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Press review: Moscow mediates India-China dispute and Serbia eyes pro-West policy track

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, September 11
India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi Russian Foreign Ministry Press Office/TASS
India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi
© Russian Foreign Ministry Press Office/TASS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow nudges China, India towards reconciliation

A meeting between the chief diplomats of India and China took place in Moscow. As expected, there was no breakthrough in the dialogue on the border conflict, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. However, the conversation, which took place within the framework of the ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), showed that the parties are striving for de-escalation and do not need to aggravate the dispute. It has been difficult for Russia to boast of any recent foreign policy successes, but the Indian-Chinese negotiations can be considered a big gain, the newspaper writes.

"We want to start a dialogue and resolve the conflict," the Indian Embassy in Moscow told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. New Delhi, however, firmly adheres to the principle that it does not need the services of third countries to resolve bilateral issues. In this regard, Moscow adheres to an extremely cautious course. It mediates only if both sides ask, according to the newspaper. A meeting between Foreign Ministers Subrahmanyam Jaishankar of India, Wang Yi of China, and Sergey Lavrov of Russia is also planned. But, the problem of Indian-Chinese relations will not be discussed in a trilateral format.

Vinay Shukla from India Strategic magazine told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, he believes that a breakthrough was not achieved at the talks. Nobody wants war, but no one wants to give up their territory either, he added. Nevertheless, the commentator does not rule out that the top diplomats can offer recommendations to the political leadership. As a result, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will be able to hold talks via video conference.

Meanwhile, the Chinese press predicts that since neither side is willing to make concessions, the confrontation could drag on into the winter.


Kommersant: Serbia taking pro-Western turn in foreign policy

President Vladimir Putin of Russia and his Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vucic held a telephone conversation after Serbia refused to participate in joint exercises with the Russian and Belarusian militaries, which began on September 10 in Belarus. This happened against the background of a campaign unfolding in the Serbian media and expert circles pushing for Serbia's reorientation towards the West, primarily the United States, Kommersant writes. Sources in Belgrade told the newspaper they believe that the seriousness of Serbia’s political U-turn will soon be judged by the distribution of key posts in the new government.

At the end of last week, President Vucic of Serbia signed an agreement in Washington on the "economic normalization" of relations with Kosovo. The implementation of the agreement, according to Balkan experts interviewed by Kommersant, could have serious geopolitical consequences, such as diminishing Serbia's dependence on Russian gas and ensuring that Belgrade and Pristina are linked to the Washington-led security system. Belgrade, according to Kommersant’s sources in Russian state structures, did not inform Moscow about a number of points included in the document.

"Although Aleksandar Vucic is maintaining a balance in foreign policy, today it would be realistic to talk about a certain turn by Belgrade towards the West, which does not exclude some curtseys to the East," an informed source in Belgrade, close to the authorities told Kommersant. "In any case, relations between Serbia and Russia are no longer what they were two or three years ago, and [his] Western partners remind the Serbian president that the time has come for him to fulfill his promises, primarily on Kosovo," the source added.

"The turn in Serbian politics could soon be judged by the distribution of key positions in the new Serbian government, primarily in the Ministry of Energy. If pro-Russian politicians don't get them, the shift will be serious," the source concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko vows to keep grip on power as West looks helplessly on

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claims that he will retain power at any cost, even possibly by sidestepping legal obligations, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Opponents of the Belarusian leader believe that a legal "default" has already come - Belarus has over 50 political prisoners and thousands of detainees. Experts told the newspaper that the situation can be hardly influenced by the West and only Russia could have some leverage over Belarus.

Lukashenko has recently said that he is not holding on to power just for himself, but in order to save the country. He also promised to give it back sooner or later, but not under pressure from the streets, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The President of Belarus said that he would not demand that the prosecutor's office violate the current legislation, but at the same time he believes that there are situations when this is permissible.

Belarusian commentators believe that the world community, by its reaction to the events in Belarus, is undergoing a test for its ability to protect the rule of law and it is not making any progress so far. "The prospects for some international structures to influence the situation in Belarus are very limited," political scientist Valery Karbalevich told the newspaper. According to the expert, the OSCE is a "structure with little power." "Theoretically, the UN Security Council could interfere, which can make binding decisions, but Russia and China are among its permanent members, which have the right to veto," the expert said.

In his opinion, the West can exert only "moral pressure" on the authorities of Belarus, but it won’t sway Lukashenko. "Moreover, he uses this to substantiate his concept of 'Western puppeteers'," Karbalevich told the newspaper, adding that only Russia can have leverage over Belarus.


Izvestia: Nornickel to shell out record $2 bln for environmental disaster

Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources has filed a lawsuit against Nornickel's subsidiary for almost 148 bln rubles ($2 bln) for damages from the May oil spill, which led to an environmental disaster in the Arctic. The agency told Izvestia that the company has not provided its own calculations, so the issue will be decided in court. Nornickel still disagrees with the assessment and is asking to wait for the results of the examinations. Experts and lawmakers interviewed by Izvestia believe that Nornickel will have to pay this sum.

According to First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Agriculture and Food Policy and Environmental Management, Sergey Lisovsky, the fine announced by the Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources is fair, and Nornickel should accept it and cooperate with government agencies. "Often, enterprises, using the position of a large taxpayer in a region, put pressure on the regional authorities in order to reduce the amount of compensation, this will not work now," the senator concluded.

 According to Boris Kokotov, a member of the expert council of the State Duma Committee on Natural Resources and Environmental Management, on the one hand, an amicable agreement between the parties is still possible, and on the other hand, the trial may give Nornickel some room for maneuver. "The topic has become very resonant and even political. It is possible that the company did not submit its own damage calculations for that long, so that the public's attention to the accident would diminish and the amount could be significantly less than the one calculated by the Federal Service," the legislator noted.


Kommersant: Russian operators plan to buy 5G equipment in China

While the Russian government is discussing options for building a new generation of 5G communication networks using domestic equipment, operators continue to buy it abroad, Kommersant writes. MTS will spend 7.5 bln rubles ($99.87 mln) on modernizing the network in Moscow using equipment made by China’s Huawei. VimpelCom and Tele2 have already renewed the network in the capital also using equipment from Huawei and Sweden’s Ericsson. However, the issue of equipment is not the only problem Russia’s 5G network could be facing.

There are still no domestic hardware and software systems for 5G in the required volumes on the market, and the network must be updated in advance, otherwise a technological lag will be inevitable, CEO of TelecomDaily Denis Kuskov told Kommersant. According to his forecast, Russian equipment developments will not be ready for commercial implementation before 2024, but by that time the operators will have already updated the equipment and will not change it to domestic ones.

Meanwhile, Russia’s telecom operators cannot yet launch full-fledged commercial 5G networks in Russia due to the lack of frequencies. The most suitable 3.4-3.8 GHz range is occupied by military communications and Roscosmos. The situation may be complicated by the fact that the authorities insist on the use of domestic equipment and software in the development of 5G.



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