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Press review: G7 seeks solution to Afghan quagmire and Moscow excoriates Crimea Platform

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, August 24th

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: G7 pursues solution to Afghan quagmire

Emergency talks by the G7 leadership will be held in a virtual format on August 24 initiated by the UK, who is chairing the club. The summit will focus on Afghanistan where developments are not going according to the way London and Washington anticipated. So far, the Taliban movement (outlawed in Russia) has not formed a coalition government. Furthermore, Afghanistan is turning into a source of global problems with a political and humanitarian catastrophe looming.

Among G7 members, it is the UK that may consider itself the most offended by the Biden administration’s actions in Afghanistan. The clumsy pullout of NATO troops was cobbled together by the Pentagon without the leadership of the UK contingent. For example, the British found out literally at the last moment that NATO was leaving the Bagram air base with its huge military warehouses. The Daily Telegraph newspaper claimed that on August 16, when NATO controlled only Kabul’s airport, Biden was not taking Johnson’s calls.

The British leader was only able to reach the US president the following day. It is possible that Washington was offended by the insistent proposals of UK politicians to interact more closely with Russia and China in order to resolve the Afghanistan-related issues. The British media notes that only three embassies remain functioning in Kabul under the Taliban beyond the airport: and those three belong to Russia, China and Pakistan.

However, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday said that Moscow does not intend to interfere in this country’s developments. Meanwhile, the Taliban militants had surrounded the Panjshir Gorge by August 23 where their strongest Afghan adversaries, Ahmad Massoud and Amrullah Saleh, are located. Both parties are allowing the possibility of either a compromise with the subsequent creation of a coalition government or for military action.

Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Sotnikov noted that both options are equally possible. "It all depends on whether Massoud and Saleh gather enough forces and weapons to fight and on the Taliban’s readiness for a lengthy military campaign 100 kilometers away from Kabul," he explained. The expert noted that it would be desirable for the Taliban to resolve the Panjshir issue before the cold season sets in. He also pointed out that the movement does not intend to oppose China and Russia, meaning that it may take their opinion into account.


Izvestia: What’s wrong with the goals of the Crimea Platform

The claims of the Crimea Platform have no added value and its "summit" can be seen as a failure, Deputy Speaker of the Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Konstantin Kosachev told the newspaper, commenting on the results of the forum. The platform’s first session was scheduled to mark the 30th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence with its main goal being the return of the peninsula to Ukraine through global efforts. Moscow slammed the event as an unfriendly act and warned that Russia wouldn’t leave the positions of those participating without attention.

The main result of the forum was a joint declaration which should, in the opinion of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, "make Russia sit at the negotiation table." The participants again accused Moscow of violating and restricting human rights, militarizing the peninsula, obstructing freedom of navigation in the Black and Azov Seas and changing Crimea’s demographic structure. Those attending also agreed to discuss new sanctions against Russia when necessary.

"The only image that comes to mind when reading this document is "the mountain gave birth to a mouse," the deputy speaker said. "The specific provisions of the declaration do not hold any water - starting with the accusations of human rights violations and down to the peninsula’s ‘militarization’. All of this contradicts the actual situation. And the demands to open some missions in Crimea with their mandate limited by Ukraine’s territory is a road to nowhere. Crimea is open to visitors - of course, after coordination with Russian authorities.

Earlier, Kiev reported that delegates from 44 countries, including 13 presidents would be attending the forum. Other countries sent their foreign ministers and parliamentary speakers. According to the evaluations of Russian politicians, the Crimea Platform failed as a summit. "Summits convene in order to hash over some problem and come up with formulas for its resolution. Here the "summit" didn’t succeed - it was attended by about 40 countries and they were represented at a rather modest level if one doesn’t count the most ardent supporters of the Ukrainian leadership," the deputy speaker noted.

The politician called the Crimea Platform a theatrical play "which, apparently, initially was conceived as a way to impress the domestic audience" and where "international participants played a role of extras." "Kiev will try to take credit for this play while we all understand perfectly well that there is no real credit to be taken," the politician concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: How lockdowns and coronavirus impacted Russia’s youth employment

The share of young people is decreasing among those employed in Russia which is explained by demographic shifts and the desire of some young people to put off finding jobs. Employment is not always postponed because of the pursuit of an education, up to 30% of young people are not studying anywhere.

The coronavirus crisis introduced its corrections. The shock of the first wave brought down the demand for young specialists. Then another shift occurred: now the number of job openings for young people has almost doubled countrywide. According to HeadHunter (HH), now there are seven applicants per each vacant position not demanding prior experience, compared to 14 a year ago. Only about 17% of those employed in Russia are in the 15-29 age group. If one counts only those in their 20s, this figure comes to roughly 16.5%.

During the pandemic, the job market experienced a shock affecting young people’s employment prospects. Hays International Recruitment noted that in 2020, the hiring of youth decreased by 9% worldwide while the decline in the "adult" group amounted to only 4%. That said, the young people, as a rule, worked in those spheres that were impacted by the pandemic the most: retail, the hotel business and the like. Often those were temporary or part-time jobs without a contract.

The situation changed in the first half of 2021. According to HeadHunter, the number of positions for young specialists has more than doubled. The applicants also became more active: the number of resumes from young specialists has increased by 25% compared to the same period in 2020 with seven applicants per each opening. This may be called an anomalous demand for young workers, according to the commentary of Director of the Department of Analytical Business Solutions at HeadHunter Natalya Danina. She told the newspaper that the Russian employers often look for young workers in the following categories: messengers, waiters, salespeople, drivers, cooks. While the applicants are looking for positions of beginning specialists, salespeople, waiters, administrators, messengers and baristas.

Anna Mikheeva, from Hays recruitment, said that the reaction of the job market to the first lockdown resulted in a sharp freezing of many positions regardless of the age of employees. "Then, on the contrary, we saw delayed demand when everybody began to fill in the gap," she added. The experts confirm that today’s labor market is affected by the long-term influence of two factors: the demographic one and the one related to the way of life. Generally, the number of young people nationwide is decreasing. "What are the risks of reduced employment for Russia’s youth? With the fewer young people, productivity is lower, and likewise economic growth is lower. There is less mobility, less searching for a job and fewer new hires," Danina says. Another factor is that the young people have a different attitude towards being employed, they are frequently not interested in a career which is more typical in large cities with a high quality of life, Mikheeva notes. According to her, young people sometimes choose working from project to project in order to have free time to travel and for other hobbies.


Vedomosti: AI standard in medicine to appear in Russia

The Skolkovo Foundation, the NTI Foundation and the NTI Platform will set the requirements for a contest to develop a support system for medical decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI) by the end of this year, according to the NTI’s materials. Within the framework of this contest, the first Russian standard of symptoms’ description as well as an algorithm for the analysis of medical data will be created, the NTI press service told the newspaper. This standard is necessary for the correct operations of AI-based medical systems.

The contest’s prize money totals 200 mln rubles (over $2.7 mln - TASS). The selection of participants will kick off in 2022, according to Alexander Tolmach, the project director of Skolkovo’s department of development and promotion of technological contests. "This standardization is necessary, for example, in order to interact with electronic medical records, and for the correct transfer, storage and interpretation of information received from personal medical devices in automated health control systems." According to him, the support systems for medical decisions are already being created in Russia. "It is possible to achieve precision in diagnostics by analyzing medical history, and data on working and living conditions, heredity, and so on. The contest aims to develop precisely such systems of interaction with a patient," he explained.

The AI-based diagnostic support systems for medical decisions have already been implemented in several medical spheres in Russia. For example, Sberbank’s AI learned to recognize shadows in the lungs caused by COVID-19, according to First Deputy Chairman of the Executive Board of Sberbank Alexander Vedyakhin. According to him, as early as May 2020, the system was determining the disease with the precision over 90%.

The standards to describe diseases and to determine their treatment are necessary for AI-based medical systems, according to General Director of the National Base of Medical Knowledge association Boris Zingerman. "Doctors now acquire and use clinical recommendations using natural intelligence. If we want AI to participate in the process of diagnostics and determining treatment methods, it is necessary to come up with an algorithm for the process - and the standardization of initial data is needed for that." Yaroslav Shitsle of the Rustam Kurmayev and partners law firm pointed out that information leaks are the main problem related to medical AI systems, and here it involves medical privacy. "Additionally, the technology used should be adapted to the specifics of a given patient community in a certain area, otherwise, the data obtained using AI may not be correct and may influence the timely nature of the actions of a doctor," he said. The expert also thinks that training in medical AI can be problematic since it is done on anonymous medical data yet in order to obtain it, personal data should be entered into the anonymous database which, in his opinion, not many people are willing to do.


Izvestia: Demand for Russian vacations to Egypt skyrockets driving airlines to widen routes

Demand for vacations in Egypt is skyrocketing. All flights are 100% booked and hotel rooms are full all the way into September, tour operators told the newspaper. This vacation destination is on average 30% more expensive than before Egypt was closed to Russians in 2015, but the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) asserts that the prices should decrease after the launch of new flights on August 27. Companies are already preparing flight programs from 22-23 cities.

Since August 9, the anti-coronavirus crisis center permitted 20 weekly flights to Egyptian resorts and they’ve been fully booked, vice-president of the ATOR Dmitry Gorin told the newspaper. Still, new flights will be added on August 27. "Yet the planes won’t fly out from all cities. Now, tour operators are preparing flight programs from 22-23 regional airports. Additionally, Egyptian airlines who have half of the quotas are not ready to fly from many Russian regions. Although, for example, the FlyEgypt carrier requested Samara and St. Petersburg," he noted. In his opinion, prices should drop after August 27, once flight quotas will be distributed and the airlines will evaluate the demand.

Anex Tour added that there are requests for tours in the fall season and for New Year’s. Gorin reiterated that due to the pandemic, the maximum occupancy of Egypt’s hotels is limited to 70%. At the same time, European tourists have not yet returned to the country while tourists from Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus have. "The prices have not gone back to the level of 2015 and they are not likely to return. The currency rate has risen since by 30%, so we feel this difference when buying tours in rubles. In dollars, the price has not changed," the expert noted.

"We won’t see a noticeable decrease in prices for Egyptian tours for a year - year and a half because the tourist flow should recover first. Before the closure, Egypt was receiving 3 mln Russians per year and now it won’t see even 1 mln," Vice-President of the Russian Union of Travel Industry Yuri Barzykin said. According to him, when the tourist flow will reach previous volumes, tours to Egypt will again become cheaper than to Turkey which is the main argument to choose this destination for many Russian tourists.

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