Kommersant: G7 countries open information war with Russia
The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) countries opened their first face-to-face meeting in London in two years, designed to lay the groundwork for its June summit, this year chaired by the UK. Holding the G7 forum in a state that has the most irreconcilable position in relation to Russia determined the agenda of the meeting, Kommersant writes. Seven years after Moscow was ejected from the "club of Western democracies" London calls for opening another front to battle with Russia: an informational one, creating collective mechanisms to contain Russian "propaganda and disinformation".
As part of what’s known as the Global Britain foreign policy strategy implemented by London after leaving the EU, Boris Johnson is trying to assert the UK’s new ambitions as an independent global center of power in relation to the G7, trying to solve two problems. First, to show that the G7 is in touch with reality and is in contact with other world powers. Second, to demonstrate that the unity of the United States and its Western allies, dented under Donald Trump, has been restored, and there can be no talk of extending an invitation to Russia. Moreover, along with the new administration of President Biden, the G7 states must unite to create new mechanisms to contain Moscow.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab did not explain how such mechanisms should work. However, the Foreign Office said earlier that the 42-language BBC World Service will receive additional funding of 8 mln pounds (around $11 mln). The UK’s plan to counter "Russian propaganda" also calls for "supporting independent media", especially in the CIS.
Meanwhile, according to Kommersant, it is very likely that G7 will not be able to rally around London's "information war" with Russia. Unlike Raab, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already made it clear that Washington is most interested in deterring Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which, as the new US administration believes may still be phased out.
Izvestia: Serbia vows to never impose sanctions against Russia, says ambassador
Serbia expects that by the time it joins the European Union, Brussels will soften its stance on Russia, Serbian Ambassador to Moscow Miroslav Lazanski told Izvestia. In an interview with the newspaper, the diplomat spoke about Belgrade's attitude towards Europe’s sanctions policy, and the country’s plans to produce the Sputnik V vaccine. According to the ambassador, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next visit to Serbia may take place before the end of 2021.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said earlier he expects the acceleration of the republic's accession to the European Union. According to the ambassador, Serbia hopes to become a member of the European Union by around 2025, but the date can be delayed. He noted that Belgrade is doing everything to fully adapt its position to the criteria necessary in order to become a full member of the EU.
Meanwhile, the diplomat noted Serbia believes that the EU’s sanctions are not politics, but the lack there of, and the country, as President Vucic said, will never impose restrictive measures against Russia. Since Serbia is not yet a member of the EU, it is not obliged to fully coordinate its foreign policy with that of the European Union, he said, adding that even some EU countries that support the sanctions against Moscow, in practice don’t fully implement them.
Concerning COVID-19, Lazanski noted that the pandemic is expected to subside in Serbia as vaccination in the country is progressing well. According to him, 80-85% of Serbian citizens want Russia’s Sputnik V jab. Serbia also plans to be the first country in Europe to start producing the Russian vaccine to try to gain independence in pharmaceutical quality.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Italy resumes processing entry visas for Russians
Russians who had a valid Italian Schengen visa at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic will be able to "renew" it at Italy’s diplomatic mission in Moscow, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes. The Italian embassy said that those who have Type C Schengen visas that have expired between January 1, 2020 and the present, can apply for a new Italian tourist visa. At the same time, diplomats noted that at the moment, those who hold Schengen tourist visas are not allowed to enter Italy or other European countries participating in the agreement.
The so-called "green passports" will be in effect for tourists from Europe, which will be issued for a period of six months to three categories of citizens: vaccinated with one of the shots approved by the European regulator, people with negative coronavirus tests, and those who had COVID-19. As for travelers from Russia and other countries outside the European Union, there is no complete clarity, the newspaper writes. So far, the decree continues to be in force, according to which Russia is among those countries whose citizens can enter Italy only for work, educational and medical purposes. So far, the question of Italy recognizing "foreign" vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V, remains open.
However, Italian officials such as Minister of Tourism Massimo Garavaglia admitted, are aware that if the country does not quickly lay out the rules for tourists from Russia, China, the US, and Japan - the bulk of the country’s visitors - then Italy may well suffer a crushing defeat in the fierce struggle for tourists with neighboring Spain, Greece, and Portugal. Losses to the local tourism sector last year amounted to an astronomical 53 bln euro, the newspaper writes.
Kommersant: Embattled Armenian PM Pashinyan’s candidacy voted down in rush to snap elections
On Monday, the Armenian parliament tried to elect a new prime minister of the country. The event was a pure formality, as the political movements agreed in advance that the only candidate - acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan - should not get enough votes. This procedure was necessary to schedule snap parliamentary elections, after which Pashinyan plans to return to his previous post in earnest, with the support of voters, Kommersant writes.
After Pashinyan resigned and received the prefix "acting" to his position, the parliament was supposed to try to appoint a new head of government twice, after which, according to the constitution, early parliamentary elections would be called in the country.
This is exactly what Armenian politicians are pursuing. Yet, they failed at the first vote and almost without a doubt, will fail at the next one, which will be held on May 10, the newspaper writes, adding that the Armenian constitution does not provide for a simpler way of calling early elections.
Earlier, opposition circles discussed the idea that one of the political factions might still nominate their own candidate, to at least to attract attention. However, at any rate in this vote, this did not happen.
Despite the formality of the balloting, Pashinyan used the parliamentary rostrum to campaign for himself, according to Kommersant. He once again criticized the previous leadership of the country, headed by ex-President Serzh Sargsyan, blaming them for the defeat in the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and at the same time, demonstrating that he, in turn, cares about the country’s security.
Izvestia: Russia’s inflation to hover at 4.85% thanks to Central Bank’s return to neutral monetary policy
Inflation in Russia at the end of 2021 will be 4.85%, according to analysts interviewed by Izvestia. Increasing the key rate of the Bank of Russia and returning to a neutral monetary policy will become the restraining factors for the increase in prices, analysts believe. At the same time, the rising prices on goods and services will be affected by the ruble’s exchange rate. In the event of a sharp decline, imported goods will climb in price, which will negatively affect inflation.
The maximum forecast was given by VTB experts - prices of goods and services may increase within 5.3%. On the other hand, Otkritie has the lowest expectations - the bank's analysts believe that the rise in prices could be as low as 4.3%. According to Senior economist at Otkritie Maxim Petronevich, inflation dynamics will largely be determined by the level of external food prices in dollar terms. Chances are good that their increase will soon stop. "In this case, in the summer we will be able to see a sharp deceleration in price growth, provided that the ruble remains close to the observed levels," he said. The recovery of consumer activity will also play in favor of accelerating inflation, Head of the analytical department at Bank Zenit Vladimir Evstifeev said.
The peak of consumer prices growth will come in June, when inflation will accelerate to 6%, Chief analyst at Sovcombank Mikhail Vasilyev believes. The prices of goods and services will return to the target of 4% only in mid-2022. "Rising prices for food and raw materials on global exchanges, disruptions in supply chains due to the pandemic, as well as the prolonged effect the weakened ruble in 2020 transferring to prices maintain high inflation. In addition, the gradual lifting of quarantine restrictions is expected in the coming months, which will lead to an increase in business activity", he explained.
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