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Press review: How BRICS can challenge the G7 and Moscow’s bid to defend Russians abroad

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, November 15


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: BRICS offers non-Western alternative for global governance

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had an excellent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Brazil, where the 2019 BRICS summit was held. Contacts between other leaders were friendly as well. That makes the work of Moscow, which will assume BRICS chairmanship next year, easier, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

However, according to some experts, differences in the level of development between the group’s members, which account for 42% of the world’s population, complicate pursuing its goal of playing a greater role in global governance.

Meanwhile, Western commentators noted that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a right-wing politician, was not particularly enthusiastic about the summit. Moreover, he criticized China, the country’s key trading partner. However, later on, the president reconsidered his approach, reportedly, under pressure from representatives of such powerful sectors of his country’s economy like cattle breeding, agriculture and mining, which favor good relations with Beijing.

Even though contacts between the association’s leaders were successful, BRICS was not created to strengthen bilateral relations, Alexander Lukin, Department Head of the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs at the Higher School of Economics, told the paper. "The idea of creating BRICS was to strengthen the voice of non-Western countries in global governance. From these countries’ viewpoint, the West fully dominates the global government system, and this has to change. BRICS is the only organization, which is trying to do that. It is a kind of counterbalance to the G7 and the G20 groups," he explained. The expert also pointed to discord between some BRICS countries, specifically, India and China.

"Nevertheless, all BRICS members are interested in ensuring that the non-Western world has more weight in the global economic system. The most important thing for the association is to develop a common stance on the world stage, and that’s what the five countries’ delegations are doing," he concluded.


Izvestia: Moscow proposes setting up council to protect Russians abroad

Arrests, extradition of Russians, discrimination against the Russian language, vandalism of monuments and violations of Russian journalists’ rights have been recorded more often in 2019 than ever before. In order to help Russians defend themselves, it is essential to establish a coordination council, which will provide legal assistance to them, Izvestia writes citing the annual report by the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights.

The document will be presented in the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) in late November and handed over to President Vladimir Putin at a meeting with the members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights. It will also be forwarded to the UN, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights Alexander Brod informed the paper.

"The report is based on the monitoring data and materials provided by partner NGOs. New threats, including pressure against the Russian language and education, have been occurring," he said.

Brod is certain that Russia needs to set up new mechanisms to protect its citizens abroad and coordinate its efforts with other international non-governmental and parliamentary organizations.

The most widespread violation is the infringement of Russian journalists’ rights abroad. Russian reporters can be barred from taking part in news conferences or socio-political forums only because they are members of the Russian media community. In Ukraine alone, 122 Russian media outlets have been denied accreditation recently, according to Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova.

Discrimination against Russian citizens is gaining momentum because of ongoing attempts to demonize Russia, Konstantin Zatulin, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, told Izvestia. To reverse that negative trend, Russia needs to pursue a policy towards other countries depending on their attitude to the Russian language and Russians, the senior lawmaker stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan’s Syria gamble may lead to protracted war

Ankara is pushing ahead with efforts aimed at playing a leading role in the Syrian conflict. After his visit to the US, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is likely to use Washington to promote his country’s geopolitical interests in northeastern Syria, said Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency earlier reported that Erdogan said at a meeting with American senators and President Donald Trump that Turkey could resettle up to one million refugees in the safe zone in northeastern Syria within a period of six months to two years. Another one million Syrians could be transported to Raqqa and Deir Ez-Zor.

The resettlement of refugees will inevitably lead to more intense hostilities between the Kurds, Assad’s forces and the Turkish military, that is, a real war, which will have nothing to do with vanquishing the Islamic State (IS, terror group, outlawed in Russia). Everything seems to suggest that Russia will play the role of a kind of "dividing wall" in that armed standoff.

"The outcome of Erdogan’s negotiations with Donald Trump prove once again that Ankara’s key objective in northern Syria is not creating a buffer zone but resettling about two million Syrian refugees there," military expert, Colonel Vladimir Popov, stressed to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He is certain that "the Americans vigorously back that initiative despite the Kurds’ resistance."

"That means that there are no preconditions for resolving the conflict in the Trans-Euphrates region by peaceful means now. The war against the slow Turkish occupation will be waged not only by the Kurds, but the Assad regime as well," he warned, while pointing out that Moscow would end up between a rock and a hard place.


Izvestia: Russia lags behind Europe in shopping malls

Russia is facing a shortage of shopping centers. The availability of shopping space is approximately half that of leading European countries, Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov told Izvestia.

"The potential for developing the industry is tremendous," he stressed.

The global commercial real estate services organization, Colliers International, earlier conducted a study in Russia’s 129 cities to find out that 104 of them have less than 400 square meters of shopping space per 1,000 people. The urban trio that top the list of Russian cities, which have the best statistics, includes Kursk (805 square meters per 1,000 people), followed by Ivanovo (758 square meters) and Krasnodar (707 square meters).

According to the information provided by the consulting companies interviewed by the paper, Samara, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod top the list of cities with a population over one million people best provided with shopping centers.

Developers often fear entering regional markets, despite the lack of shopping malls, explained President of Garant Invest Group Alexey Panfilov.

Modern shopping centers have turned into points of attraction for urban residents. Previously, shopping malls did not focus on the development of public spaces and entertainment, but today it is an indispensable condition for commercial success, the paper quotes S.A. Ricci Director General Alexander Morozov as saying.

According to the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, the government is interested in increasing the number of shopping facilities, be they small, medium or large.

"The more varied the shopping facilities are, the greater the competition is. Both entrepreneurs and consumers will benefit from that," Denis Manturov has been quoted as saying.


RBC: Pawnshop network planning an IPO in Russia

The Mosgorlombard network of pawnshops, which includes 17 pawnshops in Moscow and the Moscow Region, intends to float its shares in early 2021, the company’s spokesperson informed RBC. Plans are in store to sell up to 20% of the shares. That could be the first such placement in Russia. However, experts warn that it will not be easy to do.

The pawnshop market is non-transparent for investors, explains Ivan Uklein, Bank Rating Analyst at Expert RA. Pawnshops, just like other microfinance institutions, carry enormous risks amid constantly tightening regulations, the expert stressed.

"To attract large-scale funding, the reputation of the pawnshop market itself, its regulation, information transparency should take a few steps forward, and that will take considerable time," he said.

Russia’s IPO market is facing hard times. The latest float was carried out by Globaltruck freight carrier in November 2017. Several companies, including the Rambler Group, announced their intention to float their shares but have not proceeded to do it so far.

There are no reasons to expect many Russian companies to float their shares, the paper quotes Director General of the BusinessDrom analytical agency Pavel Samiev as saying. The market conditions are not conducive to that, while requirements for issuers are being tightened. "On the other hand every market has a player who believes IPOs are a better source of funding than other mechanisms of attracting investment," he added.


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