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Press review: France struggles with surge of terror attacks and US using Cold War tricks

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, October 30

Izvestia: France raises terrorist threat to highest level

On October 29, France declared the highest terrorist threat level after an Islamist radical killed three people (beheading two of them) and injured several others in Nice. Several plotters preparing more attacks were arrested in other French cities. These events in the south of France came in the wake of the gruesome murder of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was decapitated after exhibiting Charlie Hebdo’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a class dedicated to freedom of expression.

After the killing, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a clampdown against followers of radical ideologies and related organizations and promised that France would not renounce publishing the caricatures.

Although the majority of the Muslim population reacted normally to Macron’s statements, some have openly denounced it. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan unleashed scathing remarks against Macron, saying that the French leader "needs mental health treatment."

Paul Smith, Associate Professor in French History and Politics at the University of Nottingham, told Izvestia that right-wing voters are not the only ones supporting freedom of speech in France. He noted that France cannot shut down papers or censor media content. At the same time, there are agents acting in the country who incite certain people and groups to carry out terrorist attacks and trigger public chaos, Smith pointed out.

For his part, Turkish political analyst Kerim Has told the newspaper that a part of the Islamic world can see the incident as a call for action. He added that Ankara’s statements cause further polarization of society. No statement by any political leader should provoke terrorist attacks, they must be strongly condemned, he stressed.


Kommersant: Washington wants to use Cold War tricks when it comes to arms control with Russia

The US considers the updated offer on arms control made by Russian President Vladimir Putin on declaring a moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-and shorter-range missiles in Europe "doomed to failure," betting instead on a repeat of NATO’s so-called "double-track" decision. This 1979 initiative involved the deployment in Western Europe of a large number of American medium-range nuclear missiles while conducting parallel negotiations with the USSR on the elimination of this class of weapon. Russian officials warn that this approach won’t work, and will instead spark an arms race, Kommersant reports.

On Monday, Vladimir Putin offered NATO a deal. Russia is ready not to deploy intermediate-and shorter-range missiles on the country’s European territory, along with weapons whose parameters and classification have remained a controversy between the two parties (namely, Russia’s 9M729 missiles), if NATO is ready to do the same. Andrey Baklitsky, an analyst at the MGIMO Institute for International Studies, told Kommersant that by making such an offer, Russian officials have shown "great and unexpected flexibility, as they basically agreed to restrict their sovereign right to place weapons on a significant part of its territory." However, NATO did not express any interest in this initiative.

According to Director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) Corporation and a Fellow at the Kennan Institute Michael Kofman, Moscow’s offer is unacceptable to NATO because it presumes a full ban on the deployment of US intermediate-range missiles in Europe, while Russia will still have a similar mobile system that can be deployed to the West.

Meanwhile, Russian officials cautioned that a repeat of NATO’s double-track decision would lead to a new arms race. Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov said that "such intentions threaten to destabilize both regional and global security, and lead to increased confrontational potential."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko stages government reshuffle as protests continue

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has appointed a new interior minister, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports, adding that this is not the first government reshuffle in the law enforcement sector as the protests continue. Experts note that this points to turbulence among the agencies that Lukashenko is counting on to stay in power.

On Thursday, Lukashenko’s press service announced the resignation of Interior Minister Yuri Karaev, while divulging other changes in law enforcement. Ivan Kubrakov, former head of the Minsk police, was chosen as the new interior minister, while Karaev was sent to the Grodno Region as a presidential aide.

Karaev was appointed the country’s interior minister on June 11, 2019. Before that, he was a deputy minister, in charge of domestic troops. Belarusians associate Karaev with the police violence that is sweeping the country.

"I noticed that for some time, Karaev had disappeared from the state media. Generals under his command were the ones who were talking, threatening the use of military weapons," Valery Karbalevich, an expert from the Strategy think tank in Belarus, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "It’s hard for me to guess what Karaev has done wrong, but he can’t be accused of excess violence. The day before yesterday, Lukashenko admitted that he is the one controlling and giving commands on how to disperse the protesters and what methods to use," the expert said.

Local analysts are united in the opinion that the strife and division in Belarus’ law enforcement structures triggered the recent reshuffle. Lukashenko has also reappointed the Security Council secretary, the KGB chief and the prosecutor general. "This shows that there are issues in law enforcement, there is unrest there despite the apparent unanimity. This is another demonstration of the acute political crisis that Belarus finds itself in," Karbalevich noted.


Izvestia: Stock market volatility expected in November as US election on the horizon

The stock market is likely to remain volatile in the foreseeable future, experts quizzed by Izvestia say. The upcoming US election set for November 3 and a new lockdown introduced in some Western states will trigger an unstable situation on global stock markets. So far, the market drop has not been too dramatic, however, it may increase significantly, experts note. Meanwhile, Russia’s risks depend, for the most part, on the current benchmark rates and the ruble exchange rate, so if there are no extraordinary events abroad, the Russian currency is unlikely to drop significantly, analysts point out.

A partial lockdown in France and Germany caused by COVID-19 will have a negative effect on Russian export, namely oil and gas, and on high-risk assets in general, Mikhail Vasilyev, an expert with Sovkombank, told the paper.

This situation is also affecting oil prices, with Brent prices dropping to $37.90 a barrel, the lowest figure in four months.

"If the US market begins to rebound after the election, European exchange markets will follow suit, and Russia will be next with a delay of about two-three months. This will be caused by comparatively cheap oil," chief analyst at TeleTrade Pyotr Pushkarev said.

As for the new lockdown, Anton Prokudin, an analyst with Expert RA noted that it won’t be a serious problem for Russia due to its low dependency on small and mid-sized businesses, while Western states will be much more affected by the new blow dealt by COVID-19. This was proven in the spring: the GDP falls dramatically due to issues with small and medium-sized businesses, which forms the largest part of Western economy, he said. Russia’s financial instruments and the ruble are likely to be hit by the crisis to a greater extent due to sharp capital outflow and a new drop in oil prices.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian medical expert talks COVID-19 vaccine

Rossiyskaya Gazeta held an interview with Professor Sergei Balakhonov, director of the Irkutsk Antiplague Research Institute of Siberia and the Far East, in which it asked the Russian experts some burning questions regarding the Russian COVID-19 vaccine.

The newspaper asked Balakhonov why there is a need for multiple vaccines against the virus. "Preventive vaccination against COVID-19 is definitely necessary during a pandemic. And diverse research approaches to this matter are a global practice. We do not know which platform will be the most effective, safe and accessible one for the population, [only] trials will show," the expert explained.

The newspaper asked the researcher how long the antibodies developed after a vaccination would likely last. "Mass vaccines that are used right now have been well-researched for a while. The period of their protective properties has been determined by trials and many years of use. The same will happen with SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. Following the results of the trials on volunteers, the period of immunity will be determined. These periods can be very different. For example, a smallpox vaccine is used once and "works" for a lifetime. A tetanus vaccine is also used once during childhood, and then revaccination is carried out once every ten years when a person reaches adulthood," Balakhonov informed.

When asked whether repeat COVID-19 infection is possible, the professor pointed out that the research carried out in the Irkutsk Region has shown no such cases. "At the same time, we have verified data that a high immunity count formed after COVID-19 can be determined 5-6 months later. This is cause for optimism. The study of the coronavirus goes on," he stated.



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