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Press review: Trump authorizes White House transition and what awaits Moldova-Russia ties

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, November 25

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump trades White House for Congress

Incumbent US President Donald Trump has recommended that General Services Administration Chief Emily Murphy start working with Joe Biden’s team to launch the formal transition process. For the US media and millions of people around the world, this is tantamount to Trump acknowledging defeat. But stepping aside from the White House, Trump and the Republican Party still have the chance to take control over both houses of the US Congress, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Vladimir Vasilyev does not rule out that Trump seeks to escape public criticism, making Biden its target. "The media accuse Trump of putting national security in danger by clinging to power. His opposition may create a situation where in two months, Biden will have to enter the White House without a team. Now Trump has made it possible for Biden to form one who may come under fire over his administration choices," the expert explained.

Biden has already announced his foreign policy post picks but it is still a mystery who will handle economic and domestic affairs in his administration, which is the most important question for the American people. In Vasilyev’s view, Trump expects that Biden’s nominations will create issues within the Democratic Party. It won’t suit the party’s left wing if the team of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton returns to the White House. Meanwhile, disputes between the left and the center-right of the Democratic Party will play into the hand of the Republicans.

The Senate run-off elections in Georgia, scheduled for January, will make it clear who will control the upper house of the Congress. As for the House of Representatives, the Democrats currently have 222 seats, while Republicans have 210. Election results have been challenged in three districts and if at least four congressmen leave the Democratic faction in the House, the party will lose its majority. Consequently, in the best-case scenario for Trump, he will be able to bind Biden hand and foot.


Izvestia: What the future holds for Moldova-Russia relations under Maia Sandu

Moldova’s President-Elect Maia Sandu recently discussed the battle against foreign influence with a senior US National Security official. The conversation came days after Sandu’s statement about the need for Russian peacekeepers to withdraw from Transnistria. At same time, Sandu said that Chisinau and Moscow had "a busy agenda," adding that Moldova was unable to find a final political solution to the conflict without Russia, Izvestia notes.

Senior Analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) Stanislav Secrieru believes that instead of building relations with Moscow, Sandu’s top priority will be to resume high-level dialogue with Ukraine and Romania and restore cooperation with the European Union. Moldova’s incumbent President Igor Dodon visited neither Kiev, nor Bucharest during his four-year term and relations with Brussels were put on the back burner, the expert pointed out.

Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Andrey Kortunov, in turn, emphasized the need to reconsider the tradition of branding Moldovan politicians as pro-Western or pro-Russian. "Sandu is far more pro-Western in her statements than Dodon. But he can hardly be viewed as pro-Russian. Moldova is unlikely to embark on a dangerous journey towards Brussels and away from Russia. The two countries have many common interests, there is a large Moldovan community in Russia, and money transfers from Russia mean a lot to Moldova, as well as economic relations. Europe is not looking forward to buy Moldovan goods," the expert pointed out.

According to the political scientist, as far as relations between Moscow and Chisinau are concerned, much will depend on whether the Russian authorities will be willing to cooperate with the Moldovan leadership.


Kommersant: Vaccine development successes reduce investor demand for gold

Gold prices have dropped to July’s levels, nearing the $1,800-per-ounce benchmark amid declining institutional investment. Successful efforts to develop coronavirus vaccines and strong US economic data are reducing investor demand for defensive assets, Kommersant writes.

"IHS Markit’s strong PMI data for the US raised doubts about future large-scale economic stimulation programs, and reducing inflation expectations, Sberbank Commodity Market Strategist Mikhail Sheibe pointed out. Under such circumstances, investors are cutting investment in defensive assets.

"The demand for gold has been high this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the economic slowdown and investors’ desire to move into risk-free assets. The US presidential election, positive news about vaccines and expectations of an imminent restart of economies have reduced investor interest," April Capital Investment Manager Dmitry Skvortsov noted.

According to Dmitry Kosmodemyansky, an asset manager at Otkritie, investors have become more prone to taking risks, which is why defensive tools such as gold are being replaced by riskier assets in investor portfolios.

Meanwhile, market participants don’t expect prices to plunge in the short term. Carsten Menk, a leading analyst from Julius Baer, believes that gold prices may fall to $1,700 per ounce in the next 12 months. However, according to the expert, the most likely scenario for 2021 will include an improving economic situation that will lead to a decrease in demand for gold as a defensive asset.


Izvestia: Police detain local leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Moscow

A criminal case has been opened in Moscow over the resumed activities of a Jehovah’s Witnesses admin center. Although Russia’s Supreme Court outlawed the extremist organization back in 2017, the center has been active since June 2019. Apart from Moscow, searches were carried out in more than 20 other regions throughout the country, Izvestia writes.

Work to ferret out the banned cells of Jehovah’s Witnesses has been going on for several years. Cult researcher Alexander Korelov points out that the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses followers has significantly declined. There used to be about 150,000 adherents nationwide but many people have walked out on the sect and some have left the country.

According to the expert, people are stressed because of the coronavirus pandemic so Jehovah’s Witnesses and other sects have ramped up their activities. "They understand that it’s easier to deceive those who are psychologically unstable and pull them into the organization’s activities," Korelov explained. "They deliberately search for single people and try to recruit them in order to get their hands on their real estate assets later," he added.

Jehovah’s Witnesses use Zoom, messaging services and social networking websites to maintain contact with followers and those who are willing to support their ideas but they mostly recruit new members when they meet people in person.

"Basically, human life has no value for Jehovah’s Witnesses and it is a very dangerous thing. It can work at some point and the seemingly peaceful organization may turn into a terrorist one," Korelov emphasized.


Izvestia: Russia sees number of remote workers skyrocket in one year

Over 3.5 mln people in Russia - 6.5% of the country’s working population - are officially working remotely, Izvestia writes, citing the Ministry of Labor. Telecommuting is most widely spread in Moscow and St. Petersburg but other regions are also reporting surging numbers of remote workers.

Telecommuting will continue to grow regardless of the coronavirus pandemic, Chairman of the State Duma Labor Committee Yaroslav Nilov believes. According to him, remote work will be used widely if a balance is found between the interests of employers and employees.

"It suits employers because it allows them to cut spending. It is also convenient for employers because they have the opportunity to combine various work options. I think that this particular way of work will continue to grow," said Deputy Chairperson of the Federation Council Committee on Social Policy Elena Bibikova.

However, experts don't consider remote work to be a panacea because apart from pros there are a number of cons.

Vice President of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia Alexander Shershukov emphasized that "first of all, employers seek to cut the wages of those who move to telecommuting." "On the other hand, employers often believe that they can turn to their personnel any time of the day regardless of their working hours. Besides, there are issues related to the use of technical equipment. If people work from home, it is unclear why they must use their personal computers," Shershukov noted. He expects that these problems will be solved once amendments regarding remote work are added to the Labor Code.


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