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Press review: Navalny may run efforts from Berlin and Lukashenko eyes army to quash unrest

Top stories from the Rusian press on Monday, August 24th

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russian opposition blogger may manage his projects from overseas

Specialists at Berlin's Charite hospital continue to examine Alexei Navalny. Meanwhile, his close circle has cancelled a YouTube stream that was meant to reveal the truth about the blogger’s "poisoning." When asked what would become of Navalny’s organizations and projects, the experts said that he would be able to manage them from overseas, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

An interesting thing to note is that the Charite hospital is famous for its politician patients, who in the past included Viktor Yushchenko, who was treated for "poisoning" when he was running for president of Ukraine and ex-Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshchenko, who had then been released from prison.

First Deputy President of the Center for Political Technologies Alexei Makarkin believes that even if Navalny remains overseas, this won’t spell the end to his political career. "For instance, Lenin managed the Social Democratic faction in the State Duma and published the Iskra newspaper from overseas. It is even easier over the Internet. Navalny can manage his organization and address his supporters. The main thing is that he needs to remain legally competent," the expert added.

At the same time, Makarkin admitted that any organization would become weaker if its leader was away, so Navalny’s supporters could lose some of their enthusiasm. If the opposition blogger remains legally competent, he will easily make presentations from overseas. But if not, there are no other undisputed leaders in his close circle who could encourage people to vote in large numbers," Makarkin pointed out.

President of the Russian Association of Political Consultants Alexei Kurtov, in turn, noted that "as long as nothing tragic happens to Navalny, the network will continue to operate as usual because a strategy has been determined and there are people who can work on an ongoing basis." The organization will pursue the same path until its leader returns, the expert said. Navalny’s network could only collapse if it became definitely clear that he would never resume his political activities.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Belarusian authorities may send in armed forces to crack down on protesters

The protests in Belarus have entered their third week. Meanwhile, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has pointed the spotlight on an external threat, primarily Poland’s plans to seize the Grodno region, and the nation’s defense chief warned that the armed forces would be sent in to quash the protests, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

Another round of demonstrations against the outcome of the presidential election and violence against civilians took place on Sunday. About 200,000 people gathered at Independence Square in the country’s capital of Minsk. Additionally, at least 20,000 took to the streets in the city of Grodno.

Lukashenko visited the western region of Grodno on Saturday. When addressing the public at a rally, he warned that the protesters had the weekend to make up their minds, otherwise he would employ "tough measures." Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin also sent a warning to the demonstrators, saying that "if peace and order were violated," they would "have to deal not with the police but with the army."

Experts in Minsk have reason to believe that the threat may become a reality. "I am afraid that somber and dramatic events lie ahead that could become part of the scheme that the defense minister had talked about," political scientist Valery Karbalevich told the newspaper. He described the developments in Belarus as a revolution. "The dividing line is quite intriguing as it lies between the authorities and society. We don’t see any serious public forces supporting the regime. The rallies allegedly in support of Alexander Lukashenko are organized by the authorities," the expert said.

Although Lukashenko seeks to encourage his supporters to take part in rallies, the expert sees no reason to speak about significant public support. In his view, this is why the standoff won’t spill over into a conflict between various groups of the population.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump threatens to decouple US economy from China

The United States doesn’t have to do business with China and if Beijing doesn’t behave properly, and Washington could decouple the American economy from China, US President Donald Trump cautioned. This statement came at a time when Washington and Beijing were set to hold talks on the implementation of their previously made trade deal. Experts say that Trump is bluffing because if the US stopped purchasing agricultural goods from China, it would deal a blow to Trump supporters, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Meanwhile, Beijing seeks to take advantage of the upcoming talks to prevent or at least suspend a full-scale confrontation between the world’s two largest economies.

Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations Alexander Lomanov pointed out that "China declared a new economic policy back in May. "Xi Jinping said that the domestic economic circulation was the fundamental thing and that international economic circulation was the additional one," he explained. According to the expert, "the paradox is that US threats have made Beijing adopt a policy aimed at protecting China’s independence from US pressure." "Nevertheless, the trade envoys could still hold a meeting because as the election draws near, Trump will need to showcase some economic achievements. In fact, China has been buying a lot of US agricultural goods and money has been flowing into America’s agricultural regions. What’s more, farmers are Trump voters. Contracts for autumn supplies are being made at the moment and though Trump is making tough statements, he is very much interested in those contracts being implemented," the analyst emphasized.

In the long run, China spends huge amounts of money to ensure its security in case it loses access to US technologies that it can’t do without. The Americans expect that the decoupling threats will make the Chinese behave as Washington wants them to. But in real life, China is doubling down on its efforts to create a national scientific and industrial foundation based on technologies similar to American ones, Lomanov concluded.


Vedomosti: Russian Finance Ministry outlines rules for providing loans to foreign countries

Social and economic crises, as well as armed conflicts and high credit risks, may give Russia a reason to deny loans to other countries, Vedomosti writes, citing a draft government decree prepared by the Finance Ministry.

The document lists several categories of countries that won’t be considered for loans. These include countries involved in armed conflicts and social and political crises, nations facing international financial sanctions supported by Russia, countries involved in funding terrorist and other organizations outlawed in Russia and across the world. Other categories include states defaulting on their foreign debt, countries whose long-term credit ratings are below certain levels according to Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service, as well as countries that stand at or below level six in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) country risk classification.

The document clarifies conditions where Russia is ready to work amid a global recession, Academic Supervisor at Higher School of Economics’ Faculty of World Economy Leonid Grigoryev pointed out.

However, the granting of loans often times depends not on the actual economic situation in a country but on the country’s place in Russia’s foreign policy, Associate Professor with the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Kira Sazonova emphasized. "This is why countries such as Syria and Venezuela are unlikely to lose Russia’s support," she said. "On the whole, the Finance Ministry’s list includes many Asian and African countries but the final decisions will also have a clear political aspect," the expert stressed.


Kommersant: India ready to raise annual coal imports from Russia to 40 mln tonnes

India plans to annually purchase up to 40 mln tonnes of coking coal, hard coal and pulverized coal from Russia, worth about $4.5 bln at current prices, Kommersant writes, citing sources that participated in a meeting of the Russian State Council’s working groups on August 14.

At present, India accounts for less than one mln tonnes of Russia's 46-mln-tonne coal exports. There are plans to expand a route passing through Russia's southern ports in order to increase coal exports.

An industry source explained that India intended to boost its steel production but it lacked the required coal. "Indian companies are actively involved in negotiations on Russian coal supplies and are also looking for projects to join," the source told the paper.

"India is a growing market and one of the most promising as far as met coal consumption goes. We have been steadily increasing supplies to India for quite a while and we plan to continue doing it," a spokesperson for the Sibantratsit coal company pointed out.

According to Deputy Director of Investment and Capital Markets at KPMG Russia and CIS Dmitry Smolin, Russia exported 721,000 tones of hard and coking coal to India last year. The projected 40 mln tonnes are a huge amount, comparable to Russia’s overall export of hard and coking coal in 2019 (46 mln tonnes). "Even if India buys less than the projected 40 mln tonnes, the additional export volume may give a boost to coal production by Russian companies, particularly when coal demand is declining in Europe," the expert emphasized.

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