Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Baghdad in no rush to kick US troops out
Acting Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi opposes a US troop withdrawal, which is what the country’s lawmakers demanded following a US drone attack that had killed Commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
At the same time, Abdul-Mahdi has been making public statements to appease the leaders of the country’s Shiite community who demand an end to the American military presence. Amid these developments, demonstrations in Iraq against Iranian and US interference continue.
"Social protests in Iraq stand in contrast to statistics indicating economic growth in 2019," Russian International Affairs Council expert Anton Mardasov said. "It is no wonder that Iran, who is taking advantage of the current situation and seeks to unleash protests against the US, initially opposed the resignation of Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet and the protestors’ demands, which the government was unable to fulfill in a short time because of a budget deficit, volatile oil prices and issues concerning internally displaced persons, in addition to the implementation of social welfare programs," the expert added.
According to him, the leaders of the Hashd al-Shaabi Shiite military and political organization, who became part of Iraq’s state agencies partially through Soleimani’s effort, are unwilling to lose control over the militias because they want to be able to use them in inter-factional struggles. "This is why they seek to prove that they are necessary for ensuring Iraq’s sovereignty by demanding the withdrawal of US troops and offering assistance in Baghdad’s possible conflict with Erbil," Mardasov pointed out.
The commentator also said that reasonable Iraqi politicians and religious leaders would quietly resist the pressure of pro-Iranian forces because they understood that the Americans would optimize their presence in Iraq over time.
Vedomosti: Deja vu, Abkhaz president steps down amid protests
Abkhazia’s parliament accepted President Raul Khajimba’s resignation on Monday. A presidential election is scheduled to take place on March 22.
Protests earlier broke out in Abkhazia as the opposition refused to accept the outcome of the September 2019 presidential election. The parliament called on Khajimba to resign. He refused at first, but agreed to step down an hour after Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov, who is in charge of relations with Abkhazia, had arrived in Sukhum.
Surkov came to Abkhazia on the fourth day of the demonstrations. On January 10, Russian Deputy Security Council Secretary Rashid Nurgaliyev had arrived in Sukhum. He held two meetings with Khajimba and brokered the president’s meetings with the opposition. Surkov also met with opposition leaders.
It is not the first time that Surkov and Nurgaliyev worked together to resolve a political crisis in Abkhazia. They did the same in 2014, when Khajimba led the opposition and called on President Alexander Ankvab to resign.
The main reason behind the political coups in Abkhazia is that after coming to power, clans seek to avoid implementing financial agreements they made with other clans before the elections, a source close to the Kremlin told Vedomosti.
It is hard for Russia to pinpoint fundamental political differences between the groups involved in Abkhazia’s power struggle, said Garegin Mitin, a partner at T&M Consulting According to him, it is all about tensions among the elite. This is why, from the Kremlin’s standpoint, the most reasonable thing to do is to identify the one who expresses common interests and bet on a winner once one comes forward. It will make it possible to avoid another political crisis because in any case, it will be difficult for Abkhazia to develop its economy without Moscow’s support. There are little differences between political groups in Abkhazia because all of them declare pro-Russian positions in one way or another, political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko pointed out.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Europe demands Iran comply with nuclear deal
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have called on the Iranian authorities to comply with their obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program. The next two months will be crucial for the nuke deal’s future, Nezavisimaya Gazeta noted.
On January 5, Iran’s government announced the fifth and final step to reduce its commitments to the JCPOA, ending restrictions on the number of centrifuges. At the same time, Tehran highlighted its readiness to abide by the deal if the sanctions were removed and the United States was held accountable for the killing of General Qasem Soleimani.
Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies Vladimir Sazhin emphasized that Tehran had not yet officially pulled out of the deal. "The fifth stage of reducing the JCPOA commitments is underway. With each new step, Iran enhances its activities to end the agreement but refrains from leaving it," the expert noted. According to him, attempts could be made to force Tehran into talks with the United States, given the fact that social tensions are high in the country and may even increase amid the surge in sanctions. "Even before the situation started to escalate, the idea of talks with the US had supporters among the Iranian elite. I think that if the Iranian leadership ever opts for making agreements, it is likely to happen within the next two months," Sazhin said.
The expert also pointed out that the International Atomic Energy Agency continued to control the situation in Iran’s nuclear industry but it could lose contact with Tehran if the JCPOA collapsed. This is why all interested parties, including Russia, China and Japan, seek to talk Tehran out of abandoning the deal.
Izvestia: Number of bankrupt Russians keeps growing
As many as 69,000 Russians declared bankruptcy in 2019, which is 56.8% higher than in 2018, Izvestia wrote, citing the National Register of legally relevant data on the activities of legal entities, private entrepreneurs and other economic actors (Fedresurs).
Debtors initiated most bankruptcy cases, with creditors only being able to get back about eight bln rubles ($130 mln) out of the obligatory 225.6 bln rubles ($3.7 bln) because debtors did not have property to cover their repayments.
The number of bankruptcies keeps rising as the information spreads among people that it is a way to get rid of their debts, Fedresurs Project Manager Alexei Yukhnin pointed out. Lawmakers are currently working to ease the relevant rules to provide more people with access to this procedure and reduce its cost, he added.
The objective reason behind bankruptcies is that most people incorrectly evaluate their financial capabilities, Associate Professor at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Natalya Svechnikova said. According to her, statistics proves this, which shows that more than 70% of debtors don’t have enough property to pay their debts. In most cases, Russians take advantage of the bankruptcy procedure so that their debts are written off. Legal precedents show that in Moscow, about two to three percent of bankruptcy cases end with the cancellation of debts, and in other Russian regions, debts are cancelled in 99% of the cases, the expert noted.
Since the individual bankruptcy procedure was launched in the country in October 2015, a total of 163,200 Russians have been declared insolvent. The number of bankrupt individuals has grown by 79.3 times in the past five years.
Vedomosti: Yandex plans to launch car-sharing service in Europe
Yandex intends to test a car-sharing service in Europe this year, Vedomosti writes. Yandex.Drive, which currently operates only in Russia, is the country’s biggest car-sharing service as far as the size of its vehicle fleet goes. In terms of revenues, in 2018, the service came second after its rival Delimobil.
Delimobil has already entered the European market, launching its Anytime service in the Czech capital of Prague in 2019. The company earlier announced plans to enter Poland as well. Delimobil also operates in Belarus and Kazakhstan. In five years, Delimobil will be active in at least 90 cities in 19 countries, the company’s founder Vincenzo Trani said in an interview with Vedomosti in late 2019. The company seeks to enter the world’s top three car-sharing operators in terms of revenues.
Compared to its rivals, Yandex has more experience in providing transport services to foreign users. The Yandex.Taxi service entered non-CIS countries in 2016, first launching operations in Georgia. It moved into Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Serbia in 2018. The service continued its global expansion under the brand name Yango, entering Ivory Coast in October 2018, Finland in November 2018, Israel in December 2018, Ghana and Romania in June 2019. The service is now available in 17 countries.
Yandex may be searching for additional growth points for its car-sharing business by extending its service to Europe, BCS Global analyst Maria Sukhanova said. However, she warned that Yandex would face more difficulties on foreign car-sharing markets than in the taxi industry. The business involves more offline activities, the analyst explained because there is a car fleet to be maintained. "Besides, the European market is not a home base for Yandex and the company will need time to understand how it works, establish all procedures and get the project’s economy going," Sukhanova emphasized.
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