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Press review: Facebook bans news sharing in Australia and Biden makes concessions to Iran

Top stories from the Russian press on Saturday, February 20th

Izvestia: Anti-Russian rhetoric brings Europe and US together again

The 57th Munich Security Conference was for the first time held online on February 19. Its agenda addressed the restoration of trans-Atlantic ties, the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges that it created for healthcare systems and democracy. The event’s main speaker, US President Joe Biden, embarked on a mission to reconcile the United States and Europe, Izvestia writes.

Russia and China, who did not participate in the conference this year, still played a crucial role in restoring the EU-US alliance. They had a special place in Biden’s address. He emphasized the need to get ready for long-term strategic competition with China, and accused Russia of attempts to undermine the European project and trans-Atlantic unity.

"The Munich Security Conference this year was a feast for the trans-Atlanticists, a long-awaited and artificially promoted one," said German political scientist Alexander Rahr. "All talk about European sovereignty will cease now. At the same time, clearer attempts will be made to prevent the world’s movement towards a multi-polar order, where negotiations have to involve Russia and China," the expert added.

According to Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics Dmitry Suslov, Russia’s image as an enemy is being used on both sides of the Atlantic as a major factor of consolidation.

"However, while the United States will face resistance from its allies in the struggle with Beijing (it was no coincidence that the Europeans signed an investment agreement with China right before Biden’s inauguration), things seem to be a lot easier as far as joining forces against Russia is concerned. We can see that Russia-EU relations are deteriorating, providing grounds for the restoration of the West’s consolidated polices towards Moscow," the political scientist emphasized.

Izvestia: Facebook bans news sharing in Australia

Facebook has banned Australian users and media from sharing local and international news. The company embarked on this hard-nosed crackdown to avoid paying part of its profits to Australian news outlets. The West is keeping a close eye on the situation because the Australian case may set a precedent for other countries, Izvestia notes.

Facebook claims that the move was triggered by an amendment to Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act, which obliges digital platforms to make agreements with media outlets and pay them for posting content. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that Big Tech’s policy only proved that the IT giants believed they were above the law and could thumb their noses at governments.

The conflict has been a long time coming, said Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov. According to him, information is posted on social media for free, which deepens the crisis that traditional media outlets are going through. "There are no international rules to regulate the activities of social media networks. As a result, news outlets have no protection against social media that can use their information resources. A conflict is inevitable here," the expert explained.

According to him, the Australia incident will have reverberations. "Many in the media world sympathize with Australia’s position as they believe in the need to bring social media to heel since they leech off those producing quality content. They can post any information they want, earn big money and remain free of any responsibilities for content quality. It’s hard to say right now how this conflict will be resolved. However, it definitely is a manifestation of the data revolution we are living in," Kortunov pointed out

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Biden offers concessions to Iran

The United States has softened its position on Iran, dropping the demand that the United Nations restore international sanctions against the country. Tehran has been given a clear signal that US President Joe Biden is ready to search for compromises, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

It was former US President Donald Trump that had called for the restoration of all international sanctions on Iran, which had been lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2015. Biden criticized that position during his election campaign. Along with China and Russia, other participants in the nuclear deal - the United Kingdom, France and Germany - also opposed restrictions against Tehran. And now, Charg· d’Affaires of the United States of America to the United Nations Richard Mills announced that Washington was rescinding the Trump administration’s assertion concerning international sanctions on Iran. He said in a letter to the UN Security Council that Biden had a different stance on the issue.

"Biden is indeed interested in restoring the nuclear deal. The JCPOA was made during his time as vice president in the Barack Obama administration. If Biden now refuses to restore the nuclear deal, he will lose to Trump, actually confirming his claim that there had been no need for the deal," Director of the Franklin Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies at Moscow State University Yuri Rogulev pointed out.

At the same time, Mills’ letter should not be viewed as proof of Biden’s willingness to make unilateral concessions. If Iran fails to make steps to meet the US halfway, at least by lifting its ban on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s random inspections, then the negotiating process will stall once again.

"Let’s not forget that Iran wants Biden to remove the previously imposed sanctions, and it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s much easier for the US to impose restrictions than to lift them. There needs to be strong reasons to take such a step and Biden is perfectly aware of this," the expert concluded.


Kommersant: Russia, Saudi Arabia ink deal for Kalashnikov rifle production

One of the world's major arms exhibitions, IDEX 2021, will kick off in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, on Sunday. Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov, who heads the country's delegation to the event, specified in an interview with Kommersant what kind of equipment Russian companies would showcase in the UAE.

"We are traditionally known for our air defense systems and anti-aircraft defenses. This is what we can export, we have strong advantages over our foreign rivals who seek to compete with us in this area," Manturov pointed out.

In addition, for the first time, Russia’s T-14 Armata tank will be presented to potential foreign buyers at IDEX 2021. Customers are also interested in the equipment that Russia tested during its mission in Syria, and Moscow has taken that into account, the minister added.

When speaking about cooperation with Saudi Arabia, he said: "As for a contract on launching the first stage of joint production of Kalashnikov assault rifles, the parties have signed it and now, inter-state approval procedures are underway, after which the accord will take effect."

The Russian minister also emphasized that in terms of arms exports, Moscow acted "in strict accordance with international agreements and the existing rules." "If there are no UN Security Council prohibitions on providing weapons and military equipment to countries, we don’t usually impose unilateral restrictions. We fully implement international agreements and will continue to pursue these principles in the future," Manturov emphasized.

Izvestia: Moscow to register its third coronavirus vaccine

Russia's third coronavirus vaccine - the Chumakov Center's CoviVac - is expected to be registered in the coming days. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that various vaccine options will increase people's trust in vaccination and help achieve herd immunity faster.

CoviVac is different from the two other Russian vaccines because it is based on a whole inactivated virus rather than on virus fragments. When injected with the vaccine, the human body remembers the antigenic composition of the virus in order to identify it in the future.

It is a well-tested technology that is used for the production of polio, measles, smallpox and other vaccines, Chief Physician at the Medicine Leader health center, and infectious disease specialist Yevgeny Timakov said. This kind of shot has been proven safe, the expert added.

It is a good thing for a country to produce vaccines on various technology platforms, Assistant Professor at Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University’s Department of Children's Infectious Diseases Ivan Konovalov emphasized. The opportunity to choose between three vaccines will make it possible to inoculate those who have contraindications to certain vaccines.

"Besides, it will help raise people’s commitment to vaccination. They currently need to decide on whether to get inoculated when they have access to only one vaccine. And various vaccine options will allow doubters to get vaccinated with the second or the third one. This is why public trust in vaccination may grow," the expert stressed.

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