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Press review: What awaits Algeria after election and US seeks rift between Russia, Turkey

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, December 13
Presidential elections in Algeria AP Photo/Toufik Doudou
Presidential elections in Algeria
© AP Photo/Toufik Doudou

Izvestia: Trilateral gas transit talks to be held before year-end

The next trilateral EU-Russia-Ukraine negotiations on Russian gas transit are scheduled to be held in December, a source in the European Commission informed Izvestia. The paper’s interlocutor stressed that the parties were determined to reach a new agreement by the end of this year. The current contract expires on December 31.

The European Commission stressed that it welcomed the ongoing bilateral negotiations between Moscow and Kiev and maintained dialogue with both sides.

"I believe that the role of European mediators is to push the parties towards a compromise, especially Ukraine, which is under US pressure, in the opposite direction," Alexey Grivach, Deputy Director General of Russia’s National Energy Security Foundation, explained to Izvestia. "Another stumbling block is that the inertia of the previous political approach and the need to promptly restructure the work of the gas sector are being seen in Ukraine simultaneously."

Judging by the parties’ statements, even despite the recent face-to-face contact between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky at the Normandy Four summit, there is no breakthrough on the gas issue yet. Kiev, along with Brussels, insists on a long-term ten-year transit contract to pump at least 60 bln cubic meters of gas per year. On the other hand, Russia is interested in continuing the transit until Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream become fully operational.

Meanwhile, Director of the National Energy Institute Sergei Pravosudov stressed to Izvestia that the termination of the transit would result in price hikes on European gas exchanges and, subsequently, a backlash from customers, which will prompt the parties to sign some kind of an agreement shortly after the holidays. Nobody wants that, so approving a compromise by the end of this year is inevitable, the expert concluded.


Kommersant: Algeria votes for candidates none of whom satisfies protesters

The first presidential election since the April resignation of Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been held in Algeria. The 82-year-old ex-head of state who stepped down amid massive protests, had ruled the country for almost 20 years. None of the five presidential candidates who are equated with the old political establishment suit the protesters, Kommersant writes.

Algeria’s presidential election was scheduled to be held in April. However, in February thousands of people took to the streets outraged over Bouteflika’s decision to run for a fifth presidential term. Under pressure from the demonstrators, on March 11, the head of state backed out of running in the election, and the vote was put off. On April 2, after the protests had intensified, the president’s early resignation was announced.

"Most people in Algeria believe that the scale of the protests will only grow after the election," Anastasia Vasilenko, an expert at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Oriental Studies, informed the paper. She highlighted that Friday, when the bulk of the votes is expected to be counted, is "a traditional day for protests."

The expert also did not exclude a crackdown on the protesters. "They can use the election to legitimize their actions, saying that the country now has a legitimate president, and all demonstrations against him are illegal," she said.

The commentator noted that the protest movement had neither any clear-cut leaders who could speak on behalf of the majority nor any positive agenda. "It is clear what the demonstrators are opposed to, but what they are proposing is ambiguous. That’s the key problem," the expert added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US seeks to drive a wedge between Russia, Turkey

Disagreements between Moscow and Ankara over the conflicts in Syria and Libya persist. The United States has already taken advantage of them conducting joint drills with Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The exercise was conducted despite Washington’s threats to slap sanctions on Ankara over the S-400 deal and Turkey’s remarks on possibly kicking US troops out of the Incirlik Air Base.

In recent weeks, the United States has been in talks with both representatives of the Tripoli-based Libyan Government of National Accord and Commander of the Libyan National Army Khalifa Haftar who announced the imminent seizure of the Libyan capital.

Both the United States and Turkey accused Russia of supporting Haftar and his army. There is every reason to believe that some US and Turkish warships and subs will remain in the Mediterranean for an indefinite period to contain the escalation in the region after the signing of the Turkey-Libya Mediterranean deal.

"It is not advantageous to Russia that the leaders of the Government of National Accord in Tripoli and Turkey announced a monopoly on economic sea zones where significant gas reserves are concentrated," military expert, Lieutenant General Yuri Netkachev, told the paper. "Other countries do not benefit from that either. Greece has already broken off ties with the Tripoli-based government and backed the Libyan National Army. Haftar does not recognize the agreements signed by his opponents and their Turkish allies, so Russia has every reason to support Haftar."

"The United States, which has covertly sided with the Government of National Accord and Turkey, has levers that will help fully destroy the allied relations between Moscow and Ankara," the expert stressed.


Kommersant: Aeroflot to boost fleet of its low-cost subsidiary

Aeroflot hopes to increase the fleet of its wholly-owned subsidiary, Pobeda Airlines LLC, to 80-85 airliners in 2023, while passenger traffic is expected to reach 25-30 mln people. If this strategy is carried out, the Pobeda low-cost airline will surpass S7 Airlines coming in second among Russia’s air carriers, Kommersant writes.

Aeroflot established Pobeda Airlines slightly over five years ago to operate in the low-cost segment, minimizing air ticket prices by saving on additional services, such as in-flight meals. In the first ten months of 2019, Pobeda boosted its passenger traffic by 45.2% to 8.5 mln people.

According to Kommersant’s sources in the market, Aeroflot’s clients are unlikely to choose Pobeda, while Rossiya Airlines (also part of the Aeroflot Group) could be affected.

Alexander Lanetsky, CEO of Friendly Avia Support, believes plans to raise traffic to 25 mln people per year are quite feasible for Pobeda, in contrast to other players.

"The market is very limited economically. No improvement in the population’s welfare is expected in the coming years," he explained. The expert recalled that, prior to the 2008 crisis, Europe’s major air carriers, such as Lufthansa and British Airways, did not view low-cost airlines (Ryanair, Wizz Air) as competitors. However, given the mounting economic difficulties, low-cost airlines began to play an increasingly important role in air transportation.

In his view, in the coming years, Pobeda will take passenger traffic from small regional airlines, CIS national air carriers and air charter companies.


Izvestia: Russian twenty-somethings tend to save for a rainy day

One-half of working Russians under 30 who save money, keep savings in cash, while the widespread belief that young people show "financial carelessness" and are not inclined to save money has been dispelled as a myth, Izvestia writes citing a survey conducted by Sberbank Asset Management and Sberbank Life Insurance. The survey showed that 70% of young people save money for a rainy day.

According to the outcomes of the survey conducted in 37 Russian cities with a population of over 500,000 people, only 30% of working Russians aged 18-30 spend everything they earn. More than one-third of those polled (36%) said they saved money from time to time, while 34% more answered they tried to do that on a regular basis.

Young people are trying, first and foremost, to build a financial cushion in the event of unforeseen circumstances by choosing liquid assets, for example, cash, which can be used quickly, the paper quotes Anna Zelentsova, advisor to the director of the Russian Ministry of Finance’s project to promote financial literacy, as saying.

"This is absolutely normal, if the issue at hand is not large or long-term savings. However, it would be better, if young people used more long-term savings and investment," she said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director of Russia’s National Center for Financial Education (NCFE) Sergei Makarov told Izvestia that the younger generation currently adheres to a more responsible approach to the issue than before. In his view, a high proportion of those who save for a rainy day likewise favors greater responsibility. "There is every likelihood that young people observed the currency fluctuations in 2014, and took note of their parents' and older colleagues' example and of what the lack of a financial safety cushion can result in. That’s why they are trying to save part of their income," the expert suggested.


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