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Press review: Russia’s humanitarian response in Karabakh and is the dollar doomed in 2021

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, November 19
Russian peacekeeper guarding the area near the Dadivank monastery in Nagorno-Karabakh Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS
Russian peacekeeper guarding the area near the Dadivank monastery in Nagorno-Karabakh
© Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

Media: Russia embarks on enacting Karabakh peacekeeping structure, takes ‘good cop, bad cop’ stance with West

The final structure of an inter-agency humanitarian response center in Nagorno-Karabakh was approved on November 18, sources in Russia’s Defense Ministry told Izvestia. Earlier that day, the Federation Council (upper house) had unanimously approved Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal on a long-term peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the Defense Ministry, the humanitarian response center will be the key body for fulfilling the peace deal signed by the conflicting sides on November 9.

The humanitarian response center will consist of some 1,200 people. Besides servicemen, it will also bring together civilian specialists, staff of the Border Service of the Russian Federal Security Service and the Emergencies Ministry, the Defense Ministry’s sources said. The center will focus on an entire range of sensitive issues and will guarantee not only the return of refugees but also normal daily life in its zone of responsibility. Its structure will include five specialized centers of interaction. One of them will be in charge of control over the disengagement of the conflicting sides and monitoring the ceasefire. The second one will deal with humanitarian operations in Nagorno-Karabakh. Another one will be responsible for access and maintenance of roads and transportation routes agreed on by the sides. The functions of others have not yet been detailed, the sources said. Besides, Russia is reinforcing its air force in Armenia. Aircraft will be also used for the peacekeeping operation.

The Russian military will be deployed in the conflict zone for five years. Their mission will be automatically extended for a new five-year-term unless Armenia or Azerbaijan announce the termination of the deal six months prior to its end. Meanwhile, Karabakh’s fate remains up in the air. Azerbaijan demands its full control over the territory of the unrecognized republic.

Kommersant writes that in its contact with Western countries on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, Russia has apparently chosen the strategy of "good cop and bad cop." President Putin acted as a "good cop" as he praised the mediating role of the US and France, which co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. In his turn, Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service Sergey Naryshkin took on the role of a "bad cop," when he accused the US and its NATO allies on Wednesday of an attempt to undermine the truce there and force out Russia from the region. Sources in Russia’s state structures explain that Moscow is ready to cooperate with its Western partners on a final settlement for the South Caucasus region, but won’t tolerate their accusations over the breakthrough agreements reached thanks to its mediation.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kremlin gears up to battle imminent foreign meddling under Biden

A bill was submitted to Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, on November 18 on new requirements for the activity of opposition forces and election campaigns. The document introduces procedures for labeling both foreign and Russian citizens as well as unregistered NGOs as foreign agents. Obviously, the Russian Justice Ministry will include Alexei Navalny with his regional headquarters and Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia in its registries. Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes that Russia is apparently borrowing the US’ idea of tightening the struggle for nationalizing the elites, including the opposition. Moreover, as a likely Biden presidency looms, the former vice president’s party adheres to the strategy of meddling in the domestic affairs of Washington’s geopolitical rivals.

The document on "amending certain Russian legal acts on establishing additional measures of countering national security threats" was signed by representatives of all four factions of the State Duma. According to tradition, this is a signal that the initiative had been, at minimum, coordinated with the presidential administration but most likely it had been just drafted there. A consensus between the parties also shows that the draft law will be approved in the shortest possible time although it’s impossible to predict the final text.

Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Russia Sergey Obukhov noted that "obviously, a [presumptive] Biden victory has sparked anxiety among our elites and Putin has already voiced concerns over foreign attempts to influence Russia." Konstantin Kalachev, who heads the Political Expert Group believes that the campaign for the elections to the State Duma will be carried out under the toughest scenario. "Now the philosophy of a besieged fortress will be revived as well as martial laws," he said.


Izvestia: Analysts examine whether 2021 would spell doom and gloom for greenback

In 2021, the dollar could drop 20% if COVID-19 vaccines become widely available, helping to revive global trade, economists at Citigroup, a US-based banking conglomerate, predicted. Experts compare the situation with the early 2000s when China’s accession to the World Trade Organization spurred a wave of globalization and the dollar started to plummet. This trend continued for several years. Izvestia analyzed how realistic this forecast is, and looked at whether this massive vaccination will really spell trouble for the greenback and how the ruble would fare under this scenario.

Analysts told the newspaper that Citigroup’s outlook is too gloomy and the connection between the expectations on global trade revival and a weaker dollar is not quite obvious. Now the situation differs from the early 2000s. Mikhail Korolyuk, head of trust management at IFK Solid, explains that the dollar’s depreciation in 2001 was related to the euro, which was actively developing then. Andrei Plotnikov, who chairs the board of directors at Custodian investment company, shares this opinion, noting that trade and economic growth on the contrary stimulates an increase in consumption and the dollar’s circulation around the world. Thus, the greenback won’t drop as much as Citigroup expects. "It seems to me that Citigroup’s forecast is too ‘sensational’ - I expect DXY to fall not more than 5-7% in the midterm prospect," said Nikolai Klenov, financial analyst at Raison Asset Management. Analysts believe that the dollar won’t lose more than 10% of its value in 2021.

How will all this affect the Russian currency? It’s highly likely that the ruble will gain from the dollar’s weakness since the volume of investments in developing markets will increase. However, the growth potential will be limited by mounting tensions between the US and Russia - under a Biden administration this is almost inevitable, the newspaper writes.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Major global oil trader joins Rosneft’s Vostok Oil project

The board of Russian energy giant Rosneft approved the sale of 10% of capital in the Vostok Oil project to the largest global oil trader Trafigura. The Russian company launched its ambitious project to develop hydrocarbons in the Russian Arctic this year. Its confirmed oil and gas condensate resources are estimated at 6 bln tonnes (44 bln barrels). Analysts say that the development of Vostok Oil’s fields will be an investment in Russia’s future, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

"The participation in the project by one of the largest global traders - the Trafigura company - shows that Vostok Oil with its huge resource base and obvious logistic advantages - is the future of global energy," said senior analyst at WMT Consult Valery Andrianov. "The possibility of deliveries along the Northern Sea Route to European and Asian markets is an important competitive advantage that attracts the increased interest of investors. This project’s implementation can become a real revolution in the global hydrocarbon market," he noted. The oil and gas sector is now obviously lacking investments and the implementation of this project could drastically turn this situation around, the expert said.

Investment bank analysts see major prospects in Vostok Oil’s project. In their report, Merrill Lynch’s experts named the implementation of this project as one of key factors of the Russian company’s development.

"Now there is an understanding that this is a resource for the country’s future global competitive edge," Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences Fedor Voytolovsky said. According to him, Vostok Oil’s advancement will help Russia secure leading positions in the technology field, derive benefits linked both to developing the oil and gas sector as well as systemic benefits for the country as a whole.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia sees increase in sackings over social media posts

The number of people who got fired over their comments on social media doubled over the past nine years. In 2011 some 5% lost their jobs over posting on their accounts, while in 2020 this figure grew to 10%, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes citing a SuperJob survey.

The audience of Runet has also doubled during this time from 57 mln to 96.7 mln users, according to the Russian Association for Electronic Communications. The number of social media users has also seriously grown.

The survey showed that one in ten companies fired their staff over inappropriate posts and one in four firms chose not to hire candidates after researching their social media accounts. Superjob’s survey questioned representatives of 1,000 companies and 1,600 economically active Russians.

Half of employers don’t watch the activity of their staff in social networks. However, most companies (56%) read profiles of job seekers.

Russian workers have become more careful over the past nine years: they post and click on like button mostly neutral or positive posts. Women think that employers research their pages on social media more than men do - 50% versus 42%.


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