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Press review: Can a Russia wine ban sober up Tbilisi and what Qatar’s Taliban talks offer

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, July 9


Kommersant: Russia poised to turn the heat up on Georgia

Moscow’s imminent restrictive measures against Tbilisi can turn out to be unexpectedly harsh, Kommersant writes. The initiative to ban imports of Georgian wine and mineral water into Russia and money transfers from Georgia announced on July 8 has been backed by several Russian political parties, including United Russia, and the Russian State Duma (lower house) Foreign Affairs Committee. Andrei Isayev, First Deputy Chairman of the United Russia faction, told the paper that the proposals to this effect would be finalized and forwarded to the government on July 9.

Meanwhile, the proposed move came as a surprise to financial market players. Until now, Russia has not imposed similar bans at its own initiative, Kommersant quotes Maria Mikhaylova, Executive Director of the Russian National Payment Council Association, as saying. "It is difficult to say now what restrictions are in the works on our part regarding money transfers. If this is a total ban akin to sanctions, Russia’s payment systems will lose a large market," she cautioned.

According to Anatoly Aksakov, Chairman of the State Duma Financial Market Committee, plans are in store to impose a ban on bank and electronic transfers. "There are issues related to cryptocurrencies. Georgia is one of the leaders of the bitcoin industry, while in Russia cryptocurrencies are not regulated so far," he explained.

Georgia’s alcohol maket is in Russian lawmakers’ crosshairs and this is causing a stir. The share of the Caucasian country’s wines sold by major Russian retailers does not exceed 10%. Maxim Kashirin, President of Simple Group, believes that the government should not prohibit wine sales that had been brought into Russia.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for a large retail company told the paper that its losses in the event of an embargo on supplies and sales of imported products would amount to tens of millions of rubles. "If the ban lasts until the end of the year, the issue at hand will be hundreds of millions, taking into account a shortfall in revenues," he stressed.

At the same time, a ban on importing Georgian wines will affect Georgia’s players even more. According to the country’s National Statistics Office, Russia accounts for up to 70% of Georgia’s total wine exports. Ekaterina Javakhia, Export Executive at Schuchmann Wines Georgia, informed Kommersant that a such ban would be a powerful blow to those Georgian companies that receive payments three or four months after deliveries.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Speaker outlines primary goals of inter-parliamentary dialogue

Speaker of the Russian State Duma (lower house) Vyacheslav Volodin wrote an article published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta following the 2nd international forum on the development of parliamentarism. Among the key points that he highlighted were the need to overcome the crisis in international law, counter global threats, shape a legal framework in the digital era, talk over decisions jointly and represent the interests of the nation’s citizens. He noted that these were the top-priority objectives for inter-parliamentary dialogue today.

"The first objective is the need to overcome the crisis in international law," he stressed, adding that this could only be done by relying on joint decisions based on the principles of equal dialogue and non-interference. According to the speaker, today one can see deliberate attempts to undermine the institutions of international law, trade and sanction wars, and the execution of US extraterritorial legislation. "Such threats to global stability are unacceptable not only to Russia, but also to the overwhelming majority of the world community," he emphasized.

According to Volodin, the second task is related to global transformations on the international stage. "The world’s movement towards multi-polarity is an objective trend based on national interests and people’s right to determine their development priorities on their own and revive sovereign values," he wrote.

The speaker noted that the third objective for inter-parliamentary relations was ensuring people’s representation and strengthening mutual trust. He also pointed to the substantial opportunities of inter-parliamentary cooperation to jointly counter global threats, above all, international terrorism, and that’s the fourth objective, he pointed out.

Volodin then noted the fifth and one of the most urgent tasks is shaping the future legal framework on transitioning to a new digital era. He stressed that it was essential for lawmakers to promote innovative national and international regulation, identifying problems before they arise. "It is up to parliamentarians to do a lot in the coming years to provide a legislative basis for the technological development of their countries," he concluded.


Izvestia: Russian MPs barred from monitoring Ukrainian parliamentary elections

Ukraine’s parliamentary elections scheduled for July 21, just like the presidential election held earlier this year, will take place without observers from the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament), Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov informed Izvestia.

"Ukraine was supposed to invite us so that we could monitor the elections to the Verkhovna Rada (parliament). However, they said once again that Russian monitors at the elections were unacceptable to them," he noted.

Earlier, when the Russian delegation’s rights in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) were reinstated, Kiev decided to bar the PACE mission from monitoring the elections. During the presidential campaign, officials in Kiev were quick to declare their refusal to let observers with Russian passports work at the elections, while now Ukraine’s stance has not been formally outlined yet.

A Ukrainian lawmaker told Izvestia that such actions were in no way related to the outcomes of the presidential election, during which 73% of voters favored a dialogue with Moscow. Moreover, the absence of Russian observers does not add transparency or legitimacy to the voting in the eyes of the global community.

"To ban [observers] from monitoring [the elections] is wrong. Besides, Russia has returned to PACE, which means that it is necessary to begin talks and establish peace instead of making a demarche. Various ultimatums from nationalist-minded people, which constitute a minority in the country, should not be put forward on behalf of the entire Ukraine," Verkhovna Rada MP Tatyana Bakhteyeva told the paper.

According to Bakhteyeva, Ukraine’s presidential election showed that society no longer viewed the policies pursued by the Poroshenko administration as acceptable. Toeing the former president’s line in the future is tantamount to failing to meet the public’s expectations, she noted.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Qatar talks with Taliban offer some hope, says expert

A meeting between the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) and Afghan government envoys has been held in Qatar. According to US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, the previous round of consultations turned out to be a success. However, the prospects for a real deal remain vague, because one of the Taliban’s factions is stepping up terrorist activities against local security forces and civilians, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The Taliban has repeatedly refused to conduct negotiations with the administration of President Ashraf Ghani. This time, it agreed on condition that Kabul’s representatives would sit down at the negotiating table as private individuals rather than state officials.

Arkady Dubnov, an expert on Afghanistan and Central Asia, told the paper that Russia’s participation in the Afghan peace talks boiled down to attempts to offer a platform for negotiations between the Taliban and Afghan politicians. "Moscow is thus scoring political points seeking the status of one of the most important actors in the Afghan settlement. That gives Moscow an opportunity to insist on being involved in ensuring the security of Afghanistan’s northern provinces," he explained.

As for the talks in Qatar, the odds of success are still there, the expert went on to say. It is difficult to talk with Taliban members, because the group is far from united. There is a radical faction within it, and there is a faction committed to a political settlement. While one party holds negotiations, the other carries out terror attacks, trying to derail these talks. Both sides have designated their "red lines," which they cannot cross. The Taliban demands that US troops be pulled out of Afghanistan within a short period of time, while the Americans insist that the Taliban cease all terrorist attacks and sit down at the negotiating table with the government in Kabul. The parties will not be able to agree on all issues. However, there is an agreement in principle that the US will withdraw its troops, Dubnov concluded.


Izvestia: Russians become ‘easy target’ for cyber scammers

Russia’s Central Bank has raised alarm bells over the growing number of cybercrimes based on social engineering methods, Izvestia writes. In almost every third case, citizens lose money from their bank accounts because of their own carelessness, the Central Bank stressed. In Russia, social engineering methods are more widespread than in other countries, and this problem is becoming more acute all the time. According to companies specializing in digital security, up to 80% of such crimes are committed with the help of social engineering. This is confirmed by statistics provided by law enforcement agencies, which registered nearly 20 complaints from citizens in the Russian capital in July alone.

The three top risks that people face when using mobile devices are users’ low awareness and carelessness (29%), the loss of a gadget (27%) and theft (11%). That data was revealed by the Central Bank at the International Financial Congress in St. Petersburg. According to Olga Skorobogatova, First Deputy Governor of Russia’s Central Bank, these figures show that Russians sometimes underestimate the risks that they have to consider when working with digital tools.

Cyber scammers will continue stealing money by using the social engineering method, and the number of such crimes will continue to rise, if cybersecurity is not added to the school curriculum, the paper quotes Alexander Kruglov of Digital Security as saying.

A similar view has been expressed by Ilya Sachkov, co-owner of Group-IB. According to this expert, he called for introducing cybersecurity classes at schools on numerous occasions. However, the issue has not been resolved so far.


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