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Press review: Will Russia’s envoy return to US and Moldovan leaders fight over Sputnik V

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, March 30
The United States' national flag on the building of the US Embassy in Moscow Sergei Fadeichev/TASS
The United States' national flag on the building of the US Embassy in Moscow
© Sergei Fadeichev/TASS

Vedomosti: Russia, US unlikely to reboot dialogue

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov, who was summoned to Moscow for consultations, will return to Washington in the near future, TASS revealed earlier. Antonov left Washington on March 20, after US President Joe Biden’s disparaging remark about Putin on TV. During an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, when asked whether he considered Putin to be a "killer," Biden answered that he did. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that as of March 29, Antonov had not talked to Putin.

The fact that the Russian ambassador did not hold talks with Putin is telling, Vedomosti notes. Head of the Center for Applied Research at the Institute of US and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Pavel Sharikov told Vedomosti that this fact shows that Putin is not interested in any conflict escalation with the US. The imminent return of the Russian ambassador to Washington demonstrates this as well. "Moscow has decided against providing a tough response," Sharikov stated. He noted that the main achievement of diplomacy is that that the conflict did not escalate, however, Russian-US relations are unlikely to reboot anytime soon.

The future of Russian-American ties under the Biden administration is rather clear. It is obvious that the US will not meet Russia halfway if Moscow decides to make concessions, since the administration in Washington is resolved to punish Moscow for allegedly swiping the 2016 US election from the Democrats, a Russian diplomatic source told Vedomosti. Given these conditions, Russia should not respond to vague invitations of the US for dialogue, it should only do so when it directly corresponds to Moscow’s interests, the source said.

On March 26, the White House press service confirmed that Biden had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping to participate in the virtual Climate Summit scheduled for April 22-23. The newspaper’s diplomatic source thinks that there is no point for Russia to accept this invitation, since there will be attempts to prevent the Russian leader from addressing the summit or to downplay his participation as much as possible, so it is unlikely that this summit will bring positive results to Russian-American ties.

When asked about any options for further developing bilateral cooperation between both states, the expert said that he is unsure whether Russia has "the resources to contain the US." However, there is a basis for cooperation, namely in the sphere of arms control, the source pointed out, which is proven by Biden’s decision to prolong the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). In five years, Moscow and Washington will have to discuss this matter again, and substantive talks on a new arms control treaty may surface in the near future, the newspaper’s source suggested.


Media: Blocked cargo ship in Suez Canal freed, but supply delays anticipated

The recent bottleneck in the Suez Canal will drive global logistical companies to review their transport routes and approaches to choosing the size of vessels, in addition they may make adjustments to time management when it comes to delivering goods to ports, experts quizzed by Izvestia suggest. Traffic on the Suez Canal was revived on Monday after the Ever Given cargo vessel was freed, the Egyptian Embassy in Russia informed the paper. However, a week of blockage may cost the global economy up to $70 bln. Supply delays and overloaded ports may lead to a rise in prices for agricultural produce and consumer goods, analysts predict. As a result of this shipping collapse, the prospects for certain alternative routes may get a boost, such as the Northern Sea Route, which lies along the Arctic Coast of Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

"Of course, the blockage of such a key shipping lane has economic repercussions. Many production and logistical chains have been disrupted, and they cannot recover quickly and fully. The bottleneck in the Suez Canal caused a multiplying effect, and now, some production cycles and trade routes are way behind schedule," Finam analyst Andrey Maslov told Izvestia.

This crisis may stimulate the development of a sea route with a lot of potential, namely - the Northern Sea Route - Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. It can become a new transport artery connecting European ports and Pacific Ocean harbors. Russian President Vladimir Putin noted earlier that the Northern Sea Route gives many countries "colossal advantages", allowing them to save on fuel and time. Russia sees China as a partner in this project. In April 2019, Putin said during the One Belt One Road forum that Moscow was studying the possibility of connecting the Northern Sea Route to China’s Maritime Silk Road in order to create a competitive route connecting Asia’s Northeast, East and Southeast to Europe.

However, the development of the Northern Sea Route may be hindered by competition, the military factor and the development of alternative transport routes, the newspaper points out. For example, Canada and Russia are competing internationally, laying claims to the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route respectively.


Kommersant: Moldovan politicians fight over Russia’s Sputnik V

The Sputnik V vaccine, which is often depicted by the West as Moscow’s "political weapon", can really turn into one in the hands of Moldovan politicians. The country’s ex-President Igor Dodon and incumbent leader Maia Sandu are fighting over the Russian jab, trying to obtain it from Russia via separate channels. The supply of the vaccine is of critical importance to Moldova, where the COVID-19 situation is close to catastrophic. Both politicians are interested in taking credit for bringing the inoculation into the country. However, it is unclear so far whose side will prevail, Kommersant reports.

This week, Dodon, leader of the pro-Russian Party of Socialists, is set to visit Moscow. The main aim of his trip is to ask Russia for aid in the fight against coronavirus. Dodon hopes that this aid will come in the form of the supply of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Bogdan Tirdea, a Moldovan MP representing the Party of Socialists, told Kommersant that Dodon plans to visit Moscow on March 30 to hold talks with high-ranking officials on the vaccine’s supply.

Maia Sandu, Dodon’s main political opponent, is also hoping to bring Sputnik V to Moldova. She sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin with a request for the delivery of the vaccine. Sorina Stefirta, Sandu’s spokesperson, informed Kommersant that so far, Moscow has not responded to the request. The spokesperson pointed out that Moldova sent out similar requests to 30 different countries.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed to the newspaper that Moscow had received Sandu’s letter on March 29.

For his part, Bogdan Tirdea blasted Sandu’s letter to Vladimir Putin as "hypocritical." According to him, the president decided to use Sputnik V for publicity. "At the same time, Maia Sandu continues to promote an anti-Russian policy line, make anti-Russian statements, and, most importantly, her party continues to push forward anti-Russian laws in the parliament. All this is confusing, to put it mildly. On the one hand, you spit on Russia, and on the other hand, you ask for Sputnik V," the lawmaker said.

Moldovan politicians are not hiding the fact that they are trying to achieve their goals and score additional political points with the aid of the Russian jab. However, in any case, Moscow will have the final word on the supply of Sputnik V.


Izvestia: EU not interested in Syria’s recovery with Assad in power, says Russian envoy

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov said in an interview with Izvestia published on Tuesday that the EU is not interested in Syria’s post-conflict recovery as long as President Bashar al-Assad stays in power.

"As we can see, there is no discussion when it comes to establishing the conditions for the return of refugees to the country, and also when it comes to the country’s post-conflict recovery. According to the head of European diplomacy, sending EU funds with this goal will only be possible when the fitting conditions arise. Brussels’s understanding is that these conditions include the removal of Bashar al-Assad from power," Chizhov pointed out.

The Russian envoy stressed that the EU continues to slap sanctions on Syria’s leadership instead of inviting the legitimate representatives of the Syrian government to the conference on Syria. "The EU has no plans to aid Syria’s recovery or to return refugees to the country, they are following completely different goals," he added, talking about the upcoming Brussels Conference on Syria involving international donors.

The EU sanctions list includes all of the Syrian leadership, including President Bashar al-Assad and members of his family. All of them are banned from entering the EU. Earlier, the EU blacklisted eight new ministers forming part of the Syrian government led by Prime Minister Hussein Arnous, which was formed on August 30, 2020. On January 15, 2021, the EU placed Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on the sanctions list as well.

Conferences of international donors on Syria are held by Brussels annually. In 2020, this gathering managed to rake in about $7 bln euro. This money is usually sent to Syrian territories outside of Damascus’ control, as well as neighboring states, including Turkey, which accommodate Syrian refugees on their territory. At the same time, the EU refuses to respond to Russia’s initiatives on launching an international refugee repatriation process, claiming that the necessary conditions for that have not been met. In 2021, the conference will be held online on March 29-30 with the participation of over 75 delegations representing 50 countries.


Izvestia: Russia marks one year since nationwide COVID-19 lockdown

A year ago, on March 30, 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a non-working week due to the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraging all citizens to stay home to curb the spread of the virus. The lockdown was first supposed to last until April 5, however, it ended only on May 12. Russia’s public and economic life was frozen for a longer period of time: restaurants, gyms, cinemas and other entertainment facilities began to gradually resume their work only in the summer, Izvestia has laid out its analysis of the economic consequences of Russia’s coronavirus measures. The recovery of the national economy is likely to last a while and conclude only in 2022, experts quizzed by the paper said, adding that mass vaccination can save the country from new lockdowns.

Alexander Proklov, a senior managing director at National Credit Ratings (NCR), told the paper that Russia had hit the bottom of coronavirus-related economic decline back in 2020. "Currently, Russia’s economy is in the recovery growth phase, which corresponds to the global economic dynamics on the whole. How significant this rise will be depends in many ways on the end of the pandemic and the lifting of quarantine restrictions in the economies of Russia’s key trade partner states, especially in the EU. As the borders open, global trade and tourism routes recover, the Russian economy will get an additional boost, but even then, we are not talking about a V-shaped recovery. The recovery will be more gradual, and it will conclude fully in 2022. Our prediction for 2021 remains the same - a 2.5-2.7% growth compared to 2020," the expert said.

In the second quarter of 2021, a steady trend of rising macro indicators of business and consumer activity are expected, and the country’s GDP is likely to rise by at least 3.3%, Mikhail Zeltser, a stock market specialist at BCS Global, told Izvestia.

According to medical experts, only vaccination can speed up the end of the pandemic. "There is no direct treatment of COVID-19. The drugs used now to treat coronavirus cause a lot more side effects than the vaccines. At the same time, both Russian and foreign vaccines show high effectiveness. Why are Russian vaccines better? Because they are available here and now," Assistant Professor at Pirogov Russian National Research Medical University’s Department of Children's Infectious Diseases Ivan Konovalov stressed.


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