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Press review: Who’s exempt from Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act and Trump mulls strike on Iran

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, November 18

Izvestia: Armenian opposition lacks legal levers to oust prime minister

Rallies against Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashininyan are unlikely to gain momentum in the near future, experts interviewed by Izvestia said. The opposition lacks legal levers to topple the prime minister and it doesn't have an alternative leader. According to political scientists, if over a short-term horizon a power change does occur, the prime minister’s seat will be occupied by the ruling party’s candidate.

The political crisis in Yerevan has been raging on for a week after Pashinyan signed a statement with the leaders of Russia and Azerbaijan on a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. The prime minister acknowledged his responsibility but is clearly signaling that he is not going to leave. The key obstacle now is martial law in the country, during which the head of the cabinet cannot be ousted, the paper writes.

Director of the Yerevan-based Caucasus Institute Alexander Iskandaryan says neither the president nor the opposition have the possibility to shift from words to action now. "To invalidate martial law, half of the parliament’s votes plus one would be needed. The opposition doesn’t have that many mandates. Only the ruling party can do this. But even if martial law is annulled, a one-third vote to discuss the prime minister’s ouster would be needed. The opposition would lack four votes," the expert noted. "So, it would be very hard to do something in legal terms," he explained.

Besides, Pashinyan cannot reach a compromise with the opposition, which demands his resignation. Meanwhile, some in Yerevan think that the prime minister’s resignation during the evacuation of Armenians from the territories being handed over to Baku and the deployment of Russian peacekeepers to Nagorno-Karabakh is probably not the best idea now.

According to Vladimir Evseev, who heads the Eurasian Integration and SCO Development Department at the CIS Institute, Yerevan managed to save face and Pashinyan did not give up by leaving these problems on someone else’s lap, instead he is trying to iron them out. The fact that the scale of the protests has stopped growing shows that the Armenian premier enjoys support among his citizens. The most real scenario is that some time later Pashinyan will be replaced by someone among his allies, the political scientist projected.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Transnistria recognizes new Moldovan president

Maia Sandu, Moldova’s newly-elected president was welcomed by the leaders of the European Union, the United States and Russia. But in her own country she is opposed by the government and the largest parliamentary faction - the Party of Socialists. Sandu’s key goal is to come to terms with the cabinet of ministers and secure the parliamentary elections. Otherwise, she won’t be able to fulfill her program on rapprochement with Romania and Ukraine, in addition to distancing Moldova from Russia.

Vadim Krasnoselsky, Transnistria’s president, signaled that Tiraspol was ready to cooperate with any president elected by Moldova’s citizens. This is an important statement demonstrating Tiraspol’s readiness to hold dialogue with Chisinau, the paper writes. The talks on ironing out the Transnistrian conflict, which have been stalled over the past years, should resume now. Earlier, the Transnistrian leader refused to hold meetings saying that Moldova had failed to meet its commitments and add specific content to the talks. Now Tiraspol is offering Chisinau a chance to remedy the situation.

The incoming pro-EU president will also face problems when cooperating with the parliament, in which the Party of Socialists supporting incumbent President Igor Dodon, has the majority. Political scientists believe Moldova should hold snap elections but note that the most challenging task will be to form a parliamentary majority.

"I believe the resignation of the legislature is the only solution," Romanian political analyst Armang Goshu said. Member of the European Parliament Dragos Tudorache notes that Moldova will face a challenging period due to the imminent confrontation between the president and the parliament. "President Sandu will have to find a way to work with this parliament and with this government if it is here to stay," he emphasized.


RBC: US sports exempt from Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act

On Tuesday, the Senate passed the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act (RADA), which empowers the US to pursue criminal prosecution of violators of anti-doping rules around the world. The new law won’t punish athletes and mainly targets doping conspirators globally, sports attorney Alexei Panich told RBC. Besides, this legislation has no retroactive effect and will be only applied to organizers of future doping schemes. "Russian athletes won’t be held accountable based on the new law," said Panich, who represents the interests of Russian biathletes in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Rodchenkov Act will apply to all competitions where the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules are in place, sports lawyer Artem Patsev said. "In accordance with this document, the US will be able to prosecute any person taking part in alleged doping collusion at competitions where Americans take part," he noted.

Professional North American leagues such as the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) won’t be targeted by this law because they are not regulated by the WADA Code. "The North American professional leagues rake in a lot of money," the attorney stressed. These leagues don’t recognize the WADA [Anti-Doping] Code and its anti-doping rules and they have their own system of holding those accountable for violating their own anti-doping rules, he pointed out.

According to the lawyer, given that the US has its own anti-doping system distinct from the rest of the world, most American athletes won’t be affected by the Rodchenkov Act. "Since the Rodchenkov Act is aimed at protecting American athletes from any manipulations and fraud from foreign athletes at major international competitions held under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee and the WADA Code, it’s clear that these professional leagues are fully exempt from this law. It turns out that nearly 90% or more American athletes and coaches won’t be targeted by this law and can feel thoroughly calm," he stressed.



Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump mulls ‘farewell blow’ against Iran

The Trump administration is considering including a use of force scenario in a package of "farewell" measures against Iran. During a meeting on November 12, Trump asked about options for striking the Natanz nuclear site, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, citing a report by The New York Times. Trump mulled the options of carrying out a missile strike or a cyber attack. However, senior officials dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike, warning him that this could trigger a full-scale conflict in the Middle East during the last weeks of his presidential term. However, Trump is still determined to inflict maximum harm to Tehran. Officials say Trump is not considering the use of force anymore. Another option on the table was designating Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi insurgents a terrorist organization before leaving office in January.

Director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Washington-based Atlantic Council think tank, Barbara Slavin told the newspaper that the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani breathed a sigh of relief at Joe Biden’s projected victory in the US election and the growing chances of returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear program or at least a temporary deal. Iran, which needs to stabilize its national currency and combat COVID-19, will refrain from any response until the Trump administration decides to take a foolish step, she noted.

Yulia Sveshnikova, an adviser at the PIR-Center, doubts that Trump’s initiative is the result of a long-term planning. "It seems to me that these are ill-considered steps," the analyst said. "As for the Houthis: even if they are designated as a terrorist organization, I don’t think the change of their status will directly impact Iran. Moreover, this will be a unilateral US step rather than the outcome of a coordinated policy by the international community." The expert noted that Tehran had certain expectations over a Biden presidency but everything depends on his first steps.



Izvestia: Sales of oxygen devices grow eight-fold in Russia

Analysts recorded an eight-fold rise in the sales of oxygen pillows in Russia this autumn compared with last year. Russians are also actively buying oxygen concentrators and sprays. Experts told Izvestia that people are trying to provide themselves with these goods in case they get infected with COVID-19. Meanwhile, doctors warn that these devices can be used only under strict medical supervision.

According to analysts at Platforma OFD, the major growth in sales of these devices was recorded in November. The average price tag for an oxygen concentrator was 30,650 rubles ($400), twice as much as last year’s figures. "Citizens are seeking to protect themselves and their families as much as possible from the negative consequences of the virus and often buy such goods to have them in store, just in case. This anxiety as a rule is related to the rumor mill, which reports about the lack of some goods in local pharmacies," the experts explained.

Devices like an oxygen pillow or a spray, which provide people with oxygen before an ambulance arrives could come in quite handy, said Mikhail Kagan, a leading science editor at However, one major shortcoming of a concentrator is its low speed of delivering oxygen while patients in grave condition need a high speed, which can be only provided in a hospital, the expert explained. If people use mobile oxygen devices at home, they should measure the oxygen in their blood by a pulse oximeter, the specialist noted. Earlier, Izvestia wrote that the sales of these devices also had more than doubled in Russia.


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