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Press review: Berlin drags feet on Navalny evidence and Lukashenko wants to protect Russia

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, January 29
Germany's Brandenburg Gate seen in front of the central Charite building, where Alexei Navalny was treated in Berlin AP Photo/Markus Schreiber
Germany's Brandenburg Gate seen in front of the central Charite building, where Alexei Navalny was treated in Berlin
© AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: PACE chides Russia, but does not close doors to delegation

The two-day (January 27-28) deliberation over the "Russian issue" in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), initiated at the suggestion of Ukraine, could cause a new crisis in relations between this organization and Russia. It turned out to be the most favorable scenario possible for Moscow, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. PACE adopted a resolution on the powers of the Russian delegation, virtually assessing the policy of the Russian Federation.

According to the newspaper, there was criticism of the Russian authorities, but no measures have been proposed to sway them. The resolution did not include provisions making it possible to challenge the powers of the Russian delegation in six months, de facto depending on the observance of human rights by Moscow, including the "Navalny case." The adopted resolution stated that the alleged poisoning of Navalny was not being investigated, and also condemned the dispersal of the unauthorized protests over his arrest. But all this was not included in the list of the main claims relating to Moscow's deviations from its obligations to the Council of Europe. They mentioned the updated Russian Constitution, which enshrines the right of the state not to execute the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.

"The world is entering a period of dialogue and renewal of contacts that were previously interrupted. This is shown by many events, such as the election of Joe Biden. Accordingly, we need platforms for dialogue. One of them is PACE," Chief Researcher at the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Schweitzer told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

However, PACE's reluctance for confrontation can be attributed to other reasons. Russia’s contributions make up 10% of the Council of Europe’s budget. Last time, after leaving PACE, Russia refused to dole out any money to them, which created problems for the organization's activities.


Izvestia: Germany continues to drag its feet on providing information for Navalny case

Germany will not provide additional information in response to a new request from the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation on the Alexey Navalny case. The German Ministry of Justice (BMJV) confirmed receiving the letter to Izvestia, but stressed that Moscow has all the necessary evidence to initiate a criminal case. At the same time, the Russian side never received a medical report on the alleged poisoning of the blogger with a supposed nerve agent. All of Germany's arguments relied solely on interviewing the victim, which can be construed as contempt for the process, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier.

According to the press service of Russia’s top prosecutor, the new request calls on the German side to return to fulfilling the previously sent Russian requests for full legal assistance.

Meanwhile, a BMJV spokesman told Izvestia that answers to Russia's requests for mutual legal assistance were provided as fully as the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and German legislation allow. The BMJV told the newspaper that Berlin presumes that Moscow has all the information it needs to launch a criminal investigation.

Russia has repeatedly requested the OPCW to provide technical assistance to clarify the situation and conduct a joint investigation. After it became clear that the dialogue between Russia and the West on this situation had reached an impasse, European countries began to actively insist on turning up the sanctions pressure against the Russian Federation, Izvestia writes. As a result, the EU approved a package of measures, and Russia later responded with a tit-for-tat move.

After Navalny was arrested in Russia, the European Parliament adopted a new resolution on sanctions. However, no action was taken. A source in European diplomatic circles told Izvestia before the meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers, not a single country put forward proposals to introduce new restrictions before this specific council.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko announces tougher legislation in move to ‘protect’ Russia

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus said that Belarusian security forces saved the country in August from the introduction of NATO troops and groups of militants, thereby protecting Russia. According to him, such goals justify the use of violence. Lukashenko intends to extinguish any discontent in the future with even greater ferocity. That said, corresponding amendments will be adopted in the next two months, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Lukashenko said earlier that when attacking Belarus, enemies tried to get close to Russia. Local experts regarded these statements as the Belarusian leader’s desire to "boost his own worth" in the eyes of the Kremlin so as to get further assistance. The rhetoric about his mission to rescue Russia has intensified in the wake of the unauthorized protests in Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Lukashenko emphasized the fact that now Belarus and Russia are "on the same side of the barricades."

Lukashenko believes that in order to be better protected from its enemies, the nation’s legislation needs to be amended, since recently Belarus has gotten too carried away by its liberalization. Certain amendments have already been made, the newspaper writes, which Lukashenko considers insufficient.

Experts have recently begun to talk about the lull in repression and the government's plans to amnesty political prisoners. Lukashenko, however, denied such plans, stating that there are no political prisoners in the country.


Kommersant: Finland's transition to renewable energy threatens Russian energy companies

Finland's accelerated transition to renewable generation may mean by 2030 losing the largest importer of Russian electricity with supplies of 22 bln rubles ($288 mln) per year. This possibility was included in the long-term development scenarios by the Finnish industry operator Fingrid. The construction of Rosatom's Hanhikivi-1 NPP is also in question, since Fingrid allows the construction to be frozen for ten years or to completely abandon the project. Rosatom still expects the NPP to be up and running in 2028, and Inter RAO would be ready to take into account Finland's plans after they are made more specific, Kommersant writes.

Fingrid’s three scenarios for the development of the Finnish energy sector include terminating electricity imports, yet one of them nonetheless looks forward to increasing exports, Dmitry Stapran from PwC told Kommersant. For Russia, this could mean losing one of the largest foreign buyers of electricity. Two scenarios assume that Finland will not need an energy bridge with Russia through Vyborg.

The export opportunities of Inter RAO, according to Fingrid’s proposed scenarios are significantly reduced. However, this coincides with the expectations of the company itself. Inter RAO is already expecting a 50% reduction in exports by 2030, Vladimir Sklyar from VTB Capital told the newspaper. According to his estimates, the contribution of the trading division to the group's total profit now reaches about 10-15%, so the decline in exports will not radically affect the financial stability of the group.

On the other hand, Rosatom’s Hanhikivi-1 NPP project worth 7 bln euro is under threat. At the moment, Rosatom told Kommersant that the nuclear plant project is progressing according to schedule agreed on with the Finnish customer, and assumes the commissioning of the nuclear power plant in 2028.


Vedomosti: 2014 food sanctions softened pandemic's blow to Russian trade

The food embargo introduced in 2014 mitigated the negative impact of COVID-19 on the supply chains of Russian retail chains, experts from Alvarez & Marsal believe after a survey of the largest European and Russian retailers. If the process of active import substitution in the food sector over the sanctions war had not begun six years ago, empty shelves in stores could have become a reality, experts told Vedomosti.

According to Alvarez & Marsal report, most retailers in Russia in 2020 did not change suppliers and did not reduce their assortment, even increasing their inventories compared to 2019.They plan to adhere to a similar strategy in 2021.

At the same time, the food embargo imposed by the Russian government in 2014 changed the structure of countries supplying food to Russia and created artificial demand for domestic products. "Due to the fact that import substitution began to work, it was possible to partially compensate for the deficit with Russian goods," One Story partner Olga Sumishevskaya told Vedomosti.

The food embargo has played a revolutionary role in the development of the Russian agro-industrial complex, member of the board of directors of the international audit and consulting network FinExpertiza Aghvan Mikaelyan told the newspaper. "The food sector and retail practically did not stop and continued to function during the quarantine," he noted. “At the same time, the production of non-food products had to be suspended for the period of the lockdown, and, given the drop in demand, not everyone has succeeded in reaching their pre-crisis capacities yet,” the expert added.


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