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Press review: NATO in no hurry to admit Kiev and EU sanctions on Belarus to be “tangible”

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, June 21st

Izvestia: Kiev will not be allowed into NATO for at least another 10 years

Ukraine will be able to become a NATO member in no earlier than 10-15 years. A high-ranking source in the Alliance told Izvestia, the members of the organization do not currently plan to accept Kiev into their ranks, since they are not ready for such an obvious aggravation with Russia. The alliance tells the Ukrainian leadership that the country needs to bring itself into line with NATO criteria, and convince the allies that it deserves to join the organization.

"The difficulty is not even the unresolved territorial problems, but the fact that no one in NATO, including the United States, intends to launch such a blatant escalation with the Russian Federation," the NATO source told the newspaper. According to the source, Georgia is ready for membership in the alliance much more than, for example, Montenegro, but it is not accepted into NATO for the same reasons as Ukraine.

"There is an understanding about Ukraine - it is needed as an instrument of pressure on Russia. NATO membership is primarily a message for Moscow, not Kiev," Associate professor of the Department of Political Theory of MGIMO Kirill Koktysh told Izvestia. "Further contacts between the United States and Ukraine will also depend on the relationship between the United States and Russia. US-Ukraine contacts are what might be called an instrumental relationship," he added.

So far, providing Kiev with an action plan to prepare for membership remains open. Ukraine expects to receive it in 2022, and is already irritably asking, how many reforms NATO needs for it, the newspaper writes. At the same time, Joe Biden, speaking about the action plan, stressed that the issue depends not only on the United States but also on other countries of the alliance. Ukraine has to convince NATO members, which is not easy, the US president summed up on June 14.


Kommersant: Moscow mulls new lockdown as COVID-19 cases rise

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin warned that due to the more aggressive Indian strain of COVID-19, those who have been already ill or vaccinated with a low antibody count can still be infected with this new strain. Preliminary results of a study conducted at the Gamaleya Research Institute confirm the vaccine’s effectiveness - the risk of moderate and severe disease is reduced by 14 times, Kommersant writes. The Ministry of Health is preparing a revaccination program for people, whose antibodies have dropped to insufficient levels.

On June 20, 17,611 coronavirus cases were detected in Russia. In Moscow, there were 8,305 new coronavirus patients per day, and at the end of last week, the number of new cases in the capital exceeded 9,000 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

The introduction of new restrictions has not been ruled out, a source familiar with the epidemiological situation in Moscow told Kommersant. They believe that this may happen at the beginning of the week, based on the weekend’s numbers. At the same time, the Moscow authorities still expect to avoid lockdown, the source added, saying "It is obvious that the virus will be with us for years, it is impossible to close places forever".

At the same time, according to Sobyanin, the Indian variant of the virus - "Delta" - was recently discovered in almost 90% of Moscow residents with a positive coronavirus result. Experts told Kommersant that there is no data yet confirming a more severe course of the disease and greater mortality among patients infected with this strain. According to him, as of June 20, about 1.5 mln Moscow residents have received both components of the vaccine.


Izvestia: How Tehran's foreign policy will change under new president

The presidential election in Iran was won by the Chief Justice of Iran Ebrahim Raisi with 61.95% of the vote. The victory was easy to predict as there were simply no other strong alternatives among the other four candidates, Izvestia writes. Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that after the change of the country's course from a conditionally reformist to a conservative one, Iran's foreign policy vector will not undergo significant changes, since the spiritual leader of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remains in power. For the same reason, no radical changes are expected in relations between Tehran and Moscow, experts said.

Ebrahim Raisi became the first president of Iran who, even before taking office, was under US sanctions - measures were introduced against him in 2019 "for human rights violations". In general, the West expects a tougher approach to the "Iranian agreement" from him. The politician is not opposed to its restoration [of The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - TASS], although he demands to act without concessions, Izvestia writes. The State Department has already announced that Washington will continue indirect negotiations with Tehran on joining the 2015 nuclear deal. This dialogue is being conducted in Vienna with the mediation of the rest of the participants - the European troika, Russia, and China.

In the meantime, the departure of the current president Hassan Rouhani will not lead to a change in the foreign policy vector, analyst at MGIMO Institute of International Relations Adlan Margoev told Izvestia. "In any case, there will be no serious contradictions between Raisi and Khamenei. Nor do I expect any changes in the Russian-Iranian direction. In addition, Iran has limited cooperation with Russia: weapons, the nuclear industry. It will be easier to interact with conservatives in Iran, they will take a conditionally neutral position in relation to Moscow," the expert explained to Izvestia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: EU prepares new sanctions package for Lukashenko

The meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers will be held in Brussels on Monday, when it will be addressed by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, the de-facto leader of the Belarusian opposition. It is expected at the meeting that a decision will be made on the introduction of the fourth package of sanctions against the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, sources in Brussels claim this time the sanctions will be serious and painful for the Belarusian authorities.

The expert community does not expect surprises from the meeting, since the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper II) at a meeting on June 16 has already agreed on new sanctions against Belarus. The Foreign Ministers Council is expected to name companies and names of businessmen close to the authorities, who will be affected by the sanctions.

According to Austrian media, restrictions in the financial sector will include a ban on issuing new loans, circulation of securities, and providing investment services. Telecommunications, tobacco production, and arms exports are also expected to take a hit.

According to experts, if the package is adopted in this form, the sanctions will be quite tangible for the Belarusian authorities. Both local experts and European officials claim that Lukashenko crossed the "red line" in the incident involving an emergency landing of a European plane with European citizens.


Vedomosti: Zarubezhneft, Belgian DEME plan to build wind farm in Vietnam

Russian state-controlled oil company Zarubezhneft and Vietsovpetro [a joint venture between Zarubezhneft and the Vietnamese state-owned company PetroVietnam] together with Belgian DEME subsidiaries - Deme Offshore BE NV and Deme Concessions Wind NV - are working on a joint project to build an offshore wind farm in Vietnam with a capacity of 1 GW, according to Deputy General Director for Production at Zarubezhneft Oleg Akimov.

The start date of construction has not yet been determined. Experts told Vedomosti, Zarubezhneft wants to reduce its carbon footprint from oil production, and manage possible taxes in the future. According to the IEA, due to climate commitments, oil and gas companies have to invest in renewable energy sources to diversify their businesses.

Wind farms of this size are estimated at $650-800 mln, and if a feasibility study is ready, construction will take about two years, analyst at VTB Capital Vladimir Sklyar told Vedomosti. According to him, the market for the construction of wind farms is actively developing, so it will not be difficult to find experienced specialists.

In turn, analyst at Gazprombank Center for Economic Forecasting Dmitry Pigarev noted that capital costs for the construction of offshore wind farms are 2-3 times higher than the cost of building onshore ones, and can reach $3,000-3,500 per 1 kW of installed capacity. Based on this, the cost of building the wind farm could reach $3 bln, and take 2-5 years to complete construction.

The plans to build a wind farm are motivated by the company's desire to reduce its carbon footprint from oil production in the future, leading analyst at the National Energy Security Fund Igor Yushkov told Vedomosti. "If carbon taxes start to operate globally in a few years, then the company will be able to deduct quotas from this generation, and either partially or not pay this tax at all," he added.

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