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Press review: Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev resigns and Algerian unrest alarms Moscow

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev  AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev
© AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Media: Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev steps down after 30 years in power

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced his resignation. However, he will remain head of the country’s Security Council and leader of the Nur Otan party. Under the constitution, Senate Speaker Kassym-Jomart Tokayev will become Kazakhstan’s acting president, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

According to Arkady Dubnov, an expert on former Soviet countries, the scenario for such a move was set some time ago, when the powers of the Security Council's chair were approved, which now exceed those of the president, so a Security Council chair such as Nazarbayev will keep an eye on any president, or, in this case, the acting president.

"There is no need to speculate about whether Nazarbayev’s actions will trigger changes in Kazakhstan’s policy course or a domestic upheaval. Nothing will change, including relations with Russia and other actors. Kazakhstan’s state architecture won’t change. There are no reasons for that. There is no opposition and any sort of conflict between cliques is insignificant," Dubnov said.

Alexander Knyazev, another expert on Central Asia agrees that Nazarbayev’s resignation is a well-conceived move. "The law on the Security Council adopted last year makes it a constitutional body that actually has the right to control the activities of all branches of government," the expert pointed out. In Knyazev’s view, Tokayev is an appropriate figure not only from a legal standpoint but also politics-wise, for "Moscow, Beijing, Washington and Brussels know him well, while his vast diplomatic experience will allow him to maintain a balance in the country’s relations with the global centers of power and with all partners."

Deputy Director of the CIS Countries Institute Vladimir Yevseyev shares the opinion that Kazakhstan’s transition of power was planned in advance. "Much has been done for that, particularly at the legislative level. For instance, the weapons control issue was resolved. Control over migrants residing in the country has been strengthened, as well as the role of law enforcement agencies. Kazakhstan has been laying the groundwork for this process for at least two years," the expert said with confidence. "It is important to make sure that the United States does not meddle. Though the Kazakh leadership is determined to maintain the current balance of power, while Russia has always been the main development vector for Kazakhstan," Yevseyev emphasized.


Media: Russia-US meeting on Venezuela comes up empty

Moscow and Washington failed to reach a compromise on resolving the Venezuelan crisis at a meeting in Rome. Russia reiterated its support for President Nicolas Maduro, though admitting that it had gained a better understanding of the Trump administration’s stance, Kommersant wrote.

Following the Rome meeting, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the parties had failed to bring their positions closer together. They agreed on the need for a peaceful settlement and expressed concern about the humanitarian crisis. Otherwise, they exchanged mutual grievances. Ryabkov warned the US against military intervention in Venezuela and made it clear that Russia would continue to do everything to protect its ties with Caracas.

"Attempts at a quick change of power have failed so the process is slowing down, turning into a fight with unpredictable results. I think the Americans could have drawn the conclusion that it is happening particularly because Russia’s support for Maduro," Director of the Franklin Roosevelt US Policy Studies Center at Moscow State University Yuri Rogulev pointed out.

Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is on a visit to the US, has stated that the Venezuelan people should get their freedom, and expressed hope for Washington’s assistance in the matter.

By making this statement, Bolsonaro sought to achieve two goals, Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Latin American Studies Dmitry Rozental told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The first one was to put psychological pressure on Caracas and to squeeze it further into isolation on the international stage. The second goal was "to find new points where the interests of Brazil and the US meet."

The expert was skeptical about Brazil’s possible military intervention in Venezuela. However, Rozental believes that the number of defectors from the Venezuelan military will grow. "Venezuela’s army has always lacked unity, even in far better times. In my view, there is a great risk that erosion in its ranks will increase, given that Maduro is facing financial difficulties," Rozental noted.

He believes that there are two reasons why military servicemen have not yet started siding with Guaido in large numbers, though he has serious support. "First, they fear they will be persecuted if they do so. Second, unlike privates, high-ranking military officers have certain privileges, which they may lose if a regime change does occur," the expert explained.


Kommersant: Moscow more alarmed over unrest in Algeria than Algiers

Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra has visited Russia during his first foreign tour, aimed at informing other states of the political changes taking place in his country, where mass protests have been going on for a month. The  diplomat found a lot of understanding in Moscow. His joint press conference with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave the impression that the Russian top diplomat was more concerned about possible interference in Algeria’s affairs than his guest, Kommersant notes.

"We can see that attempts are being made to unravel the situation and we strongly oppose any interference in these processes. We are confident that the Algerian people and leadership will resolve all the emerging issues based on the country’s constitution," Lavrov said. Lamamra also touched upon foreign intervention in Algeria’s affairs, stressing that those problems were his country’s "domestic issues."

"The Algerian authorities, including the president, often mention possible foreign interference. However, it must be said that the opposition and protesters strongly oppose any foreign meddling in Algeria’s affairs," Vasily Kuznetsov, Director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Oriental Studies, told the newspaper. At the same time, he did not rule out that if instability in Algeria dragged on, it would be difficult to prevent any meddling. "However, the current situation in Algeria is incomparable to what happened in Libya, where it was impossible to overthrow the regime without foreign interference," he emphasized.

The expert highlighted the route of the Algerian top diplomat’s first foreign tour. "Moscow is considered to be an influential player in the Middle East and totally supports the Algerian authorities’ commitment to dialogue, China is the country’s main trading partner, and Brussels is the center of European politics with which Algeria has close ties, while Rome is a country active in North Africa," he explained. Kuznetsov also noted that Lamamra’s tour plan included neither Paris, since Algerians would have reacted negatively to such a trip given the country’s colonial past, nor the United States, strongly associated with the notion of foreign meddling.


Izvestia: Russia and Europe should meet each other halfway

Russia and Europe should meet each other halfway to normalize relations, former Italian Prime Minister and ex-European Commission President Romano Prodi told Izvestia. However, in his view, the Nord Stream 2 project will not facilitate the process for it since it disregards the interests of southern European countries. He also said that Russia’s de-dollarization efforts were not enough to change global financial rules, other countries need to get on board as well.

When asked about the possible lifting of sanctions against Moscow, Prodi said that Russia and Europe should meet each other halfway, become closer to each other but he did not see it happening. However, much depends on the international situation. There are the issues of Ukraine and Crimea, which are important, but certain steps may be taken in nearby areas, he noted.

According to Prodi, Europe and Russia could have thought together about using the already existing gas transport system in Ukraine in order to engage the country in the normalization and reconciliation process but this hadn’t been undertaken. A gas pipeline directly entering Germany will be beneficial for this country but it upsets the internal energy security balance in the European Union, Prodi added, referring to the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project.

The former European Commission president also said he was keeping a close eye on de-dollarization efforts in Russia, as Moscow is trying to move towards a more active use of the euro and gold. Nevertheless, he does not believe that Russia alone will have much influence on these processes. In Prodi’s opinion, certain gradual and parallel process, including the growing role of the euro and China’s yuan, could help pave the way for changes in the global financial rules.

Naturally, if Russia reduces the use of the dollar for trading purposes and increases the use of the euro, it will stimulate that process, but that’s a long way off, Prodi emphasized.


Kommersant: Human error behind 75% of air incidents, says CIS aviation watchdog

Human error remains the main culprit behind air incidents, Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) Deputy Chairman Sergei Zaiko said in an interview with Kommersant.

"The circumstances of incidents are always different but factors remain the same. As it has already been said on numerous occasions, more than 75% of incidents stem from the so-called human factor. It covers the training of crew members, technical staff and airfield services personnel," Zaiko said.

According to him, the current level of aviation technology reduces the role of the human component but creates another problem. "Humans in the cockpit move from flying aircraft to monitoring various process, interfering only if there a need to, which is a totally different thing. Consequently, approaches to pilot training should change. The increasing automation level requires fundamentally reorganizing the human-aircraft-environment system, at least until we enter the age of unmanned aviation, which will happen sooner or later whether we like it or not," Zaiko noted.

When asked if the complete suspension of Boeing 737 MAX flights and an additional investigation following the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air crashes could help improve aviation safety, he noted that "as long as a plane remains on the ground it is totally safe." "In this sense, the measures that have been taken will undoubtedly improve safety but they will not resolve the issue as a whole," Zaiko added.

"It is impossible to say whether these measures are enough, at least until the cause of the recent crash is figured out. However, there is every reason to believe that the designer and aviation authorities are taking all the necessary steps to prevent catastrophes such as the one that took place in Indonesia. These steps do not concern only technical solutions but crew training as well," the IAC deputy chairman pointed out.

According to an IAC report on aviation safety in states parties to the Civil Aviation Agreement, the number of air crashes decreased from 32 to 25 in 2018 but the number of air incidents remained the same (58). At the same time, the number of air crash victims rose from 74 to 154. According to the IAC, the number of air crashes in Russia grew from 20 to 22 in the past year, the number of victims increased from 51 to 128.


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