Russia will immediately respond to the fresh round of US sanctions once they are introduced, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Izvestia on Thursday. Moscow is already eyeing several options to respond to the new set of restrictions, the high-ranking diplomat emphasized. Washington is expected to unveil the new sanctions lists on January 29. Media reports say some 50 businessmen close to the Russian president and also several oil and gas companies will be included on the coming blacklist.
First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s (upper house) International Affairs Committee and former Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak told Izvestia that Moscow’s response to the sanctions should be made public only after Washington’s official decision is announced.
"We need to first look at what they are planning to do in particular. We always have many options. However, this should be an adequate response. It should neither harm the interests of Russia nor Russian business circles. Let’s see what the Americans are up to and we will then make up our mind," Kislyak told the paper.
Andrey Bystritsky, Chairman of the Board of the Foundation for the Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, believes the new sanctions are unlikely to seriously affect Russia’s interests.
Yury Rogulev, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University, called for analyzing the US restrictions and finding out to what extent they are "sensitive." Moscow understands that the tit-for-tat policy is approaching a dead-end and will introduce serious measures only if there is a solid ground for that, he said. "It seems to me that Washington’s administration is not interested in fanning tensions. For instance, they said themselves that diplomatic measures have been exhausted. Certainly, the bulk of various responses may be invented, but is there a real need to respond tit-for-tat to each new restrictions?" he questioned.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin announced that Kiev has decided to conduct a so-called "football diplomacy" strategy towards foreign federations and fans in order to drum up support for Ukraine during this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. A Ukrainian MP from the ruling coalition, who did not want to be identified, told Kommersant that Kiev’s call for boycotting the tournament would receive no response. However, the top Ukrainian diplomat’s idea to encourage foreign partners to voice their position in support of Ukraine at the World Cup looks more promising, the lawmaker said.
"Certainly, we do not guarantee that all the stands at the tournament will be covered with Ukrainian flags, but I’m sure that our country will be backed by fan clubs from neighboring states and definitely English fans. The United Kingdom has a big Ukrainian diaspora and a high level of support for Ukraine," one of leaders of the fans’ movement supporting Football Club Dynamo Kiev Alexander Popov said.
The Ukrainian team was unable to qualify for the World Cup, dropping to the third place in its group. Ukrainian fans did not receive national quotas for buying tickets for the matches, but can purchase them like citizens of any other country.
Kiev has the highest chances of securing the support of England, Poland and Croatia, the MP said. However, Popov noted that reaching an agreement with Poland is not in the cards over recent problems at the inter-governmental level. Croatian political scientist Vlado Vurushich said Croatia, which was penalized in 2015 after a swastika was spotted at a match, is unlikely to opt for a new conflict to show solidarity with Ukraine.
Any banners linked to Crimea and Donbass are not expected either, a member of a Moscow football club’s fan movement said. Under FIFA and UEFA rules, any political banners are outlawed in the stands, and if any fans bring them their national federations will be punished, he noted.
During the World Economic Forum in Davos, US President Donald Trump is expected to focus on economic issues, and discuss North Korea and Iran, while shrugging off the issue of Russia and China, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. However, the rivalry with Moscow and Beijing was mentioned as a top priority in Washington’s new national defense strategy, the paper says.
"Davos is an all-European and international forum, but there is more European business in Davos than American or Asian. Apparently, the United States is preparing a message for the European audience and overly hostile theses on Russia would not be appropriate. The sanctions package that limits Europe's business in its affairs with Russia was poorly perceived in the EU and it failed to get any support,” Andrey Sushentsov, head of the Foreign Policy Agency and Program Director at the Valdai Club, told the paper.
The US leader is not seeking to fan tensions around Russia, the analyst explained. "Trump is trying to do something to shake off accusations of being pro-Russian, his mission here is not to ruin Russian-US ties."
Yury Rogulev, Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University, said that the US national security strategy "reflects certain views of the new administration’s representatives" and should not be overestimated. "This is not a guideline that the US will follow. Remember, Obama had put Russia above other threats, for example the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia). The discussion is about real policy, and real policy does not always coincide with this strategy," he noted. The analyst pointed out that the recent opinion polls indicated that Americans do not see Russia as a threat, but are more afraid of North Korea that has vowed to deliver a strike on US soil.
Russia’s environmental watchdog has approved the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which runs through the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve in the Leningrad Region, despite concerns voiced by ecological experts, Kommersant business daily writes.
The project’s developer, Nord Stream 2 AG, has already outlined key proposals on preserving the biological diversity of the nature reserve. In particular, the company plans to limit public access to its most important areas. Ecologists earlier forwarded their expert findings on the project, warning about breaches in environmental requirements.
Senior researcher at the Botanical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Elena Glazkova, cautioned that the gas pipeline’s construction would lead to the destruction of many rare species’ natural habitats. Greenpeace Russia earlier suggested building the pipeline using the micro-tunneling technology (without trench excavation). However, Nord Stream 2AG warned about great risks of using this technology and promised that less than 0.06% of natural habitat would be lost during the construction. The company plans to send design documentation to the State Expertise organization within two weeks.
Russia’s national team was barred from taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games but some athletes decided to compete in PyeongChang under a neutral flag. Most Russians (71%) questioned by the Levada Center pollster said this was the right decision, while only 20% said they should have boycotted the Games.
The Russian public’s support for the athletes shows that the Olympic Games are an important event uniting all countries, allowing people to forget about political and military conflicts, which they are already fed up with, Levada Center sociologist Karina Pipiya said.
Some 37% Russians blame the country’s Sports Ministry for the national team’s suspension, and another 17% respondents said doctors and coaches who gave banned substances to the athletes are responsible. Only 13% said the athletes who used doping should be held accountable.
The situation has not significantly affected Russians’ interest in the Olympic Games, the survey revealed. Some 15% Russians will watch the competitions "systematically and in detail," while another 47% said they would do this "occasionally." The poll was conducted on January 19-23 among 1,600 Russians in 137 communities across 48 Russian regions.
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