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Press review: Baku outraged at EU for meddling in Karabakh and Belarus opposition tours US

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, July 21st

Kommersant: Baku up in arms over EU meddling in Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev flew to Moscow on Tuesday, where he held talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. They discussed, among other things, the future of the Karabakh peace accords, which were once again under the threat of collapse. According to Kommersant, Baku is outraged by the European Union’s attempts to assume the function of a mediator in settling the conflict. They believe that this is pushing Yerevan to revise the agreements reached with Russia’s mediation.

At the same time, an informed Azerbaijani source told Kommersant that "the stakes are being placed on provoking Baku to take radical steps and involving the Russian army". The source noted that "at this critical moment, it became necessary to make sure Putin and Aliyev are on the same page".

"Both France and the European Union generally did not play a role in settling the conflict over Karabakh, when things peaked in the of fall 2020. This caused a noticeable concern among EU strategists, who are belatedly trying to find their place in the negotiation process," Head of the Strategic Assessments Group at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations Sergey Utkin told Kommersant.

"As far as the European Parliament is concerned, there were voices calling for taking advantage of the situation after the ceasefire and formulating some attractive ‘European perspective’ for Armenia similar to that of Georgia. However, in practical terms, movement in this direction is unlikely. Interaction with Russia is becoming more important for the parties to the conflict today than ever before, and one cannot count on Russia's benevolent attitude to Armenia's ‘European prospects’ given the current geopolitical situation," the expert concluded.


Izvestia: Russia not to return to the Open Skies Treaty

Moscow has no reason to reconsider its decision to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty. Head of the Delegation of the Russian Federation to the Vienna Negotiations on Military Security and Arms Control Konstantin Gavrilov told Izvestia that other treaty participants did not change their position, which means that this December, Russia will officially withdraw from the agreement.

"The remaining participating states, as before, couldn’t muster up the strength to dissociate themselves from the far-fetched arguments dictated by Washington for the reasons for the crisis in the Open Skies community, which are allegedly related to Russia's violation of the Open Skies Treaty," Gavrilov told Izvestia.

In his opinion, Washington ignored the interests of all the parties to the treaty, including its allies. "After all, the Europeans, as we understand, have very, very limited national satellite reconnaissance assets," he added.

According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, the distinctive feature of the Open Skies Treaty is that it created an atmosphere of trust and cooperation between militaries. And although Russia and the United States have other ways to observe each other (satellites, for instance) they will not replace the treaty.

"The advantages of satellites are that they can be used for continuous observation and without consent. However, the area could be covered with clouds, and satellites will be useless here," PIR Center consultant Oleg Shakirov told Izvestia.

At the same time, Belarus could still transfer data on US facilities in Europe to Russia. However, further cooperation between Moscow and Minsk after Russia’s withdrawal would be possible "only after our Belarusian colleagues make a decision to continue their participation in the treaty," Gavrilov said.


Kommersant: Lukashenko-Tikhanovskaya feud goes global as rivals battle using international diplomacy

Washington may soon take "decisive action" against Minsk, asserted Belarusian opposition figurehead Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is on a political visit to the United States. Meanwhile, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus also decided to step up his efforts on the diplomatic front. According to Kommersant, he urged diplomats to focus on traditionally friendly states, and EU states clearly are not on that list.

Tikhanovskaya's US tour can perhaps be called the most significant foreign trip in her political career, Kommersant writes. The opposition figurehead was received at the highest official levels. She visited the White House and met with Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The day before, she held talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Her tour of America will end on July 31.

The main purpose of Tikhanovskaya's visit to the United States, as well as to many other countries, is to convince the West that the Belarusian people need practical help. The opposition figurehead also said she is trying to talk the US leadership into "giving Russia a signal" that it can play a "constructive role" in resolving the Belarusian crisis.

Meanwhile, Minsk is trying to keep up with Tikhanovskaya and other members of the Belarusian opposition through diplomatic activity. However, the authorities see the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America as its main partners. According to the Belarusian president, it is important to work in these regions.

At the same time, Lukashenko made it clear that it is necessary to optimize the staff of the country’s embassies in the EU. The head of state also demanded that ambassadors respond to the anti-Belarusian rhetoric of Western countries. Bealrus’ Former Charge d'Affaires to Switzerland Pavel Matsukevich told Kommersant, that among acting diplomats there may well be those, who are not actually Lukashenko's ideological supporters.


Vedomosti: New Russian fighter jet unveiled at air show

On July 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the opening ceremony of the MAKS-2021 air show. The main event of the expo’s first day was the demonstration of a full-scale prototype of a fifth-generation Russian single-engine fighter jet. The aircraft project is under development, as announced during the presentation, by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. According to experts, interviewed by Vedomosti, the new fighter jet could be mainly used for exports.

The first flight of the aircraft is planned for 2023, while the construction of the experimental batch is scheduled for 2024-2025. Meanwhile, the signing of the first export contract is set for 2026, Vedomosti writes. The aircraft’s systems are being fashioned using the existing scientific and technical groundwork obtained during the creation of the Sukhoi Su-57 fighter. President of the United Aircraft Corporation Yuri Slyusar, said at the presentation that according to the business plan, the volume of the fighter’s deliveries for the next 15 years is estimated at 300 planes.

According to Mikhail Barabanov, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, the new fighter is not particularly needed for the Russian Aerospace Forces, but it can be put up for export. Potential customers, the expert noted, include Vietnam, Arab states, and India. Despite the active promotion of US combat aircraft on the Indian market, the situation there is traditionally unpredictable, Barabanov noted.


Izvestia: Demand for cyber risk insurance soars in Russia

The demand for cyber insurance jumped sharply in the first half of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, the largest market players told Izvestia. Thus, in AlfaStrakhovanie the number of such agreements increased by 50-60%, and in Sberbank Insurance, small and micro-businesses increased their purchases of policies 3.5-fold. The stepped-up demand for insurance against cyber risks is also being witnessed from credit institutions, so a package product for them is being put together. According to experts, in the future, the popularity of hedging the risks of hacker attacks will only climb higher.

The main reasons for this growth are the trend towards digitalization against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, when organizations had to massively and quickly implement various Internet services, Chief Risk Officer (CRO) at Sberbank Insurance Vladimir Novikov explained. The increased use of IT technologies has raised the risk of cyberattacks, he told the newspaper.

In addition, high-profile cases of such attacks attracted the attention of clients, Head of the Financial Risks Insurance Department at AlfaStrakhovanie Ekaterina Kryuchkova noted.

The volume of the cyber insurance market in Russia is several times smaller than in the EU or the US, and amounts to about 500 mln rubles ($6.71 mln). However, in the next five years, it could grow to 10 bln rubles ($134 mln), Professor Yulia Finogenova of the Department of Finance and Prices at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics told Izvestia.

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