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Press review: Second impeachment bid against Trump fails and Russia triples gold exports

Top stories from the Russian press on Mondat, February 15th

Media: Second impeachment bid against Trump fails in US Senate

Former US President Donald Trump was acquitted by the Senate in his second impeachment trial. Fifty-seven senators voted to uphold the impeachment article submitted by the House, which accused the ex-president of inciting an insurrection in Washington on January 6, 2021, however, 67 votes were required for a conviction, Vedomosti writes.

According to Senior Research Fellow at Institute for US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Pavel Koshkin, the failed impeachment bid is a small victory for Trump. It will encourage his supporters and allow him to take advantage of the image of a martyr persecuted by political enemies. Chances are that it will also empower him to return to politics and seek a presidential nomination in 2024, the expert added.

In Koshkin’s view, Trump’s opponents - namely House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of those who initiated the impeachment - seek to make him disappear from the political scene forever. This is why they are very likely to try and find a way to bring criminal charges against the ex-president, particularly based on his financial activities, tax payments and relations with Russia, the expert pointed out.

Meanwhile, Anton Fedyashin, a professor at American University in Washington DC, told Kommersant that "the impeachment bid's failure comes as no surprise given the balance of power in the Senate." "Nevertheless, the Democrats will use the House’s decision to initiate the second impeachment as a weapon against Trump if he starts making moves to run for president in 2024," the academic added.

"The Democrats are so afraid that the 2016 election scenario will repeat itself that they are trying to make sure that they have all the possible tools and mechanisms to prevent another possible victory by conservative and populist forces, regardless of whether it will be Donald Trump or a follower of his," Fedyashin emphasized.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russian authorities target Navalny ahead of parliamentary election

The February 14 protests in Russia, called for by the Navalny squad, went without incident. Even the team’s online accounts stopped speculating about the large scale of these activities and their serious impact on the situation in the country. Both the authorities and their opponents retained their positions: the authorities demonstrated their ability to resist overt provocations, while the opposition bolstered their image as true dissidents, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Sunday's activities only provided material for state media outlets. Clearly, efforts are being made to further paint Navalny in a negative light. The goal apparently is to turn him and his entire network into the Kremlin's main rival in the upcoming parliamentary election. The matter is that the United Russia party will have no actual rival in the vote and its potential victory may look artificial. This is why the presidential administration seems to have decided to launch a fight against Navalny.

Center for Political Information Director General Alexei Mukhin believes that "the authorities have realized that attempts to isolate Navalny have failed and his actions are generating some results, so they decided to shed light on his true nature and steps to destroy Russia’s political system." The commentator added that still, United Russia was more inclined to pursue a policy of practical action though it might use the Navalny factor in its future election campaign.

Head of the Political Expert Group Konstantin Kalachev, in turn, pointed out that "the designation of Navalny as a Western agent stems from confrontation with the West." "The authorities could do better by not only belittling Navalny but also by trying to gain more trust from the people, particularly through popular economic decisions," the expert noted.

First Vice President of the Center for Political Technologies Alexei Makarkin emphasized that as far as the election was concerned, the authorities’ policy "will make it possible to retain the support of their electorate - the people who have been standing by Putin and United Russia." "However, most people will look at what else the authorities can offer and what they can say apart from the Navalny situation," the analyst stressed.

Izvestia: Russia triples gold exports

Russia tripled its gold exports in 2020 after the coronavirus pandemic had made oil and gas revenues plummet, Izvestia writes.

It was the right time to boost sales as gold prices kept setting records in 2020. Prices went up by 21.7% over the course of the year with a particularly rapid growth recorded in the first six months of 2020. There were a number of reasons behind the surge in prices, namely economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic. In such a situation, investors opted to put money into the most stable assets, including the yellow metal.

"Gold is a rather volatile commodity but this year, for the first time in many years, its price both in dollars and rubles grew significantly. As a result, banks, which had been making gold stocks, had a chance to sell it at a good price, locking in profits," Freedom Finance analyst Valery Yemelyanov pointed out.

Experts believe that the 2020 increase in investor demand is unlikely to repeat itself because the factors that prompted the growth are not as strong anymore. Uncertainty stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding as the vaccination campaigns pick up pace and monetary policies will hardly be softened further because interest rates are already close to the lowest levels, Mikhail Bespalov of KSP Capital noted.

On the other hand, the new US administration is mulling over further fiscal stimulus and a new aid package worth $3 trillion. It will inevitably weaken the US currency and may give a boost to gold prices, though not as strong as the one they got in 2020.

Vedomosti: Russia seeks IOM membership to better address migration issues

Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a bill to the State Duma, which calls for accepting the charter of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). It is a formal move required for the country to join the organization. This step will neither entail additional legal and political obligations for Russia, nor will it limit its sovereign migration policy, but it will allow Moscow to promote its related interests, Vedomosti writes.

"Full membership means participation in decision-making processes. However, truth be told, the IOM’s decisions are recommendatory in nature and any documents issued under its auspices are not legally binding. However, we live in an age when the importance of symbols in global politics has grown significantly. That said, it’s important to have the opportunity to participate in the development of IOM’s documents and influence the wording used in them. And as for the membership fee, it’s not that high," Director of the Center for Theoretical and Applied Political Science at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Vladimir Malakhov explained.

"It is a timely move for our country to join IOM as a full member because Russia’s long-term economic growth is impossible without an increase in migration. IOM membership will make it possible for Russia to take a more active part in efforts to regulate global processes, promote the national and regional agenda, and study and introduce the best practices," New Economic School Vice Rector Maxim Bouev emphasized.

According to the January report of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Russia ranks fourth globally in terms of the number of migrants (12 mln people) after the United States, Germany and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Russia is third after India and Mexico in terms of the country’s citizens living overseas (11 mln).

Izvestia: Russians flock to stock market

The Moscow Stock Exchange index once again neared an all-time high last week. The stock market didn’t seem to notice the economic downturn, the worst in six years, raising concerns about a potential stock market bubble. Especially considering the fact that more and more everyday citizens are entering the market as investors, which, on the one hand, is good for development but on the other hand, can create certain risks, Izvestia notes.

The deep economic decline came to an end in most countries in March last year. Stock markets started to recover almost everywhere. The process involved the entry of a large number of private investors. Russia’s stock market is also slowly turning into a people’s platform following amendments to the law on the stock market, which made it possible to open individual investment accounts. The number of investors active on the Russian stock market rose by 4.2 million in 2020.

At the same time, experts point out that institutional players still rule the day on the market. According to Teletrade Chief Analyst Pyotr Pushkarev, those include banks and companies managing assets, as well as foreign hedge funds. "Russian private investors don’t have enough spare money to do it just for fun," Pushkarev noted.

There is danger stemming from an overvalued market, as the market is rapidly growing in a difficult macroeconomic situation. However, Gazprombank Stock Market Strategist Ilya Frolov pointed out that the correlation between market capitalization and gross domestic product is the main sign indicating a stock market bubble. The rate stands at 39% in Russia, compared to 211% in the United States, 140% in Japan and 79% in China. The capitalization of Russia’s stock market is much lower than in other countries, which reduces the threat.

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