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Press review: Why Blinken is visiting Kiev and G7 backs out of showdown with Moscow

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, May 6th
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, Pool
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken
© AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, Pool

Kommersant: US Secretary of State visits Ukraine amid tensions with Russia

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Kiev on Wednesday evening for a two-day visit. The agenda of negotiations with the Ukrainian authorities includes issues of reform and cooperation in the security sphere. One of the problematic topics for Kiev may be the recent decision of the Ukrainian government to change the leadership of Naftogaz of Ukraine, which was already condemned in the EU and the US. However, the central issue for discussion, as they make it clear in Washington, will be the same as before: "the continuing Russian aggression", Kommersant writes.

According to President of the Ukrainian Analytical Center Alexander Okhrimenko, Washington's increased attention towards Ukraine is associated with the escalation of the situation in Donbass. Blinken’s visit, according to the expert, should be viewed as a signal of support for Ukraine in its confrontation with Russia.

"The level of tension between Russia and Ukraine, and the concentration of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border are additional and important reasons for stepping up attention on Ukrainian issues. This is undoubtedly a signal to Kiev," Ukrainian political scientist Vladimir Fesenko agreed. He told Kommersant that on the eve of possible talks between US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the Secretary of State’s visit to Kiev should also be viewed as a hint aimed at Moscow that Washington intends to further promote a tough policy along the Ukrainian front.

According to Fesenko, "the main topic that will be discussed is how to restrain Russia from a direct attack on Ukraine, what sort of help Kiev needs, and how to develop defense cooperation between the United States and Ukraine." The issue of Kiev’s further progress into NATO will also be discussed, given that the alliance’s summit will be held in the summer, he told Kommersant.


Kommersant: G7 puts off open conflict with Moscow

The top diplomats from nations that make up the Group of Seven (G7) club on Wednesday completed their first face-to-face meeting in London since the start of the pandemic, which became a prelude to the June summit of the leaders from the Western world in Cornwall, UK. The G7 meeting, which opened with harsh rhetoric against Russia, closed with an admission of its unwillingness to enter into a new conflict, Kommersant writes. The initiatives, including proposals to collectively contain "Russian propaganda" and to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, failed to gain ground. The decisive day of discussion showed that the G7 is not ready for an open confrontation with Moscow.

Talks on the topic of Russia were limited to general declarations. There was no discussion of any new restrictive measures against Moscow within the framework of the G7. According to Kommersant, the club’s restrained position was largely determined by Tuesday’s statement from US President Joe Biden about the ongoing preparations for his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which is supposed to take place in June during the American president's European trip to participate in three summits at once (G7, NATO, and the EU-US). According to unofficial information, the Russian-US summit is expected to take place on June 15-16.

Muffling anti-Russian rhetoric, the G7 focused on containing China. Calling on his colleagues to hammer out a common approach to Russia, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, during the plenary session, immediately announced Tokyo's intention to build dialogue with Moscow independently, after which he turned the discussion to the topic of the "Chinese threat".

The communique adopted at the end of the ministerial meeting, which outlines the priorities for the upcoming G7 summit in June, did not reflect the UK’s proposal for a collective information confrontation with Russia.


Izvestia: Russian economy expected to grow by 3% in 2021

Russia's GDP in 2021 will display maximum growth since 2012 and will come to 3%, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. Thus, the government will be able to fulfill the president's long-standing goal of boosting the economy at a rate not lower than the world average. However, after last year's GDP drop by 3%, the increase in 2021 can only be called a recovery, experts noted.

According to Sovcombank’s Chief Analyst Mikhail Vasilyev, GDP growth will be facilitated by a steady decline in the number of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the year, gradual vaccination, growing oil prices, and rising consumption and investment, including from the National Welfare Fund (NWF). The expert is confident that prices for Brent crude will remain above $60 in 2021.

Against the backdrop of a recovery in oil demand, OPEC+ countries will be able to further ease restrictions. This will allow Russia to gradually increase oil production, step up exports and boost the inflow of foreign exchange earnings into the country.

The main factors behind the rise in GDP in 2021 include the recovery and dynamic growth of final consumption of households, investments, as well as the gradual rebound of external demand for domestic products, Chief analyst at PSB Denis Popov told the newspaper. "There are reasons to believe that the economic growth forecast might still improve. High oil prices provide the state budget with additional revenues," he said.

At the same time, analysts interviewed by Izvestia agreed that economic growth in 2021 can only be called a ‘recovery’ after last year's decline. Thus, in two years, the domestic GDP will show zero dynamics, which would indicate stagnation.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Pandemic may have long-lasting effect on Russia’s labor market

The coronavirus pandemic has had profound implications for the labor market worldwide. For example, in developed countries, the brunt of the pandemic fell on older workers. Moreover, men are often less in demand than women, according to a survey by the Institute of International Finance (IIF). In Russia, the situation is different: here the young specialists were the most affected, experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. They also point out that the situation is likely to deteriorate in the future.

"The impact of the pandemic on the Russian labor market had a pronounced sectoral nature," Director of the Department of Analytical Business Solutions at HeadHunter Natalya Danina told the newspaper. She noted that the industries most affected by the pandemic in Russia were tourism, the hospitality industry, sports, fitness, the beauty industry, public transport, air and railway transportation.

Young specialists became the most vulnerable group of workers during the first wave of the pandemic, she added. The expert did not rule out that the situation will worsen in the future. "Data from Rosstat confirm that the portion of age groups 20-24 and 25-29 years in the structure of Russia’s employed population have been steadily decreasing over the past 4 years," she added.

According to Marketing Director of Kelly Services Zhanna Volkova, the great vulnerability of young professionals is understandable. "The pandemic has hit a number of industries: arts, entertainment, catering, and tourism. In these industries, all workers, young and old, were affected. However, it is easier for young people to change their field, and to start from scratch in a new industry," she said.


Izvestia: Smartphones based on Russian OS begin sales amid low consumer demand

Smartphones by QTech, a Russian brand using the Russian operating system (OS) Aurora, developed for government agencies and corporate clients, are now available to the general public, and anyone can buy them, Izvestia writes. The gadgets are available in two versions for 25,000 rubles ($334.43) and 35,000 rubles ($468.2), the company spokesman said. Analysts argue that there will be no mass demand for this particular product among consumers.

Aurora combines the usual functionality, such as the ability to make calls and exchange messages, but it can also be used for specific tasks, such as reading new e-passports. The platform protects sensitive data by preventing its transfer to third-party servers. However, the gadget with Aurora cannot connect to Google Play or AppStore, and it will be impossible to download such apps as WhatsApp and Telegram, as well as other third-party services. Aurora-based devices are needed primarily for ultra-safe work, said Vadim Plessky, an independent expert on mobile devices and gadgets in an interview with the newspaper.

Rostelecom emphasized that devices with a domestic OS are designed primarily for use in the corporate and government segments. That said, the devices can be sold to the general public, the company said.

"Aurora is an operating system for government customers and large businesses, not for the consumer market. Therefore, such devices would not interest the ordinary buyer," said Eldar Murtazin, Mobile Research Group’s leading analyst. This operating system is not intended for the open market, and devices with a Russian OS are unlikely to appear in traditional mobile retail stores, Plessky concurred.

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