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Press review: Patrushev says Afghan fate awaits Ukraine and error cuts EU gas prices

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, August 19th
Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS
Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev
© Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

Izvestia: Afghanistan's fate awaits Ukraine, says top Russian security official

The situation in Afghanistan will top the agenda of one of the next meetings of the Security Council, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said. He emphasized that the priority task now is to ensure control over migration flows and protect the region against terrorists infiltrating it as refugees as well as against arms and drug trafficking. According to him, a similar situation is in store for those who support the US in Ukraine.

The military operation in Afghanistan was a goldmine for the US military industrial complex and those in the armed forces who were in charge of the finances for the Afghan army, in his opinion. "There are those among Americans who profited off this war, so they are not particularly worried what the world thinks about the US," he said. He noted that about $90 bln was spent on training the Afghan servicemen, while information on embezzlement is not being disclosed. Additionally, according to the security chief, the US "didn’t even bother to take out of the country a large number of weapons and military property, and just abandoned it all," while the military industrial complex and subcontractors raked in "superprofits."

He also noted that Washington is pumping Ukraine full of weapons that it has no use for and backs the growth of extremism, drug trafficking and ethnic discord. In his opinion, Ukraine is heading towards dissolution and at some point, the US won’t even remember its supporters much like what happened in Kabul. "Did the fact that Afghanistan having the status of a main US ally outside of NATO save the ousted pro-American regime in Kabul? A similar situation awaits those who are banking on America in Ukraine where neo-Nazis are capable of taking power, the country is going to disintegrate, and the White House at a certain moment won’t even remember its supporters in Kiev," the security chief explained.


Kommersant: Taliban holds consultations on future government

According to local media outlets, previous adversaries met in Kabul. Former President Hamid Karzai, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah and leader of the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin political party Gulbuddin Hekmatyar on one side and Taliban (outlawed in Russia) representative Anad Haqqani on the other. Experts predict that the Taliban won’t let other forces get any real power and the coalition being created is simply a formal one in order to boost their image on the global arena.

At the same time, the international community is expecting the approaching "migration tsunami."

The newspaper notes that over the past three years Karzai, Abdullah and Hekmatyar were frequent guests in Moscow since they attended literally all conferences on Afghanistan that the Taliban participated in as well. However, Director of the Center for Contemporary Afghan Studies Omar Nessar cautioned against excessively optimistic conclusions. He noted that, most likely, Moscow has no special role here and the inclusive government from the Taliban’s point of view won’t be quite like other countries would like it to be. According to him, the participation of other forces will be simply formal in order to avoid international isolation.

Additionally, it seems that soon there will be a catastrophic number of Afghan refugees. "As things stand, the situation in Afghanistan is clearly not safe and it will not be safe for some time. Therefore, we cannot force people to return to Afghanistan," European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said on Wednesday, urging EU countries to raise their quotas on accepting refugees.

Chairman of the Afghan Diaspora in Russia Ghulam Mohammad Jalal said that there are also many of those who want to come to Russia, although it is difficult to estimate their number.


Kommersant: Coronavirus widens its scope

Russian doctors are far more frequently registering severe coronavirus cases in children, including fatal outcomes. Specialist link the growth in incidence with a larger number of tests among children, the Delta strain may be another cause of the increase. Doctors urge adults not only to get vaccinated themselves but also to inoculate their children.

Chief Non-Resident Pediatric Specialist in Preventive Medicine of the Russian Health Ministry Leila Namazova-Baranova confirmed that from January 2020 to July 2021, COVID-19 was detected in children more often according to both Russian and international data. She attributes it to the increased testing among children compared to a year ago. Molecular biologist from the Moscow State University Sergey Khariton added that there are no explanations so far why the coronavirus initially causes less symptoms in children or is asymptomatic altogether. "There are several theories. One is linked to cell immunity, since children have less trained immune T-cells and more of the so-called naive T-cells. This allows them to adapt to new infections faster. Another theory is that a child’s body in general relies more on innate immunity," he said. He added that the Delta strain attacks any type of immunity more effectively, including among children.

Experts stress that vaccination of parents, medical workers and instructors should be a priority in protecting children from the infection. Director of the Rassvet children’s hospital Sergey Butriy adds that the inoculation of children is also necessary since they need their specific immunity and sometimes have severe forms of the disease caused by the coronavirus infection.


Vedomosti: Europe sees drop in gas prices due to erroneous reports of Nord Stream 2 launch

On August 18, gas prices in Europe dropped approximately 10% after Germany’s Gascade gas transport operator published erroneous data on alleged deliveries via the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Igor Yushkov, an expert at the Russian Government’s Financial University noted that the market frequently displays a psychological reaction to various events. "We observed a similar response, only with growing prices, when Gazprom refused to book additional capacities for gas transit via Ukraine," the expert said.

Executive partner of the Art De Lex law firm Dmitry Magonya thinks that the incident won’t be noticed by regulators unless it is proven that this was a deliberate market manipulation. "It is well known that Nord Stream 2 has not passed legal procedures for starting operations (certification and so on.) The anticipated timeframe is the first half of 2023. Accordingly, the professional market should have known that," he emphasized.

"One way or another the Russian side benefited from the incident. Considering the deficit of gas on European markets and the circumstances of the recent accident in Novy Urengoy, the issue of the soonest launch of Nord Stream 2 acquired new meaning - how much positive news can change the market condition," the expert noted.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russians to get digital e-passports

Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development published a draft on e-passports back in March. According to it, Moscow residents may obtain them beginning on December 1, 2021, while they should become available countrywide no later than July 1, 2023. An e-passport is a plastic card with a photo, name, date of birth and a chip.

This type of passport will be used in the Russian Federation along with the traditional "booklet" one. The document will contain biometric and other personal data of its holder, including a photo and two fingerprints.

In Russia, 87% of the population use bank cards, experts say. "So, the switch from paper passports should not cause any extra inconvenience for Russians as new cards and so on," Research Chief at the Center for Research in Financial Technologies and Digital Economy SKOLKOVO-NES Yegor Krivosheya said. Now this initiative is more pertinent, given Russians’ experience with non-cash transactions and digital state services, he thinks.

"There are certain dangers in digitalization. Fraudsters move online following people. Thus, according to the Prosecutor General’s Office, in January 2021, the share of cyberfraud amounted to 25% of all registered crimes, while in 2020, the share of cyberfraud was 17.7%, and in 2019 - only 10.4%. So, there are reasonable questions regarding the security of e-passports’ data, like how will it be organized, what citizens should do in case of mass data leaks, and how the authenticity of new passports will be confirmed. Especially, since citizens will have access to a digital passport’s copy as a QR-code on mobile phones, and media outlets report increasingly more scams with QR-codes," co-founder and general director of CloudPayments Dmitry Spiridonov pointed out.

Not everyone will be ready to use the new passport, and this particularly concerns the elderly, the expert added. According to his forecasts, it will require about five years to implement e-passports.

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