Izvestia: What lies behind the Czech Republic's standoff with Russia
The Czech Republic seeks to distract attention from the US in Belarus by mounting a campaign against Moscow, a Russian senator told Izvestia. Prague earlier accused Russian intelligence agencies of having been involved in an ammunition depot explosion in Vrbetice in 2014. The Czech authorities announced the expulsion of 18 Russian embassy staff members and Moscow responded by declaring 20 Czech diplomatic employees personae non grata. Political scientists say that all signs are pointing to the world's return to the Cold War.
"The diplomatic expulsion campaign from various European countries is being orchestrated by Washington. It is worth taking note of how such scandals arise. They are aimed either at diverting the global public’s attention from more important developments or at expressing solidarity with NATO allies," First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Vladimir Dzhabarov told the newspaper. According to him, in this particular case, the move was driven by reports of US intelligence agencies’ having plotted an assassination attempt against the Belarusian president and his family. The Czech authorities took the initiative in order to deflect public attention away from it.
Valdai International Discussion Club Director Fyodor Lukyanov believes that the incident between Moscow and Prague is a sign of the Cold War’s return. He pointed out that the current diplomatic reality is being brought in line with the political situation and embassies will now most likely have to deal with an environment similar to what had existed in the 1970s-1980s, the expert emphasized.
Czech lawmaker Jaroslav Golikov, in turn, told the paper, that the current situation was reminiscent of the Iron Curtain era. According to him, back then, the Czechs "viewed everything that West did as something negative and all that the East did as something good." "Sometimes, it seems that nothing has changed apart from the sides, though there are numerous global changes in the world today that require close cooperation between countries," he stressed.
Kommersant: Syria gearing up for presidential election
Preparations are underway for Syria’s presidential election set for May 26. According to the current constitution, Bashar al-Assad, the incumbent head of state, has the right to run in the presidential race one last time. The Syrian opposition has slammed the upcoming vote as a sham. The United States and the European Union, in advance, refused to recognize its results. Russia, in contrast, has called for the Syrian constitution to be respected, Kommersant writes.
Voting will take place in areas controlled by Damascus, which have expanded in the seven years since the last election. However, it is still impossible to hold elections in Idlib and certain areas in northern and northeastern Syria. As for overseas voting, most of the Syrian refugees won't be able to participate.
Both the Syrian opposition and the countries that support it insist that under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254, passed in 2015, elections should be held after a new constitution is adopted. In this regard, much hope was invested in the Syrian Constitutional Committee, which was expected to agree on the country’s new constitution. However, Damascus and the Syrian opposition have been unable to reach a compromise.
Moscow believes that the Constitution Committee's activities don't mean that it is impossible to hold elections in Syria this year, since it does not run counter to Resolution 2254. "We can’t ignore the current constitution so elections should take place in any event. Once there is a new constitution that everyone accepts, another election will be held," Russian diplomatic sources said.
Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Oriental Studies Vitaly Naumkin noted that if the Constitutional Committee’s efforts are successful, a new election may take place before President Assad’s next term expires. "There is no tragedy in the West’s refusal to recognize the election. Clearly, Assad will win. There are sensible people in the West, too, who understand that the initiative to postpone the vote is absurd as it will create a power vacuum and chaos," the expert pointed out.
Kommersant: Black Sea may become another battleground for Russia and the West
British warships will enter the Black Sea as a sign of support for Ukraine. The US Department of Defense also planned to send two Navy destroyers to the Black Sea but dropped the idea at the last moment. Meanwhile, Moscow has announced that foreign warships will be barred from entering three areas in the Black Sea for six months due to Russian naval exercises, Kommersant notes.
"Russia’s decision to close part of the Black Sea is a warning that it will be a dangerous area during drills held at coastal and maritime ranges. The procedure takes place every year during spring and fall exercises. However, given the rising tensions around Ukraine, the move has special meaning for Western politicians who consider it to be a new threat to Kiev," Chief Editor of the Arsenal Otechestva (Arsenal of the Fatherland) magazine Viktor Murakhovsky explained.
Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at Higher School of Economics Vasily Kashin believes that Moscow’s decision to close part of the Black Sea should be viewed as a precautionary measure aimed at preventing provocations in the region. "It is only possible to ensure the safe passage of a foreign warship through neutral waters if it abides by a number of rules, including the requirement to turn off radio detectors and weapons systems, and no drills are taking place in the area," the expert said, adding: "The situation off Crimea’s coast is special because the US and other NATO countries don’t recognize the peninsula and its waters as part of Russia."
"Russia probably expected the US and its allies to attempt provocations, particularly by sending ships to Crimea’s waters and violating the rules for safe passage, and decided to be proactive," the analyst noted.
Izvestia: Experts expect Bitcoin to continue soaring
Bitcoin prices fell after reaching an all-time high of $64,100. The main reasons behind the drop particularly included US sanctions on Russia, the Turkish Central Bank's ban on the use of cryptocurrencies as a payment tool, and US cryptocurrency exchange platform Coinbase's move to enter the stock market, said experts interviewed by Izvestia. In their view, however, the slump in prices is part of an upward trend and Bitcoin may still grow to $100,000 later in the year.
Since Bitcoin's growth stems from international conflicts, increasing geopolitical risks, pandemic-related issues and declining GDP rates in a number of developed countries, digital assets will continue to gain momentum, head of the J2TX broker Artem Moiseyev emphasized.
Yuri Mazur of CEX.IO Broker expects this surge to resume in April or May after major companies make it possible to use cybercurrencies to purchase goods and services.
The US regulator's permission to create exchange-traded funds with cryptocurrencies may become another driver boosting Bitcoin, Leading Strategist at the Exante investment company Yanis Kivkulis said. However, a sharp increase in prices is rarely steady so the higher the prices go, the bigger the sell-off that may follow.
Those who plan long-term investment can enter the market at this point but it is too late to massively invest in cryptocurrencies, Moiseyev points out. Kivkulis, in turn, says that tokens have neared all-time highs and it is only reasonable to buy them based on long-term plans. Prices could see periods of decline and investors will have to wait years to make a profit.
Media: European Super League creates rift in football world
The launch of the European Super League, initiated by the continent’s leading football clubs as an alternative to the UEFA Champions League, has created a rift in the world of European football, Kommersant writes. All Super League members will now have to face the opposition of football institutions and even statesmen who believe that the move runs counter to the basic principles of sports.
"This is a strong blow to the UEFA," Honorary President of the Russian Football Union and former FIFA Vice President Vyacheslav Koloskov told Izvestia. "Major TV channels, advertisers and sponsors will definitely move to the Super League. The Champions League and the Europa League won’t be able to compete with it. As a result, the clubs participating in the Champions League and the Europa League will see a decline in their revenues. As for national championships, it is a total disaster," he pointed out.
Secretary General of the Russian Trade Union of Football Players and Managers Nikolai Grammatikov believes that the Super League's creation stems from the current situation, where major clubs "took part in the Champions League against their own economic interests." The coronavirus pandemic and related problems prompted the leaders of European football to search for new ways to make money, while the UEFA was focused on small clubs and refused to take note of the fact that major clubs were suffering bigger losses.
According to the expert, "the organization failed to make interesting offers to major clubs," and as a result, the idea that the economy comes first was brought forward. At the same time, Grammatikov is confident that the clubs that have been left behind should not "get in line to express support for the UEFA, which can’t offer any effective business models, but need to search for new approaches," including the creation of national football leagues to enhance their capabilities.
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