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Press review: Can Guinea’s coup impact Rusal and G7 invites Russia to discuss Afghanistan

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, September 6th

Vedomosti: G7 inclined to discuss Afghan issue with Russia, China

Russia, China and a number of other countries will be invited to the upcoming G7 foreign ministers video conference meeting on the situation in Afghanistan, Japanese top diplomat Toshimitsu Motegi announced. Moscow has not been invited to any G7 events since Crimea’s reunification with Russia in 2014, Vedomosti notes.

According to Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies Pavel Koshkin, it is logical to try to engage Russia in efforts to resolve Afghan issues. "Russia has a positive experience related to Afghanistan and enjoys rather strong authority in the Middle East where it has gained a positive reputation," the expert explained. At the same time, the West is clearly incapable of handling the crisis in Afghanistan without Moscow’s assistance. After US troops left the country, terrorist groups remained there because the West had failed to defeat them. This is why, in the expert’s words, Russia, China and Western countries will cooperate in Afghanistan but solely for pragmatic reasons.

Russia and China will play a greater role in Afghanistan after the US pullout, which is clear to the West, Russian International Affairs Council expert Maxim Suchkov pointed out. For Russia, ensuring security on the country’s southern border will be a priority, while China is more concerned about the situation in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and economic benefits from Afghanistan’s participation in the One Belt, One Road project.

Meanwhile, the West also seeks to redistribute responsibility for the situation in Afghanistan. According to the expert, the United States won’t lose interest in the region after the withdrawal of troops but "it won’t be able to take on a heavy burden in terms of regional developments." However, Moscow and Beijing can manage their affairs in the country through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and bilateral negotiations, and they don’t need help from the West. This is why Russia is most likely to show little interest in the G7’s initiative, the commentator concluded.

A former Russian intelligence officer, in turn, emphasized that Moscow and Western countries should not be expected to engage in close, long-term cooperation in Afghanistan due to the lack of trust. However, in his view, the parties can exchange certain information and coordinate humanitarian operations.


Vedomosti: Guinea coup unlikely to affect Russia’s aluminium giant

A coup attempt in the western African country of Guinea has been successful and now President Alpha Conde is in the hands of the nation’s special forces, Vedomosti writes, citing local media.

Russia’s United Company (UC) Rusal owns the Friguia Bauxite and Alumina Complex in Guinea, as well as the Dian Dian and Kindia bauxite mines. According to Rusal’s 2020 report, Guinea accounts for about 40% of the company’s bauxite production and six percent of alumina output.

Given the unclear monitoring procedures at Rusal’s bauxite mines, the largest in the world, as well as the local population’s complicated attitude towards the issue, the producer may face problems as serious as ownership challenges if the coup masterminds triumph, political strategist Viktor Vasilyev noted.

However, this is not the first change of government that Guinea has seen in recent years, experts point out. A coup actually took place in the country in 2008 after President Lansana Conte had died. It was under his administration that Rusal entered Guinea. Back then, Conde became the civilian president following a transition period, Development Director at the Foundation for the Promotion of 21st Century Technologies Ivan Konovalov said. This is why it’s safe to assume that the current developments in the country will not affect the Russian company’s positions.

The share of informal agreements with the authorities is higher in Africa than anywhere else in the world, Vasilyev explained. The positive Soviet heritage (particularly in former socialist countries, including Guinea) is another plus for Russian companies, which gives them a significant advantage, the political analyst added. That’s the key to Rusal’s success, as the local population and elites strongly associate the company with Russians and the Russian government, Vasilyev emphasized.


Izvestia: Record high gas prices may persist in EU until end of year

Russian gas prices in Europe will remain at record high levels until the end of the year particularly because of low winter temperatures, said experts interviewed by Izvestia. Apart from other things, Russian gas remains in high demand because of its environmental friendliness and the lack of other major suppliers.

"Consumers in Western Europe were waiting for gas prices to fall during the entire summer but they entered the fall season with prices hitting $645 per 1,000 cubic meters. The amount of gas in Europe’s underground storage facilities is currently 20%, which is a record low. This set off alarm bells for Europe so record high gas prices in the region may persist until the end of the year," financial communications expert Andrei Loboda pointed out. He believes that Russian gas prices in Europe may soar as high as $900 by the year’s end. Such a spike is unlikely to last long but it’s possible in case of low temperatures in the winter.

The lack of LNG supplies is what determines the situation on Europe’s gas market, Chief Analyst at the Moscow-based National Energy Security Fund Igor Yushkov emphasized. Gas prices in Asia are higher than in Europe and LNG producers prefer to sell gas there, while Europe has to face supply shortages. If prices drop in Asia, they will also fall in Europe but there are no grounds for that at the moment. Gas consumption continues to grow in Asia and there will be no spare fuel for Europe, Yushkov insists.

Russian gas will remain in demand until gas fields run dry because it is more environmentally friendly than oil and coal, so demand for gas in Europe will only expand as European industries become more environmentally-oriented, Gold Coin House analyst Dmitry Golubovsky added. The region needs affordable environmentally friendly fuel and predictable supplies because maritime transport can be affected by storms whereas pipelines are reliable, independent analyst Vasily Suvorov agreed.


Izvestia: Guaido still unable to unite Venezuelan opposition

Venezuela’s opposition forces have recently announced plans to stop boycotting the electoral processes, a policy that they have been pursuing for several years. The Unitary Platform bloc, which brings together major opposition parties, will participate in regional elections scheduled for November 21. However, experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that Juan Guaido, who declared himself interim president in the wake of the 2019 protests and was recognized by a number of Western countries, will hardly be able to unite the opposition.

Guaido is not a true leader and has never been one because he has never enjoyed broad popular support. He was trained by the US Department of State to take power in Venezuela but failed, Venezuelan political scientist Ali Rojas Olaya noted.

Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Latin American Studies Dmitry Rozental points out that there is another inspiring leader, former Governor of the Miranda state Henrique Capriles, who has always called for participating in elections, being a compromise figure. However, the political scientist did not rule out that new opposition leaders would emerge. According to him, the ratings of both Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Juan Guaido are very low at the moment. Meanwhile, 60-70% of the Venezuelan people haven’t decided yet for whom to vote. "It’s unclear where their ballots will go," the analyst stressed.

At the same time, experts agree that the opposition’s participation in the election is a trump card for Maduro who will now be able to argue that the country’s political system is functioning.

Experts emphasize that the president’s positions look stronger for now. "Venezuela’s opposition is fragmented and the initiative is in the Maduro government’s hands. For the president, holding talks with the opposition means trying to show that he has retained power. As for the opposition, it is a way to change its tactics and return to the political field," Rozental said.


Kommersant: Global investors return to Russian stock market

International investors are coming back to the Russian stock market. Last week, the overall inflow of funds into equities and bonds reached $90 mln, the highest level since the beginning of summer. However, non-resident investors aren’t buying Russian assets purposefully, purchases are taking place within global funds oriented on developing markets. This is how investors responded to the mild remarks on plans to wrap up the stimulus program that the head of the US Federal Reserve had made, Kommersant writes.

The Russian market is in a winning position based on the upward global equity investment trend. BCS Global Markets Chief Strategist Vyacheslav Smolyaninov explained that stocks are being consolidated at a higher level, Russian stocks are infused into regional ones that are injected into emerging market stocks.

At the same time, market participants point to high investment interest in certain companies. In particular, the demand for Gazprom’s shares considerably rose after the threat of new sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project had evaporated and Novatek’s shares became more popular after the signing of agreements on funding the further expansion of LNG facilities. "High-tech giants, such as Yandex, Ozon and Headhunter, have benefited from global inverstors’ resumed interest in high-tech shares," FP Wealth Solutions partner Alexei Debelov added. As a result, Russia’s MOEX index exceeded 4,000 points last week for the first time in history.

However, market players don’t expect to see a major inflow of investment. According to Deputy Director General of the TFG asset management company Ravil Yusipov, it will be difficult for the Russian market to compete for international capital. "The decarbonization trend is making investors reconsider their approach to commodity-related stocks," Yusipov noted. In his view, mineral companies need to offer new strategies to investors, which will increase their attractiveness during the global energy transition.

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