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Press review: Will Russia toughen gun laws after Kazan and Israel, Hamas step up attacks

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, May 12

Media: Experts discuss possible consequences of deadly school shooting in Kazan

On Tuesday, Ilnaz Galyaviev, a graduate of Public School №·175 in Kazan, went on a shooting spree at his former educational institution. Seven children and two adults were killed in the attack, and at least 20 people were hospitalized with gunshot wounds and bone fractures. In this case, there was no one to stop the shooter. Although Galyaviev warned about the planned attack on social networks, Russian security services failed to prevent the attack, while the school itself had no professional security for over a year. May 12 was declared a day of mourning in Tatarstan, and the federal government decided to get tough on gun legislation following orders by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Izvestia reports.

At about 9:30 am, Ilnaz Galyaviev, armed with a semi-automatic shotgun Hatsan Escort, entered Public School № 175 in Kazan. The 19-year-old attacker had obtained a gun legally: he received a gun license on April 28.

Galyaviev shot at everyone he came across as he moved through the school. He also used improvised explosives. The shooter still had over a hundred bullets, but, he halted the attack and voluntarily surrendered to Russian police shortly after they arrived on the scene.

Judging by the recording of Galyaviev’s first interrogation, the shooter was clearly in an unstable condition. However, mental health experts quizzed by Kommersant were unable to list the reasons that could have pushed him towards this attack until a full psychological examination is conducted. "Until we know all the circumstances of this tragedy, any specialist that begins to list reasons would just mislead the public," Alexander Asmolov, doctor in Psychology and member of the Russian Academy of Education, said. It is impossible to detect people planning such attacks in a crowd or among your acquaintances, mental health experts said.

In order to prevent a tragedy like the one that happened in Kazan, each school must install functioning metal detectors and a bulletproof glass for security guards, Chairman of the Moscow Police Union Mikhail Pashkin told Izvestia. "A professional that can detain criminals must be standing in the way of the attacker, along with metal detectors, bulletproof glass and a panic button. This would be enough," he said. He noted that right now, schools are often guarded by people over 60 who are already retired. In order to attract more professionals, like former policemen or security officers, the wages of school guards need to be at least doubled, Pashkin pointed out.

Besides, the Kazan tragedy may lead to changes in gun legislation. Ernest Valeev, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Security Committee, told Vedomosti that the work on improving gun legislation, as well as the laws dealing with countering terrorism and extremism, is constantly underway, however, it is activated after tragic events, like it happened after the Kerch Polytechnic College Massacre, when an 18-year-old student killed over 20 people at a college in Crimea. The same is likely to happen now, he said.

Editor-in-Chief of the Russian Hunting Magazine Mikhail Krechmar told the paper that after the incident in Kerch, no changes to gun laws were approved, as there are simply no real measures to resolve this issue through legislation. "This is a global problem, and Russia cannot radically reduce the number of shootings carried out by unstable persons," he said. Russian gun laws are already strict, with people having to get medical certificates at their places of residence before purchasing a firearm. It is likely that the discussion of new gun control measures will ebb in a couple of months, like it happened before, Krechmar stated.


Vedomosti: Hamas, Israel exchange intensive missile strikes

The escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Jerusalem has led to mutual attacks by the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas headquartered in the Gaza Strip. According to the Times of Israel, on May 11, Hamas militants launched 137 missiles towards Israel, with the attack reaching Israel’s southwest, namely, the city of Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast. Twenty-eight Israeli citizens were injured in the attack, three of them were seriously wounded. The Israeli government reacted to the bombardment with Operation Guardian of the Walls, aimed at inflicting serious damage upon Hamas, Vedomosti reports.

Meanwhile, Hamas’ health ministry informed that 30 Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip, including 10 children. About 150 local residents were injured.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated in late April, when Tel Aviv decided to shut down the Damascus Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem during Ramadan. This led to several clashes between protesters and the police, with 395 Palestinians injured just on May 10.

The Israeli army does not rule out conducting a ground operation against Hamas, the Jerusalem Post suggests. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved drafting 5,000 reserve troops to the country’s forces. Heavy military equipment is transported to the area of the Gaza Strip, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter that he had decided to scale up the attacks.

Orientalist scholar Alexandra Appelberg told Vedomosti that the scale of the conflict has gone beyond the regular clashes between Israel and Palestine, and it will be hard to go back to how things were before. The current situation is different because the clashes began with issues in Jerusalem, and not with missile strikes. The actions of the Israel Defense Forces are tougher than usual this time, and further escalation is possible, the expert said. She considers Benjamin Netanyahu the one who will benefit from it in Israel, as after another election to the Knesset (Israeli parliament), he was unable to form a coalition, with the opposition tasked with forming a government. The Arab party Ra’am may play a decisive role in forming this coalition, however, it froze its participation in any coalition talks due to the escalating violence.

The reaction of the global community to these events is to be expected, and it is unlikely that foreign states can somehow influence the situation, Appelberg said. "Arab states, such as the UAE, which recently signed agreements on normalizing relations with Israel, have been rather lax to condemn Israel’s actions. There is no discussion of breaking off any ties," the expert stated. Other states limited themselves to condemning the actions of Israel as usual, she added.


Izvestia: Russia ready to consider returning to Treaty on Open Skies if US does the same

Moscow is ready to consider returning to the Treaty on Open Skies if the Biden administration wishes to go back to the agreement as well, Russian lawmakers told Izvestia. They also pointed out that Russia’s pullout from the agreement is in line with its national interests, and its possible return to the treaty will require additional time and talks, Izvestia reports.

On May 11, Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted a bill to the State Duma on denouncing the Treaty on Open Skies due to the previous withdrawal of the US from the treaty during the presidency of Donald Trump.

The Treaty on Open Skies was signed in 1992 and entered into force in 2002. It establishes a program of unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its participants.

In late November 2020, the US decided to pull out of the treaty, with Russia beginning the withdrawal process in response. However, this process is not over yet, and Moscow continues to adhere to the treaty’s provisions so far.

"America unilaterally pulled out of this treaty in 2020. Essentially, the two key states in the Treaty on Open Skies are Russia and the US. The United States withdrew, so it is not obligated to give us the opportunity of flying over its territory with the aim of controlling the objects specified in the treaty. However, if we don’t have this right, then we shouldn’t grant this right to the Americans," Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee Alexander Sherin told Izvestia.

The lawmaker pointed out that if the Biden administration decides to go back on Trump’s decision, then Russia should return to adhering to the treaty as well. The State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee agrees with this stance; however, it notes that some details should be considered first.

"If Biden announces his decision to return to the treaty before the State Duma considers all readings of the bill, then we can stay within the Treaty. However, if it happens [if the bill is approved], then we will have to hold a thorough analysis of all its prospects. We will need to consider expert opinions, hold open and closed hearings in the State Duma," First Deputy Chairman of the International Affairs Committee Dmitry Novikov told the paper. He noted that there are some different points of view regarding this matter, so a possible return to the treaty requires additional discussions.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Experts debate benefits of Russia using cryptocurrency at state level

The Russian Association of Cryptoindustry and Blockchain (RACIB) hopes that the Bank of Russia will reconsider its "extremely conservative policy" when it comes to cryptocurrencies, otherwise, Russia risks lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to the development of financial markets, as it does not consider the tax and investment privileges that the country could get if it became more open to investors working with cryptocurrencies, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.

The paper mentions the recent decision by the Central Bank of Iran to allow the use of cryptocurrencies when paying for imported goods. Local news agencies inform that the Central Bank can only use cryptocurrencies received from miners registered with the Iranian Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade.

Iran’s government decided on this measure in an attempt to neutralize the influence of sanctions on the country’s financial operations with the outside world. China may be the main participant in cryptocurrency transactions, as it has become Iran’s main trade partner, Sergei Drozdov, an expert with Univer Capital, suggests.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta quizzed local experts about the cryptocurrency situation in Russia. In accordance with the Russian law, cryptocurrency transactions are theoretically possible, but only if they are held outside of Russia’s jurisdiction, RACIB Vice President Valery Petrov told the paper.

However, RACIB pointed out that the Central Bank of Russia has taken on a conservative stance when it comes to cryptocurrencies. Petrov said that the position of the Bank of Russia is understandable regarding cryptocurrency transactions within the country. However, when it comes to issues related to mining and legalization of miners’ revenue, that is, the conversion of cryptocurrency in traditional fiat money, the regulator’s current stance causes the Russian economy to suffer tax and investment losses.

"That is because the investors working with cryptocurrencies do not consider Russia a country where their interests can be protected and supported," Petrov said. "Let’s hope that in the near future, the Central Bank will reconsider its extremely conservative policy, taking into account the current economic situation."

"Anyone can issue, or mine cryptocurrency, which means that there can be no state control over its issuance. Iran is dealing with this issue by deciding which miners’ currency is considered "the right one,"" Head of the Russian Center for Competences and OECD Standards Analysis Antonina Levashenko told the paper. "There is also an option of the Central Bank issuing a cryptocurrency. Perhaps, the Bank of Russia will decide to issue its own stablecoin together with the digital ruble. However, so far, the position of the Bank of Russia’s representatives is that cryptocurrency is an asset, but not a means of payment," she concluded.


Izvestia: Russian transport ministry mulls special bonus system for vaccinated passengers

The All-Russian Association of Passengers (APP) has asked Russian Minister of Transport Vitaly Savelyev to recommend that major Russian airlines introduce a bonus system awarding passengers vaccinated against COVID-19 to the tune of 5,000 ($67) to 500,000 rubles ($6,757), Izvestia reports, citing a letter by the organization.

A source close to the Russian Ministry of Transport said that S7 Airlines is preparing to launch such a bonus program.

The offer would be from May 25 to August 25. Passengers who will get vaccinated during this period can count on special bonuses. "Transport companies are interested in recovering the passenger flow as soon as possible, so that people begin to use their services. A more active vaccination drive lowers the risks of "a third wave" of the coronavirus and possible transport restrictions," APP Chairman Ilya Zotov, explained to Izvestia.

The APP’s letter to the transport minister also suggests expanding the bonus system to carsharing services, taxis and railways. The Ministry of Transport confirmed to Izvestia that it is considering this initiative.



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