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Press review: Why Hezbollah visited Moscow and Sputnik V jab likely to enter EU market

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, March 16
Head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Mohammad Raad and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov The Russian Foreign Ministry's press office/TASS
Head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc Mohammad Raad and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov
© The Russian Foreign Ministry's press office/TASS


Izvestia: Russia’s Sputnik V likely to enter EU market

Russia is working with its European partners to expand the production of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement. According to him, the RDIF has already reached agreements with companies from Italy, Spain, France and Germany, which will make it possible to start vaccine supplies to the European market once the EU medical regulator approves the Russian medication.

Since January 2021, there has been talk about Sputnik V entering the EU market. On March 4, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced the start of a rolling review to assess the vaccine’s compliance with EU standards.

However, the most difficult task may be striking a deal on exchanging data and inspecting production sites, but these challenges can be overcome, particularly if there are European pharmaceutical companies willing to produce the shot, infectious disease expert from the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research Antonio Clavenna told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, EU countries are pausing the use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus shot amid reports that inoculation may cause blood clots. The EU political establishment is divided over the situation. Some MEPs interviewed by Izvestia stated they had full confidence in the EMA and their opinion was based on what medical experts said. However, some European lawmakers insist that the regulator should once again review the medication. Human health must be the priority, so there is a need for another review, a member the European Parliament’s Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), Croatian politician Ivan Vilibor Sincic told the paper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Hezbollah delegation visits Moscow to find out about Assad's fate

A delegation of the Lebanese military and political organization Hezbollah, led by the parliamentary bloc’s head Mohammad Raad, paid a visit to Moscow. One of the goals was to discuss the political impasse in Lebanon, but experts believe that it was crucial for the party's members to find out whether Moscow's position regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had changed, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov received the guests from Lebanon in Moscow. A thing to note is that the Hezbollah delegation's trip comes right before Israeli top diplomat Gabi Ashkenazi's visit to Moscow, scheduled for March 17.

"Russia apparently seeks to bring the Syria issue back on the diplomatic track," Russian International Affairs Council expert Anton Mardasov told the newspaper, commenting on Raad’s visit. "It is largely associated with the security forces in the region but there is a need for talks on the current deadlock, just like in 2011-2012, when Russia wasn’t sure about Bashar al-Assad’s fate. Since the Astana process has stalled and it is impossible to give the Syrian Constitutional Committee the appearance of a serious structure focused on reforms, Hezbollah’s visit, as well as the efforts to step up the activities of the Russia-Turkey-Qatar group do not seem random," the expert pointed out.

According to him, the Moscow talks most likely did not cover just the domestic situation in Lebanon. "Positions on the issue of Syria need to be clarified given the upcoming presidential election and a media campaign concerning ‘General Tlas’ resurrection’," Mardasov said, referring to discussions about creating a military council in Syria. "The visit brings to mind the 2011 trip, when a Hezbollah delegation arrived in Moscow at the invitation of Russian officials, its members even gave lectures at Moscow State University but everyone could see clearly that they were primarily interested in learning about Russia’s stance on Assad," the expert emphasized.


Media: Germany’s Christian Democratic Union suffers major defeat in two regional elections

Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has suffered its worst-ever losses during the March 14 elections in the Baden-Wurttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate regions, Vedomosti notes. According to exit polls conducted by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, the CDU received 24.1% of the vote in Baden-Wurttemberg and 27.5% in Rhineland-Palatinate. The polls say that the Greens have won the election in the Baden-Wurttemberg region, garnering 32.6%, and the Social Democratic Party secured a victory in the Rhineland-Palatinate region with 35.7% of the vote.

Ruling parties usually strengthen their positions during times of crises but in this case, it is the other way around, Deputy Director of the Institute for Parliamentary Research Benjamin Hohne told the newspaper. According to him, doubts arose over the past few months about the CDU's ability to resolve crises amid a slow coronavirus vaccination campaign and the people's exhaustion with lockdowns.

Leading Researcher at the German Studies Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of European Studies Alexander Kamkin points out that the regional elections proved to be a durability test for the CDU and the party failed. "Its poor performance shows that public trust in [Chancellor Angela] Merkel’s party and in her personally is increasingly fading due to the ongoing lockdown and related economic issues," the political scientist told Izvestia.

As for the election to the Bundestag in the autumn, experts are divided, though many highlight a downward trend in the CDU’s popularity. "We are most likely to see another coalition. Chances are high that the Greens will gain more votes at the federal level. A black and green coalition (the CDU, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria and the Greens) is also possible. It cannot be ruled out that it will be the Greens that will nominate a candidate for chancellor," Kamkin stressed.


Vedomosti: Russian apps to be pre-installed on iPhones

Apple and Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media have reached an agreement on the installation of Russian-developed apps on devices during the initial setting-up process. Users in Russia will see a dialogue box offering them to install apps from a list approved by the government, Vedomosti notes.

A ministry official pointed out that users would be able to reject the installation. "The ministry isn’t at all interested in ensuring the domination of apps on the pre-installation list. If alternative ideas emerge on the market that will attract user interest and gain popularity, they will also be included in the package," the official said.

In January, the Russian government approved a list of Russian apps meant for pre-installation on smartphones, computers and smart TVs sold nationwide starting on April 1. The apps include web browsers, antivirus software, maps, messaging, mailing and payment services.

Apple has confirmed that staring on April 1, users will have the opportunity to choose Russian-developed apps when activating new devices. The company added that Apple abided by the laws of countries where it was active.

"Russia is a relatively small but steadily growing market for Apple. The company has many loyal users here in terms of both products and ecosystem services," Telecom Daily Director General Denis Kuskov noted. According to him, the corporation came to the conclusion that it would be better to comply with Russian legislation than leave the country’s market.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Amount of foreign nationals seeking medical treatment in Russia on the rise

Over two million foreign nationals received medical treatment in Russia in 2020 despite the complicated epidemiological situation, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, citing Natalia Darbinyan, who heads the communications department of the Healthcare National Project.

Russia's achievements in fighting the coronavirus pandemic have encouraged more foreign nationals to seek medical care in the country, according to the Coordination Center for the implementation of the Promoting the Expert of Health Services federal project. The center’s head Sabina Grin points out that the demand for inbound medical tourism tripled in 2020.

Last year, more than 96,000 medical tourists received treatment in St. Petersburg’s medical facilities, and 33,000 people from 111 countries were treated in Tatarstan. The demand is the highest for medical services in areas such as gynecology, dentistry, ophthalmology, oncology and plastic surgery. Most medical tourists come to Russia from other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, but there are also many from China. In addition, residents of European, African and Middle Eastern countries, as well as the United States and Japan, also seek medical assistance in Russia.

According to Grin, the export of medical services can reach $348 mln in 2021. "The money will go towards the additional refurbishment of Russian hospitals," she specified.

The National Priorities independent non-profit organization says that the project currently involves 63 Russian medical facilities. At least 828,000 foreign nationals will have a chance to receive medical treatment in Russia in 2021, according to the national project’s summary.


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