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Press review: US seeks discord between Moscow, Tokyo and Russia to aid UNESCO in Karabakh

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, December 7th
Russian peacekeeper in Nagorno-Karabakh AP Photo/Emrah Gurel
Russian peacekeeper in Nagorno-Karabakh
© AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

Izvestia: US seeks to sow discord between Tokyo and Moscow

The US assumes that under Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Russia’s activity on the borders will increase due to Japan’s changed policy on Moscow, Izvestia reports. Meanwhile, Suga stated that he intends to continue the course of his predecessor Shinzo Abe on improving relations with Russia.

Commander of the United States Forces in Japan (USFJ) Kevin Schneider stated that Suga is likely to use a different approach to Russia than Abe’s government. Washington expects Russia to step up its military activities near Japan under the new PM, Schneider was quoted as saying earlier.

In mid-September, Suga succeeded former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who stepped down due to health issues. The new head of government vowed to carry on the policy of his predecessor. However, there are certain differences in their approach to governing. Suga named strengthening the alliance with the US and building strategic relations with China and South Korea as his main foreign policy priorities.

As for relations with Moscow, the new Japanese leader mentions Russia much less than Abe. Besides, Suga chooses to focus on the need to resolve the issue of the Kuril Islands instead of paying attention to signing a peace treaty with Moscow.

Maxim Krylov, an expert with the Carnegie Moscow Center, said that "in the foreseeable future, Suga’s Japan will be an introvert country closed for repairs, passively reacting to external impulses precisely to the extent necessary." "There will be no ambitious political initiatives until at least the next fall," the commentator said. Izvestia notes that a parliamentary election is planned in Japan for October 2021. "And after that, it is also unlikely, regarding Russia," the expert said.

According to the political commentator, it seems that relations between Russia and Japan are starting to cool down. "The activation of bilateral contacts that had begun in 2016 was Abe’s unilateral initiative, based on his feeling that he had a historic mission and based on his personal relations with Putin. Abe’s successor has neither of those things. He has no experience in international affairs so far, and it seems that he has no desire to leave the fortress that he is rebuilding unless it is necessary," the analyst stated.


Izvestia: Russia ready to aid UNESCO effort in Karabakh

Russian peacekeepers will not be able to guard all of Nagorno-Karabakh’s historic sites, so Armenia and Azerbaijan must work on preserving them independently, Special Representative of the Russian President on International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy told Izvestia. He noted that a UNESCO mission will be sent to the region to study the condition of the Karabakh monuments, and Moscow is ready to assist this effort. The Russian political figure called on Armenian and Azerbaijani cultural representatives to begin peaceful dialogue next year.

"In this case, it would not be right to place the duty of guarding all historic sites in Karabakh on Russian peacekeepers. Armenia and Azerbaijan must deal with preserving them independently. On the one hand, they are under Azerbaijani government control, and on the other hand, they are controlled by Nagorno-Karabakh officials," the envoy stated. "It is important that the countries work on a bilateral basis with representatives of the UNESCO commission on monitoring the state of the cultural monuments," he insisted.

At the same time, public dialogue should be initiated to overcome the consequences of the conflict between Armenian and Azerbaijani cultural representatives. The Russian official noted that this dialogue could be launched in 2021.

Presidential Adviser of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic David Babayan told Izvestia that before the recent conflict, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic had covered 11,500 square kilometers, whereas now its territory only covers about 3,000 square kilometers. Thousands of monuments have been left outside the republic’s control, he stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Belarusian protests guided by sheer enthusiasm

Another round of Sunday demonstrations in Belarus has shown that neither side is willing to yield. In spite of modifications to the protest format, the government is adapting to these changes, quelling the rallies. So far, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has managed to cling to power through brute force, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. Meanwhile, experts interviewed by the paper point out that the protesters are guided by sheer enthusiasm, and the government seems to have the upper hand at this point.

December 6 marked the 18th Sunday protest in the country and the 120th day of the Belarusian protests. For the third week in a row, the protesters have chosen to congregate on streets and squares outside of the city center.

"The protests continue, they didn’t go anywhere, but the format has been altered. Not much has changed since last weekend," political analyst Valery Karbalevich told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to him, the scale of the December 6 rallies has not changed significantly, and the balance of power has remained the same. "The regime has tipped the scales in its favor over the past month, it seems. The government has an advantage, since they are using the full force of the state apparatus, while the protesters are guided by sheer enthusiasm and nothing else," the expert stated. The Belarusian government continues to use violent suppression tactics, he added.

Last week, the international community continued to issue statements on the events in Belarus. On December 4, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet noted that the situation in Belarus is deteriorating. The UN addressed Minsk demanding an end to the violence. EU Special Representative for Human Rights Eamon Gilmore said earlier that an international tribunal may be created over the situation in Belarus. However, so far, these statements have not affected the government, experts point out.

"It is too early to talk about outside influence at this point. At any rate, we don’t see any obvious and serious cases of that. Statements made by international organizations and by the West virtually do not influence the political regime in Belarus in any way. More likely, it is a factor of moral support for the protesting public," Karbalevich stated.


Media: Moldovan leadership grappling for political strength after election

Moldova has entered a period of political strife after the presidential election. President-Elect Maia Sandu and incumbent President Igor Dodon are fighting for political influence, Kommersant reports. The control over the republic’s parliament, which is a crucial institution needed to run the country successfully, is at stake.

On December 3, the Moldovan parliament approved a bill stripping the president of control over the country’s Service of Information and Security and moving it to the parliament’s jurisdiction. The bill was proposed by the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova, which supports incumbent President Igor Dodon.

This piece of legislation and a number of other laws were approved in a hurry, disregarding the parliament’s usual procedure. Both Maia Sandu and voices in the West expressed their dissatisfaction with the recent events. Washington openly stated that the decision to go back on an agreement on selling land to Washington for the construction of a new embassy negatively affects US-Moldovan bilateral ties. The EU stated that the parliament’s vote lacked transparency.

However, it seems that the opinion of the West is of little consequence to the socialists and to the incumbent president. The resolve and the hurried manner of approving the new laws show that the fight for the control over parliament will be tough, Kommersant notes. The goal of each side is to mobilize their electoral base as much as possible. In Dodon’s case, he needs to count on the Russian-speaking population of Moldova after the approval of a new law on the Russian language and Russian news. If Sandu chooses to criticize these steps using strong anti-Russian rhetoric, she risks entering a far-right zone that she attempted to get away from during the presidential campaign, the newspaper added.

Meanwhile, Victor Selin, leader of Moldova’s Social Democratic Party, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Sandu had managed to reach a deal with the country’s Prime Minister Ion Chicu, with the Moldovan government possibly set to resign.

Selin informed that the corresponding agreement between Sandu and Chicu had been reached, and that a resignation statement might be published in the near future. "Chicu was promised a spot at the IMF, so it’s hard to turn down such an offer," Selin explained.


Kommersant: Gazprom plans to conclude construction of Nord Stream 2

Two Russian pipelaying vessels, the Akademik Cherskiy and the Fortuna, plan to continue the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Both vessels have received the green light to continue construction work starting December 2, and the Akademik Cherskiy has already reached the construction site near the island of Bornholm, Kommersant informs. Experts note, however, that the winter weather in the Baltic Sea might hinder the construction of the pipeline, which may take up to five months if the pipe layers synchronize their efforts.

The Russian pipelaying vessels need to finish construction of the pipeline in two areas: one spans about 50 kilometers and is located near the island of Bornholm in Denmark’s exclusive economic zone, while the other one is about 2.6 kilometers long connecting the terminal in Germany’s Greifswald to the gas line in the sea.

Gas analyst at the Skolkovo Energy Center of Energy Center Sergey Kapitonov told Kommersant that the speed of the construction would depend on the number of vessels involved in pipelaying. If both the Akademik Cherskiy and the Fortuna are involved, the construction of the first string will be over in about three months, while the second string will be done in about five months. If only one vessel is involved in the construction, the deadline will be moved up. A month or two will be needed after the pipelaying is complete for starting-up and adjusting the works before the pipeline is ready to be used, the expert notes. "Besides, the season of winter storms in the Baltic Sea may negatively affect the construction process," he stated, adding that this is not the most favorable period to begin construction of the pipeline due to weather conditions.

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