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Press review: France fumes over sub scandal and high voter turnout at Russia’s elections

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, September 20th

Izvestia: High voter turnout seen at Russia’s legislative elections with barely any violations, say experts

With over 25% of the voting results processed, United Russia is leading in the elections to the 8th Russian State Duma (lower house). The ruling party gained more than 44.38% of the ballots. United Russia’s success, as well as the emergence of a fifth faction in the legislature - the New People party - is quite natural, Director General of Russian Public Opinion Research Center Valery Fyodorov told the newspaper.

According to experts, United Russia in 2021 will not only win the elections but will also receive a constitutional majority in the State Duma, while other political parties may lose their positions. Political strategist Oleg Matveychev does not rule out New People as the fifth party in the State Duma.

Political strategist Viktor Poturemsky believes that the main surprise of these elections was United Russia’s triumph in the regions of the Far East, which traditionally lean towards the opposition.

Other than that, the results were predictable. Five parties in the State Duma were expected, Fyodorov said. "The elections were held without any surprises. The public’s request was contradictory: ‘we want stability and change’. All parties had to adjust to this appeal," he said. "As a result, in the first place, we got the party of stability - United Russia, which guarantees that there will be no disruptions. In addition, there are now many new faces in the party and a new program," he pointed out.

"Online voting has once again shown its relevance not only in Moscow but also in other regions. The turnout is expectedly high," Head of the Working Group on Public Monitoring of Remote Electronic Voting Alexander Malkevich told the newspaper. This format might be used more in the future, he noted.

At the same time, offline voting was more intense. Starting from the very morning of September 19, Chairperson of Central Election Commission Ella Pamfilova urged her colleagues not to yield to pressure. Meanwhile, foreign observers were impressed by the level of organization of the balloting. They did not see any gross violations.


Vedomosti: France threatens NATO with repercussions over submarine scandal

The French Foreign Ministry believes that the crisis in relations with the United States over the creation of a triple alliance between the US, the UK, and Australia and the cancellation of the Australian order for French non-nuclear submarines could affect the future of NATO, Vedomosti writes. Paris insists that it was not warned about the contract’s termination. The Biden administration seeks to calm France’s anxieties, as the US commander-in-chief will have a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron to clarify the situation. Meanwhile, for Russia, the scandal means the opening up of a new segment of the arms market, the newspaper writes.

According to Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, this comes as a painful blow to France’s defense sector revenues and it’s an even more painful blow to its reputation. Paris can even hardly really answer with anything, the expert noted. However, France can be expected to talk more actively about the "strategic independence of Europe" and that it would be essential to rely less on the United States in terms of defense.

The situation, however, might prove beneficial for Russia, Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov told Vedomosti Now that the US itself has decided to help build an entire nuclear submarine for Australia, they opened a new market for nuclear submarines, and as far as the arms trade goes, such precedents are very important, Pukho noted. Russia’s long-standing partners in military-technical cooperation like India, Vietnam, or Algeria are just as essential members of the international community as is Australia, Pukhov believes.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: White House ready to ease up on Syria

The Biden administration is ready to loosen up its sanctions against the Syrian leadership, according to Arab media sources familiar with the outcome of the meeting in Geneva between Russian and US officials. The negotiations on resolving the situation around the Arab Republic demonstrated a shift in Washington’s approach. The Americans are prepared not only to allow Damascus to receive dividends from the pipeline project from Egypt to Lebanon but also to bring the Syrian leadership together with non-governmental pro-Kurdish forces controlling the northeast, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Sources from the influential Saudi newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, said that the participants in the Geneva talks discussed a project for gas supplies from Egypt to Lebanon, which would involve Jordan and Syria. The Biden administration wants to support this initiative.

The gas project is what worries the US the most, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. According to the newspaper, signs of Washington being favorably disposed towards Syria's involvement in this project have become more noticeable over the past weeks. It is possible that Syria's connection to the inter-Arab gas project is intended to reduce its dependence on its main ally, Iran.

Mahmoud al-Hamza, an independent Syrian political analyst, told the newspaper, that the Russian side intends to move along the path of reconstructing the Syrian economy in order to benefit from the support of President Bashar al-Assad. At the same time, the expert sees signs of a mutual understanding between Moscow and Washington with regard to Syria.


Izvestia: Launching Nord Stream 2 to ensure relationship with Berlin, says German politician

The new German government will not be able to prevent the full operation of Nord Stream 2, but may begin to revise specific agreements with Russia on the gas pipeline, representative of the Federal Association for Economic Development and Foreign Trade of Germany Urs Unkauf said in an interview with Izvestia.

According to Unkauf, a softened sanctions policy should not be expected from the future German government, since the backbone of the coalition will be formed by the same parties that have been a part of the government in recent years.

He also believes that if the Greens will head the ruling coalition following the elections, it will become more difficult for Moscow to negotiate with Berlin, especially on energy issues, Unkauf stressed.

At the same time, the politician noted that the launch of Nord Stream 2 can create new ties for the sustainability of relations between Russia, Germany, and the entire EU. When politicians fail to find any common language or agree, then the economy, as well as energy, can provide dialogue between countries, the politician noted.

It is important for Europe to have as many diversified sources as possible because this is also an issue of energy security. In this sense, Russia has always been a reliable partner for Germany, he added.


Vedomosti: Russian authorities hammering out tax reform on both production and profit for steel companies

A four-day marathon of meetings between Russian steel companies and government representatives on the taxation system for the mining industry has reached the home stretch. First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov and Finance Minister Anton Siluanov held a meeting on Saturday, where the discussion might have come to an end, four sources who participated in the meeting told Vedomosti. One of them clarified that the parties managed to bring their positions significantly closer.

Siluanov and the business community announced a compromise. Its pivotal point was the amount of the industry’s super-profits, which the budget would fail to receive at the end of 2021. In particular, in 2022, the ferrous metallurgy and coking coal industry should provide 130 bln rubles ($1.7 bln) to the state coffers, while the nonferrous-metals industry should furnish 23 bln rubles ($314.4 mln), and mineral fertilizers should provide 10 bln rubles ($136.7 mln).

As a result, companies face both an increase in the mineral extraction tax and the introduction of a differentiated scale for income tax. It will be higher for companies that form a dividend policy to the detriment of their capital investments.

Specific tax rates have yet to be agreed on, Vedomosti writes. According to the meeting participant, Belousov recommended that the largest taxpayers make their proposals as detailed as possible to take into account the various nuances. Another source who attended the meeting stressed that, in all likelihood, a final decision will be made "at the political level", therefore both sides of the meeting were interested in forming the most elaborate decision. Details are planned to be clarified by the second reading of the bill, the newspaper notes.

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