted within this program for investment targets only, for which reason we expect investment loans to the tune of 42 bln rubles ($734 mln) to be provided. Currently, the proposal to extend the program into 2018 and cut the interest rate on such loans is under discussion," the source said.
Experts admit that 30% of entrepreneurs that are prepared to bolster business is a substantial figure. "The figure is notable, and the situation has really improved, but one has to understand that the wish to pour investment into production and taking genuine action are two completely different things," Chairman of the Higher School of Economics Center for Market Studies Georgy Ostapkovich told the newspaper, adding that "long expensive loans for development are still hardly affordable for business now."
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