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Press review: Is more unrest coming to Kyrgyzstan and did the US, Taliban strike a deal

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, August 14
Supporters of Kyrgyz former President Almazbek Atambayev guarding his house during Atambayev’s detention in the village of Koy-Tash, Kyrgyzstan EPA-EFE/IGOR KOVALENKO
Supporters of Kyrgyz former President Almazbek Atambayev guarding his house during Atambayev’s detention in the village of Koy-Tash, Kyrgyzstan


Media: Murder charges against Kyrgyz ex-president to have reverberations

The Kyrgyz Prosecutor General’s Office has announced that former President Almazbek Atambayev is being charged with corruption, violence against law enforcement officers and organizing mass unrest. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that the Central Asian country will manage to avoid any destabilization and riots.

Recent developments in Kyrgyzstan, including Atambayev’s detention along with the turmoil have sparked concern, first and foremost, among former Soviet states. However, Kyrgyz officials understand that improving the situation in the country requires dialogue between the opposing parties, said Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov.

The authorities need to brace for possible protests by the ex-president’s supporters during his trial, said Azhdar Kurtov, an expert at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies. "Nevertheless, I don’t think we will see a third coup. The government has made it clear that it won't hesitate to use force if needed. Besides, Atambayev, who is in custody, doesn’t have enough supporters to sway the situation," the expert pointed out.

"Those who support the former president will ponder their future steps based on how Atambayev’s trial unfolds," analytics outlet editor Timur Toktonaliyev emphasized. "Unrest is unlikely to happen. Elections are going to take place next year and his Social Democratic Party will try to score points from the trial to get as many seats in parliament as possible," he said.

Political scientist Arkady Dubnov told Kommersant that the remark by the head of the Kyrgyz State National Security Committee that Atambayev wanted blood to be spilled in order to carry out a coup was groundless. According to the expert, such statements are aimed at "fully suppressing resistance from any of Atambayev’s supporters."


Izvestia: Russia wants to find out what the US, Taliban agreed on

Moscow expects that Washington will provide information on the outcome of its talks with the Qatari branch of the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) in the near future, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov told Izvestia. Meanwhile, experts interviewed by the newspaper are confident that the agreement reached by the US and the Taliban won’t bring peace and security to Afghanistan and will only make it possible for the parties to achieve their own goals.

The broad outline of the deal that the parties seek to reach is well-known and includes the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban’s refusal to let terrorist organizations enter the country, along with a ceasefire and the launch of intra-Afghan dialogue.

"As for these aspects, only the US troop pullout has been agreed upon but the process will take two to three years and the question is what the Taliban will do during this period, whether they will sit idly by waiting for the Americans to leave," said Andrei Serenko, an expert at the Russian Center for Contemporary Afghan Studies.

"Once the Taliban come [to power], peace won’t be restored, and men with guns will join the Islamic State [a terror group outlawed in Russia]," a source in the Afghan presidential administration told the paper.

"The planned signing of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban is a complete PR stunt aimed at demonstrating that Donald Trump is ending the war not on the most disgraceful terms, that is, he is not winning the war but putting an end to it. This means that the Americans seek to accomplish their domestic political aims, while the Taliban, by signing the deal with the US, are finalizing their legitimation, boasting the title of a force that defeated America," Serenko pointed out. "It will have no actual impact on peace and security in Afghanistan," he emphasized.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China’s ‘one country, two systems’ experiment hangs by a thread

Military police units have been deployed to Hong Kong’s neighboring city. At the same time, Beijing has called on the US to stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs. According to Chinese officials, radicals who make irrelevant upfront demands, such as universal suffrage and the establishment of an independent legislative body, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes, are fueling the protests.

Each party continues to dig in their heels and it’s getting harder and harder to find a compromise. Demonstrators, who started by protesting against a bill allowing the extradition of suspects to mainland China, are now calling for free elections that don’t exist in China. This calls into question the "one country, two systems" principle, based on which the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997. The symbol of the Chinese Communist Party’s ability to co-exist and work together with administrative entities where the laws of the free market are in effect is starting to fade.

Chief Research Fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Lomanov told the newspaper that "what is happening now is an example of how young people driven by good intentions can turn the situation into an impasse." "Following these developments, responsible people will have to spend very much time to pull the region out of the crisis," he added.

According to the expert, there are three possible scenarios for Hong Kong. First, young people dream of independence and Hong Kong becoming a city-state like Singapore. However, China will never let that happen. Second, the agreement based on the "one country, two systems" principle may be preserved until 2047. Lastly, the third scenario would be an accelerated transition from the initial formula to direct Chinese rule.


Vedomosti: Poll shows voter dissatisfaction with status quo

Ratings for the ruling United Russia party have dropped following the nationwide pension reform drive, while the popularity of other legislative parties failed to increase, according to a poll conducted by the Levada Center and cited by Vedomosti.

Voters disappointed with United Russia did not join the supporters of other parties, Levada Center Director Lev Gudkov noted. "The total share of those who are unwilling to vote or haven’t made up their mind yet is approaching the amount of those ready to vote for parliamentary parties," he explained. "If the upward trend in protest sentiment persists, people won’t go to the voting booths," the pollster added. According to him, people, particularly in the 30-35 age group, are feeling more and more alienated from politics, which they believe to be a set of rituals that doesn’t change a thing in real life.

The poll shows that the current party system’s efficiency has somewhat decreased in the wake of Russia’s pension reform, and voters who used to support the ruling party are not so eager to cast their ballots for other parties, Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Research Director Dmitry Badovsky said. "Some of United Russia’s former supporters are either not ready to vote at all or don’t know who to vote for. Public support for the parliamentary opposition isn’t growing because there are many things holding it back, like the situation within the parties, the ongoing generational shift and voter doubts about the opposition’s ability to influence the decision-making process," the expert said. Under these circumstances, the demand for rebooting the largest parties is evident, Badovsky noted. "Opportunities are emerging for new party projects, including populist leaning ones and niche parties that can offer a promising agenda to win over more voters, as well as for the green and ‘new left’ parties," he said.

United Russia’s supporters could have joined those who make up their mind at the last minute, political scientist Alexander Kynev noted. "Protest voters are the floating ones… The novelty factor is important for them no matter who the newcomer is, and with all else being equal, people choose the one that seems to be the strongest option," the expert emphasized.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US predicts drop in Russian wheat exports

The US Department of Agriculture has cut forecasts for Russia’s wheat crop and exports in the 2019-2020 season, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

Russian experts are downgrading their forecasts for a rise in grain exports due to bad weather in some of the country’s regions, and point to low stocks. However, they don’t think that Russia’s grain exports situation is a sign of a crisis in the industry.

"A decline in exports was long expected," Academy of Finance and Investment Management expert Gennady Nikolayev said, adding that "last year’s extreme success is the main reason behind it." Director of the Center for Agri-Food Policy at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Natalya Shagaida, in turn, said that Russia would hardly "lose its position as the world’s leading wheat exporter this year." "However, grain exports are not a goal but a tool to increase agricultural producers’ revenues and encourage them to make products for the domestic market that can compete with foreign-made ones," the expert noted.

"The cut in the US Department of Agriculture’s forecasts is not too far off from the truth and corresponds with the forecasts made by Russian analytical outlets that expected the crop and exports to drop by 0.5-0.6 tonnes due to partial crop destruction and a slump in grain demand that followed last season’s export boom," said Goldman Group Executive Director Dmitry Gelemurzin. According to him, the grain market is slightly overheated so an export decline is to be expected. "However, a thing to remember is that in light of trade wars, China is reducing the export of agricultural products from the US. Russian products can well take their place," Gelemurzin pointed out.


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