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Press review: China threatens sanctions and EU readies vaccine passports

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, June 9th
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian EPA-EFE/WU HONG
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian

Vedomosti: China threatens large-scale sanctions against the West

China intends to take legislative action in response to sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western countries to "safeguard its national interests," according to Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian. The bill on countermeasures has already been submitted to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, which plays the role of the Chinese parliament. However, the reasons for retaliatory sanctions could be mostly economic, experts told Vedomosti.

The content of the bill has not been disclosed. According to the Chinese state publication Global Times, the bill has now gone to a second reading, which means that it may soon be put to a vote. China is seriously dissatisfied with Western interference in the affairs of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. On March 22, the United States and a number of EU countries, as well as the United Kingdom, and Canada, introduced personal sanctions against Chinese officials due to human rights violations in the region and harassment of the Uyghur minority. The Chinese authorities attribute their policy as a means of fighting terrorism.

According to Vasily Kashin from the Higher School of Economics, China is waging a tense trade war with the United States, and the number of Chinese companies under US sanctions is estimated in the hundreds. This reason, and not just the conflict over Xinjiang, explains the development of the "bill on countermeasures." The expert told Vedomosti that usually enterprises that refused to supply China with goods and services due to pressure from the United States were blacklisted and cut off from the Chinese market. The new law now may include a mechanism for introducing retaliatory sanctions - most likely sectoral, directed against entire economic sectors of countries, and not individual enterprises, Kashin added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO wants to revive old cooperation format with Russia

Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance Jens Stoltenberg came up with the idea to hold the Russia-NATO Council, a format that has not been used since 2019. Stoltenberg has not yet received a positive response from the Russian side. According to experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the format may be impossible to revive in the current diplomatic situation.

Stoltenberg said in an interview with German newspaper Welt that a Russia-NATO council should be held to continue dialogue with Russia. The Secretary General did not specify the preferable date for the event - before or after the meeting between Biden and Putin. Nevertheless, there was no response to the proposal from the Kremlin, at least not a public one.

The NATO-Russia Council was created in 2002, back when Moscow and Washington considered themselves allies in the fight against global terrorism. The number of meetings in this format has gradually decreased and in 2020 the NATO-Russia Council did not meet even once.

Military expert Alexey Leonkov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta he is extremely skeptical about the chances of the Kremlin agreeing to meetings in this format. "For the NATO-Russia Council to become possible, the West must take specific steps that indicate that it requires such a format in general. For example, there should be changes in the area of sanctions policy," he said. The expert recalled that in NATO's development strategy until 2030, Russia is designated as a potential enemy of the alliance. This alone makes cooperation in the formats it took from the early 2000s impossible. And then there are NATO exercises near the borders of Russia, which are extremely negatively perceived by the Kremlin. "Negotiations are not conducted under the clatter of tracks and artillery roar. Negotiations require silence. And there is no such silence," Leonkov told the newspaper.


Kommersant: EU prepares to launch COVID-19 passport system

The European Parliament on Wednesday will announce the results of the vote on the final approval of COVID certificates in the EU. The system has already been launched in a test regime, and from July 1 it will operate officially. Brussels is confident that the initiative will help restore the freedom of movement of citizens within the union, Kommersant writes. However, the EU policy on third-country certificates is still under development. As for Russia, certificates could be recognized by individual EU countries.

The EU is currently in talks on the mutual recognition of certificates with third countries, in particular with the United States and the United Kingdom. It was reported that the EU already has an agreement on recognizing certificates with Ukraine. According to the Ukrainian media, it is expected that the certificates will start working in the country from mid-July.

It is not yet clear whether Brussels will opt for mutual recognition of COVID certificates with Russia. There are no issues with recognizing the status of the previous illness and a negative PCR test, but there may be problems with the mutual recognition of vaccines, Kommersant writes. So far, the portfolio of EU-approved vaccines includes drugs only from BioNTech-Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson. The approval of the Russian Sputnik V is still under consideration by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

According to Kommersant, a more realistic scenario for Russia would be mutual approval of certificates on a bilateral basis with individual countries. For example, Hungary has already approached Russia with this proposal.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukraine awaits clarity on NATO membership

On Monday evening, US president Joe Biden called Kiev and invited Vladimir Zelensky to Washington at the end of July. By that time, the US president will have taken part in the NATO summit on June 14, and met with the leaders of European countries on June 15, and his talks with Vladimir Putin are planned for June 16. By the time of the visit of the Ukrainian president, the US leadership will have a consolidated understanding of the position of the West on all issues of interest to Kiev, especially on the signing of the Action Plan for Ukraine's NATO membership, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Contacts between the current Ukrainian leadership with Washington were not easy to build, the newspaper notes. Biden called Zelensky only in early April when the Ukrainian side announced a threatening concentration of Russian troops near the country’s border. After this conversation, Zelensky began to actively promote the idea of signing the NATO Membership Action Plan. In an interview, he noted that membership of the alliance is not only a guarantee of Ukraine's security for the future but also the shortest path to resolving the conflict in Donbass.

The Ukrainian leadership has not been invited to the NATO summit, but its membership will be discussed there. Kiev understands that the plan will not be signed next week, but they want specifics from the alliance about the possible timing of signing, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Ukrainian experts agree that the issue with signing the action plan will not be resolved now, and the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline will not be blocked. But they believe that so far only the battle has been lost, not the war, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.


Izvestia: Russia protected against large Internet outage

Russia does not depend on a sole Internet provider, so a large-scale failure in the operation of the largest Internet services, similar to what happened on June 8, is unlikely, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. A global Internet outage was reported earlier around the world. Social networks, media platforms, the website of the UK government, and a number of world media outlets - CNN, BBC, The New York Times, as well as Reddit, Spotify, GitHub, PayPal - were affected due to an incident at a large CDN (content delivery network) provider Fastly. Experts believe that the Russian CDN market is not monopolized by any providers, which increases its stability.

Executive director of the Internet Protection Society Mikhail Klimarev told the newspaper there could be several reasons for the accident - human error, software error or a hardware failure, or even the fact that TikTok is no longer hosted by Fastly. "Disconnecting such a large client does not happen with the snap of one’s fingers: when it leaves, the configurations change and the networks are optimized," he said. Some experts believe ransomware viruses could have caused the incident.

This scenario is virtually impossible in Russia, Klimarev added, since there are no CDN providers in Russia comparable to Fastly in scale. And as for the largest Russian Internet companies, they have their own infrastructure that performs CDN functions, the expert noted. For example, Yandex and VK certainly have the capability.

The Russian CDN market is not monopolized by any of the companies, which is beneficial for consumers and increases its stability, CDNvideo CEO Yaroslav Gorodetsky told Izvestia.

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