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Press review: Biden calls Putin asking to meet and will new EU sanctions harm JCPOA talks

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, April 14
US President Joe Biden

Media: Biden calls Putin suggesting to meet

As Moscow and Washington were heading to an increasingly tough standoff, US President Joe Biden - who actually provoked the spike in tensions a while ago - made a phone call to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to discuss strategic stability issues, and suggested they should meet in a third country, Kommersant writes.

"By making the call, Biden initiated another round of the political chess game that previous US administrations used to play, opening with an E2-E4 move. At the same time, his invitation to meet in a third country is also a signal to Washington’s allies, indicating that the current White House administration considers the Russian leader to be worthy of a handshake. It is also sort of an apology for the vulgar statement that Joe Biden made in an interview with ABC News," Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Vladimir Vasilyev pointed out.

Another Senior Research Fellow at Institute for US and Canadian Studies, Pavel Koshkin, told Vedomosti that the phone call "shows that there is a direct communication line between the two presidents." As for Biden’s proposal to hold a summit in a third country, it proves that "Washington has to reckon with Moscow" and intends to maintain dialogue, the expert stressed.

Political scientist Fedor Lukyanov described the current developments as "a game of chicken." According to him, it is very important for Biden to make it clear that he is capable of acting in a tougher and more decisive manner than former US President Barack Obama, whose words often times did not match his deeds.

"In any case, there will be a double-edged conversation. However, it is certainly better to put the cards on the table right away and clarify as to where the two countries can work together under the Biden administration and where they can’t," Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov emphasized.


Media: New EU sanctions unlikely to impact talks on Iran nuke deal

The European Union claims that its new sanctions against Iran have nothing to do with the talks on preserving the nuclear deal. These restrictions won't change Brussels' commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a European Commission official told Izvestia.

According to experts, the restrictive measures that the EU imposed on Tehran over human rights violations are unlikely to make Iran abandon the JCPOA talks because pragmatic interests will prevail. "It certainly does not foster trust-based relations between Brussels and Tehran, but the parties are interested in making sure that the negotiations are a success and the European Union continues to act as a mediator," PIR Center expert Andrey Baklitsky said.

A joint commission working on the implementation of the JCPOA launched a string of meetings aimed at restoring the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna on April 6. The commission is comprised of Iran and international mediators - Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and China.

The recent incident at Iran's nuclear facility in Natanz marred the situation. Soon after, Tehran announced plans to start enriching uranium to 60% purity starting on April 14.

Center for Energy and Security Studies Director Anton Khlopkov does not exclude that Tehran’s decision may have a positive impact on the Vienna negotiations. "The move can make the US delegation wake up and start pressing for the necessary domestic political decisions in order to reach agreements with Iran. As of now, the US delegation doesn’t seem to be in a rush to take steps to restore the JCPOA," the expert told Kommersant.


Vedomosti: Putin’s vaccination encourages more Russians to get inoculated

The number of Russians wishing to get vaccinated against coronavirus increased dramatically after President Vladimir Putin received his first vaccine shot on March 23, Vedomosti writes, citing sources close to the Moscow government and the presidential executive office.

A source close to the Moscow mayor’s office told the newspaper that the city’s authorities recorded a sharp rise in people seeking to get vaccinated after the president had received a jab. The daily number of those getting vaccine shots increased four-fold, from 8,000 to 30,000, the source said. In addition, outdoor and TV advertisements also played a role, he noted, adding: "There hadn’t been much hype about vaccination until the president got a shot, besides, the authorities were waiting for vaccine production to increase."

Another source, close to the presidential executive office, attributes the rise in those wishing to get vaccinated to the launch of an information campaign dedicated to vaccination, which kicked off on March 20, after the large-scale production of vaccines had begun.

Putin has a stable base of supporters and his personal example means a lot to them, Head of the Civil Society Development Fund Konstantin Kostin pointed out. "It is reason enough to follow suit. Vaccination is a matter where personal examples are crucial and work better than calls on people to get inoculated," he said.


Vedomoti: Oil prices no longer crucial for Russian ruble

The Russian ruble’s exchange rate depends on numerous factors, with oil prices and the Central Bank’s moves traditionally viewed as crucial. Other important factors always included the US economic situation and the growth rate of the Russian economy. However, things are changing, Vedomosti writes.

"In 2021, all these circumstances are balanced out by the most important factor, described as sentiment," said general partner at Matrix Capital Pavel Teplukhin. It is primarily about geopolitics, which makes market participants make decisions not based on economic realities.

According to the company’s analysts, traditional factors would have made the ruble about ten percent stronger since the beginning of the year. "But the ruble has been weakening due to sentiment," Teplukhin noted. This uncertainty is weighing on the investment climate as it is impossible to estimate exchange rates for the next two to three years.

Investment strategist at Alor Broker Pavel Verevkin believes that political predictability is crucial for the creation of a healthy investment climate. "Geopolitical risks are a reason for significant discounts on Russian assets in the eyes of Western investors. As long as the current political and economic model persists, radical changes are unlikely to happen," he pointed out.

However, Mikhail Zeltser, a stock market expert at BCS, believes that the Russian ruble is part of global trends. According to his estimates, the ruble will go back to 70 against the dollar by the fall.


 Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Smart homes are becoming increasingly popular in Russia

The smart home market has grown by 6.4% in Central and Eastern Europe, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, citing the International Data Corporation (IDC). According to analyst Jan Prenosil, Russia was one of the drivers in the process as smart speakers are becoming increasingly popular in the country.

Experts point out that the coronavirus pandemic has played an important role because it made consumers want to improve their homes, boosting their interest in smart gadgets, including home monitoring, security, heating and lighting devices.

"There are two segments to the smart home market, one of them is targeted at real estate developers and the other one at consumers," Director for Strategy and Operation Efficiency at PwC Russia Dmitry Stapran noted.

"Developers are interested in solutions that make it possible to bring together devices made by various manufacturers, which are available on the market. It allows them to create additional value for apartment buyers and offer installation and maintenance services," the expert explained.

Analysts predict that the smart home market will double in 2021. "The household smart device market can expand by reaching out to new audiences as multiple manufacturers will put their products up for offer," Stapran pointed out.


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