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Press review: Russian sports up against WADA crackdown and Moscow wants to save New START

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, November 27

Izvestia: Russian sports bound to face toughest sanctions ever

It is too early to say that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee will approve recommendations issued by the WADA Compliance Review Committee, Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said. However, the situation is ominous, Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) Deputy Chief Margarita Pakhnotskaya told Izvestia.

Following a probe into inconsistencies in data retrieved from the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, the committee recommended that RUSADA be declared non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code. It called for banning Russian athletes from competing under the national flag for the next four years and also banning Russia from hosting international sporting events for the same period. If WADA’s Executive Committee approves these recommendations, it would be the toughest sanctions in the history of sports.

Pakhnotskaya told the newspaper that some members of the global anti-doping community expected to get access to the original version of the Moscow Lab’s database. If it happens before the December 9 meeting on the issue, the WADA Executive Committee could take a milder stance than the recommendations. According to Pakhnotskaya, only the Russian Sports Ministry can say if there is "an original version of the database" because RUSADA never had it under control. "Certainly, the fact that the Compliance Review Committee recommended our athletes be allowed to compete as neutrals at the Tokyo Olympics is good news amid the absolute collapse we’ve seen in the past several months," she added.

It is hard to assess the prospects of achieving anything in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) because WADA’s Executive Committee has not made a decision yet, lawyer Artem Patsev pointed out. "If WADA declares RUSADA non-compliant with the Code and RUSADA refuses to accept its decision, the issue will be forwarded to CAS," he said. "It is not an appeal but a move to submit the case to a court of arbitration," the lawyer explained. According to him, CAS will also look into the validity of sanctions on Russia. However, it is unclear how long it could take.

 

Vedomosti: Moscow seeks to preserve New START

On November 24-26, the Russian military conducted a demonstration of a missile equipped with the Avangard hypersonic warhead for US inspectors in compliance with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The demonstration was "aimed at facilitating efforts to ensure the viability and efficiency of New START," a Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson said, adding that the missile was expected to become operational in December 2019, Vedomosti writes.

By showing the Avangard, Russia has fulfilled its obligations under New START, a high-ranking diplomatic source told the newspaper. According to him, if the parties manage to extend the treaty for another five years, the Russian military will allow a group of inspectors to visit the Krasnoyarsk Machine Building Plant, where the production of the RS-28 Sarmat liquid-fueled heavy intercontinental ballistic missile is expected to begin in 2021. However, judging by the recent developments, American inspectors are very unlikely to have a chance to see the RS-28 missile because New START won’t be extended, the source pointed out, adding that the US insisted on engaging China in talks but the Chinese Foreign Ministry had already refused to participate. Meanwhile, Russia seeks to maintain the current situation for as long as possible in order to prevent another arms race.

Russian Council on International Affairs expert Dmitry Stefanovich believes that if the United States welcomes — preferably publicly — the demonstration of the Avangard as a sign of Russia’s goodwill, then the odds for extending New START will slightly increase. But if the Americans start making their usual statements, saying that the Russians are once again trying to deceive them, then the signal will point to the contrary, the expert said. "In any case, Russia can honestly say that it has been making every possible effort to preserve New START," Stefanovich emphasized.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Beijing concerned about opposition’s gains in Hong Kong elections

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has accepted the frustration of people who voted for opposition candidates in Sunday’s district council elections but refused to fulfill most of the demands put forward by the protesters, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

The authorities have so far granted only one of the demonstrators’ demand, withdrawing an extradition bill from parliament. Now that opposition candidates have won 392 out of 452 seats in district councils, local officials will face stepped-up pressure. The media has suggested that the Chinese leadership is dissatisfied with Hong Kong officials’ moves to resolve the crisis, as they are believed to be assessing the situation incorrectly and have weak ties with Hong Kong residents.

Chief of the "Russian Dream and Chinese Dream" think tank Yuri Tavrovsky told the newspaper that the outcome of the elections could make it possible to ease tensions as both Beijing and Hong Kong have grown tired of them. "Everyone fears that it could undermine Hong Kong’s status as a global financial center," he explained. "There are real chances to calm the situation down. The elected candidates will not affect key political decisions but ‘local politics’ is also very important," the expert added.

However, he pointed out that the activities of radical protesters, who have become the subject of attention for China’s authorities, could prevent the conflict from fading. They could try "to go all the way" in a hope that they will later be evacuated to Taiwan, for instance. On the other hand, US President Donald Trump’s approval of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act may bolster opposition members and put Chinese leader Xi Jinping in a difficult position, where he would have to react one way or another.

 

Vedomosti: British Labor Party snapping at Conservatives’ heels

Voter registration for the December 12 snap parliamentary election has been wrapped up in the United Kingdom. According to the authorities, 2.8 mln new voters registered as of November 25, which is one mln more than the same period before the previous election.

Political parties released their election manifestos last week. When launching the Conservative Party’s manifesto, Prime Minister Boris Johnson focused on his promise to withdraw the UK from the European Union by the January 31 deadline. Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, in turn, promised to reach a milder deal with the EU within three months and provide the British people with an opportunity to choose between that new deal and maintaining the country’s EU membership. According to opinion polls, with two weeks left before the vote, the Conservative Party is still in the lead but the Labor Party is snapping at its heels.

In fact, the situation has returned to the traditional bipartisan struggle, which leaves no place for the Liberal Democrats and other small parties, Director of the Europe Insight research company Andrei Kulikov pointed out. The Conservatives still have the upper hand in the struggle and small changes cannot influence the overall picture, he said, adding: "The Labor Party could only benefit from a major scandal around the Conservatives."

In Kulikov’s view, the issuance of election manifestos hasn’t changed the situation. "The Labor Party has shifted the focus from Brexit to domestic issues, primarily, taxes and healthcare. As for the EU withdrawal, there are no clear options apart from another referendum, and it looks as if the party is seeking to buy time. I think it is because they have conducted a number of polls and came to the understanding that most people do support plans to exit the EU, so they decided not to play the card," the expert emphasized.

 

Kommersant: Russian fashion designers gain ground as Western brands exit

While Western fashion retailers are losing interest in the Russian market, young Russian brands are rapidly growing. The amount of their stores at Moscow’s shopping malls has doubled in just a year, Kommersant wrote.

Retail Property Manager at Knight Frank Yevgenia Khakberdiyeva explained that the 2014 financial crisis opened shopping mall doors to Russian designers. Property developers were willing to rent retail spaces to Russian companies at new rates, while "the designers who had started as small businesses in the 2000s, had made some notable strides by that time." Besides, in Khakberdiyeva’s words, there was a constant demand for their goods. "New Russian brands have a high turnover, often times leaving some new Western companies in the dust, unknown to Russian consumers," Head of Moscow Retail Leasing at CBRE Alexandra Chirkayeva pointed out.

Co-founder of the 12storeez brand Ivan Khokhlov, in turn, highlighted the import substitution policy. "When the ruble plummeted in 2014, the Russian market became less profitable for Western companies," he noted. Founder of 21 Shop retail spot Mikhail Labakhua agreed, saying that following the crisis, many foreign brands turned out to be too expensive and were replaced by Russian rivals.

According to Ame-store owner Inessa Vakhrusheva, a new generation of designers has emerged in the country, who are capable of making market-oriented fashion collections. In the past, it used to be more about creative activities but now it has become a business.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews.