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Press review: Lavrov slams Trump’s regional bloc gambit and Caracas seeks to cool crisis

Top stories in the Russian press Tuesday
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Vladimir Gerdo/TASS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
© Vladimir Gerdo/TASS

Media: Moscow criticizes Trump's Arab NATO, Indo-Pacific bloc plans

While in Ho Chi Minh City, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov criticized US attempts to reshape the political landscape in the Middle East and Asia to its own advantage. In this regard, he pointed to Washington’s moves towards establishing an Arab NATO and pulling India into an alliance seeking to contain China. Moscow cannot agree with that, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Speaking about plans to set up a NATO-like alliance in the Persian Gulf, Doctor of Political Science, orientalist Irina Mokhova said that "Lavrov’s statements imply that the form of cooperation the US is offering to the countries of the region is unfavorable for them in a changing world where Russia will play a leading role, whether the Americans want it or not." "For the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, this sort of US-led alliance could become another tool to counter the Iranian threat. From this standpoint, the US initiative may seem attractive to these Middle Eastern monarchies. But it is hard to imagine successful cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who are actually in a cold war," the expert added.

The Russian top diplomat also criticized the Indo-Pacific Region concept, which the Americans have been promoting together with Japan and Australia in order to contain China and pull India into "political and military processes." According to Moscow, this concept undermines ASEAN’s central role in the region.

However, Moscow State Institute of International Relations Professor Sergei Lunev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that this notion had emerged back in 2010 and at first, it was Australia and Indonesia that most actively supported it. "Australia admitted that the very name points to India’s growing role, which has indeed been increasing. Trump is talking not about the Asia Pacific Region but about the Indo-Pacific Region. In fact, it is closer to the truth because there are more reasons to consider South Asia as part of the Asia Pacific Region than Latin American countries." In Lunev’s view, India has been showing a balanced approach. "It likes the concept itself but India doesn’t unequivocally support the US," the expert pointed out.

Meanwhile, Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote that according to Valdai Club experts, the Americans seek to maintain their exclusive zones of influence in the region, vowing to allocate money to strengthen alliance ties in response to China’s allegedly destabilizing actions.

"America has morphed from a guarantor of stability in Asia into a state setting the countries of the region against each other in order to divide them into opposing groups," said Associate Professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations Andrei Bezrukov.


Izvestia: Caracas seeks peaceful resolution to crisis, says Venezuelan ambassador

The Maduro administration will continue to reject any humanitarian aid that the opposition is trying to bring into the country from abroad, Venezuelan Ambassador to Russia Carlos Rafael Faria Tortosa told Izvestia. He noted that this hardline stance applied only to US goods that Venezuelan authorities did not consider to be humanitarian aid.

According to the envoy, since Caracas is reluctant to accept American goods, "the United States plans to deliver them to our country by force." Colombia has shut its border, while we closed only three bridges between our countries. Under international law, when borders are sealed, it means they cannot be crossed. Washington knew perfectly well that if an attempt to cross the border is made, we will resist, but nevertheless, it sent a humanitarian aid convoy. The only goal was to raise tensions on the border, which would make it possible to attack our country," Faria Tortosa affirmed. At the same time, in his words, Caracas is accepting humanitarian aid from other countries. "We have welcomed a Russian vessel carrying seven tonnes of medical goods. Nothing terrible happened because we know that this aid was provided honestly," he said. "Our president has also expressed readiness to accept aid from the European Union, which would include food, medical equipment and medicine," the ambassador added.

When asked whether Caracas was gearing up to counter attempts to resolve the Venezuelan issue through the use of force, Faria Tortosa emphasized that the country’s authorities did not seek confrontation but rejected "any interference on the part of the US and its allies." "They don’t talk about it openly but we cannot rule out the possibility that they are planning a military intervention in our country. US Vice President Mike Pence and US Special Representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams were in Colombia yesterday. We remember what he did in Central America in the 1980s. He is a person who thinks only about military solutions. We are waiting, we are making preparations but at the same time, we are working to solve our problems with the opposition peacefully," the Venezuelan ambassador concluded.


Media: No clear majority following Moldovan parliamentary election results

The Moldovan Socialists hoped to win a majority in the parliamentary election, which would have allowed President Igor Dodon to form a government and embark on a new policy aimed at achieving a more balanced relationship with Russia and the European Union, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

Meanwhile, no party managed to win a majority. The votes were divided up among the three main rivals with no one getting an advantage.

International Institute for Political Expertise Director Yevgeny Minchenko told the paper "none of the contenders managed to gain 51 seats and achieve a majority so there are strong chances that a pro-Western coalition will emerge, which is unlikely to involve the Socialists." "That said, the president will remain in the background and there will be no pivot towards a more balanced policy. The reason is that those opposing the Party of Socialists succeeded in making an agreement and forming some kind of a front, though not a united one, while the Party of Socialists was left on its own. Since the country is divided almost in two halves into supporters of closer ties with the West and those calling for rapprochement with Russia, the Party of Socialists failed to lure enough voters," the expert added. "Generally speaking, it seems that a parliamentary republic is not the best form of government for Moldova, which shouldn’t have rejected the presidential system. Given the country’s instability and economic weakness, a powerful president could consolidate forces more efficiently. However, this time victory goes to political technology based on alliances," Minchenko concluded.

President of the Chisinau-based Institute for Strategic Initiatives Andrei Popov believes that "the election’s main outcome is that the Democrats have maintained control of the country." "Now the question is what form it will take. The establishment of a technocratic government is the most likely possibility," he told Kommersant. According to the expert, it is also possible that a national reconciliation government will be set up. "Forming such a cabinet would be the most appropriate option for the Socialists but it will still depend on the Democratic Party," Popov said.


Izvestia: Russia may pull out of Council of Europe after general secretary’s election

Moscow has admitted that it might withdraw from Europe's top human rights organization if the rights of the Russian delegation to the Council’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) are not fully restored, a high-ranking Russian diplomat told Izvestia. In this regard, the election of the general secretary of the Council of Europe, set to take place in June 2019, will be crucial.

PACE members from Germany, France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, interviewed by the paper, agreed that Russia’s participation in the general secretary’s election was necessary. Italian senator Manuel Vescovi told Izvestia that Russia should return to the Council of Europe and play a strategic role there. Head of the German delegation to PACE Andreas Nick confirmed that Moscow still had the right to elect the Council of Europe’s chief but its refusal to take part in PACE sessions in 2019 would automatically make it impossible for the country to take part in the vote.

According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, 27 out of the 47 judges sitting on the European Court of Human Rights have been elected without Russia. However, Moscow still continues to interact with this supranational judiciary although it has been announced that if Russia withdrew from the Council of Europe, it would stop implementing the Court’s rulings.

"We have been working with the ECHR in the usual manner. A delegation of our judges has just recently made a visit there. We haven’t suspended any legal contacts with the Council of Europe, many agencies continue to closely cooperate in fulfilling the conventions that involve Russia," Grushko told the newspaper.

"The organization’s secretary general will be elected at the PACE session in June. Some of the ECHR judges and the human rights commissioner have already been elected without us and if the same happens with the secretary general’s election, it will indicate a deep crisis in the Council of Europe," the diplomat pointed out.

Russia’s participation in electing the Council of Europe’s secretary general could prove to be a step towards resolving the crisis, which has been dragging on for five years now. Meanwhile, according to Grushko, an unconditional and full restoration of the Russian delegation’s rights would help find a way out.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Security cameras may be watching airline passengers during long-distance flights

Cameras may be installed throughout in-flight entertainment systems provided to airline passengers on long-haul routes. People suspect they will be watched while onboard, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.

A Singapore Airlines passenger was the first to note such a camera and post its photo on Twitter. The newspaper contacted the watchful passenger who turned out to be Vitaly Kamlyuk, the Head of Kaspersky Lab’s Asia Pacific research center.

"We don’t have information about the hacking and illegal use of such systems. However, from the passenger security standpoint, the installation of such equipment is not justified. It seems, apart from a camera, there is also a mic installed in the system, which has Internet access, even during flights," Kamlyuk noted. "Apparently, it is based on the Android system where vulnerabilities are found on a regular basis. Hackers may take advantage of them, so I can understand those who are uneasy about sitting in front of a camera for hours, but I don’t think that airlines will secretly watch their passengers," the tech expert said. "Risks are more likely to come from the possibility of unauthorized remote access. If perpetrators hack the system, they will be able to listen to the conversations of high-ranking passengers, take photos of passports when people fill out migration forms and film passengers entering their PINs or passwords to unblock their mobile devices," Kamlyuk pointed out.

According to Aviaport Agency Director Oleg Panteleyev, there are international and Russian requirements concerning the protection of personal data. In particular, there is a ban on making unauthorized videos. If this is done without passengers’ permission, it is viewed as a violation of the rules.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review