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Press review: Russia doubts Turkish peace plan and foils Trump’s ploy for election points

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, October 15


Izvestia: Russia skeptical about Turkish proposal for four-way talks on Nagorno-Karabakh

On the fifth day after the recent ceasefire in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh came into force de jure it was violated de facto. Moreover, on October 14, both Baku and Yerevan admitted that they continued combat actions. Meanwhile, Turkey offered to join the talks between Moscow, Yerevan and Baku. However, Russia is skeptical about this proposal, Izvestia writes.

Despite the fact that Moscow maintains a balanced stance on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Turkish plan stipulates that Russia should side with Armenia at the talks, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Relations with Compatriots and Eurasian Integration Leonid Kalashnikov explained.

"Azerbaijan and Armenia have mutual trust in Russia as a balanced partner while Yerevan has no such confidence in Ankara. It’s wrong to try to create a four-way format in which Russia will side with Armenia and Ankara with Baku. This is an artificial attempt to ruin our ties with both countries and this format definitely won’t be effective in Karabakh," the lawmaker emphasized. Armenia also rejects the suggestion for four-way talks, Vice President of the Armenian Parliament Alen Simonyan said.

"It is unacceptable for us to alter the existing framework of the Minsk Group. Turkey is a member of this format, and Russia, the US and France are its co-chairs. We don’t want to change this platform of negotiations," the politician noted.

However, Baku believes that the Turkish proposal could solve more problems on the ground than the current large structures. Azerbaijani MP Sabir Gadzhiyev told Izvestia that the four-way talks proposed by Turkey did not mean rejecting the Minsk Group’s format.

Experts told Izvestia that the key issue is not about who will be engaged in talks. The major obstacle is the territorial dispute and until Baku and Yerevan come to terms, there is no difference in the way the meetings are arranged.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow not going to save Trump with ‘nuclear deal’

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the prospects of extending Russian-US New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). He responded to Washington’s claims that the agreement could be extended in the near future. Some sources in the White House even claimed that the deal with Russia would be signed by the November 3 presidential election. Meanwhile, Moscow is not satisfied with the terms put forward by the United States. Russia believes that the treaty, which expires in February 2021, should just be extended. Moscow views the attempts to assure the public that a breakthrough was reached at the talks with Russia as Donald Trump’s PR stunt, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Trump’s stance on New START changed after the recent Russian-US consultations in Vienna, according to the newspaper. Washington stopped insisting that the treaty should be extended only after China joins it. Now the US admits that Beijing could join New START after its extension. "The Trump administration finally got it that New START is not that bad as it said earlier. And now, given that the Americans have ruined so much in the global security architecture, the US president is trying to show his voters in the run-up to the election that he has reached an agreement in the security field. But in order to save face, the US said it agreed to extend New START in exchange for a package of terms and reservations. And the Americans are changing their terms all the time," said Alexei Arbatov, who heads the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO).

According to him, there are more chances to prolong the nuclear arms reduction treaty than two weeks ago. However, the idea of freezing nuclear arsenals mentioned by Marshall Billingslea, US special envoy for arms control, is unacceptable for Russia. Moscow has decided to adopt a wait-and-see position. "Moscow realized that Trump is interested in the treaty. He is interested more than Russia is. So, Moscow decided not to accept the constantly changing US terms," Arbatov specified.


Media: Kyrgyzstan set to cooperate with Russia as power struggle deepens

A peaceful settlement to Kyrgyzstan’s conflict depends on whether new Kyrgyz Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov is able to compromise with President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, politicians and experts questioned by Izvestia said. Currently, there is a standoff between the Kyrgyz leader and the head of government. Japarov insists on his opponent’s resignation, while the latter rejects the demand. However, the crisis is held back from further exploding because of a common foe - both politicians don’t want former President Almazbek Atambayev and his supporters to come to power. According to experts, there is a huge likelihood for demonstrations in this situation because many are dissatisfied with how the authorities are tackling the accrued problems. Despite a possible change of power, the course towards cooperation with Moscow will remain unchanged, Izvestia writes.

According to Konstantin Zatulin, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Affairs, Japarov’s appointment signals that the country’s leadership is ready to form an alliance with any politician in order to prevent Atambayev’s return to power. The new prime minister was backed by various groups, many of which have a criminal background. Japarov is an interim prime minister and his appointment was the result of diplomatic concessions, which were probably facilitated by deputy head of the Russian president’s staff Dmitry Kozak, who recently visited Bishkek, said political scientist Dmitry Fetisov. The expert noted that the Kyrgyz president would definitely try to replace him with his ally when the opportunity occurs.

"No one is interested in continuing the crisis. On the contrary, external actors seek to iron it out. Moreover, there was no external influence on the current uprising," Central Asian expert Alexander Knyazev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to him, Moscow will be responsible for settling the social and economic crisis in Kyrgyzstan. "Russia undertook a commitment to solving this ungrateful task and it should do this and it needs to cooperate with someone," Knyazev said. A similar scheme was used during the recognition of the legitimacy of Kurmanbek Bakiyev in 2005 and the interim government in 2010.


Izvestia: Russia returns to UN Human Rights Council

After a four-year hiatus, Russia was re-elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council along with 14 more countries. Russia received 158 votes of approval at the 193-member UN General Assembly. Moscow left the Council in November 2016 after more than 80 human rights organizations had called on the UN member-states to vote against Russia’s participation over its military support for Syrian President Bashar Assad. This year, the election of Russia as well as China and Cuba drew fierce criticism from the US, which left the Council in 2018, Izvestia writes.

"Criticism from them sounds rather ambiguously. Since they left the Council why should it bother them who is there and why Russia is there," said Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrei Kortunov.

The United States consistently withdraws from those events and organizations, where it fails to dominate, according to Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University-Higher School of Economics Dmitry Suslov. "The UN Human Rights Council is a vivid example. The US has been criticizing this structure for a long time because it is not controlled by the West, namely Washington, and does not promote the US agenda on these issues."

There are no universal criteria for electing countries to the UN Human Rights Council, Suslov noted. "Russia’s election shows that the West has not monopolized human rights issues and the international community has a broader and neutral approach to this, while the international community’s relation with Moscow is basically positive and in this case the UN General Assembly expresses this opinion," the expert said. According to Suslov, Russia has a serious agenda on human rights issues.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russians’ debt hits record high due to subsidized mortgages

Russians’ debt on mortgage loans hit an all-time record of 20 trln rubles ($257.4 bln). The subsidized mortgage program launched by the government and the Central Bank in April played a vital role here. Officials will extend mortgage incentives for another year although nearly half of Russians cannot afford mortgages even with a zero interest rate, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Household debt in August was 1.9% higher than in July and 12.7% year-on-year. In the past 12 months, Russians’ debt rose by 2.3 trln rubles ($30 bln). The recent growth rate is the highest in the past 1.5 months, the MMI Telegram channel wrote citing the Central Bank.

"The Central Bank’s milder monetary and loan policy, the decreasing interest rates on borrowing and especially on mortgages contribute to the growing debt of the public. Borrowing is on the rise as peoples’ revenues decline but this so-called bubble is definitely smoothed out by declining payments of interest rates," analysts said.

The share of households in debt to banks reached 72%, a record high in all of entire modern history, the NAFI think-tank reported this August.

"Fostering mortgages by decreasing mortgage rates while absolute revenues decline leads to growing debt and in theory this should contribute to inflating the mortgage bubble," Director of Higher School of Economics’ Banking Institute Vasily Solodkov pointed out. "Naturally, this situation does not contribute to economic growth."


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