All news

Press review: China winning battle against coronavirus and Urals oil sinks below $19

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, March 20


Kommersant: Russian government to come up with steps to support economy

The Russian government continues to draft a package of measures to support the economy and businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kommersant writes. The Cabinet earlier announced that quarterly tax breaks for businesses and government inspections of airlines and the tourism industry would be extended to small and medium-sized businesses. In turn, business associations and the Agency for Strategic Initiatives are drafting their proposals for the government.

Kommersant found out that the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Delovaya Rossiya (Business Russia) lobby and the Opora Rossii (Pillar of Russia) NGO had submitted their proposals to the government, while the Agency for Strategic Initiatives is expected to send a letter outlining the potential steps to support businesses soon.

"The situation, which is becoming increasingly tense, is forcing businesses to seek assistance," President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sergei Katyrin told Kommersant commenting on the issue.

Meanwhile, a source in the Agency for Strategic Initiatives informed the paper that its Director General Svetlana Chupsheva had submitted the agency’s initiatives to the government at a meeting in the Kemerovo Region on March 18. These proposals include initiatives on state-run monopolies and their infrastructure projects, support for logistics and hotels, along with the extension of licenses and accreditations.


Izvestia: Ambassador calls for easing sanctions against Syria

Syria is urging the global community to loosen up the sanctions against the country and shield it from the coronavirus epidemic, Syrian Ambassador Riad Haddad told Izvestia.

The Arab republic continues to be one of four countries in the Middle East where no COVID-19 case have been recorded so far. The local healthcare system has been put on high alert, the ambassador noted.

"The Syrian government has taken many measures aimed at preventing the spread of the epidemic in the country, and no coronavirus cases have been reported so far," he said.

"It is worth noting that Syria’s healthcare sector is at a high level of preparedness, despite attacks by terrorists and sanctions imposed on the Syrian people. The international community should not wait until the coronavirus spreads across Syria to lift the economic sanctions imposed on it that has impacted the level of medical services," the envoy added.

The ambassador also stressed that Syria would not allow Ankara to develop oil fields in the country, adding that this is the exclusive right of Syria’s allies.

Commenting on recent remarks by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who proposed to jointly develop oil fields in Qamishli (the territory currently controlled by Kurdish units), Riad Haddad emphasized that "this wealth belongs to the Syrian people only."

"Syrian President Bashar Assad has made it clear that the countries that fought against Syria will not take part in rebuilding it. Therefore, the process of reconstruction and restoration of its economy will be limited to those countries, which stood side by side with Syria during its war against terrorism, first and foremost, the Russian Federation," he pointed out.


Kommersant: China winning battle against COVID-19, offering assistance to other countries

The Chinese authorities say that they have virtually overcome the coronavirus outbreak. For the first time since the epidemic began, no "local infection" cases have been reported in the country, which means that all infected people brought COVID-19 from abroad, Kommersant writes.

Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, in which the two leaders reiterated their commitment to global efforts to fight the pandemic. Beijing also said it was willing to supply medical goods to Russia, which it urgently needs.

For his part, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed in a recent phone call with Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov that Beijing was ready to explore the issue of reciprocal assistance by delivering goods to Moscow as a way of saying thank you to Russia for its support.

China earlier delivered aid to Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Iraq. It also promised to provide assistance to Serbia.

Sergey Shulyak, a pharmaceutical market expert and Director General of DSM Group, told the paper that China is talking primarily about supplying Russia with a means of protection, which does not require lengthy registration procedures, like with medicines. According to the expert, the first batch of medical face masks has already been dispatched to Russia.


Izvestia: Houthi insurgents closing in on Yemen’s fossil fuel deposits

Yemeni rebels have won another major victory. After capturing the city of Al Hazm, they approached the country’s major oil and gas fields in the Marib governorate.

Some sources familiar with the situation informed Izvestia that the insurgents had won the victory because of the effective use of drones and missiles. Their successful offensive in a hydrocarbon-rich area could determine the outcome of the entire civil war.

"Yemen is not one of the world’s leading oil producers. However, the loss of the oil fields will complicate the position of the country’s government and increase the financial burden on Saudi Arabia, which has to provide financial support to the country’s leadership and the armed forces loyal to it," the paper quotes military expert Vladislav Shurygin as saying.

"In the current global economic environment, given plummeting oil prices, the continuation of the conflict is full of economic problems for Saudi Arabia itself. One cannot rule out repeated attacks by Houthi rebels against oil production, processing and transportation facilities," he warned.

The victories by the Houthi insurgents attest to the high level of their combat skills and regular supplies of arms to them, said Vadim Kozyulin, Professor at the Academy of Military Sciences.

"It is a well-known fact that Houthis can strike back. However, the fact that they can conduct high-intensity hostilities and emerge victorious is something new. The army, which has clinched such triumphs, is seizing the initiative. Naturally, the rebels will want to solidify their positions by winning more victories," the expert said.


Vedomosti: Urals oil price sinks below $19

The price of Russian Urals oil for delivery to Northwestern Europe has dropped by 22% to $18.64 per barrel. That’s a record low not seen since February 2002, Vedomosti writes citing data provided by Argus Media.

Oil prices on global markets began to plunge in January 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak, the subsequent drop in demand for raw materials and the collapse of the OPEC+ deal.

According to Argus Media, the price of Urals oil is decreasing steadily against the backdrop of Saudi Arabia’s decision to reduce contract prices for April batches. Market players do not rule out that prices will continue falling amid a reduction in oil processing.

As a rule, Urals is sold at a discount relative to Brent and will grow in proportion to it, the paper quotes Ekaterina Grushevenko, an energy expert at the Skolkovo Moscow School of Management, as saying.

Oil prices are unlikely to stay below $30 per barrel for a long time. Companies will reduce production and abandon costly projects, explains Daria Kozlova of Vygon Consulting.

Oil is sold below the average cost of its production in Russia ($35 per barrel), which will result in a reduction in capital expenditure, conservation of oil wells and the eventual decrease in oil supplies, the paper quotes Maxim Shein, chief investment strategist at BCS Broker, as saying.


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