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Press review: US may use terror sponsor label against Russia and what about the amendments

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, July 3

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US seeks to cobble together new sanctions against Russia

Donald Trump has ordered the leadership of two key US intelligence agencies — the CIA and the National Security Agency — to disclose the available information to the United States Congress on the alleged collusion of Russia’s military intelligence and the Taliban. Nevertheless, without waiting for a briefing by any intelligence agency, the Democrats demanded sanctions against Russia. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Washington might brand Russia as a country that sponsors terrorism.

It is easy to assume what kind of sanctions may be rolled out against Russia, the newspaper wrote. In June, the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a caucus of conservative members of the Republican Party in the US House of Representatives, presented a report to the lower house of Congress. The document states that all the measures that the American authorities took to contain Russia failed to bear any fruit. Therefore, Republican congressmen consider it necessary to introduce new sanctions — in particular, the report proposes cutting off Russia from SWIFT, imposing sanctions against Russian sovereign debt, and punishing Russia's allies in the former USSR.

According to chief researcher at the Institute of US and Canada Studies Vladimir Vasiliev, there are a lot of chances for the bill recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism to be adopted early. This will happen if, of course, American intelligence actually digs up and presents some evidence indicating that Russia was in collusion with the Taliban. At the moment, Iran, Sudan, Syria, and North Korea are designated as nations that sponsor terrorism in the United States. This status makes it possible to slap a number of special sanctions on them: for example, banning sales of dual-use goods. Finally, victims of terrorism may file lawsuits against countries that sponsor terrorism with US courts. So, relatives of American soldiers who died in Afghanistan will have the right to sue Russia and seize its property and the property of citizens of Russia, which will be in the reach of the American justice system.


Izvestia: Russia to change dozens of laws for new constitutional norms

Amendments to the Russian Constitution approved by most Russian voters will require changes to roughly 70 laws, a working group on the Constitution told Izvestia. According to the estimates of the Federation Council, about 90 regulatory legal acts may be changed. These issues will be discussed at a meeting of the working group with President Vladimir Putin on Friday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed. Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission summed up the final results of the nationwide vote, indicating that 77.92% of Russians supported the amendments.

The adopted amendments require a detailed study of industry-specific laws. This will help avoid possible conflicts and legal uncertainty, Co-Chair of the Working Group to Draft Proposals on Amending the Constitution Andrei Klishas told Izvestia.

These and other issues will be discussed at a meeting of the constitutional working group with the participation of the president, member of the working group Yaroslav Nilov told the newspaper. "It is obvious that the adopted changes will serve as an impulse for adjusting the legal framework. In total, it is planned to change about 70 laws," Nilov said. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the meeting is scheduled for July 3.

The final voting results have been counted and the changes were supported by 77.92%, while 21.27% voted against, with a total voter turnout of 67.97%. This clearly shows that Russians are extremely interested in participating in the political process, Klishas told Izvestia. The procedures helped spur the activity of the population. "Increasing the number of days for voting from one to several is good experience, but that needs to be further studied and summarized," Klishas believes.

The experiment with the new multi-day ballot system and distance voting turned out to be very successful, General Director of the Russian Public Opinion Research Center Valery Fedorov told Izvestia. Not only did a simplified procedure ensure such active participation, but people voted because they found in the package of laws something important for themselves, the expert said. For example, many people are concerned about social guarantees. Of course, the pandemic also made its contribution, since the routine of the recent months has spurred some to go to the polls, the expert added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Japan, Russia doomed to endless negotiations on Kuril Islands

Tokyo wants to continue negotiations with Moscow to resolve the territorial issue and sign a peace treaty, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga announced recently. Meanwhile, the new amendments to the Russian constitution imply the inviolability of the country's borders. Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that a later stipulation included in the amendment allows territorial shifts in connection with the demarcation or delimitation of the border, which could theoretically open up the possibility of an agreement.

Tokyo's main position on the Kurils remains unchanged. At the same time, Moscow has declared that Russia's sovereignty over the South Kuril ridge is secured and is not subject to revision. Recent events do not add optimism towards settling the dispute, the newspaper wrote.

"Currently, the negotiations are in limbo. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last met at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September 2019. This year, they spoke on the phone. And since then there have been no contacts between them. This may be due to the fact that it is not possible to reach a compromise on joint economic activities in the South Kuril Islands. And without consent on this topic, there won’t be any progress on the key issues," Head of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences Valery Kistanov told the newspaper.

According to the expert, this uncertainty is reinforced by the fact that Abe and Putin agreed to resolve this issue themselves. However, Abe's term of office will expire in September 2021, and it is unlikely that anything will be done before that, the expert believes.

As for now, however, Japanese Ambassador to Russia Toyohisa Kozuki said that Tokyo is interested in continuing active contacts with Moscow on a peace treaty.


Kommersant: Aviation industry struggles with antivirus recommendations

Russia’s transportation watchdog has uncovered more than 500 violations of anti-epidemic recommendations at airports and airlines over a period of three weeks in June, Kommersant wrote. Most often, passengers, as well as airport and airline staff, forget to wear masks and gloves. In addition, not at all airports check the temperature of passengers at the entrance to the terminal, and at times not even when boarding a flight. Experts consider some of these recommendations, in particular double temperature checks, redundant, but they say that they cannot be completely abandoned.

In particular, Pobeda, S7, Azimut, and Nord Star do not monitor the body temperature of passengers even those with symptoms of infectious diseases. An inspection at Sheremetyevo Airport revealed border guards and aviation security officers working without masks and gloves.

The Transport Ministry said it does not plan to supplement or adjust the methodological recommendations for ensuring sanitary safety during passenger transportation.

The Ministry’s requirements in some cases are contradictory, Executive Director of Aviaport Agency Oleg Panteleev told Kommersant.

"Thoroughly implementing the recommendations leads to delayed procedures, increased boarding times and heightened passenger anxiety. Temperature checks immediately before boarding create lines and increase the time when passengers are in close proximity to each other," he noted. On the other hand, widespread violations of safety rules reduce the level of confidence in the epidemiological safety of air transport, Panteleev added. In his opinion, some recommendations can be mitigated, for example, double temperature checks, while others should be monitored more strictly.


Vedomosti: Moscow’s non-food trade recovers by 70% in one month


In the first month after the coronavirus-related restrictions were lifted, from June 1-29, the number of visitors to Moscow’s shopping centers was -33.6% when compared with June 2019, President of the Watcom consulting company Roman Skorokhodov told Vedomosti. During this time period, the number of visitors did not return to the level before the lockdown was introduced in Moscow and reached 70% of the previous years, President of the Russian Union of Shopping Centers Dmitry Moskalenko told the newspaper. In his opinion, this is due to changes in consumer behavior.

Sales of clothes and shoes, inaccessible to buyers in April and May, are witnessing the fastest recovery. According to Watcom, in June, traffic in clothing and footwear stores recovered by almost 73%. Representatives of international and youth fashion brands, sports and children's goods are experiencing upbeat sales, as buyers have a seasonal interest in shoes, Columbus Mall Commercial Director Maxim Lependin told Vedomosti.

June sales in electronics and home appliances stores also exceeded the figures for 2019. The retail group have seen sales rise compared to last year, the company’s representative said, in both offline and online stores.

Meanwhile, cosmetics stores are having a hard time. Traffic and sales are growing slowly and unevenly from region to region, representative of Russian cosmetics brand Natura Siberica and Organic Shop told Vedomosti. Not all stores have opened, she noted, just 70% of them across the country.



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