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Press review: EU targets Kremlin officials in new blacklist and Kyrgyz president resigns

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, October 16

Kommersant: EU expands Navalny-related sanctions blacklist

The Alexey Navalny poisoning scandal has led to the first real consequences for Russian officials. The European Union has released an updated sanctions list, which includes six more Russians and one organization. First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergei Kiriyenko, and Director of the FSB Alexander Bortnikov top the blacklist. In addition, the four others on the list are Chief of the Presidential Domestic Policy Directorate in the Presidential Executive Office Andrei Yarin, Deputy Defense Ministers Pavel Popov and Alexei Krivoruchko and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Siberian Federal District Sergei Menyailo.Brussels sees all of them as accomplices in the alleged attempt on Navalny’s life with the use of chemical weapons. According to a Kommersant source in the Russian presidential administration, being included in the West's sanctions lists in the Kremlin is still perceived as a reward.

The decision to impose new sanctions against a number of Russians was taken by the foreign ministers of the EU member states, who on Monday discussed the Navalny poisoning episode. Brussels relied on data from laboratory studies carried out in Germany, France, and Sweden, and are confident that a poisonous substance from the Novichok group was used in the assassination attempt. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Thursday that the Russians on the sanctions list can be considered responsible for what happened to the opposition blogger.

In theory, getting sanctioned can be challenged. "The standard is - if a person wants to challenge being on the sanctions list, then the EU Council will have to prove to a court that, first, the person included in the list understood from the reasoning part of the document why their rights were restricted and second, that there were grounds for adding the person to the list," Special Counsel on Sanctions Law at Pen & Paper Sergey Glandin told Kommersant, adding that judging by practice, inclusion in the sanctions list is quite often canceled.

Meanwhile, a Kommersant source close to the Presidential Administration doubts that these officials will try to challenge the sanctions against them. Another source of the newspaper in the Presidential Administration claims that such restrictions are still perceived in the Kremlin as a reward. Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Siberian Federal District Sergei Menyailo told Kommersant that this is about the third or fourth sanctions list where he is included. "It will not affect my work or everyday life in any way," he said, adding that he never had real estate or other assets abroad.


Kommersant: Kyrgyz president steps down after unrest

A full-scale power reset is underway in Kyrgyzstan. In order to bring an end to the crisis, sparked by disputed parliamentary elections earlier this month, President Sooronbay Jeenbekov announced his resignation. The duties of the head of state were taken over by the country's new Prime Minister Sadyr Zhaparov. However, according to Kommersant, no one in the Central Asian republic can offer guarantees that Kyrgyzstan will soon exit the crisis.

"The president’s resignation does not relieve the political tension," co-chairman of Pikir regional club of experts Igor Shestakov told Kommersant. "In addition, not everyone in Kyrgyzstan wanted Jeenbekov to leave office. This was the main demand from the new prime minister’s supporters. Zhaparov will have to enter into dialogue with other political groups, otherwise a consensus will not be reached," the expert emphasized. According to the Kyrgyz political expert Adil Turdukulov, the prime minister will try to legitimize the new structure of governing the country and will try to bring his Mekenchil political party to power.

In addition to the vague prospects of reorganizing the political system, there is another problem, namely the economic one. "Due to the coronavirus pandemic, thousands of businesses have gone bankrupt, and the population has descended into social depression," Turdukulov told Kommersant. "It is unclear how the new government will solve these problems," he noted.


Izvestia: Russia, US hold differing views on fate of New START

Moscow and Washington continue to have different assessments of the future of the New START treaty, which expires next year. Thus, Russia is sure that the chances of extending the document are "close to zero" because of the position of the United States. At the same time, the US claims that they have reached an agreement in principle and will be able to approve all the formalities before the presidential elections, which will be held in the United States in three weeks. According to Izvestia, as far as the arms control deal goes, the Americans have offered no reason for optimism lately.

"The extension of the agreement is hindered by the current American administration’s efforts to solve its internal problems by using the [treaty]. They practically want to receive a certain document for the elections, which can be trotted out as a victory. But the conditions they offer are unacceptable," said Ilya Kramnik, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council.

Konstantin Bogdanov, senior researcher at IMEMO, told the newspaper that Russia was in no hurry to sign the deal under such conditions. "The Americans are increasingly demonstrating their dependence on the upcoming elections. They need at least some ‘paper’ before the national ballot and they are noticeably anxious. That is why right now, before the elections, there will be no agreements on American terms," the expert assured.

Head of the Center for North American Studies at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) Viktoria Zhuravleva noted the importance of New START for Russia. "We are interested in this agreement for many reasons. First, this is the fundamental basis of our strategic relationship with the United States, if it does not exist, the relationship will actually come to naught," she told Izvestia. "Second, Russia believes that this treaty is strategically important from the point of view of global security in general. Today, there is no alternative to it," the expert stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Libya may get new governing bodies thanks to Russia, Turkey

The parties to the conflict in Libya are moving towards the creation of new executive bodies, which will formally mark reconciliation. Emissaries of the High Council of State (HCS) in the west of the country and House of Representatives loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar agreed to continue negotiations on changes to the constitution. However, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that the ongoing movement towards peace is very deceptive. Everything depends on the ground forces. For the largest guarantors of the settlement - Russia and Turkey - the situation is nothing more than an interesting experiment, the newspaper writes.

Experts believe that the intentions of the political players should be separated from the position of the military. "It all comes down to Haftar," expert at the Russian International Affairs Council Kirill Semyonov told the newspaper. "As long as Haftar and his militants remain on the playing field, some kind of peaceful solution cannot be implemented. Haftar's ambitions have not disappeared anywhere, and he will try to stake out a special status for himself that does not fit into any constitutional projects," he added.

The main task next month will be to create a completely new government of national unity with the support of the UN, which will be approved, at least on paper, by all key parties to the conflict, researcher at the Netherlands-based Institute of International Relations Clingendael Jalel Harchaoui told the newspaper. According to him, neither Turkey nor Russia is deeply and firmly committed to the success of this ongoing UN effort. However, both Ankara and Moscow - along with Cairo - are ready to give it a chance as a kind of experiment and see if the UN will be able to build a route to avoid further hostilities, he noted.

According to the expert, the Russian and Turkish sides are interested in reviving the Libyan economy, if this does not jeopardize their military presence and spheres of influence.


Izvestia: Russia may need around $150 bln to support economy and population after pandemic

The main battle for the budgetary framework for 2021 and the next three years unfolded between the Russian Accounts Chamber and the Ministry of Economic Development amid the prolonged pandemic. Meanwhile, according to the forecast from the National Rating Agency, a total amount of support amid the pandemic would have to reach around 10-12 trillion rubles ($128 bln -153 bln). The Bank of Russia told Izvestia that the risks of a pandemic were also taken into account in alternative scenarios, which will be revised this November.

According to the National Rating Agency’s stress forecast, the growth rate of household final consumption expenditures in 2021 will slow down by 1.1-2.1%. The US dollar may rise against the ruble to more than 90 rubles per dollar in the first half of 2021. According to the agency, the volume of assistance to the economy in case of a prolonged quarantine may amount to about 10-12 trillion rubles ($128 bln-153 bln) in 2020-2021.

Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that the most important question is whether another lockdown is introduced or whether the government uses targeted actions. A new tough scenario of isolation would be painful for the economy.

A more protracted period of the pandemic may affect both the pace of demand recovery and the potential of the global and Russian economies, press service of the Bank of Russia told Izvestia. The regulator will publish an updated baseline scenario of the macroeconomic forecast following a meeting of the Board of Directors on the key rate in October.

At the moment, Russia has a sufficient margin of safety to nullify the negative consequences of the pandemic. The volume of the National Wealth Fund as of early September is over 13 trillion rubles ($166 bln), which would make it possible not to significantly revise the budget and more or less comfortably survive the restrictive measures, the newspaper writes.



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