Vedomosti: Protests in Belarus may continue but have little chance of success
Police and protesters continued to clash across Belarus after the country’s current leader Aleksandr Lukashenko emerged with an overwhelming victory in the recent presidential elections. Experts told Vedomosti that while the protests in Belarus are unprecedented, the lack of coordination and planning would curb their momentum.
According to Lukashenko, "forces from abroad" are trying to organize street protests similar to those in Kiev dubbed "the Maidan". In his opinion, the instigators of the riots acted from other countries, primarily the Czech Republic and Poland. Meanwhile, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya’s opposition headquarters refused to accept the landslide victory by the incumbent president.
The Belarusian authorities continue to block the Internet, Vedomosti writes. A resident of the Mogilev region told the newspaper that the internet has not been functioning for two days, with only bank transfers possible. The authorities are preparing for more protests - riot police were occupying the center of Minsk, parking lots and subway stations were closed, a resident told the newspaper.
Andrey Skriba, research fellow at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics, told Vedomosti that negotiations between the opposition and Lukashenko are hardly possible. Any negotiations with Tikhanovskaya would be a step back for him and for his system. According to the expert, the protesters have enough strength to fight, but their actions are not coordinated and they have no plan. "If everything develops exactly as last night, then the likelihood of this [security agencies moving to the demonstrators' camp] is minimal. If something changes qualitatively in terms of pressure, if someone proposes a specific plan, then the outcome may also change," the expert emphasized.
"Elites can join the protest if they see an idea and a plan of action. On the other hand, I have a feeling that only the breakaway elite can offer this plan," the expert noted. According to Skriba, Lukashenko would also not flee - the Belarusian leader will remain in the country until the last moment.
Vedomosti: Russia’s oil industry might not recover before 2021
Russia’s oil exports increased in value terms in June for the first time since the beginning of the year. Compared with May, the figure increased by 43.2% to over $5 bln, according to the Federal Customs Service. The decline continued in annual terms, but its pace has noticeably slowed down. Analysts and experts interviewed by Vedomosti do not expect the industry to recover before 2021. Coronavirus, the OPEC+ deal limiting oil supply, and November US elections will remain the main factors affecting oil prices, the paper writes.
The main factor that influenced growth of export revenues is associated with rising oil prices, Chief analyst at PSB bank Ekaterina Krylova told the newspaper. In July, the average price of Russian Urals oil reached $43.9 per barrel, which is higher than the cut-off price set in the budget for the current year of $42.4 per barrel.
Krylova noted that the price recovery will play into the hands of oil companies in the second half of the year after the unsuccessful Q1 and Q2. "However, by the end of the year, profits and margins will fall across the sector. Oil companies should be able to quickly resume investments, but only in a truly stable market situation. This is more likely next year’s promise," she said. In the baseline forecast, PSB expects to see the average annual Urals price to rise to $47 per barrel in 2021.
According to the Director for Analysis of Financial Markets and Macroeconomics at Alfa Capital Management Company, Vladimir Bragin, export statistics reflect the overall positive dynamics of the global economic recovery after the coronavirus pandemic. But the recovery in the oil market could take years, he added. The expert told Vedomosti that the situation is generally unpredictable due to COVID-19, but it will force oil workers to reduce the volume of investment projects.
Kommersant: Russia, Cyprus agree to adjust double taxation deal
Russia convinced the negotiators in Cyprus to change the agreement on double taxation - Cyprus agreed on raising the tax on dividends and interest to 15%, instead of denouncing the deal altogether. According to the Finance Ministry, Russia’s budget could additionally get up to 150 bln rubles ($2.04 bln) annually from the adjusted deal. Market participants told Kommersant they need to see the text of the new agreement and check it for exemptions.
Russia halted the process of denunciation of the agreement, announced a week ago. Similar negotiations could be completed with Malta and Luxembourg by the end of August.
According to partner at PwC tax and legal practice Ekaterina Lazorina, the success of negotiations with Cyprus is a positive turn of events. "After the latest statement from Russia’s Ministry of Finance, many of our clients were worried that the negotiations had reached an impasse. Then a wide range of participants would have suffered - not only investors, but also transport companies, the financial sector, IT," she said.
According to the Cypriot Ministry of Finance, interest payments on corporate bonds and public debt will be exempted from income tax. "This is significant for investors," Lazorina told the newspaper.
Meanwhile, the Russian Finance Ministry noted that additional revenues to Russia's budget from the Cyprus tax increase on dividends will amount to 130 - 150 bln rubles ($1.77-2.04 bln) annually.
RBC: Russia's healthcare watchdog shrugs off COVID-19 vaccine naysayers
The claims of the Association of Clinical Research Organizations to the registration process for the Russian coronavirus vaccine are based on lack of knowledge of the research results, Deputy Head of Russia’s healthcare watchdog Valentina Kosenko told RBC, commenting on the organization’s recent call to postpone registration until the successful completion of the third phase of clinical trials.
"The vaccine cannot be registered until the studies are completed - no one will break the law," she said. According to Kosenko, the third, post-registration phase of vaccine research involves participation of several thousand volunteers, these will be extensive clinical studies that are allowed during a pandemic. "Russia is a country with a rich history of development and production of vaccines, and it is unlikely that the vaccine from the Gamaleya Center does not meet the established requirements," she said.
Kosenko also said that several hundred volunteers were vaccinated and there were no serious adverse reactions to the vaccine. She added that "the Association is drawing conclusions without knowing any results."
The association earlier appealed to the Russian Ministry of Health to postpone registration of the first Russian vaccine against coronavirus until the successful completion of the third phase of clinical trials. In particular, the members of the association noted that less than a hundred people took part in the trials, when during the third phase of testing, drugs are usually tested on several thousand people.
Izvestia: Abkhaz-Russian border will not be closed again due to COVID-19
The Abkhaz authorities are not considering closing the state border with Russia again, since the latest increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country is not connected with tourists, President of Abkhazia Aslan Bzhania said in an interview with Izvestia.
According to Bzhania, Abkhazia's economic losses due to the pandemic and related restrictions are significant. The situation was seriously aggravated by the disruption of the tourism industry, one of the key sectors of Abkhazia’s economy, which forms more than 35% of its GDP.
Thus, another closing of the state border is not being discussed, Bzhania told the newspaper. According to the politician, the number of coronavirus cases indeed increased in the first days after the border opening, however, this had nothing to do with Russian tourists and was caused by neglected sanitary standards in one of the regional hospitals. He said that medical specialists promptly prevented the spread of coronavirus and protected the citizens of Abkhazia and tourists.
As for any changes in relations with Georgia, Bzhania told the newspaper that Tbilisi refuses to sign a document on the key issue in relations between Abkhazia and Georgia - the agreement on the non-use of force. He noted that it is important for Georgia to recognize the realities that have developed over the past decades - Abkhazia is an independent state with all the ensuing legal, political, and other consequences.
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