Media: Disengagement of forces in Donbass paves way for Normandy Four talks
The final condition that has been an obstacle for holding the Normandy Four summit (Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France) where the Russian and Ukrainian leaders, Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelensky, were supposed to meet for the first time, was fulfilled on Tuesday. The parties to the conflict in Donbass successfully disengaged their forces at the last pilot area near the Petrovskoye village. Kiev welcomed the news while Moscow made rather reserved comments. Both Russia and Ukraine expressed willingness to meet as part of the Normandy Four group, while voicing skepticism over a proposal of Kazakhstan’s first President Nursultan Nazarbayev to host a separate meeting between Putin and Zelensky.
Director of the Russian Center for Current Politics Alexei Chesnakov, who is close to Russian Presidential Aide in charge of Ukraine policy Vladislav Surkov, told Kommersant that Moscow’s conditions for holding the summit have been fully met. However, the issue of preparations for the summit has turned into "a tool of political struggle in Ukraine," he noted. Zelensky often comes under fire over his desire to arrange this meeting as soon as possible, the expert explained. Although the summit could give important signals about the leaders’ position, it’s difficult to predict noticeable progress on the political track as there are serious obstacles in Ukraine for reaching an effective and swift solution to the conflict. Another expert and senior lecturer at the Russian State University for the Humanities, Alexander Gushchin, believes that the Normandy Four summit could only yield results if the Ukrainian leader brought a plan that would satisfy Moscow.
Russian diplomatic sources told Izvestia that the Normandy Four summit could be held by the end of this year. According to Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the preparations for the meeting are underway and the Russian, Ukrainian, French and German presidential aides have been working on tentative agreements. However, Moscow does not believe there is any need to hold separate talks between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders until Kiev outlines its approaches in relations with Russia.
Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told the paper that the ball was in Kiev’s court. Meanwhile, Kiev also believes that the talks between Putin and Zelensky are unlikely to yield any fruit. "I doubt that this meeting is necessary and could bring any results to either party," Head of the Ukrainian Institute for Public Politics and Consulting Sergei Bykov told the paper.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Bolivia seeks new leader after Morales flees to Mexico
Tensions remain high in Bolivia after former president Evo Morales fled to Mexico, which granted him political asylum. Several ministers and Morales’ allies have announced their resignation. Bolivia is gearing up for a new presidential election and Carlos Mesa, who served as president in 2003-2005, is considered as the frontrunner in the upcoming race. Other strong politicians could still emerge, but they have almost no time left to carry out an election campaign, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Head of the Center for Political Studies of the Institute for Latin American Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Zbigniew Ivanovsky told the paper that it is difficult now to evaluate the events in Bolivia without bias. "Trump has described the Bolivian events as the triumph of democracy, while left-wing governments called them a coup. In fact, both signs are seen here. The ousted president violated the Constitution on numerous occasions, but at the same time he was under serious pressure from the army. Now everything will depend on the crisis resolution model. If a democratic election is held under international control, which everyone will recognize, and the president-elect assumes power, then I believe the situation will be ironed out," the expert said.
According to Ivanovsky, Morales will hardly be able to struggle for power after fleeing, although he has many supporters. The expert also doubts that the Movement for Socialism could nominate a serious candidate at the upcoming election. Its most popular member, Vice President Alvaro Marcelo Garcia Linera, has also resigned. Ivanovsky is not ruling out that Mesa could win the election. Mesa served as Bolivia’s president at a challenging time for the national economy, but now, economic growth reaches 5% per year, Bolivia sees good macroeconomic figures and large gas deposits have been discovered, the expert pointed out.
At the moment, Mesa is the most popular politician in Bolivia, while new candidates have little time left to win the voters’ support, he noted. "There is no dominating political force in the country, there are many left-wing and even radical left-wing and Trotskyist organizations. The trade unions and the army also have their own interests. Let’s see if a candidate emerges who will be able to unite all of these forces," Ivanovsky said.
Izvestia: New missile race likely to involve more countries after INF Treaty’s collapse
Moscow is creating intermediate-range missiles, but it is not going to deploy them until similar US missiles emerge in Europe, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the 2019 Moscow Nonproliferation Conference, as cited by Izvestia. The diplomat noted that Washington has been developing missiles as well as various "exotic systems" previously banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that a race in terms of creating new systems of this class of weapons is inevitable, but now it is likely to involve more countries.
Moscow still hopes that no US missiles will be deployed close to Russia’s borders, Ryabkov said. "The US has started developing [these systems] but has not yet deployed them. Meanwhile, they are developing not only missiles, but also various exotic systems, which as they claim, will have a range that would be banned under the INF Treaty which has now been terminated," the diplomat told Izvestia. "We are now creating intermediate-range missiles but we are not going to deploy them until [the US deployment of these systems in Europe] takes place. We hope this won’t happen," the senior diplomat noted.
According to Program Director at the Valdai Discussion Club and the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Ivan Timofeyev, Moscow believes that strategic stability cannot be reduced to just nuclear-missile armaments, given the fact that new systems emerge that need to be taken into consideration.
Russian experts believe that it’s almost unreal to reach new agreements on intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles. When the INF treaty was in force, the US insisted that China should join it, but Beijing has rejected the idea.
At the moment, some 32 countries have technical possibilities for developing missiles of this class, a member of the Russian Academy of Military Science, Vladimir Kozin, told the paper. The collapse of the Russian-US agreements has triggered a new arms race involving more participants, and it will be a challenging task to stop it in the coming years, the expert noted.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow helps Cairo restore military control over Sinai Peninsula
Russian-Egyptian military cooperation has been on the rise as evidenced by increased contacts of the two countries’ military and political leadership. On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Cairo, where he led Russia’s delegation at the sixth meeting of the Russian-Egyptian commission for military and technical cooperation. Despite some hurdles linked to a standoff with the United States, Moscow and Cairo continue their strategic cooperation, mainly on defense and security issues, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Judging by Russian-Egyptian contacts, in its relations with Cairo Moscow focuses on pursuing joint geopolitical and military interests in the Middle East and North Africa, the paper says.
According to military expert Colonel Shamil Gareyev, Russia’s assistance in enhancing Egypt’s defense capability will mostly focus on sharing combat experience and training the Egyptian military how to fight terror groups. "Unfortunately, these groups remain on the Sinai Peninsula and Russia has great experience in combatting them in Syria," he noted. It’s important to carry out an effective fight against militants of the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) in Egypt, the expert said. To this aim, Russia’s Defense Ministry helps Egypt conduct military maneuvers in order to share Russia’s combat experience in Syria.
Military expert Lieutenant General Yuri Netkachev recalled that recently the Russian and Egyptian Air Defense Forces held the Arrow of Friendship 2019 joint drills. "These are the first exercises in modern military history of Russia and Egypt," he said, noting that during the drills the forces practiced hitting air targets, including those used by IS militants against Russia’s Hmeymim base.
RBC: Russian stocks hit record highs
Russia’s stock market has outperformed others bringing investors the largest revenues, strategist at Sberbank Cole Akeson told RBC. Since the beginning of this year, the MSCI Russia Standard Index has grown 44% or four times as much as MSCI Emerging Markets (12%) and twice as much as developed markets (22%), the expert pointed out. In dollar value, the Russian stock market’s profitability rose more than 80-fold compared with last year, according to Sergei Karakhanyan, an expert for Alfa-Bank.
In general, last year stock markets saw a decline amid toughening monetary policy and the US-China trade war, RBC writes. The Russian companies’ dividend yield is considered as the world’s highest standing at 6.7%, which is close to an all-time high, Akeson notes. The growth was also ensured by international investment funds, which have been purchasing Russian ETFs (exchange-traded fund), senior analyst at Aton Mikhail Ganelin said. A major growth driver were Russian blue chips: Gazprom, Sberbank, Norilsk Nickel, Lukoil and MTS. The growth of the Russian stock market in 2019 is impressive, Karakhanyan notes, explaining this by no major sanctions compared with previous years.
The dividend yield of the Russian market since 2014 has been steadily on the rise, exceeding average global numbers, and has reached the level of more than 7%, according to RBC. However, next month the Russian market could face an outflow of global players’ money, and this could seriously limit a potential surge of stock index, investment strategist at VTB Stanislav Kleshchev said.
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