Media: Erdogan accuses retired admirals of plotting coup over canal plans
Retired Turkish admirals have come out against the potential revision of the Montreux Convention regarding Ankara's sovereignty over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles in connection with the Istanbul Canal Project. The retired admirals were petrified by the ease with which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan changes the country’s laws as they suspect that he intends to fully destroy the secular foundations of the Turkish state. The authorities, in turn, are accusing the admirals of a coup plot, Kommersant writes.
Erdogan pointed out that it was wrong to link the Istanbul Canal Project with the Montreux Convention. "We have no intention whatsoever of withdrawing from the Montreux Convention," he stressed.
The Turkish president announced plans to build the canal in 2011. Expectations are that 160-185 vessels will pass through the waterway daily compared to 118-125 ships that travel through the Bosphorus strait.
"Turkey’s territory is not the subject matter of the convention, which applies only to the straits (the Bosphorus, the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara). That said, Turkey has the right to build any sort of canals on its terrain provided that it does not violate the principles of the convention," managing partner at the Moscow office of the Pen & Paper law firm Anton Imennov said. He emphasized that the goal of the canal project was to earn money. "If it is found that the new canal falls under the Montreux Convention, Turkey may face difficulties in obtaining revenues. According to the convention, all vessels enjoy freedom of passage through the straits without any payment. Consequently, Turkey will be at a disadvantage if the convention is applied to the new canal," the expert stressed.
Meanwhile, Moscow State Institute of International Relations Associate Professor Yulia Kudryashova told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the retired admirals actually did not want their country to further botch relations with NATO. The thing is that having control of a canal that does not fall under the Montreux Convention will put Turkey in an exceptional position, triggering complaints from its Western allies.
Vedomosti: Foreign agents greenlighted to take part in Russian elections
On April 5, the Russian State Duma Committee on Rules of Procedure passed amendments to a bill regulating the electoral activities of candidates on the foreign agent list. According to the bill, such candidates will have to emphasize their foreign agent status on the signature sheets they will use to collect voter signatures required for a nomination. The same rules will apply to their campaign merchandise. In addition, those running for office will need to announce their status every time they make a public speech, Vedomosti notes.
The bill introduces two new terms into the electoral legislation: "a candidate affiliated with a person active as a foreign agent" and "a candidate who is an individual foreign agent." The first term is used to describe a political office-seeker who worked for a foreign agent NGO or media outlet for at least two years prior to the election, and the second one is for those included in the list of individuals acting as foreign agents.
A law was passed in December 2020 that made it possible to designate those involved in political activities and receiving funding from abroad as foreign agents. Some experts and public organizations even called for tougher rules for foreign agent candidates, even going as far as banning them from running in elections. However, no such amendment was introduced.
Political lawyer Roman Smirnov expects that the bill will be passed into law later in the spring and the new regulations will apply to the upcoming election campaign. Candidates on the foreign agent list will have to shell out more money on their campaigns, particularly to their lawyers, he noted.
According to Smirnov, the rules will lead to more conflicts between election commissions and candidates. Contenders running for office may be disqualified from the elections for failing to indicate their foreign agent status, he added. Some politicians will seek to challenge the requirement in court, the lawyer said.
Izvestia: Top Russian health official urges public to get vaccinated against coronavirus
Russia's Chief Sanitary Doctor Anna Popova, who heads the country's health watchdog, in an interview with Izvestia emphasized the need to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and assessed the lessons that infectious disease doctors had learned during the pandemic.
"Over a year has passed since we first learned about the virus and, what’s vital, about its ability to cause a pandemic. We have learned a lot of lessons, and we’ve gained a great amount of knowledge and new skills. But the main thing is that we have learned to work together as one. It is very important. The consolidation of all of Russian society made it clear that we would definitely achieve success if we interacted like that," she pointed out.
According to Popova, 81 cases of the UK coronavirus strain and six cases of the South African mutation have been detected in Russia so far. "In some European countries, the British strain accounts for 60-70% of all cases but it is much less common in our country as of now thanks to the restrictions that we introduced to prevent the infection from spreading inside the country and at entry points. This is why, for the time being, it’s better to refrain from traveling overseas," she noted.
Popova highlighted the need to get vaccinated "for everyone whose health permits." "Technically, all Russians have the opportunity to get vaccine shots since a mass vaccination campaign is underway. A lot of vaccination points have been set up, and the vaccination is totally safe," the public health chief stressed. "The May holiday season is coming up and many will want to go on holiday. In order to make sure that vacation goes well, there is a need to get vaccinated. With two months to go before June 1, there is enough time to develop post-vaccine immunity," Popova said.
Up to 40% of people in Russia’s regions have coronavirus antibodies, she added. "However, no one knows what the course of the illness will be, so the best way to protect one’s health is to get inoculated. This is the only way to stop the infection from spreading," the watchdog chief emphasized.
Izvestia: Biden administration faces huge difficulties as migrant influx floods US border
US President Joe Biden is facing a major problem caused by a massive influx of illegal immigrants from Latin America. The challenge may become the biggest one the United States has faced in the past 20 years. An increasing number of Americans are unhappy with the way the new administration is handling the issue after removing the tough measures that former President Donald Trump had introduced, Izvestia writes.
US officials have no clear plan of what to do with the mounting surge of migrants. One of the key questions is how to reform immigration and whether to adopt changes as a single package or through separate laws. It will be difficult to pass a package of legislation because Republicans are most likely to lash out at Democrats, saying that Biden seeks to let millions of migrants enter the country and grant them citizenship so that they can later vote for the Democrats, Junior Research Fellow of the Center for North American Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) Anastasia Bunina pointed out.
According to her, as long as there is no legislative opportunity to change approaches on immigration, Biden "will take targeted steps to alleviate the conditions migrants are living under in border areas, accelerate the distribution of migrants, particularly children, try to make agreements with those countries where migrants come from and search for budget funds to bankroll programs to solve local problems, but it won’t resolve this severe crisis."
Biden so far has no game plan on reforming immigration and resolving the crisis, head of the IMEMO Center for North American Studies Viktoria Zhuravleva emphasized. "Another year will pass and a new migration crisis will break out, an unfathomable amount of migrants will pour in that the system won’t be able to handle and protests will probably break out. The issue can’t be resolved unless Republicans and Democrats come to some sort of understanding," the expert noted.
Vedomosti: Pandemic boosts people's need for pet companionship
Many people turned to adopting pets in order to get psychological relief from the coronavirus pandemic, Vedomosti writes, citing a report by the United Kingdom's Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA). People tended to adopt cats more, the research revealed.
As for Russia, it was a nation of cat people even before the pandemic. According to the Dalia Research company, back in 2017, Russia was ranked the world’s number one (59%) as far as the number of cat owners go, outshining the US (43%) and Argentina (41%). According to a recent poll conducted by the Sberbank Insurance company, feline lovers account for 55% of Russian pet owners, compared to 37% of canine lovers.
Frequently, Russian families adopt cats off the street or at animal shelters. "At the beginning of the pandemic, when our cafe was closed due to the lockdown, we saw a rise in adoptions. Before self-isolating, many people sought to take cats from our cafe. And even those who thought it was a temporary thing, later decided to keep them," said Alexandra Gubankova, the owner of the Kotissimo cat cafe.
Cat cafes attract people who would like to play with animals and take a pet home if things work out. "We opened our cat cafe in December 2016. Since then, we have helped with the adoption of 223 cats. It means that a feline was adopted every week on average," Gubankova said.
"It is people with a lack of companionship that adopt our cats. They later send thank-you letters to us saying that we added color to their lives. All in all, we are doing good for both cats and people," the cafe owner noted.
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