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Press review: Is the Kremlin creating spoiler parties and Yemeni cabinet greeted by blast

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, December 31
People running after the blasts rocked the airport in Yemen’s Aden AP Photo
People running after the blasts rocked the airport in Yemen’s Aden
© AP Photo

Media: New Yemeni cabinet welcomed with terrorist attack

Terror blasts rocked the airport in Yemen’s Aden soon after the arrival of members of a new cabinet, formed following an agreement between the Yemeni government and the Southern Transition Council. The government blamed the terrorist attack on the pro-Iranian Houthi rebels who denied their involvement, Izvestia writes.

The airport explosions "are a very serious provocation aimed at undermining the Riyadh agreements," orientalist scholar Andrei Ontikov pointed out.

"The so-called Riyadh agreements were brokered by Saudi Arabia who supports President Hadi, while the Southern Transition Council, in turn, has the support of the United Arab Emirates. That said, two close countries - Saudi Arabia and the UAE - were divided by disagreements on Yemen," the expert noted. "However, in 2019, an agreement was made on forming a new government, which marked significant progress in efforts towards overcoming the split," Ontikov added.

"The Yemeni authorities have already blamed the attack on Houthi rebels and it would have been strange if they had blamed someone else. The Houthis would certainly benefit from a rift among Yemeni forces but still, an investigation should be carried out and there is no need to hurl groundless accusations," the expert emphasized.

"The Ansar Allah [Houthi] movement has no reason to try to make the situation worse. Various forces may be interested in undermining the Riyadh agreements, primarily, the hardline wing of the Southern Transition Council, which still seeks the independence of southern Yemen," expert with the Russian International Affairs Council Kirill Semenov told Kommersant.

Ontikov was hopeful that "the blast won’t have any serious impact on the political situation" in the country. According to him, given the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, it is particularly important to make sure that the situation does not deteriorate in the wake of the incident.


Kommersant: Public turning off the news media over coronavirus bombardment

It seems that no global crisis of the 21st century compares to the pandemic in terms of focusing everyone’s attention on a single news topic. News and statistics became an integral part of life even for those who never used to pay attention to that particular segment of the information field. However, it’s hard for people to handle the incessant bombardment of apocalyptic news stories, so the audience has begun to grow tired, turning away from news media, Kommersant notes.

Social disturbances always lead to a rise in the audience of media outlets because people tend to read more news, but once the situation stabilizes, they go back to their old ways. The crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic first seemed to follow the usual scenario. In March, according to the Russian Ministry of Digital Development, the audience of the country’s leading news outlets grew by 65,000,000 to 400,000,000, and the ratings of TV news shows skyrocketed. After the restrictions were lifted in the summer and fall, the numbers went back to last year’s levels.

As a result, this outgoing year will be one of the hardest for the industry. According to the Association of Communication Agencies of Russia, only online advertising managed to escape a collapse in the first three quarters of 2020. According to the NSK think tank, the number of daily newspaper issues plummeted by 70% in the second quarter and by 51% in the first six months of the year. Some newspapers and magazines suspended their printed versions, while others shut down.

As for the audience, it had to deal with an avalanche of bad news. Given that most of the entertainment facilities were closed, people had more time to surf the Internet.

However, the audience started to grow tired and analysts say that more people are now unsubscribing from news pages on social media and are turning off push notifications from news outlets’ mobile apps. That means that 2021 will be a difficult year for the media since will have to fight for an audience.


Kommersant: Is the Kremlin creating splinter parties?

In the spring of 2020, the Russian Justice Ministry registered four new political parties - New People, For Truth, Green Alternative and the Direct Democracy Party. Three of them entered regional assemblies following the fall elections and gained the right to nominate their candidates in the 2021 Russian parliamentary election without collecting voters’ signatures. There is optimism that the new parties will meet the Russian people’s demand for new faces in politics, Kommersant writes.

Rumors started circulating before the inception of these new parties that the presidential administration sought to set up new political parties in order to create an illusion of competition ahead of the 2021 election and splinter protest voters.

All four new projects had no problem registering with the Justice Ministry though no party had had such distinction in the previous two years. As for the ideas that the new parties proclaim, they suggest that the presidential administration carefully eye sociological data and pinpoint several large groups of voters that are not represented by the old-guard parties in parliament.

The success of these new players seemed to prove the theory that the presidential administration plans to rely on the creation of several pro-government factions following the 2021 parliamentary elections. Moreover, pollsters have long been pointing to society’s demand for new faces in politics and the people’s weariness with "old-guard" parties.

However, according to a poll conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center in November, only 16% of voters are willing to support non-parliamentary parties, and four percent of them would prefer to vote for the old-guard, including Yabloko and the Party of Pensioners for Social Justice. If nothing extraordinary happens, the new startups will manage to snatch two to three percent of votes from the parliamentary opposition and then retreat to the bench.


Izvestia: Pandemic makes record number of Russians gain weight

The manufacturers of weight-loss medications managed to benefit from the coronavirus pandemic. Russians working from home went to drugstores nationwide in the hope of shedding the extra pounds they had put on. In mid-March, the sales of weight-loss supplements and drugs rose by 25% in money terms compared to the same period last year, said experts interviewed by Izvestia. In their view, many countries, including Russia, will set a ten-year record for weight gain in 2020.

The growing sales of weight-loss drugs is directly connected with weight issues caused by the pandemic, Grand Clinic nutritionist Marina Bayandina pointed out. The outgoing year (2020) saw a rise in the number of people seeking medical assistance to lose weight, SM-Doctor endocrinologist Oksana Mikhaleva said. According to her, people particularly put on extra weight by unconscious snacking when working on the computer and overeating caused by stress stemming from an unclear epidemiological situation.

Even those who did not have weight issues before the pandemic say that they gained some during the quarantine, Bayandina noted. Apart from eating to escape stress, people tended to exercise less during the lockdown, the nutrition guru noted.

However, there is no point trying to find a magical pill that will help you maintain or lose weight, Bayandina cautions. It is only possible to improve one’s health and appearance by changing one’s habits, balancing one’s diet and increasing physical activities.


Izvestia: Holiday season may lead to rise in COVID cases

The number of coronavirus cases recorded in Russia in the fourth week of December was 7,500 more than the third week of the month. Excessive social activities during the holiday season may lead to a rise in cases, Izvestia wrote, citing virologists.

Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology Professor Alexander Butenko weighed in on the long holidays by juxtaposing the situation. "On the one hand, massive gatherings and active travelling will lead to nothing good, health resorts in Krasnodar and Sochi are almost fully booked," he pointed out. "On the other hand, many intend to spend the holidays in their country houses, [thereby] self-isolating in a way," the expert added.

According to the virologist, the same situation occurred in the fall, when everyone returned to work after vacations and let down their guard. "Besides, new variants of the virus may emerge. It is still poorly studied and it’s hard to say what consequences all this will have," Butenko noted. Virus variability is a natural thing so the virus will inevitably mutate, he added.

Deputy Director of the sanitary watchdog’s Central Research Institute of Epidemiology Alexander Gorelov’s advice is to avoid public places, limit the number of guests and refrain from visiting others. It would be better to go to a park rather than spend time indoors, where the risk of infection is higher.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews.