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Press review: Election protest in Moscow and Erdogan's rapprochement with Russia

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, July 29
Police officers detaining a woman during an unauthorized protest in Moscow Sergei Bobylev/TASS
Police officers detaining a woman during an unauthorized protest in Moscow
© Sergei Bobylev/TASS


Media: Aftermath of the unauthorized Moscow election protest

Moscow police arrested more than 1,300 people Saturday during an unauthorized protest against the lack of opposition candidates in Moscow City Duma elections. The protest has set a record for the number of detainees: according to the Moscow police department, 1,074 of the 3,500 rally participants were arrested. Political monitoring group OVD-Info said the number goes as high as 1,373, including 18 journalists and 42 minors, at least 25 people were injured during the arrest and around 150 people spent the night at police stations on Saturday.

The protest on Tverskaya Street was initiated by politicians, barred from running in the elections to the Moscow City Duma under the pretext of excessive flaws in their signature lists. Kommersant, which estimated the number of protesters at 6,000 people, said barely anyone could even get close to the building of the Moscow Government’s office.

Political analyst Evgeny Minchenko told Vedomosti that the reaction of the authorities to the protest is a preventive measure and shows zero tolerance for "Maidan-esque scenarios". Analyst Alexei Makarkin agrees - there is nothing unexpected in the dispersal of an unauthorized protest, it would be strange otherwise. The authorities see a "Maidan" scenario in every unauthorized protest, he told the newspaper.

Head of the election commission at the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Ilya Shablinsky told Kommersant he is convinced that for many people "unauthorized protests will become the norm" after the Saturday events in Moscow. "I watched the crowd behave peacefully, their only actions that affected the police were chanting and moving from location to location," he said.

"Demonstrative cruelty, the desire to scare and punish that's what I would call what happened on July 27 in Moscow. It was in no way connected with the security of neither citizens nor authorities," he told the newspaper.

On the other hand, according to experts polled by Izvestia, the protest was not peaceful, but another attempt to organize mass riots. "A good question is why the most extremist-minded activists were brought to Moscow from the regions by someone, instructed, and possibly paid," political scientist Alexey Martynov told the newspaper. From the very beginning, some protesters were aggressive towards law enforcement officers, the newspaper wrote. Part of the protesters tried to provoke law enforcement officers to use violence, to then film the "atrocities" on their phone, an eyewitness told Izvestia. "Unregistered candidates chose to throw people under the bus," Member of the Civic Chamber Maxim Grigoriev told Izvestia.

At the same time, President of the St. Petersburg Politics Foundation Mikhail Vinogradov told Kommersant that mass protests are still not an effective tool for political struggle in Russia. "The most these protests can achieve is to create, in some cases, the feeling that the authorities have lost the initiative and control over the situation," the expert noted.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, an application was submitted for the protest on August 3 in due time, with the opposition is waiting for a response. Experts told the newspaper that even after Saturday’s illegal rally, it would be easier for the authorities to solve the problem by authorizing protests rather than admitting liberals to the Moscow City Duma elections.


Izvestia: Ukrainian language policy violates rights of national minorities - OSCE

The current language policy in Ukraine violates the rights of national minorities and introduces elements of discrimination. New authorities in Kiev have yet to solve this problem and to take into account the role of the Russian language in the life of Ukrainian society, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Lamberto Zannier said in an interview with Izvestia.

According to Zannier, one of today's problems is implementing recommendations of the Council of Europe - such as differentiating between the languages of the European Union and all others. This classification suggests that unequal policies are applied to different minorities, he said in regards to disagreements around the Russian language in Ukraine.

Zannier added that the recently adopted law on the Ukrainian language as a state language, which says nothing about protecting minority languages, was adopted without any consultation with minority representatives. In addition, according to him, all questions about the use of the state language in Ukraine are solved quite harshly through punishment.

The OSCE department that deals with the issue of language policy, is working to eliminate a number of distortions in the previously adopted law and considers it reasonable to create a mechanism of systematic interaction that would allow to take into account concerns of national minorities, Zannier said. Responding to a question about the language autonomy of Donbass, he noted that if the parties reached an agreement, the OSCE department would be ready to assist in resolving language issues and provide the necessary expertise.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan ready to continue row with Washington for rapprochement with Moscow

Despite the disagreement of the United States, Ankara is preparing for war in northern Syria. Not only Washington, but also Damascus does not agree with Turkey’s plans regarding the fight against Kurds and the occupation of lands east of the Euphrates.

According to the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the country's leadership is against any agreements between Ankara and Washington related to actions on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, and perceives it as aggression. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow has not yet commented on the reports.

It is still not clear how the Russian authorities perceive Turkey’s plans to launch an offensive in the north of Syria, the newspaper wrote. At the same time, the Turkish leadership continues to get closer with Russia, against the expected US sanctions related to the acquisition of the S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems from Russia.

"Russia and Turkey of course have discrepancies. They primarily concern interests in Syria, the CIS, and Cyprus. But Erdogan still does not want to notice it," military expert Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev told the newspaper. He noted that Russia’s leaders show leniency. "With the tacit consent of Russia, the Turks occupied Afrin and almost the entire border area of Northern Syria. In fact, pro-Turkish armed forces are now operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone. Not only are the troops of Bashar Assad, but also Russia’s aviation fighting with them," he added. According to the expert, these problems should be somehow resolved. Netkachev added he is convinced this will not affect economic cooperation between the two countries.


Kommersant: Ukraine’s president picks loyal team

Another name has been added to the list of applicants for the post of Prime Minister of Ukraine - Deputy Head of the presidential office for economic issues Alexey Goncharuk has become the sixth candidate. Among all ministers, only the new ministers of health and education have been picked.

According to Kommersant, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and his office over the past weeks have been in constant negotiations with potential Prime Ministers. A source close to the president’s office told Kommersant that following these conversations, two candidates were on the verge of leaving the short list of candidates.

Their names were not disclosed; however, the source told the newspaper that these people insisted on the government’s exclusive independence, whereas the President’s office believes that the government should make all decisions only after approval from the head of state.

According to the Kommersant source, for the first time in the modern history of Ukraine, the current president’s party got the opportunity to form a government without regard to the demands of other parties and Zelensky’s office wants to use all benefits of this "monopoly". The main goal of these benefits, according to the source, is forming a professional technocratic government, fully loyal to the president.


Vedomosti: Russia begins mending military contacts with Moldova

The Ministers of Defense of Russia and Moldova on Friday held talks in Moscow for the first time in the last six years. Opening the meeting, Russian Minister Sergei Shoigu expressed hope for constructive dialogue, while his Moldovan counterpart Pavel Voicu noted that Russia is a reliable ally for Moldova. According to Vedomosti, although the new Prime Minister of Moldova Maia Sandu has repeatedly stated that Moldova will continue the pro-European course, unlike most of her predecessors Voicu refuses to publicly call for the withdrawal of a small Russian contingent from the unrecognized Transnistria territory.

According to a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry, since Dodon and Sandu have different ideological positions, Moldova is likely to try to balance between Moscow and Brussels in the near future in foreign policy.

The visit of the Moldovan Defense Minister to Moscow is significant - it was impossible to imagine this meeting six months ago due to the unstable political situation in Moldova and as the ‘unacceptable’ actions of ex-defense minister Eugen Sturza, another source close to the Russian military told Vedomosti. Sturza earlier flew to Brussels, where he received direct instructions from the US Permanent Representative to NATO "to combat Russian influence in the region", the newspaper’s source said.

Voicu, who replaced him, is a much less politicized official interested in maintaining regional stability, the source told Vedomosti. Therefore, it is unlikely that the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from Transnistria will be raised starkly.


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