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Press review: Russia lauds restored PACE rights and Ukrainians soften view on Donbass

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, June 27


Media: Russia views restored rights in PACE as step toward lifting sanctions

A breakthrough was made in Russia’s relations with Europe on Wednesday. During the voting in Strasbourg, legislators of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe restored the Russian delegation's full rights, which it lost back in 2014 over the events in Crimea. The Russian delegates have resumed their full-fledged work and even have taken part in the elections of the new Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. Their comments on Wednesday were similar, echoing that common sense had prevailed in PACE and now "the sanctions chain" around Russia had been broken, Kommersant writes. In response, the Ukrainian delegation left the Assembly.

Speaking on whether the vote in PACE may influence dialogue between Russia and EU states, Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s (upper house) Foreign Affairs Committee, Senator Konstantin Kosachev told Kommersant: "We should neither underestimate nor overestimate the meaning of what has happened. This is a victory of common sense in a particular structure and under very specific circumstances." Though buoyed by enthusiasm, he stressed that "no doubt, the ice has been broken" yet on the other hand he noted with caution that it still was "not an ice drift," as he called it.

Other politicians seemed to be more upbeat about the news. "Actually, this is the first serious step, which runs counter to the sanctions policy, which has been pursued against Russia over the past five years," Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko said. "This is an opportunity to fully represent the interests of our country in Europe’s oldest parliamentary organization and a chance to stamp out Ukrainian propaganda," Head of Russia’s delegation Pyotr Tolstoy said. Now the Russian Foreign Ministry together with the Finance Ministry will consider the issue of paying Moscow's debt to the Council of Europe.

Russia’s envoy to the Council of Europe Ivan Soltanovsky echoed the ‘common sense victory’ enthusiasm when he spoke to Izvestia. "Five years after the absence of the Russian delegation in PACE, finally its rights have been restored. And this has been done without damaging our position in any way. This move by PACE signals a real shift." According to Soltanovsky, the assembly’s decision has dealt a heavy blow to the image of those delegations that had opposed the restoration of Russia’s rights. It also undermined the practice of applying sanctions in the organization, the diplomat stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukraine experiencing mood swings as most citizens back talks with Donbass

A new opinion poll conducted last week has shown that the Ukrainian public’s mood towards Donbass has changed over the past six months, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The survey, carried out by the Yaremenko Ukrainian Institute for Social Research and the Social Monitoring Center, demonstrates that now 37% of Ukrainians would agree to grant a special status or autonomy to the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as part of Ukraine.

The polls shows that 60.7% of Ukrainians support a compromise solution to the crisis while one-quarter (equals to the number of Poroshenko supporters) are against any concessions. Experts note that the Ukrainians, who had earlier dismissed any possibility of direct talks with Russia and Donbass, now acknowledge the prospect for such talks. Moreover, nearly 55% of Ukrainians are now ready to agree on holding direct talks between Kiev and the Donbass republics. Earlier, neither Kiev nor the Ukrainian public accepted this option, considering that direct talks with Donetsk and Lugansk would mean (also for the West) recognizing the self-proclaimed republics.

An earlier survey, conducted in February in the run-up to the Ukrainian presidential election, revealed that 72% of Ukrainians shared the view of Pyotr Poroshenko’s administration that the events in the country’s east are a conflict with Russia rather than a civil war. Two-thirds of Ukrainians were ready to make a compromise. That February opinion poll also showed that most respondents opposed the implementation of the Minsk accords. Only 20% of Ukrainians admitted the possibility of expanding the powers of the local authorities in Donbass after reintegration. Moreover, the option of granting a special status or autonomy to the DPR and LPR was out of question back then, the paper says.


Izvestia: All eyes on Trump’s upcoming talks with Xi, Putin

The G20 summit, which brings together the world’s major economies, will open in Japan’s Osaka on June 28. The host of the meeting - Japan - expects that at the two-day talks the parties will hammer out trade rules for the digital economy, agree on reforming the World Trade Organization and outline particular commitments aimed at overcoming the problems of growing inequality and climate change. However, politicians and economists are more focused now on whether the meeting between the US and Chinese leaders, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, will overcome tensions in the current trade war, which has had a serious ripple effect on other countries, Izvestia writes. Trump’s imminent talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin will be also in the spotlight at the summit. However, experts are cautiously optimistic over these two upcoming meetings, the paper says.

"The expectations from Donald Trump’s meeting with Xi Jinping will be in the limelight at the G20. The success of containing protectionism will depend on it," Professor of World Economy and International Affairs Department at Higher School of Economics Alexey Portansky said. "But here great expectations are unfounded," and he went on to note that over the past 18 months both countries' leaders and ministers met and "this reportedly resulted in some agreements. But soon, it turned out that all of them were ruined," he explained.

"Now there is a very limited space for a compromise. It would be good if after the summit the final declaration included a 19+1 or 20-1 formula: 19 members confirm their commitments to trade liberalization and their readiness not to take new protectionist measures, but the US won’t join this," said Marina Larionova, Director of the Center for International Institutions Research at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA). At the Hamburg summit in 2017 the US refused to accept these principles for the first time, she recalled.

This year, judging by the latest high-profile events, global leaders are expected to discuss the deterioration of US ties with both China and Iran, which are taking its toll on all countries because this affects global oil prices, the paper writes.

At his anticipated meeting with Putin, Trump is expected to discuss Iran, Ukraine, Syria and the Middle East, as well as arms control and improving bilateral ties, the US administration said. However, there is no official agenda for the talks. The sides are not planning to sign any statements after this discussion, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Unlike the Russian-US track, Moscow’s dialogue with Tokyo will be much more substantive, Izvestia writes.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Calvey case, US sanctions stonewalling German investments in Russia

Despite sluggish economic activity in Russia and Western sanctions, German businesses have seen some growth, Izvestia writes referring to an opinion poll on the current business climate carried out by the Russian-German Foreign Trade Chamber, with its President Rainer Zele and Chairman of the Board Matthias Schepp presenting the survey on June 26 in Moscow.

Meanwhile, the poll shows that German companies still view Russia’s business climate as tough and there are no great expectations for its future. Just less than 30% of respondents have described the general dynamics as positive.

The arrest of US investor Michael Calvey has also had a negative effect on the investors’ moods. However, according to Schepp, only 1% of the interviewed entrepreneurs said they refused to invest in Russia in the wake of this arrest, and another 4% postponed their investment plans.

It’s important to note that in the coming 12 months, some 55 companies plan to pump investments into Russia, and 44 of them said this sum would be to the tune of 395 mln euro, nearly half that mentioned in December 2018 (628 mln euro).

Speaking about the hurdles for Russia’s business climate indicated by the German investors, Schepp said the country’s authorities need to reduce state interference, red tape and avoid a return to a planned economy.

Meanwhile, German entrepreneurs seem to be more worried about US sanctions against Russia. According to Zele, these punitive measures are political and have been imposed by Congress, so this makes them more unpredictable. The poll, which questioned 141 German companies, shows that Washington’s sanctions have resulted in 1.1 bln euro in losses. Taking into account that more than 4,500 German companies are operating in Russia, these losses may be estimated at several billion euro, Schepp noted.

The Russian-German Foreign Trade Chamber, which brings together 900 companies, is the only foreign business association, where the number of members has grown over the past two years.


Kommersant: Russia, UAE discuss preventing another Gulf ‘storm’

Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Ahmed bin Zayed Al Nahyan visited Moscow shortly after his talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Abu Dhabi, which focused on creating a global anti-Iranian coalition. Judging by the statements made by the UAE’s top diplomat on Wednesday, despite the negative mood of certain Persian Gulf states on Iran, no one is seeking a fight, Kommersant writes.

Last week, US President Donald Trump prevented a military operation against Tehran right at the last moment. Over the past few months, US-Iranian relations have sharply deteriorated, as can be seen by the new US sanctions, Iran’s refusal to commit to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an attack on tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which Washington blamed on Tehran and finally Iran’s downing of a US drone, the paper writes.

Meanwhile, former Russian Ambassador to Iran Alexander Maryasov doubts that regional players will have the guts to undertake any practical steps against Iran. "Now we see that [the US-led] coalition is talking more than acting. The anti-Iranian rhetoric in the region is strong, but the countries have opted against any harsh practical steps to counter it. They understand that any serious steps might trigger Iran’s response. And regional players are afraid of this and that’s why they avoid serious provocations," the diplomat told Kommersant on the sidelines of a Russian-Iranian conference hosted by the Valdai International Discussion Club.

Another participant of the event, Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan and Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department Zamir Kabulov has emphasized that the anti-Iranian coalition’s line is "wrong and counterproductive." According to him, in case of escalation the entire region, including staunch opponents of Iran, may face "massive devastating consequences." This concerns such countries as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Israel and the UAE, on which Washington relies when building its anti-Iranian bloc.


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