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Press review: EU’s Kerch Strait standoff sanctions and UK’s creeping Arctic advance

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday

Kommersant: EU to expand blacklist of Russians

Nearly three months after the Kerch Strait standoff, the European Union intends to impose more restrictive measures against the Russian Federation. However, Monday's meeting of top EU-member diplomats in Brussels showed that the new restrictions would be relatively modest, Kommersant wrote. Instead of introducing additional economic sanctions, it was decided to widen the list of Russian citizens who are banned from entering the EU. And so their names are expected to be publicized in the coming days.

The European Union claims that Russia’s detention of the seamen is 'illegal' and has repeatedly urged Moscow and Kiev to come to an agreement. Therefore, European countries are engaged in hammering out new sanctions against Russia. Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak told Kommersant that the new EU restrictions over the Kerch Strait incident include putting several more people on the blacklist.

A high-ranking source in one of the delegations told Kommersant that the Russian question was not discussed at the actual meeting. The reason for this became clear from Federica Mogherini’s speech at the final press conference: the topic of sanctions is not controversial, and a consensus on introducing new measures against Russian individuals for the incident in the Kerch Strait had been shaped a while back.

According to Mogherini, the final touches on the new sanctions will be completed in the coming days. As for any prospects on their removal, the conditions, according to the European politician, remain unchanged. They include respecting international law, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, as well as implementing the Minsk agreements to resolve the situation in Donbass.

Mogherini did not yet specify the exact list of people who would be included in the new list.


Izvestia: Russia gearing up for legal battle to get back diplomatic property

Russia has not given up on suing the US in American courts to return its diplomatic property. Moscow is going to go through with the matter to the very end, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Izvestia. According to him, Moscow has been preparing and waiting for the right moment to begin the proceedings. Nonetheless, the diplomat pointed out that relations with Washington are now so complicated that the strategy of addressing the issue requires careful deliberation.

According to the diplomat, the goal is not to start the case as soon as possible. Moscow intends to take on the process as prepared as possible. "The American justice system is adapted for reviewing claims with long statutes of limitations, so time is not an issue for us. On the other hand, the current relations with the United States is so difficult that all circumstances must be considered carefully," the diplomat said, adding that the issue will be brought to its "logical conclusion".

In general, American courts are considered fairly independent from other branches of government, but success should not be expected, member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, Russian diplomat and lawyer Stanislav Chernichenko told the newspaper. In this case, American authorities may still be biased. "But if we ignore the general background, from a legal standpoint, our positions on this particular issue are quite firm," the lawyer added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: UK to beef up military presence in Arctic to oppose Russia

Britain, which has repeatedly declared the Arctic a zone of its strategic interests, is starting to strengthen its military presence in the region to "protect" NATO’s northern flank from Russia, according to UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta think that the statements were connected with Brexit and believe that in any case Russia would be able to respond to NATO appropriately.

Chairman of the Presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy Fyodor Lukyanov told the newspaper he doubts that Downing Street’s plans for the Arctic are realistic. "The UK does not have the necessary capabilities to conduct a separate imperial or foreign policy anywhere," the expert explained. According to the analyst, Williamson’s statements are related to the domestic political uproar caused by Brexit.

Director of the Center for Strategic Analysis at the Russian Innovative Development Institute Andrey Ivanov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Williamson’s statements are a mere formality. "The melting of the Arctic Ocean’s glaciers opens up the possibility of shipping, which China hopes to use in order to build a northern sea corridor to transport Chinese goods to Europe," Ivanov elaborated. London may be counting on a significant part of the Chinese cargo turnover passing through Britain to enter the EU markets, which is important in the context of Brexit, he added.

Ivanov added that the UK, together with other NATO states, cannot not yet build up military power in the Arctic. Should military facilities be deployed or should NATO beef up its presence in the Arctic, Russia will respond adequately, the expert believes.


Izvestia: German politician sees BRICS as way to salvage INF deal

In order to save the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), it is necessary to renew the inspection mechanism and bring in specialists from such neutral countries as BRICS, leader of the German Bundestag Defense Committee from the Left Party Alexander Neu told Izvestia. He noted that scrapping the treaty directly affects security in Europe, and therefore the EU must also try to influence this situation. In addition, the politician spoke about the upcoming European elections.

According to Neu, it is necessary to save the agreement. When highlighting the United States, he noted that unfortunately, the German leadership is not putting enough pressure on Washington to demand that it complies with its obligations under the treaty, and such a soft approach is widespread in all NATO countries, he noted. Therefore, Berlin needs to use all its political weight to unite countries interested in maintaining the INF and to urge Washington to call off a new arms race.

It is necessary to create a new inspection mechanism with neutral and qualified experts, for example, from such BRICS countries as South Africa, the politician added. According to him, this would be a way out of the catastrophic situation.

Talking about the upcoming Ukrainian elections, Neu said he believes that even if, contrary to expectations, Poroshenko wins the elections, the West will again agree to cooperate with him. Thus, the incumbent Ukrainian president will do everything possible to achieve this, since the support of the United States and the European Union guarantees his status quo.


Vedomosti: Economic Development Ministry puts Russia’s losses from protectionist measures at $6.3 bln in 2018

Protectionist measures imposed on Russian goods cost the Russian market $6.3 bln in damage, according to the Russian Economic Development and Development Ministry. A total of 159 restrictions against 62 countries, including the EU (25 measures and $2.4 bln of damage), Ukraine (22 measures and $1.2 bln), and India (16 measures and $ 0.8 bln). According to Vedomosti, the metals sector suffered the most from the restrictions losing $ 4 bln, as well as agriculture with $1 bln of losses, and the chemical industry tallying up $0.6 bln.

However, the effect of some protectionist measures was still mitigated - saving $330 mln, the newspaper wrote. For example, the ministry managed to protect the supply of nitrogen-phosphate fertilizers to Vietnam and to abolish the "import licensing system" of wheat, corn, rice, and other products to Turkey.

For Russia, the overall effect of its protectionist measures is less than one would expect, Vladimir Tikhomirov, chief economist at BCS Global Markets told Vedomosti. Russia’s main exports: oil, gas, defense products, and timber, usually do not fall under such measures. According to the Federal Customs Service, in 2018 Russia exported goods to the tune of $452.1 bln. "$6.3 bln is just 1.4% of Russian exports and does not cause significant damage," Tikhomirov explained.

During the sanction confrontation, damage rose 3-3.5-fold, Head of the Department of Economic Theory at the IMEMO RAN Sergey Afontsev told the newspaper. According to him, some measures have nothing to do with sanctions and represent ordinary protective measures of the domestic market.


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