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Press review: State Duma vote goes remote and controversial US diplomat may come to Moscow

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, September 17th

Media: COVID-19 moves Russia’s 2021 legislative elections online

Russian President Vladimir Putin may vote online on Friday in the scheduled Duma elections, since the nation’s leader announced that he was going to self-isolate due to several close contacts having been diagnosed with COVID-19, Kommersant writes.

However, it was not clear by the end of the day whether the President would use this option. Nevertheless, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Putin registered to vote online, and quickly clarified that the decision on how Putin would cast his ballot would be announced later.

This is the third election for Russians under the new pandemic, but this is the first time that patients in what’s known as "red zones" will be able to exercise their right as well.

According to the Central Election Commission (CEC), 103 temporary polls have been set up at coronavirus hospitals, including four in Moscow.

On September 1, the Commission authorized these temporary polls, citing that only people working in these locations can make up the on-site election supervisory boards. Nikolai Bulaev, CEC deputy chairman, then explained that all the voting results would be transmitted electronically, through various communication channels, as it is done from military vessels at sea, Kommersant writes.

The Russian voting system is ready for the elections, said Independent Public Monitoring Association Executive Director Alyona Bulgakova, in an interview with Izvestia. She explained how observers have been taking part in the monitoring activities ahead of the election, and that the process has been transparent and focused on getting rid of any potential obstacles, Izvestia writes.

However, not everyone is certain that the election will go as smoothly as planned. The European Parliament, just a day ahead of the election’s kickoff, said that it was ready not to accept the outcome of the voting. First Deputy Chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs Dmitry Novikov said that it was rather strange to hear this reaction before the elections even began. Undoubtedly, this statement sounds like a provocation, Izvestia writes.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US drawing Australia into new Cold War

Washington has taken a new major step in countering China in the Pacific Ocean. US President Joe Biden has declared the creation of a new military alliance with the United Kingdom and Australia, which will allow the world’s sixth largest country to build nuclear-powered submarines. Canberra has invited Beijing to negotiate on security in the region. However, China gave a clear-cut response: the US and its allies are instigating a war against it. The fact that Washington has managed to involve Australia financially in the struggle against China is far from good news for Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Biden is not going to reduce America’s influence in Europe and divvying up the risks of countering China with its allies is a major victory for the US, which enables it to maintain resources for a two-front struggle.

In its turn, London has its own reasons. After breaking up with the EU, it seeks to boost its presence in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Yun Sun, a senior fellow and co-director of the East Asia Program and director of the China Program at the Stimson Center, believes that the deal signals that the US and the UK are ready to export nuclear technology to a non-nuclear state. This is a very sensitive move, he pointed out. After Australia gets nuclear-powered submarines, this won’t make it stronger than China. But China will have to weigh Australia’s might in the event of tensions with Taiwan or in the South China Sea.

"The alliance’s creation basically means drawing Australia, which controls the passage into the Indian Ocean from the Pacific, into containing China at the official level. The Americans are making every effort to strengthen the eastern perimeter and the key adversary there is certainly China, not Russia. However, Washington won’t have enough resources to contain Russia and China simultaneously," said Andrei Sidorov, dean of the World Politics Department at Moscow State University.

Alexander Tevdoy-Bourmouli, a senior lecturer at MGIMO University, stated that the creation of this alliance allowed the US to successfully share risks of China’s confrontation with the UK and Australia. The latter will build submarines at its own expense.


RBC: Central bank head says pandemic-fueled crisis stands out as unprecedented in history

Inflaton in Russia is likely to surpass 7% in September, Head of Russia’s Central Bank Elvira Nabiullina said in an interview with RBC.

Inflation will decline, because single factors will have less and less effect on the economy, while the results of March’s stricter monetary policy will become more evident, she told the newspaper.

Nabiullina believes that the chances of a global financial crisis are quite low, despite the regulator’s forecast for 2023, which foreshadows its probability. According to her, the pandemic created a significant amount of debt bubbles throughout the world, yet the value of financial assets does not reflect the cost of risks. She told the newspaper that soft monetary policy can lead to these consequences. However, the pandemic-fueled crisis is not like any economic crisis seen before and the forecast is just a way to show what might happen, but not necessarily.

Nabiullina touched on the issue of the US greenback in the Russian economy, and said that the Finance Ministry is buying dollars from the Central Bank, yet the foreign currency purchase is only a portion of the National Welfare Foundation, since a significant part of the reserves belongs to the Bank, the newspaper writes. The foreign currency transactions take place on the external market in a way that along with gold purchases it plays into the regulatory structure.


Kommersant: US diplomat Nuland making her way to Moscow

The Biden administration’s Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland is working to coordinate a visit to Russia this fall, but there is no specific date so far. The visit by the diplomat, who has been previously blacklisted by Moscow is quite likely to happen in November, Kommersant writes. A source in Washington has confirmed that negotiations are underway.

If the visit takes place, Nuland is most likely to meet with Deputy Foreign Ministers Sergey Ryabkov and Andrei Rudenko. Ryabkov is responsible for relations with Washington, and Rudenko’s area of expertise is all of the CIS, including Ukraine.

The visit would constitute a thaw in Russian-American relations, said Carnegie Moscow Center expert Alexander Gabuev. He expects that Nuland will want to foster communication between the two countries because President Joe Biden would like to have a working relationship with Russia, without any unnecessary surprises. Gabuev explains that Biden doesn’t want to be distracted from more pressing issues such as the climate agenda and Washington’s rocky relations with China.

The post-Soviet space is an area where Biden would like to have someone who can solve problems effectively, reaching the highest administrative level if necessary.

Nuland’s reputation in Russia may hinder the process. According to Gabuev, she is seen as the person who orchestrated the deterioration of ties between the two countries, and as someone who is responsible for Ukraine’s Maidan coup.

When it comes to Russia, Nuland is someone who will definitely follow through with the tasks she is entrusted with, the expert told Kommersant.


Izvestia: BRICS seeks peace and stability in Afghanistan

BRICS wants peace in Afghanistan and hopes that soon there will be a governing system in place that will be able to control the country, Director of the BRICS International Forum Purnima Anand told Izvestia.

According to Anand, the crisis in Afghanistan is a unique one, because the United States abruptly ended their presence there, and now the whole world is watching how it will all pan out. Before the current political situation, India poured over $3 bln into Afghanistan, and is very much invested in stability there. Russia and India have a similar approach to foreign relations, based on peace, stability and economic development. If the two countries work together, it will bring about great global results. This spring, Russia tremendously helped India during the outbreak of the Delta variant, and immediately sent the first Sputnik jab tranche, which sped up the vaccination process and saved thousands of lives. Soon, Russia began manufacturing Sputnik V in India at several locations. This is another aspect of the quick and poignant help offered as part of the positive bilateral relations.

In the near future, both countries plan to work together on space projects, especially on communication satellites, in addition to research, scientific and academic exchanges, Anand told the newspaper.

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