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Press review: Will Lukashenko compromise and Berlin says pipeline gas safer than LNG

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, October 13

Izvestia: Legitimacy of EU decision to sanction Russia over Navalny case doubtful

Moscow has castigated the EU’s new sanctions over Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny’s alleged poisoning as unacceptable. Russian senators told Izvestia that Moscow must provide a tit-for-tat response to those sanctions. However, it remains unclear so far what the EU sanctions will entail, as there is no strict time frame for implementing the political decision taken at the EU foreign ministers’ conference on October 12. Meanwhile, Russia realizes that no definitive proof will be presented. Experts interviewed by Izvestia note that the decision to slap sanctions on Russia is purely a political one, lacking any legal basis.

On October 12, the top diplomats of 27 EU members adopted a political decision to impose sanctions against individuals or legal entities deemed responsible for the alleged poisoning of Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

"There is no criminal case, no documents confirming the poisoning or the involvement of Russian nationals in it," Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s (upper house of parliament) Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov told Izvestia. "The EU is implementing the policy of double standards: on some issues, it follows court decisions, and on others, it groundlessly accuses Russia of all deadly sins. We need to provide a tit-for-tat response to those sanctions, finding the Europeans’ pressure points," the senator elaborated.

So, if the investigation is not complete (and it is unclear whether it has begun at all) and there are no suspects, how legitimate is the EU’s political decision? "It is dictated purely by political factors. By introducing those sanctions, the EU is trying to reinforce its stance, showing its dissatisfaction with the situation," Program Director of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and the Valdai Discussion Club Ivan Timofeev told Izvestia. The commentator noted that the sanctions do not come as a result of court proceedings, where there are suspects, the defense and the prosecution. While the decision is made in accordance with a certain document, this is not a legal move, but a political one, which has no legal grounds, the expert concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko promises to share power as protests continue

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated that he is ready to share power, offering protesters a discussion on constitutional amendments and releasing several political prisoners who call for dialogue with the government, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports, noting however that even retirees who traditionally voted for Lukashenko do not seem ready for a compromise.

The issue of sharing presidential powers is part of the campaign aimed to introduce amendments to the Belarusian Constitution led by Lukashenko in an attempt to cling to power, the paper suggests. Nezavisimaya Gazeta previously wrote that the Belarusian government is actively collecting proposals among the public regarding a new Constitution. Lukashenko suggested holding a national council dedicated to the issue of constitutional amendments.

According to experts, the Belarusian president’s goal at this stage is to imitate dialogue with the public, shifting the focus to the new Constitution. "The government is dropping hints, signaling that it is ready for dialogue - a signal to the West, to Russia, and partly to the Belarusian public. However, officials do not plan to hold any real dialogue," political analyst Valery Karbalevich told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Some media outlets reported, citing government sources, that this is taking place under pressure from Moscow, which is calling for an end to the protests and a shift towards dialogue.

"Lukashenko’s experts did not understand that people that take to the streets have become key political players, and only Lukashenko can stop these manifestations on the condition that he leaves and a new election is held in the country," human rights activist Oleg Volchek stated.

It is likely that Belarusian protests may be radicalized. On Monday, the Belarusian Interior Ministry stated that the law enforcement is ready to use firearms, as "the protests that shifted to Minsk for the most part have become organized and extremely radical." Experts suggest that it is the government that is driving the demonstrations into a more radical course.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kyrgyz leader stays on at the helm of power

President Sooronbay Jeenbekov of Kyrgyzstan is retaining control over and getting back to governing the country, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. He recently met with former President Roza Otunbayeva where he hashed over the nationwide situation regarding the security forces and re-issued a decree on introducing a state of emergency in Bishkek. The state of affairs in Kyrgyzstan seems to be taking a turn in favor of the current president.

In order to avoid further destabilization, Jeenbekov prolonged the current state of emergency and curfew until October 19, banning all public gatherings and demonstrations. The initial decree was handed down on October 9. Jeenbekov ordered law enforcement to focus on guaranteeing security and stability in Kyrgyz society, as well as the citizens’ safety.

Sadyr Zhaparov, Kyrgyzstan’s new prime minister held the first government session on October 12, calling on all government bodies to continue their work as usual and noted that the system of public governance should be improved and that measures should be taken to renew economic activity and support businesses.

Apparently, Sooronbay Jeenbekov has managed to sit this coup attempt out, and it is unlikely that he will repeat the fate of the first two presidents of Kyrgyzstan that were forced to leave the country, Nezavisimaya Gazeta points out in its analysis of the current situation. The country demands that Jeenbekov take the situation under control, hoping that he does not abandon the country during a difficult time. Namely, ex-President Roza Otunbayeva said during the meeting with Jeenbekov that "he has no right to leave his position right now." "Not only for moral reasons, but first and foremost because Sooronbay Jeenbekov has made a promise to the nation. He vowed to serve the republic, the state, and the Kyrgyz nation. Right now, he needs to be an iron shield for all of us, for the country," she emphasized.


Izvestia: Germany says pipeline gas environmentally safer than LNG

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) produced through fracking is as harmful to the environment as coal, Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety concluded, noting that natural pipeline gas, such as the gas transported via the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, is less dangerous to the environment than LNG.

In its response to the Greens party, the German ministry informed that the government considers LNG produced through fracking to be as detrimental to the atmosphere as coal. The ministry pointed out that on the whole, LNG causes more harm to the environment than natural gas transported via pipelines, Izvestia reports. The ministry notes that natural gas can serve as a good substitute for coal and oil during the transition period, however, emissions during production and transportation should be taken into account.

Alexander Kamkin, leading researcher at the German Studies Center of the Institute of European Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Izvestia that the German government is concerned with environmental issues. Recently, Berlin announced that it would shift away from coal energy. "It turns out that Germany is shutting down its own energy clusters, but at the same time, the Germans are ready to invest 1 bln euro in terminals to receive American LNG. This is not a matter of economic or environmental benefit, this is a political matter," the expert stressed.

Meanwhile, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrei Kortunov told the paper that the position of the Greens seems to be inconsistent. "There are grounds to talk about double standards. They are criticizing Nord Stream 2. Even if the production of LNG does not seriously affect Germany’s ecology, it can surely harm neighboring Poland. At the same time, the Greens claim that their goals and principles are of a global nature. It seems illogical. You can’t just substitute one environmental issue for the other, even a more serious one, to serve your political preferences," he said.


RBC: Experts compare COVID-19 anxiety in Russia to its neighbors

The COVID-19 anxiety level was higher in Russia than in other CIS states and in Ukraine, experts at Brand Analytics revealed in a report in RBC’s possession. They analyzed the behavior of people in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Moldova in relation to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

For each country, experts calculated the so-called COVID-19 anxiety level, which equals the amount of mentions of the virus on social media per 10,000 people.

The peak of anxiety was reached in late March - early April in the majority of countries. The highest anxiety level was recorded on April 8 in Russia, when it reached just over 190, Brand Analytics reports. Moldova reported a peak anxiety level of 180, while Ukraine and Belarus reported lower figures of about 120. The lowest anxiety level was documented in Kazakhstan (just under 60 at the peak) and Armenia (just over 60). After peak figures were reached, the anxiety level began to go down in all countries. For example, in Russia, it reached less than 80 in late May, and by early August, it dropped lower than 20.

The situation during the fall, as a new rise in COVID-19 cases is reported, is different: the anxiety curve does not follow the rise in cases. Brand Analytics suggests that this is due to the fact that there is no complete uncertainty that was there in the spring anymore. The government and the population all have survival experience now, experts point out, and a vaccine will be ready in the foreseeable future. So far, the government is working to avoid a full quarantine to save the economy, while the people seem to be in an acceptance phase: the majority will get the virus anyway, but life goes on.



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