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Press review: Pro-EU candidate wins Moldovan presidential vote and Armenia stuck in strife

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, November 17

Izvestia: Maia Sandu’s win in Moldovan presidential election to impact ties with Russia

Pro-EU candidate Maia Sandu has won the Moldovan presidential election, beating her opponent Igor Dodon by 15.5%. According to the experts quizzed by Izvestia, Chisinau is likely to gradually change its foreign policy course without breaking ties with Russia. Sandu confirmed that she seeks to pursue a balanced policy and establish pragmatic dialogue with all countries, including Russia. Political analysts point out that the Moldovan government will be more consolidated. Now, the government and the president will be looking in the same direction.

The Moldovan presidential election ended with a run-off between Igor Dodon, who is known for his pro-Russian policies, and Maia Sandu, who favors European integration. Meanwhile, Sandu promised to establish a balance through contacts with Russia and the US, announcing consultations on this matter in parliament.

"It is unlikely that there will be any sudden moves, however, there will be a gradual drift towards the West, of course," Associate Professor of the Department of Political Theory at MGIMO Kirill Koktysh told Izvestia. "Another thing is that the power in the country will be more consolidated. Before, there was a pro-Russian head of state and a pro-European parliament, who blocked each other, and now, we will see a pro-Western president and pro-Western lawmakers in a country that is still divided."

As for the relations between Moscow and Moldova’s new leadership, Russia will let Chisinau take the lead in building the relations, the expert pointed out. There is no doubt that Moldova will have a hard time without Russia, but the question is to what extent, Koktysh concluded.


Izvestia: Armenia hits political deadlock as protests continue

The political situation in Armenia has hit a dead end by the second week of protests against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Izvestia reports. The opposition cannot force the head of government to leave, and he has no plans to resign. Experts told Izvestia that it is hard to predict the outcome of the nation's political strife, however, Pashinyan has a chance to stay in power, as there is no political force in the country that could offer itself as a viable alternative to the current leadership. Meanwhile, Armenian President Armen Sarkissian stressed that the government should resign, calling on the government and the lawmakers to prepare for a snap election.

Armenian political analyst Edgar Khachatryan told Izvestia that the protests are not growing in scale due to several factors. Firstly, Armenia is in a state of apathy right now, with many mourning their husbands and sons. "People still do not understand what has happened. Many don’t have it in them to take to the streets because of their grief. Secondly, winter is coming, it is cold in Yerevan, and many people are sick, namely with the coronavirus. All this is significant. However, the political crisis is very serious, and so far, there is a trend that shows that the situation may worsen," he explained.

The expert added that many do not want to see members of the previous government at the helm. There are some who are willing to give a chance to the pre-revolution elites, if they promise to return at least a part of Nagorno-Karabakh and resolve the issue with its political status, Khachatryan said.

"There are also Pashinyan’s supporters. Namely people working in state bodies. I think the government will hold on as law enforcement is on its side," he concluded.

Although Pashinyan’s policy led to such an outcome of the conflict, he may be able to stay in power, since there is no alternative force that Armenians would support right now, political analyst Denis Denisov told Izvestia. "As head of state, he showed that he is poorly qualified. But I think that the protests against Pashinyan will go on for some time, and then they will cease. There is no force in Armenia right now that could mobilize a more significant amount of people. There is no structure, no leaders, and no major businessmen who are interested in it," the expert pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump threatens to crack down on China before Biden takes over

Incumbent US President Donald Trump wants to punish Beijing for the pandemic that started in China, which has served as a roadblock to a second term for Trump, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. He plans to blacklist a number of Chinese state enterprises and Chinese officials for their alleged involvement in persecuting Muslims in Xinjiang, suppressing democracy in Hong Kong or working for the army. Experts suggest that new sanctions are likely, as ex-President Barack Obama took a similar step on his way out of the White House against Russia.

Senior members of the US administration with direct access to the president say that Trump plans to introduce a series of tough political decisions in his last 10 weeks as US president. Those decisions aim to cement his legacy concerning China. The US-based Axios news website reports that the incumbent president wants to make it politically impossible for the Biden administration to change its course on China.

Andrey Karneev, who heads the Higher School of Economics Asian and African Studies Department, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Trump’s plans are similar to the last few weeks of the Obama administration, back when it worked on measures to punish Russia, not China. "For example, Russian diplomats were expelled from the US. Trump can also follow this path, but against China. Trump holds a serious grudge against China. Were it not for the epidemic, he would have had more chances of getting reelected. In the very beginning of 2020, the economic situation was very favorable for Trump. So, he will try to cement anti-China sentiment in US politics. On the other hand, it won’t be hard for Biden to confirm the sanctions for Xinjiang and Hong Kong. The Democratic Party accused Trump of caring solely about trade and the economy, while ignoring human rights. Consequently, sanctions in this sphere will not tie Biden’s hands, they will help him carry out his policy. The criticism of China is an area where the Republicans and the Democrats are more or less united," the expert pointed out.

Alexander Lukin, who heads the International Affairs Department at the Higher School of Economics, also noted that there are similarities in Trump’s approach to Russia at the beginning of his term and the situation Biden finds himself in. "As soon as Trump tried to improve relations with Russia, Democrats attacked him, branding him a traitor. And now, the Republicans are ready to do the same regarding China. If Biden takes any steps to improve relations, the Republicans will say that he is betraying the country’s interests," the expert told the paper.


Kommersant: Russian companies report cyber attacks by US hackers

In the past six months, US-linked hackers have been the main source of cyber threats to Russian companies, according to data provided by Check Point and in Kommersant’s possession that the paper reported. Before that, Russian hackers had taken the lead. The overall number of attacks has dropped by nearly a quarter. Hacker groups have left commercial structures for lone hackers, switching to critical information infrastructure targets and government bodies, cyber security companies told the paper.

From May to October 2020, US hackers were the main source of cyber threats to Russia, carrying out 36% of the total number of attacks, while Russian hackers accounted for 29%, a report by Check Point notes. Before that, Russian hackers had been in the lead with 39% of the attacks carried out in January 2020, while the Americans were behind 30% of the recorded cyber offenses, Kommersant reported in February. The countries of origin reflect the data seen by cyber security experts, however, this may be a ruse, and the perpetrators may simply be posing as foreign hackers, Check Point Software Technologies executive in Russia and the CIS Vasily Dyagilev stressed.

Criminals have "no nationality," cyber security expert Denis Batrankov told the paper. The main issue is that there is no united system of cooperation between states that could allow hackers to be nabbed. For example, attacks from Ukraine "are completely impossible to investigate" due to political differences, while the UK and US will never give up a Russian hacker attacking Russian targets, and it is impossible to track money, since all states "look the other way" regarding anonymous currencies that hackers request, the expert explained. Meanwhile, only one in a thousand cyber attacks may be considered political, as the rest of them are usually carried out by unqualified hackers, Batrankov noted.


Kommersant: Russian IT companies’ share among developing countries reaches mere 3%

Russia’s share among IT companies founded in recent years in developing countries has reached a mere 3%, a report published by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) informs. Russia has one of the lowest rates of emerging companies, and their evaluation is often lower than that of their foreign competitors, Kommersant reports.

The BCG report in Kommersant’s possession informs that there are just over 10,000 Russian companies among the startups founded on developing markets since 2014, which comes up to about 3% of the total share.

BCG included six Russian companies in the top-100 IT companies among developing countries: Yandex, Group, Wildberries, Playrix, 1C and Tinkoff Bank. The company’s research notes that the average revenue of these companies comes to $1.8 bln a year, and their growth rate is six times higher than the rate of tech companies from the S&P 500 index.

Considering the fact that the share of the Russian venture capital market reaches 0.3% of the global market, the 3% contribution of new Russian companies over the past six years is a "good number," noted Alexey Solovyev, founder of A.Partners. The market has only existed for about ten years, which is not enough for a huge number of companies to appear, but the situation will change, the investor told the paper.

Experts quizzed by Kommersant point out that Russian companies often prefer foreign jurisdictions, which may affect the statistics. When a company enters the global market, it basically "removes the Russian flag," or they might have trouble finding clients, Alexander Chachava, managing partner at Leta Capital, told the paper. "So, some of them drop out from the statistics, and it turns out that only a company that works on the domestic market for the most part can be called a Russian company," he explained.


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