Izvestia: US poised to slap sanctions on Turkey for buying Russia’s S-400s
The United States is literally one step away from slapping sanctions within CAATSA (Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) on Turkey for Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile systems.
Until recently, the attempts made by US lawmakers to punish the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for reaching an arms deal with Russia fell flat due to the stance of US President Donald Trump. However, this time, the White House may fail to stall the approval of a new sanctions package against Turkey included in the bill on the US defense budget. The draft bill was approved by both houses of Congress.
However, if Trump chooses to veto the bill, the draft defense budget bill will be signed by his successor, Democrat Joe Biden, whose inauguration is planned for January 20, 2021. Under these circumstances, it is hard to make definite predictions on any anti-Turkish sanctions. Head of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies Yuri Mavashev told Izvestia that "Biden is unlikely to start interacting with the Turkish administration by introducing sanctions." According to the expert, the new president is more likely to launch a dialogue with Erdogan, "and then he will decide," so there is a chance that Biden "won’t sign the bill, but send it back for further work."
For his part, Viktor Supyan, deputy chief of the Institute for US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the paper that the anticipated sanctions are likely to be introduced after all. "Both the Republicans and the Democrats see eye to eye on this matter," he noted, adding that both parties are in favor of imposing sanctions against Turkey. Both commentators point out that while Washington’s restrictions will undermine the already strained relations between the US and Turkey, there is no discussion about Turkey pulling out of NATO in this regard.
Izvestia: Ceasefire violation reported in Nagorno-Karabakh
On December 13, the defense chiefs of Armenia and Russia held talks regarding the latest ceasefire violation reported in the Hadrut district of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenian Defense Ministry stated on December 12 that Azerbaijan’s armed forces had violated the provisions of the November 9 ceasefire, attacking the villages of Hin Tager and Htsaberd.
For its part, Baku stated that the State Security Service of Azerbaijan "was forced to conduct an anti-terrorism operation," adding that the attacks were in response to certain provocations by Armenian armed formations remaining in the area.
"So far, there is no need to overestimate the incident in Hadrut. The monitoring center in the Agdam district that follows the developments on the entire territory and on the line of contact between Azerbaijan and Armenia should provide its assessment of the incident," Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Leonid Kalashnikov told Izvestia. The MP stressed that in the month after reaching the trilateral agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh, "not one bomb has gone off in the region," which can be considered a huge achievement, given that the conflicting sides had failed to maintain the two previous ceasefires.
"This is a one-time provocation designed for unclear reasons by one of the sides, perhaps in order to test the Russian peacekeepers. This only shows that the contingency should be expanded so that the highest amount of posts and team bases are in the areas of contact between the armed forces of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This will help avoid such incidents in the future," Viktor Vodolatsky, first deputy chairman of the committee, told the paper.
According to political analyst Denis Denisov, the incident in Hadrut seems like nothing out of the ordinary, because after a ceasefire agreement is signed, hostilities often do not fully end, especially in such a hot spot like Karabakh. "So far, there are no grounds to talk about a renewal of hostilities. Such situations can arise due to even a couple of people in the conflicting sides’ governments disagreeing with the provisions of the signed agreement. The most important thing in this situation will get an evaluation from the Russian peacekeeping mission," the expert told Izvestia.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko unlikely to recover from wave of public protest in Belarus
The Belarusian protests are changing their format, but show no signs of dying down, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. Experts note that the social contract between the government and the public in Belarus seems to have been destroyed for good, and it is unlikely to recover.
On December 13, another round of Sunday protests took place in Minsk. For four weeks running, Belarusians have chosen to protest in their own districts instead of gathering in the city center. This past Sunday, for the first time in four months, officials did not block Internet services in Minsk or shut down metro stations. However, law enforcement still used special equipment to disperse the protesters, making numerous arrests.
Right now, the most common form of protest in Belarus is hanging white-red-white flags or even laundry of these colors across windows and terraces of regular apartments, the newspaper notes, with the government cracking down on the protest symbols. This year, Ded Moroz, the equivalent of Santa Claus in Belarus, is forbidden from donning his red-and-white coat, and has been advised to choose a white-and-blue color palette instead.
The protests against the government have become a regular thing in Belarusian society that President Alexander Lukashenko is unable to thwart. "They [the Belarusian government] are fighting windmills. White-red-white is a symbol, but that’s not the point. They can take down all the flags they want from the windows of regular citizens, but they will never be able to erase those horrible images from our memory. We can never go back to the way it was before," Belarusian tennis player Olga Barabanshchikova wrote.
"Belarusians are not giving up despite the government’s counterattack. In the attempts to destroy the national symbol, the protest had moved from squares and streets to backyards and even apartments. However, despite the regime’s attempts to dampen the public’s spirits, the people remain loyal to themselves. Lukashenko remaining in power is unacceptable: he must leave," Valery Kovalevsky, former Belarusian diplomat and current representative for international affairs of Belarus’ opposition figurehead Svetlana Tikhanovskaya said.
Tikhanovskaya’s foreign policy activity does not bode well for Lukashenko either. It was reported that Tikhanovskaya plans to visit the US in January during the week of the inauguration, holding talks with several top officials. Meanwhile, on December 13, she began her second visit to Germany.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: AstraZeneca to test combined vaccination with Russia’s Sputnik V
Researchers with Oxford University and the Gamaleya Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology will unite their efforts on COVID-19 vaccine development. They have agreed to hold clinical trials of a combination of the vaccine developed by the UK-Swedish company AstraZeneca and one of two components of Russia’s Sputnik V, the Russian Direct Investment Fund and AstraZeneca informed earlier.
This combination may develop a more effective COVID-19 vaccine. This is good news, which shows that foreign experts trust the development of Russian researchers, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.
The newspaper asked an expert whether such experiments are justified and whether such combinations are dangerous. "This is an absolutely normal, research-based approach. An unsafe drug will not be released for circulation," Alexander Gorelov, deputy director for research at the Russian consumer rights watchdog's Central Research Institute of Epidemiology, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
He added that there are special international protocols for trials, which will be held in four stages, and only after that can the drug be registered for public use.
"Why do we need these efforts? Everyone wants to get a higher immunogenicity of the drug," he explained. "Combining vaccines is nothing new. There are many combined vaccines that protect against several infections at once on Russia’s national [vaccination] schedule."
"However, not all trial samples have reached the production stage, but only those that went through the entire cycle of clinical trials and were confirmed to have all the necessary properties. Combining various technologies follows the same goal: to increase immune response, that is, to reach a higher antibody count, and to ensure longer and more effective protection against the virus," the expert stated.
Kommersant: Foreign investors increasing their presence on Russian stock market
Foreign investors are actively increasing their presence on the Russian stock market. Investors are attracted by the large share of industrial and oil companies that look upbeat for next year if the global economy begins to recover in 2021, Kommersant reports.
According to Kommersant, which analyzed the reports of Bank of America and BCS Global Markets, which consider the Emerging Portfolio Fund Research Data, the total influx of foreign investment into Russian markets reached $260 mln in the week that ended on December 6. This is two times higher than the figure reported the week before that. Last week, a record-high influx since January, $280 mln, was recorded. In the past five weeks, the Russian stock market received $900 mln in foreign investment.
Foreign investors are changing their preference, as the interest in high-risk assets remains high. "In the past months, investors have actively moved from emerging tech companies to cyclic spheres expecting the pandemic to end at the beginning of next year," Yevgeny Pundrovsky, deputy chief of UFG Wealth Management investment department, noted. According to him, the Russian market mainly includes cyclic, industrial and oil companies, which makes it more attractive compared to the stock markets of developed nations. Meanwhile, Asian stock markets, which are dominated by the "new economy" spheres, are becoming less desirable for investors.
Pundrovsky added that the continuous rise in oil prices (last week, Brent reached $50 per barrel) and the prices for other primary commodities boost the appeal of Russian stocks, especially as the ruble remains undervalued.
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