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Press review: Putin postpones Victory Day parade and South Korea holds election

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, April 17

Kommersant: Putin postpones Victory Day parade

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the decision to put off the anticipated parade in Moscow’s Red Square to mark the 75th anniversary of the Victory over Nazism, Kommersant writes. The head of state emphasized that the risks associated with the coronavirus epidemic were still extremely high. He noted though that 2020 had been declared the Year of Memory and Glory in Russia and vowed that all events planned for May 9 would be held later this year.

At a video conference meeting with Russia’s Security Council on Thursday, the president drew a parallel between the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany and the current situation of Russia fighting the spread of coronavirus, stressing that in those days people fought against Nazism for the sake of their survival.

Earlier in the day, Speaker of the Russian Federation Council (upper house) Valentina Matviyenko said that the date for the Victory Parade would depend on how the coronavirus situation in the country unfolded. She assured that the parade would be held this year and promised that it would be grandiose.

Meanwhile, Alexei Makarkin, Deputy Head of the Center for Political Technologies, pointed to the change in national priorities. Despite the importance of the Victory Day Parade for the ideological doctrine promoted by the authorities, the need to take care of people’s lives and health comes first. According to the expert, the decision to put off the parade was a rational step, and one should not overestimate its potential demoralizing effect on public opinion. "People understand that the congestion of participants in the parade and spectators in the center of Moscow might contribute to the widening of the epidemic," the paper quotes him as saying.


Izvestia: South Korea holds parliamentary election amid coronavirus pandemic

While many countries had to cancel or postpone elections over the coronavirus outbreak, South Korea was the first country to hold a national vote as scheduled, Izvestia writes. The party of South Korean President Moon Jae-in won a landslide victory. The turnout exceeded 66%, which was the highest figure since 1992. Voters thus appreciated the government’s effective response to the spread of the epidemic, believing that it had compensated for some flaws in its economic and foreign policy.

Although people elected lawmakers, the vote was rather seen as a kind of referendum on the political fate of President Moon Jae-in. If the election had been held a few months earlier, his Democratic Party could have lost its parliamentary majority because of the economic situation in the country, corruption scandals surrounding his inner circle and the deadlocked intra-Korean peace process.

While the fight against the pandemic in many countries was ineffective and undermined people’s trust in their authorities, in South Korea, on the contrary, the anti-coronavirus efforts were successful. That had a favorable effect on the president’s approval rating. According to recent surveys, by April, his approval rate had grown to 54-57%, the highest in the past 18 months.

"Coronavirus has become a global problem, and everyone compared how officials in various countries responded to that threat. In South Korea, the healthcare system was able to prepare for the epidemic very quickly. That made up for those problems and concerns, which existed earlier," Lyudmila Zakharova, an expert on Korea at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, told the paper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US braces for new financial war against China

American officials argue that China should pay for throwing the world into the worst recession in 100 years. In order to punish Beijing, some US senators suggested writing off part of America’s debt that the People’s Bank of China holds in reserve. Carrying out that threat could result in a global financial crisis, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a recent interview that the virus had originated in China’s Wuhan and urged Beijing to divulge information about the spread of COVID-19. US President Donald Trump likewise insisted that the Chinese government must "tell the truth" about the pandemic. In response, Beijing has vehemently rejected these accusations.

However, experts have dismissed the senators’ proposal as short-sighted. "The United States has accumulated national debt that can no longer be written off," the paper quotes Head of AMarkets Analytical Department Artem Deev as saying.

"All accusations against China or any other country are always a political component in an economic struggle. After the epidemic, China’s economy had shed all its growth amassed over the past 20 years, and therefore the United States will use any excuse to deal the final blow to its rival," the expert stressed.

A selective default on America’s debt obligations is contrary to US law and could deprive US public debt of its largest buyer and question the reliability of US government bonds as an investment tool, Sergei Suverov, a senior analyst at BCS Premier, warned.

"The trade war between the United States and China is not over, and the US may well churn out rhetoric, pinning the liability on China for spreading COVID-19 in the US and around the world," KRK Group’s Nikita Ryabinin noted.


Izvestia: Damascus cautions against politicizing aid to Syria amid pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) is providing assistance to Syria’s northwestern territories, which are not controlled by Damascus. The Syrian government hopes that the support will be extended to the entire territory of the country, Syria’s Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad told Izvestia.

"It is worth noting that we have high hopes that the organization will play an active role in battling this pandemic throughout the entire territory of the country, and stop politicizing the provision of medical assistance to Syria and yielding to pressure from the West," the diplomat stressed.

He noted that unilateral actions by the United States and the European Union had impeded the delivery of medical equipment and medications to fight COVID-19.

The WHO earlier rejected any accusations of ideological bias and stressed that the organization tried to furnish assistance to all countries, regardless of their political systems.

Meanwhile, Russia reiterated its support for the global health body. Moscow has fully paid its contributions, about $11.5 mln, thus honoring its financial commitments to the WHO, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva Gennady Gatilov told the paper. He noted that in April, the Russian government decided to earmark a voluntary contribution ($1 mln) to the WHO budget as part of the technical assistance project aimed at improving the epidemiological situation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

"In addition to the pandemic, we have our priorities in the fight against non-communicable diseases and tuberculosis. This year, $8.2 mln and $4.8 mln respectively will be earmarked for these projects. We do not scale back our support for the WHO and [we] will maintain it in the future. We have a rather long and successful history of cooperation. Of course, we will continue to support it, both politically and financially," he assured.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China to continue building up its military capability

The coronavirus pandemic will not compel Beijing to abandon its overseas military projects in the near future. However, these activities will intensify after 2030, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes citing data provided by Jane’s.

According to Jane’s experts, during this decade, China will continue to use its military and economic resources abroad, in particular, in order to monitor US activities in the Middle East and Africa. After 2030, China is likely to look for additional military bases abroad, they stressed.

So far, China has shown that the coronavirus pandemic had not affected its security policy. On April 14, China’s Navy reported that its Liaoning aircraft carrier was conducting drills in the South China Sea. It stressed that the operation was carried out as part of its usual actions and complied with international laws and standards. Nevertheless, this may indicate China’s intention to beef up its presence in the region, where US warships appear pretty often.

Meanwhile, many experts point to a decrease in the level of US-Chinese relations amidst the pandemic. "The COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably result in the deterioration of relations between the United States and China, which have been far from perfect recently," military expert Yuri Lyamin told the paper.

"Given the obvious economic and political fallout from the pandemic around the world, I would refrain from making such far-reaching forecasts. Against the backdrop of the inevitable growth of US-Chinese contradictions and instability in the world, Beijing could begin to beef up its military presence beyond its borders before 2030," he said.


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