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Press review: Karabkah prisoner swap likely and Moscow’s mediation calms Kyrgyz unrest

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, October 12th

Izvestia: Prisoner swap in Nagorno-Karabakh may begin on October 12

Both sides of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict reported ceasefire violations on the second day of the truce, with Azerbaijan informing that the city of Ganja was bombed, according to Izvestia. Meanwhile, Nagorno-Karabakh informed of a night attack on Stepanakert. Nevertheless, both Baku and Yerevan stress their commitment to the agreement signed in Moscow. A prisoner swap is set to begin this week, Presidential Adviser of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic David Babayan told Izvestia. It would have been impossible to reach a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh without Russia’s mediation, the Armenian parliament notes. Experts quizzed by Izvestia point out that the ceasefire agreement is just the first step to resolving the conflict, albeit an important one. Conflict resolution will depend on the upcoming talks between Baku and Yerevan.

"We hope that the swap will start this week. There are some technical considerations, however, there are no political obstacles from our side. The swap should be held with the participation of the international Red Cross, as is always done," Babayan stressed.

The truce reached earlier is not the final solution of the issue, this is just the first step that will help the sides reach a compromise without bloodshed, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for CIS Affairs, Eurasian integration and Relations with Compatriots Viktor Vodolatsky told the newspaper. "A great advantage of the ceasefire is that there will be no casualties from either side. The ongoing shelling and provocations only show that the local elites both in Armenia and Azerbaijan do not fully understand the meaning of the decisions reached," the lawmaker pointed out.

It is hard to believe that Armenia will fully agree with the initiatives proposed by Azerbaijan, namely the with the return of seven districts around Nagorno-Karabakh that, according to Baku, were seized during the 1992-1994 conflict, political analyst Denis Denisov told the paper.

"However, there is some hope that an outside factor can play an important role. Some partners of Armenia and Azerbaijan can accomplish through its own efforts that the parties sign a real political agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh. First and foremost, these are Russia and Turkey," Denisov said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko cracks down on weekend demonstrations

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko aims to stop the nationwide protests or at least make them less noticeable to the rest of the world by any means necessary. On Saturday, he showed weakness and readiness for dialogue during a meeting with the opposition, however, on Sunday, he cracked down on protesters on the streets of Minsk once again, with violent detentions of demonstrators reported, Nezavisimaya Gazeta said.

It is hard to estimate the exact number of people who took to the streets in Minsk on Sunday, with at least three mass gathering of people moving around the city, each consisting of tens of thousands of people. Observers do not rule out that the overall number of protesters may have reached 100,000.

Observers point out that Belarusian law enforcement behaved the way they did during the first days of protests, cracking down on the demonstrators violently, which is especially strange after Lukashenko’s attempt to establish dialogue with the protesters on Saturday. On October 10, Lukashenko unexpectedly met with 12 political prisoners at a detention facility, where they held talks for over four hours.

Political analyst Valery Karbalevich told the paper that there is a link between Sunday’s violence and Saturday’s attempt at dialogue. "The very fact that Lukashenko established dialogue with representatives of the opposition has created the impression of his weakness, his loss, and today [on Sunday], he was forced to demonstrate his power to his supporters, in this way compensating for the impression of any weakness, the impression that he has given up and is ready to negotiate. Firstly, looking weak contradicts his image of a strong politician, and secondly, it may send a bad signal," the expert pointed out.

The commentator also does not rule out that Lukashenko expected his meeting with the opposition to soothe the protests and to keep people off the streets. However, this did not happen, and on Sunday, the rallies resumed. As a result of the clashes with the law enforcement, about 200 people were detained.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow manages to avoid a ‘color revolution’ in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, who received a guarantee of immunity, promised to resign within three days after the country enters the legal framework, declaring a state of emergency in the country’s capital of Bishkek. Some data suggests that he is under the protection of Russian law enforcement.

Bishkek is confident that Russia’s participation has made it possible to avoid another "color revolution" and a split between the north and the south, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. The creation of an interim government headed by Sadyr Zhaparov, a politician who was released from jail before the end of his sentence, has also become possible with Moscow’s mediation. Meanwhile, ex-President Almazbek Atambayev went back to prison once again.

During a session of parliament, Zhaparov’s program outlining the country’s exit from the current crisis was approved. The new program does not differ much from Jeenbekov’s policy, with local MPs pointing out that the interim PM is Jeenbekov’s protege, the paper points out.

Legal experts are concerned over Jeenbekov’s potential resignation. In this case, Zhaparov will become acting head of state, and a presidential election must be held within three months after the president’s resignation. However, experts note that holding a new election would not be appropriate due to the lack of budget funding and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Political analyst Mars Sariyev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Zhaparov is purely an interim PM, and he has no right to vie for the presidency or to even run for a seat in parliament. "If he managed to return the country to its legal framework, he will be lauded as the winner, and he will go down in the history of Kyrgyzstan as the politician who managed to avoid a rift and a civil war in the country. Moreover, he won’t have to return to prison and serve the rest of his sentence, which is eight years," Sariyev pointed out.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Oil and gas to stay relevant for at least 30 years, Russian energy chief says

Oil and gas will continue to occupy a large share in the global energy balance in 2050, despite the rise in demand for renewable energy sources, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said in an interview held within the framework of the World Energy Week, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports.

"Perhaps, it will be different in Europe," Novak said. "However, there is Africa, the Asia-Pacific Region, and Latin America. Here, the energy balance will be in favor of hydrocarbons," Novak insisted. "We need to understand today what the conditions will be like to ensure the corresponding energy sources to supply energy to the entire world," the energy chief said.

Earlier, OPEC experts made a similar prediction in the World Oil Outlook report. For some countries, the age of oil is coming to an end. According to the experts, the recovery of oil demand will reach the pre-crisis level after the pandemic in 2020, and later, demand will grow in developing countries.

The situation with gas is slightly different. Due to the development of LNG technologies, its consumption will rise across the world. Novak pointed out that gas has huge prospects as an ecological source of energy and as a source of hydrogen, whose share in the world energy balance is set to reach 7-25%.

"Hydrogen is a very current and popular topic right now: its production, storage and use as an energy source or as an energy accumulator. Russia is paying a lot of attention to this topic. Active research and development of corresponding technologies are underway in this area," the Russian minister stressed.

He also noted that Russia continues to support the move to clean technologies. However, sun and wind sources cannot supply energy to the entire world, with about 2 billion people living in countries that lack modern energy sources, Novak stated.


Vedomosti: Russia reaches top-10 in bank digitalization

Russian banks are above the global average regarding digitalization in five stages out of six, a new international report on the digitalization of commercial banks compiled by the Deloitte international network, notes. Using the data provided by customers of 318 banks in 39 countries across the world, Deloitte experts and analysts have found out that Russian banks are among the global leaders in digitalization.

At the information search stage, the average global digitalization index reaches 45%, while in Russia, it is reported at 51%. Russia is 7 percentage points ahead of the global average when it comes to opening and account and communicating with clients, and 8 percentage points ahead on the use of bank services.

"Russian banks have improved their performance when it comes to opening an account, adapting new clients, managing payments, carrying out transfers, using bank cards, and also in the area of cross selling," Yekaterina Trofimova, who heads the rating advisory and corporate governance practice in Russia and the CIS at Deloitte, told Vedomosti. She noted a trend in the popularity of mobile banking apps in Russia compared to online banking. However, the expert pointed out that the overall amount of digitalization in the Russian banking system remains uneven, and Russia’s position in the top-10 ranking is due to the efforts of major players.

Dmitry Ferapontov, a senior lecturer at the Banking Department of the Moscow University for Industry and Finance "Synergy" pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic had served as an incentive for clients to look for alternative ways of interacting with their banks, as the majority of offices were shuttered or working on a restricted schedule. However, Ferapontov listed the development of technologies and the possibility of reducing funding spent on hiring people to work at bank branches as the main driving forces behind Russia’s digitalization.

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