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Press review: US Senators seek to punish Russia and will Zelensky face backlash for TV ban

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, January 5
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky  Anna Marchenko/TASS
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky
© Anna Marchenko/TASS

Media: US, EU plan to slap more sanctions on Russia

On February 3, a group of US senators came up with a bill calling for new sanctions against Russia for "brazen violations of international law including the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny." The European Union and Germany may also introduce more restrictive measures against Moscow, according to Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, Vedomosti writes.

Director of Programs at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Ivan Timofeev pointed out that numerous bills on imposing sanctions against Moscow had been introduced in the US before and most of them will never become law. The expert added that apart from bills, there also are senators’ letters, urging the US Department of State to take action against Russia under the Magnitsky Act and the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act. ""US Congressional members are taking advantage of the issue in order to score political points by demonstrating a party consensus [on containing Russia] and their tough stance," Timofeev noted. "Undoubtedly, the activities of the US Congress need to be taken into account but the bill should not be viewed as a fait accompli," the commentator emphasized.

Meanwhile, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell has arrived in Moscow amid the new crisis between Russia and the West. His visit will largely determine whether the EU will impose new sanctions against Russia. Leading expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of Europe Sergei Fedorov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the EU authorities sought to maintain contact with Moscow "because no major global issue can be resolved without Russia." At the same time, the wording of the official statements issued by the EU and the US are indeed aimed at fueling tensions, the expert stressed.


Izvestia: US does about-face on troop withdrawal from Germany

Washington has put off withdrawing US troops from Germany. The Biden administration plans to reconsider former President Donald Trump’s decision to reduce the number of US troops by 12,000, Izvestia writes.

The reason why US troops are deployed to Germany is not to protect the Germans but largely to ensure America’s strategic interests, Russian International Affairs Council expert Ilya Kramnik pointed out. "It provides Washington with global influence and the status of the West’s leading military power," the expert explained.

"The Americans keep part of their nuclear stockpile in Germany. The US military presence in the country is largely aimed at achieving Washington’s geopolitical goals rather than at ensuring European security," Leading Researcher at the German Studies Center of the Institute of European Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Kamkin stressed.

At the same time, this foreign military presence limits Germany’s sovereignty. "Some Americans think that it leads to additional spending and complicates relations with Russia. In Europe, a number of politicians are concerned about the sovereignty of their countries, where US troops are deployed. However, given the current political developments, these ideas aren’t popular, instead, the idea of NATO’s unity is," Kramnik emphasized.

Kamkin is confident that the United States won't withdraw troops from Germany in the near future. "For that to happen, NATO would have to collapse or isolationists would have to come to power in the US, seeking to ‘make America great again’," the political commentator insisted.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Zelensky’s shutdown of opposition TV channels unlikely to trigger unrest

Kiev's closure of three opposition TV channels has once again highlighted the ongoing schism in Ukrainian society. The fault lines deepened under President Vladimir Zelensky who had pledged "to stitch" Ukraine back together, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.

According to experts, the censorship move will turn some voters away from Zelensky. However, the Opposition Platform - For Life party will lose the opportunity to reach out to the public. "Zelensky’s critics may move to the Internet but the thing to understand is that most of the Opposition Platform - For Life party’s voters are people over the age of 50, who tend to watch TV, unfortunately. And since these TV channels have gone off the air, the party itself has sort of vanished from people’s radars. From this standpoint, those who advised Zelensky to cut the party’s voters off from the information field, made the right move," Director of the Kiev Center for Political Studies and Conflictology Mikhail Pogrebinsky pointed out.

According to the political commentator, there is little chance that the TV channel shutdown will trigger demonstrations in Ukraine. "If mass protests erupt, it will be because of social issues and not political ones. Zelensky will hold on to power as long as no real social breakdown occurs," Pogrebinsky noted.

Kiev-based political consultant Dmitry Dzhangirov believes that the Ukrainian president did not receive a direct order from the US to attack the Opposition Platform - For Life party. However, he is trying to guess the new US administration’s mood and unilaterally swear allegiance.

Experts interviewed by the newspaper don’t rule out that Ukraine’s head of state will ramp up his Russophobic rhetoric and tensions will mount in Donbass. "Zelensky explains all his actions by saying that Ukraine is at war with Russia," Pogrebinsky noted.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Minor party to help maintain pro-Putin majority

The media coverage of the A Just Russia, For Truth and the Patriots of Russia parties is currently focused on the February 22 congress that will merge the three into a new united party. As far as anti-Western and patriotic rhetoric go, the new party will probably even leave United Russia behind, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

The Kremlin apparently seeks to ensure another source of support for its anti-Western policy and use radical members of the new party to attract young voters. Preparations are probably being made to turn the new party into a minor party of power in case United Russia fails to achieve a constitutional majority in the upcoming election.

Head of the Political Expert Group Konstantin Kalachev pointed out that the pivot promoted by leftist forces is not as dangerous to the Russian authorities as the activities of the non-parliamentary opposition. "Left-wing sentiment is on the rise but it’s controllable, while liberal sentiment is high and uncontrollable, which raises the authorities’ concern. This is why, perhaps, patriots will be sent to oppose the non-parliamentary forces," said President of the Russian Association of Political Consultants Alexei Kurtov.

Center for Political Information Director General Alexei Mukhin emphasized that the new party "looks like the Communist Party’s sparring partner, so the communists will face issues in the election." The expert shares the opinion that the A Just Russia party was initially formed as the authorities’ partner and a parliamentary alliance is possible if United Russia does not receive a majority.

According to First Vice President of the Center for Political Technologies Alexei Makarkin, the new party will get the votes of those who support President Vladimir Putin but are reluctant to cast their ballots for United Russia.


Izvestia: Cryptocurrency prices set to keep rising

The world’s top ten cryptocurrencies rose by 10% to 50% in the past week. Dogecoin set a record, skyrocketing by 780%. Experts interviewed by Izvestia expect the trend to continue.

The high demand for cryptocurrencies largely reflects the mood of retail investors, said Head of Zenit Bank's Private Analysis Department Georgy Okromchedlishvili. In his view, given the soft monetary policies in the United States and Europe, inflation rates may rise, bolstering interest in protective assets, including cryptocurrencies.

Finam analyst Leonid Delitsyn believes that the main reason why cryptocurrencies keep going up is that people have made money and are willing to invest in risky assets. Some might have received their annual bonuses and others were provided with state allowances, the financial commentator said.

Analysts expect that the upward trend in cryptocurrency prices will persist. The influx of institutional capital into the digital asset sector will continue, allowing digital currencies to grow in the long term, Chief of Analysis at CEX.IO Broker Yuri Mazur emphasized.

Meanwhile, co-founder of the Exante investment company Anatoly Knyazev warns investors to keep a close eye on the changing prices of traditional assets. If corrections take place on stock markets, they are highly likely to impact cryptocurrencies, the expert explained.


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