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Press review: Will Biden undo Trump’s policies and OSCE demands new elections in Belarus

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, November 9th

Media: Joe Biden announced as presumptive winner, seeks to undo Trump's previous policies

Joe Biden announced his victory in the 2020 US presidential election. And although Donald Trump has not yet admitted his defeat and threatens to challenge the results of the vote in court, there is no doubt that a change of administration is coming in the White House. According to US media reports, the future president’s team has already begun to divvy up top jobs, including foreign policy positions. The future of the White House and Biden’s foreign policy plans became the main focus of the Russia media on Monday. Meanwhile, Russian political experts believe a reset in Russian-American relations should not be expected with the appearance of the Biden administration.

Head of the Russian Center for Applied Research at the Institute for the United States and Canada Pavel Sharikov told Vedomosti that the Democrats hoped for greater success in these elections. "They expected a blue wave, a democratic wave. But this wave did not happen, their performance in the House of Representatives was not impressive, Biden's victory was difficult," he noted.

Biden intends to abandon some of the decisions made by Trump. Thus, the Democrat wants to rejoin the Paris climate deal, as well as overturn the US withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). During the election campaign, Joe Biden also promised to agree to the extension of the Russian-American New START Treaty expiring on February 5.

According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, a pragmatic approach and cooperation on traditional problems, for example, in the field of arms control, may return to the dialogue between Moscow and Washington with the new president. However, the relations between the countries are in such a deplorable state that any improvements should not be expected. Until there is a clear signal from Washington that it wants to reset relations, there is no need to hope for their normalization, the Federation Council told Izvestia.

Russian officials have publicly announced that Moscow is ready to work with any legitimately elected president, but in informal conversations they do not hide concerns, Kommersant writes. A source in the Russian state structures told the newspaper that the new administration would only exacerbate the confrontation between the two countries, adding to it "an ideological and value component".

In any case, the final election results are due by December 8. And the inauguration of a new president should be held in January. Expert Vladimir Vasiliev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Trump still has opportunities to prevent Biden from being elected. He recalled that the Democrats essentially promised to reform the Supreme Court by packing the court with more judges. The current composition of the top US court may not like such a radical change. Vasiliev did not rule out the possibility of an electoral rebellion. There were cases in the history of the United States when electors, without fear of a fine, did not vote for who they were authorized to vote for.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: OSCE pushing Belarus to hold new presidential election

Belarusians have been demanding the resignation of Alexander Lukashenko for three months. Meanwhile, the authorities are responding with ever harsher crackdowns. Having considered the situation, the OSCE recommended setting up an international court so that perpetrators of violence are brought to justice. Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, they are skeptical of the OSCE's ability to influence the situation.

The international community is trying to sway Lukashenko, who is clinging to power, by any means available. The OSCE released a report on Saturday, where the organization’s experts recommended that the authorities stop the violence and organize new free elections. The authors of the report suggested establishing an independent international body to thoroughly investigate any human rights violations.

The expert community is skeptical of the international organization’s ability to change the situation in Belarus. "The OSCE's working mechanism is not very effective. All previous attempts have not led to any serious results, because when there is a defense like Russia, everything else does not work," political analyst Valeriy Karbalevich told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He has no doubt that Moscow will use its right to block tough decisions on Belarus wherever it can. Experts also noted a small arsenal of measures to influence the Belarusian authorities. Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe, so it cannot count on the European system of human rights protection.

Experts called the situation in Belarus a stalemate: Lukashenko will not back down, but the public cannot accept the situation either. The violence used by the authorities have impacted many Belarusians, and they cannot accept it. "The only thing that could stop Lukashenko is a more massive popular protest, but this is not happening," Karbalevich told the newspaper.


Kommersant: Azerbaijan, Armenia lock horns in battle for Shusha

Over the weekend, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan announced that the city of Shusha was "liberated from Armenian occupation", although no photo or video evidence of the Azerbaijani military over the center of Nagorno-Karabakh’s second largest city, was presented. The Armenian military denied losing the city and claimed that the fighting continues to rage on. According to Kommersant, control over the city can largely determine the outcome of the armed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Shusha is considered the key city of the region, which sits on a mountain above Stepanakert, the capital of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. During the war of 1992-1994 the capture of Shusha ensured a military victory for the Armenian troops, but now the situation might be reversed. If Azerbaijan’s troops control Shusha, then they have almost all key points in the region in their crosshairs, Kommersant writes.

"The situation is like a swing, the edge passes back and forth - sometimes several times an hour," one of the few Russian journalists remaining in the conflict zone Semyon Pegov commented on the combat situation there.

In the current situation, there is no criticism of the authorities either in Yerevan, or in Baku, the newspaper writes. Eduard Sharmazanov, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Armenia, told Kommersant, the only culprits of the current situation are Turkey and Azerbaijan, while Russia "did everything possible" as an ally of Armenia.

In turn, Director of the Caucasus Institute in Yerevan Alexander Iskandaryan noted that there is disillusionment in Armenian society with Moscow's actions. "A lot will depend on how the situation on the frontlines develops. If Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh fail, this will affect the perception of Russia in the country," Iskandaryan told Kommersant.


Kommersant: Non-conventional frequency to raise costs of 5G in Russia

Expenditures for Russian telecom operators in 2023-2030 to roll out 5G networks will be 84% higher than the option where the 3.5-GHz gold standard is used for next-generation communications, according to a GSMA report. The Russian authorities are not ready to allocate the "gold standard" frequencies, which are used by intelligence services and law enforcement agencies, so operators are offered the 4.8-4.99 GHz. According to experts interviewed by Kommersant, they believe that launching 5G networks may be difficult in Russia.

Analysts expect widespread use of 5G in Russia by 2025, when about 43 mln people will be able to use it. Until then, the new standard will be deployed only in the corporate segment, experts said.

The range of 4.8-4.99 GHz is economically inexpedient, all telecom operators interviewed by Kommersant agree. The total cost of deploying 5G networks in the next decade in Russia is estimated anyhwere from several hundred billion to 1 trillion rubles ($12.9 bln), depending on a number of factors, according to VimpelCom. The use of the 4.8-4.99 GHz range will more than double the cost of creating and owning a communications infrastructure compared to 3.4-3.8 GHz, according to the press service of Rostelecom.

So far, there are no prospects for 5G in Russia, AC&M managing partner Mikhail Alekseev told the newspaper. "There is no clarity either with the equipment or with the frequencies. So all estimations are still from the realm of fantasy, and it makes no sense to predict anything," the expert believes. It is very difficult to calculate the economic effect of 5G, Corporate Finance Partner, CIS Telecom Leader at Deloitte CIS Anton Shulga added.


Izvestia: Russians boosting their deposits, investing more in gold and bonds

Russian banks noted a continuous growth in demand for investment products. Russians continue to willingly invest in individual investment accounts, gold and securities, Izvestia reported after a survey of the top 30 credit institutions. According to analysts, people’s interest in alternative ways of saving and boosting their funds will only mount, and the number of private investors on the stock exchange will soon reach 10 mln, while money from bank accounts will gradually flow into the stock market, experts interviewed by the newspaper believe.

Low profitability on deposits due to a decrease in the key rate of the Bank of Russia, increased uncertainty on the market, and planned closings of deposits by clients have increased demand for investment products, according to credit institutions. Clients now more often choose open-end funds, namely in gold and OFZs, Director for Products and Technologies of the Post Bank Grigory Babadzhanyan told Izvestia. He added that in 2020, the demand for alternative instruments has been growing steadily, and from August and especially September-October there has been an even greater surge.

"Many people are interested in the bond market and point decisions related to stocks. There is also a great demand for precious metals: gold and investment coins," Department Director at MKB Yuri Babin noted.

For ten months, the inflow of funds into brokerage services and individual investment accounts reached 0.5 trillion rubles ($6.47 bln), and the number of agreements concluded on them has already exceeded last year's figures, CEO of VTB Capital Investments Vladimir Potapov said.

"Since the regulator reduced the interest rate, there was a steady interest in instruments with a yield higher than on deposits, but with a moderate level of risk," Sberbank press service told the newspaper.

Leading analyst at Otkritie Broker Andrey Kochetkov noted that the Russian stock market offers good alternatives to deposits. The domestic market capitalization now reaches $550-600 bln and there is potential for its future growth.

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