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Press review: Erdogan goes to bat for Ukraine and West irked by Kyrgyz constitutional vote

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, April 12th

Kommersant: Turkey fosters military cooperation with Ukraine amid Donbass flare-up

Turkey has emerged as a new external player in the Donbass escalation, following Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s Saturday visit. During the tour, the parties discussed mainly military contracts, which Ankara described as the driving force of these relations. According to Kommersant, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims that he supports a peaceful resolution to the conflict and is ready to contribute to it, but it seems that Moscow does not really believe him.

Zelensky's recent visit to Istanbul can be perceived as a huge success, the newspaper writes. The Ukrainian president managed to find support from Ankara on almost all important issues - from plans to create a free trade zone to the "Crimean Platform" - a new international venue that aims at returning the peninsula to Ukraine. Another sweet-sounding promise that pleases Kiev’s ear, but one that can hardly be implemented in the near future, was support for Ukraine joining NATO, according to the joint declaration of the two countries’ leaders.

Meanwhile, Turkish newspapers covering the visit highlighted the seemingly run-of-the-mill statement by Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the Black Sea should remain a sea of peace, tranquility, and cooperation.

According to Kirill Semyonov, expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), recent events have put these remarks in the spotlight. "These are plans for the construction of the Istanbul Canal, along with speculation about the Montreux Convention, and the events around Donbass, which are not directly linked, but all relate to security issues in the Black Sea basin and adjacent states," he told Kommersant. At the same time, according to the expert, Erdogan’s statements should not be considered anti-Russian. "The idea that the Black Sea states should themselves ensure peace in the region should please Russia rather than Ankara's NATO partners," he pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: West disgruntled by ‘authoritarian’ changes to Kyrgyzstan’s constitution

On April 11, Kyrgyzstan held a referendum on its new draft constitution. With a turnout of 30%, the plebiscite was declared valid. Consequently, the Central Asian country is returning to a presidential form of government, and the head of state, Sadyr Japarov, is going to get unlimited powers, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The country’s regions supported their leader, while the US, the EU, and international organizations sounded off their dissatisfaction over the results.

The preparations for the referendum, as well as the draft of the Basic Law itself, were repeatedly criticized both within the country and overseas. Now, the country’s president will lead not only the executive branch, but will also have the right to initiate legislation. At the same time, the number of parliament members will be reduced from 120 to 90 lawmakers. Brussels and Washington criticized the new constitution, which, in their opinion contradicts democratic norms.

Dmitry Orlov, director general at Strategy East-West LLC, a Kyrgyz Analytical Center, does not see it as a problem that the Kyrgyz Constitution was discussed in Europe and the United States, because "this is quite normal." "The problem here is different - there are already signs of outside control in the country. The Kyrgyz authorities are being told that they must coordinate their actions with the US and UK ambassadors," Orlov told the newspaper.

"Japarov will not be able to bolster the country in a short time for a number of reasons. And the main one is the complete de-industrialization of Kyrgyzstan. There are no jobs in the country. … Moreover, many neighbors are very wary of the newly elected president, knowing his past. And this will not stimulate Kyrgyzstan either. Therefore, the more Japarov tries to build authoritarianism, the sooner it will all end," Director of the Agency for Ethno-National Strategies Aleksandr Kobrinsky told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Political analyst Mars Sariev told the newspaper that geopolitical players are unhappy with the ongoing processes in the country and will try to take revenge. But any internal destabilization will most likely be postponed until the fall, since parliamentary elections are planned for September.


Izvestia: Donbass peace process might be transferred from Belarus to Poland

Russia opposes transferring the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) negotiations on the Donbass settlement from Belarus to Poland, sources in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia. According to one of them, Kiev's statements about the undemocratic nature of Belarus and its unacceptability as a platform for talks is nothing more than a ploy to "shift the focus of attention from the group’s current impasse". This deadlock led to the recent unprecedented flare-up in southeastern Ukraine. The Normandy format advisers will tackle this problem and their next meeting is scheduled for April 19.

It is unclear what Poland feels about this concept. The Polish Foreign Ministry did not answer a request from Izvestia asking whether Warsaw is ready to host the Trilateral Contact Group. The European participants of the Normandy format - Germany and France - did not offer any concrete answer either. The French Foreign Ministry noted that the Trilateral Contact Group members themselves choose the venue for their meetings.

Talks about postponing negotiations have been occurring amid the aggravated situation in the combat zone from March 26. The expert community noted that the situation in Ukraine’s southeast is so exacerbated that even the meeting participants will not be able to guarantee a favorable outcome of the negotiations.

"At the moment, the situation is taking such a sharp and swift turn that it is absolutely impossible to make any predictions," Head of the Kiev Center of Political Studies and Conflictology Mikhail Pogrebinsky told Izvestia. According to the commentator, what can really reduce tension here is negotiations between Moscow and Washington. If the parties are willing to reckon with the interests of one another, then it will be possible to talk more calmly about what is happening.


Izvestia: Russian vaccination certificates might be recognized in Europe

In the future, the EU plans to recognize vaccination passports from third countries as being on par with its own, the European Commission told Izvestia, noting that so far Russians can get into the EU only with a valid reason. Meanwhile, Europe’s southern states are hoping to accept citizens from third countries this summer. The Spanish Ministry of Tourism told Izvestia that they would seek to ensure that the EU accepts certificates from other states.

The European Commission presented the Digital Green Certificate back in March. As the European Commission explained to Izvestia, in the future, citizens from third countries will be able to receive the Digital Green Certificate, but so far there are restrictions on entry from countries with an unfavorable epidemiological situation, and Russia is considered one of them.

Meanwhile, the Russian vaccination certificate can now be downloaded in English with a QR code. In the future, it might become a pass to Europe, but so far this is not an international certificate. A representative of the European Commission press service told Izvestia that the EU will be able to recognize certificates of other countries as equivalent to its own if they meet international standards.

Executive Director of the European Tourism Commission (ETC) Eduardo Santander said in an interview with the newspaper that in the future, this system will be useful for travelers from countries outside the association with equivalent certificates.

The Spanish Ministry of Tourism explained to Izvestia that it is crucial for Spain to restart international tourism due to the pre-eminence of this sphere in the nation’s economy. Head of the Italian Ministry of Tourism hoped that by the summer, Russian travelers will be able to book tours.


Vedomosti: Telegram intends to hold IPO within two years

The freeware, cloud-based, instant messaging service, Telegram, has begun preparations for an IPO, and it is likely to occur around 2023, a source close to the company told Vedomosti. According to the source, the specific date will depend on the market. This information was confirmed by two other sources of the newspaper, one of them who is close to the auditor laying the groundwork for Telegram’s placement, and the other is tied to the investment bank, familiar with Telegram's plans.The messenger began testing its pre-IPO ground and is now choosing the region and the exchanges on which it plans to conduct the event, the newspaper writes

During the IPO, Telegram can be valued at $30-50 bln. Up to 25% of Telegram shares can be released for free circulation, the newspaper writes.

The most attractive scenario for Telegram shareholders is a direct listing, for example, on the New York Stock Exchange, as the corporate messenger Slack did, Managing partner of the VDI Group consulting company Petr Pokhvalin believes. This is the fastest way to get liquidity without the restrictions and costs associated with organizing an IPO, he added.

Telegram may choose to hold the IPO on one of the Asian exchange platforms. A source close to the messenger attributed this possible solution to the fact that today more than 40% of Telegram users are from Asia, and in two years this figure may reach 50%.

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