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Press review: Putin’s plan to fight global warming and Czech demands over diplomatic spat

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, April 23

Izvestia: Putin puts forward four-point plan to combat global warming

Russian President Vladimir Putin in his address to the much-talked-about US-hosted summit on climate spoke about what progress Moscow had made in the area of environmental protection over the past 30 years. One of the main achievements is that greenhouse gas emissions were cut back by more than 50%. Experts interviewed by Izvestia expect the issue of environmental protection to gain increasing importance in global affairs.

The Russian leader came up with a four-point plan to combat global warming. According to Putin, it is essential to work on carbon sequestration, account for all factors that cause global warming, pool the world community’s efforts and continue fighting poverty.

According to experts, the summit has made it clear that climate will be among the top issues on the international agenda in the years to come. The fact that Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping decided to participate in the event proves that cooperation continues between the great powers despite the existing tensions, Valdai International Discussion Club expert Richard Weitz pointed out.

"The topic will gain momentum as environmental issues escalate and green technologies become cheaper and more competitive, triggering a race between countries," Head of the World Economy Department at Higher School of Economics Igor Makarov noted.

According to the commentator, Russia has a good chance of fitting into the global environmental framework because given the low energy efficiency of the national economy, it is cheaper to reduce emissions in Russia than in other countries. The sooner Russia starts advancing its own proactive climate agenda, the quicker it will be able to increase its economic competitiveness and strengthen its position on the global stage, the expert emphasized.


Vedomosti: Prague makes diplomatic parity demands in ongoing spat with Russia

The Czech Republic demanded that Russia reduce the number of diplomats at its embassy in Prague to match the number of Czech personnel in the Russian capital. The move came after Moscow had refused to accept Prague’s ultimatum to bring back 20 Czech diplomats, declared personae non gratae in response to the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomatic workers following Czech accusations that Russian intelligence agencies were "involved" in an ammunition depot blast in 2014, Vedomosti writes.

According to the Czech Foreign Ministry, there were 27 diplomats and 67 technical staff at the Russian Embassy in Prague as of April 22, compared to five diplomats and 19 technical employees at the Czech Embassy in Moscow.

Political scientist Ivan Preobrazhensky points out that ties between Russia and the Czech Republic have never been this bad since the breakup of Czechoslovakia. "This is about a complete reset of diplomatic relations. It is unclear when it will happen, the process might take several years," the expert said.

Prague won't limit itself to expelling diplomats and may start "an economic war" that would cause significant damage to Moscow. The Czech Republic used to supply Russia with machinery and tools, the expert explained. "The Czech Republic was like a door to the world of high technology amid sanctions. The loss of ties with it will deal a serious blow to Russian industries," Preobrazhensky emphasized. Besides, the Czech Republic has excluded Russia’s Rosatom nuclear corporation from a tender for a new unit at the Dukovany nuclear power plant.

According to Preobrazhensky, the main question now is whether the European Union will move to impose new sanctions over the Russian-Czech standoff. Brussels has not taken steps in that direction yet, the analyst noted.


Kommersant: Biden poised to recognize Armenian genocide

US President Joe Biden plans to recognize the genocide of Armenians that took place in the early 20th century in the Ottoman Empire. The move, marking an open challenge to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will extremely complicate Washington's relations with its most troublesome ally. Experts interviewed by Kommersant believe that the new US administration is making it clear that it actually does not view Erdogan as a partner and a politician worth betting on, and will build relations with him from the position of force.

"Given the tensions in relations with Turkey and the Biden administration’s wish to get back at Erdogan for his stubborn position on Syria, the South Stream gas pipeline, his purchase of Russia’s S-400 systems and many other issues, Joe Biden can actually fulfill his election promise. It will be a completely political decision and a symbolic move, given the decision that the US Congress made in 2019, but the Biden team is making it clear that it has written Erdogan off and will wait for him to step down," said Anton Fedyashin, a professor at American University in Washington DC.

"The White House’s recognition of the Armenian genocide will further prove that Washington’s relations with Ankara, marred by the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, are getting more politicized," Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Vladimir Vasilyev pointed out. A thing to note is that the Turkish authorities accused Washington of having been involved in the coup attempt back then.

"The genocide recognition will not just escalate tensions between the US and Turkey but will also embolden overt pressure aimed at destabilizing the domestic situation in the country," Vasilyev noted. "Besides, Washington, which is allied with Israel, will hardly tolerate the strengthening of Turkey’s geopolitical position in the Middle East and North Africa," the expert added.


Izvestia: Russian ruble gets a boost as military drills in Crimea end

The completion of Russia's military drills in Crimea, which caused much concern in Western countries, had an immediate impact on the Russian currency. The dollar and the euro went down a few hours after troops had been ordered to return to their permanent positions. Market analysts attribute these developments to declining geopolitical risks, and some are confident that the ruble can grow further, Izvestia writes.

News about the end of the military drills in southwestern Russia indeed played a role in the Russian currency’s strengthening, said Director for Analysis of Financial Markets and Macroeconomics at Alfa Capital Management Company Vladimir Bragin. According to him, market players viewed the drills as a sign of tensions and increased geopolitical risks, which affected the ruble earlier. The current decline in risks is the most important short-term factor for the ruble’s growth.

"The market’s worst fears have not come true as far as sanctions and the situation in Ukraine go," Portfolio Manager at Sistema Capital Konstantin Asaturov pointed out. "Investors are gradually returning to Russian assets, as can be seen in the ruble’s price movement," he added.

According to Bragin, the reasons behind the ruble’s growth particularly include the attractiveness of Russian assets. As for the long-term prospects, good macroeconomic figures, conservative budget and monetary policies and large currency reserves will support the national currency.

At the same time, experts believe that geopolitical and sanctions risks will once again enter the picture at some point, becoming the main driver on the currency market. Asaturov noted that tensions could be expected to take place in the third quarter of the year in the wake of the Russian parliamentary election.


Media: Russians return to pre-pandemic spending

With the coronavirus pandemic receding and the vaccination drive gaining pace, Russians have become excited about shopping again. People have gotten used to the new normal and are now less inclined to avoid shops, public transport and public places, Izvestia notes.

Last year, the lockdown restrictions made Russians’ expenditures plunge by nine percent compared to 2019, according to the FinExpertiza international audit and consulting network. However, analysts say that shoppers have adjusted themselves to the changed situation and are returning to their pre-pandemic patterns of consumption.

According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a year after the pandemic, Russians have come to think that the worst is over. At the same time, some consumers have permanently moved online so even though people are ready to shop in-store, offline retailers should not expect demand to fully recover.

Over 50% of Russians aged between 26 and 35 are shopping online more often than before, Executive Director at Romir and Mile Group Inna Karayeva emphasized.

"During the past year, many Russians got used to the lockdown restrictions and started to shop online more. People also began to order food and goods on online platforms. Demand is gradually recovering and even though many Russians are concerned about their financial situation, 83% plan to maintain their current level of spending and even increase expenditures," BCG Managing Director Maxim Bakhtin said, as cited by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

That said, consumer demand is reviving but spending will fully recover only after the economy recovers, which won’t happen until the pandemic ends.


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