All news

Press review: Iran asks to halt nuke deal talks and US investor may get suspended sentence

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, July 16th

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: EU threatens Minsk with another wave of sanctions

The EU has responded to a new wave of political repression sweeping Belarus, by threatening new restrictions, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. After nationwide searches and detentions on Wednesday, 12 human rights and public activists remain behind bars. On Thursday, they were included on a list of political prisoners, with the total number of people detained for political reasons in Belarus reaching 554, local human rights activists inform.

On Thursday, the EU responded to the events in Belarus. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said in a statement that the EU demands the immediate release of detained activists and other political prisoners. Borrell warned that the EU would consider further restrictive measures against Belarus based on its stage-by-stage approach.

Experts are unable to name an international structure that is able to stop Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko today. Only Russia is able to influence his behavior somehow, however, so far, Moscow is providing moral and material support to the Belarusian leader, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes. Lukashenko’s press service informed that next year, Minsk will purchase Russian gas for this year’s prices. On Thursday, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the Russian government had been instructed to work on possible ways of supporting Belarus amid sanctions.

Local analysts are making predictions regarding the Kremlin’s real plans for Alexander Lukashenko. Some see the promises of financial support as readiness to keep Lukashenko in power for a long time, yet some think that Moscow has not abandoned the goal of achieving transit of power, the newspaper reports.

For his part, political analyst Andrei Eliseev thinks that Moscow will now jumpstart the process of integration with Belarus. "It seems that Kremlin is going on the offensive when it comes to Belarus," he wrote on his social network. The expert points out that after the recent meeting between Putin and Lukashenko in St. Petersburg, "a session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State [between Russia and Belarus] was announced for the fall." "This means that Moscow is putting the squeeze [on Belarus] when it comes to deepening integration agreements and closer military cooperation. The Kremlin is ready to provide more credit for an uncertain sum in the coming months to finalize this issue."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Iran asking to put nuclear deal negotiations on pause

Tehran has asked to pause the Vienna-hosted talks on reviving the nuke deal, the US Department of State informed earlier, adding that Iran seeks to wait until President-Elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office. Although the request of the Iranian government seems logical, Washington has hinted that it will not be ready to look for ways out of this diplomatic dead-end forever, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports.

Earlier, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price explained that Washington finds it necessary to continue the talks with Tehran on the nuclear deal because the return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will ensure better conditions for the US in order to react to other existing challenges. The spokesman said that after the US had exited the deal in 2018, the situation with any of the challenges related to Iran has not improved, but instead worsened in many ways.

Independent military expert Yuri Lyamin said in a comment to Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Iran’s change in the presidency automatically means a change in the government led by the president. "All new ministers must be approved by the parliament," the expert said. "So right now, it’s not just about the change in president. After Ebrahim Raisi’s inauguration, set to take place in early August, he must nominate new ministers, including a new Iranian foreign minister."

Considering the current composition of the Iranian parliament, Raisi should not have too many issues with the approval of his nominations, the analyst said. "However, it is clear that holding talks on the nuclear deal under the conditions of the ongoing change in the presidency and government is difficult, so a delay in the talks is to be expected," Lyamin explained. "As for the role of the Iranian foreign ministry, I don’t think it will change in a big way. In any case, the foreign ministry will continue to hold talks, but, the key decisions will be approved at higher levels of government."


Vedomosti: US investor Calvey may get suspended sentence in Russia

The prosecution has offered to sentence Michael Calvey, the founder of the Baring Vostok private equity firm, to a suspended sentence of six years on charges of embezzlement, due to the fact that the defenders have already settled the financial damages, Vedomosti reports. This was confirmed by a Vostochny Bank representative during the trial, adding that the bank had no material claims against the defendants.

On February 13, 2019, Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a criminal case into the embezzlement of 2.5 bln rubles ($33.6 mln) from Vostochny Bank. Calvey is the key defendant in the case.

The fact that the prosecution is asking for a suspended sentence is likely to be an exception to the rule, said Alexey Dobrynin, Managing Partner at the Pen & Paper attorney practice. In many cases of this kind, the prosecution asks for a real sentence even if the damages are settled. Usually, the court takes off the time spent in detention during the investigation from a real sentence, Dobrynin told the paper.

"In practice, the courts tend to listen to the state prosecution," he said, which means that Calvey has a real chance of going free soon. According to the attorney, the court may heed all the conclusions of the prosecution and acquit the defendant. There is no statistical data on how often the court agrees with the prosecution and hands out a suspended sentence. However, it can be said that usually, the judge agrees with the opinion of the prosecution, Russian lawmaker Yuri Sinelshchikov, who used to work as the first deputy prosecutor of Moscow, informed.

The financial dispute has been settled, the parties reached an amicable agreement, and Vostochny Bank has been sold, which means that there are no grounds for a harsh sentence anymore, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Alexander Shokhin told Vedomosti.


Izvestia: Damage from cryptocurrency crime sees surge to $1 bln globally

From July 2020 to July 2021, the volume of cyber fraud and crimes using cryptocurrencies across the world has reached at least $1 bln, the Kaspersky Lab cybersecurity company informed Izvestia. The number of major blackmail attacks has surpassed 1,000 in 2021 alone. The main reason for the surge in cryptocurrency fraud is the rise in prices for digital currencies and their mounting popularity, experts interviewed by the paper note, adding that this trend is likely to continue.

The same trend is witnessed in Russia, Exantech CEO Denis Voskvitsov pointed out. In 2021, the volume of cryptocurrency fraud in Russia has reached about $50 mln, Finam analyst Leonid Delitsyn told the paper. Cases of digital currency fraud go up when crypto prices are on the rise, the expert stressed.

For his part, Voskitsov thinks the main reason for the increase in cryptocurrency crimes is the permeation of digital assets in our daily life. As the blockchain economy expands, more information becomes available and new services appear, so criminals begin to use this infrastructure to their benefit. Virtual assets are also easier to hide than real money.

Vladimir Smetanin, CEO of Newcent, a global financial company specializing in digital assets, has expressed the same opinion. He noted, however, that while the volume of cyber crimes related to crypto has doubled, the demand for cryptocurrencies has tripled, which means that the share of attacks related to digital assets has gone down. Only 0.7% of crypto capital is tied to fraud schemes, the expert told Izvestia.

Vladimir Ulyanov, head of Zecurion Analytics, expects the number of operations with crypto tokens and the number of crimes related to them to go up in Russia and across the world. Even services and platforms involved in crypto transactions may face restrictions and bans, as many tokens are outlawed in Russia.


Izvestia: Researchers look into how often dangerous COVID strains may appear

Without mass vaccination against COVID-19, two or more dangerous coronavirus strains that will cause new waves of the pandemic will appear in the world with the probability of about 60%, German researchers who developed a mathematical model to predict the global COVID situation revealed. Russian experts quizzed by Izvestia agreed that vaccination lowers the possibility of new strains appearing. The researchers noted that in a negative scenario, new mutations are likely to be variants of the Delta strain.

Researchers with the University of Potsdam (Germany) created an epidemiological development model under the conditions of mass vaccination and quarantine measures. Scientists predicted that the pandemic will stop if 80% of the global population are vaccinated against COVID-19, as the remaining 20% would recover from the disease and be immune to the virus.

The possibility of new strains appearing directly depends on the number of people susceptible to COVID-19, Pavel Volchkov, lab head at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, said.

"In order for new strains to appear, the coronavirus needs "platforms" for multiplication. People with immunity acquired after recovery or vaccination stop providing this platform," the expert told Izvestia. "However, every state has its peculiarities and strategies of the fight against the pandemic. For example, India and other states similar to it (with a large population and a high population density) are breeding grounds for new strains."

For his part, Roman Zinovkin, a leading researcher at the molecular biology lab of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, agrees that new dangerous coronavirus strains are likely to appear. The world will still be in danger if there are countries with an unvaccinated population or a low share of vaccinated citizens, he stressed. New strains that would appear in these states might begin to spread amid the vaccinated nations, he warned.

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews