Izvestia: NATO continues military build-up in Black Sea region
NATO is exploring the Black Sea region as a potential theater of war, while Kiev is getting ready to resolve the Donbass issue by force, the Russian Defense Ministry said. US warships led by the command ship USS Mount Whitney have entered the Black Sea and F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets have been deployed to Bulgaria and Romania. Experts point out that Washington is encouraging Kiev to wage a civil war in southeastern Ukraine.
The US administration is taking advantage of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky's weaknesses, pushing Kiev towards a large-scale civil war in the southeast, said Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Viktor Volodatsky. "All of the US actions are aimed at making Ukraine stage provocations," he noted. "The US needs to make sure that conflicts engulf other countries in order to distract the public from the issues facing the States."
Political scientist Maxim Zharov suggested that Ukraine could use external forces against Russia. "The domestic situation in Ukraine will soon make Zelensky choose between a military operation in Donbass or an early resignation as president," the expert noted.
"The attempts to stir up tensions through an anti-Russian campaign that we see now will lead to a situation where a provocation will be staged if the US command decides that military activities need to be resumed," Zharov pointed out.
NATO is deploying and strengthening its forces in the Black Sea region on a permanent basis to say the least, military expert Vladislav Shurygin emphasized. The alliance's forces will include warships and troops from various countries, he said. "The region can already be viewed as a potential theater of war. The USS Mount Whitney command ship is known for its visits to trouble spots. It was seen near the coasts of Iraq and Libya, and visited the Black Sea in 2008, when a war broke out in South Ossetia. It sailed to our shores in 2014, too, after Crimea reunited with Russia," the expert added.
Media: Russia may offer solution to Belarus-EU crisis
The European Union is considering more sanctions against Minsk over the ongoing migration crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border, a European Commission official told Izvestia without providing any details. Meanwhile, Moscow has come up with a possible solution to the migrant quagmire, saying that Brussels could pay Minsk for containing the inflow of migrants from the Middle East, just like it did under an agreement with Ankara in 2016, Izvestia notes.
The situation on the border between Belarus and Poland remains tense because of a wave of migrants seeking to enter the European Union via Belarus. Brussels blames the crisis on Minsk, claiming that the Belarusian authorities are deliberately sending migrants to the EU, even arranging special flights for them. Minsk rejects these accusations as groundless and says that even though military equipment has been deployed to the border, an armed conflict is unlikely.
"In my view, an armed conflict involving law enforcement agencies is unlikely to take place," Head of the Belarusian House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee Andrei Savinykh told the newspaper. "Undoubtedly, the use of military hardware against migrants cannot be considered to be a reasonable action. On the other hand, we can see that the balance of military capabilities in border areas is changing. Our military agencies - and those of the Union State [of Belarus and Russia] - will provide a tit-for-tat response," he added.
Experts believe that Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei's visit to Moscow may indirectly point to Russia's involvement in efforts to resolve the migration crisis on the border, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Some analysts don't rule out that Russia could act as a mediator in the conflict between Minsk and Brussels.
Belarusian political scientist Valery Karbalevich emphasized that in such an explosive situation, a military clash could accidentally occur. However, military expert Yegor Lebedyuk, who used to think such a scenario was possible, now says that a military conflict is unlikely at this time and place. According to the analyst, in this particular case, the Belarusian authorities needed a picture "to make the headlines."
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Coronavirus vaccination must be mandatory, jab developer says
Vaccination against the novel coronavirus must become mandatory, Director of Russia's National Research Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology Alexander Gintsburg said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
According to the expert, the pandemic will end once 70-75% of the Earth's population is vaccinated. "In order to achieve that goal, the vaccine must be included in the national inoculation schedule and vaccination must be mandatory," he pointed out.
Gintsburg also said that another pandemic could be prevented if kids "are taught that they need to get vaccinated, just like their parents." "Because if you aren't vaccinated, not only can you harm yourself but also your loved ones and everyone around you," the Gamaleya center's director added.
Gintsburg emphasized that the Sputnik V vaccine created by the center "currently is the best one among those in use across the world... in terms of both its duration and the range of the COVID-19 strains that it is effective against." "Sputnik V develops a wider range of virus-neutralizing antibodies compared to the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines," the expert stressed. He added that the Sputnik Light vaccine, "derived from Sputnik V, is good for boosting the immunity of those inoculated with other vaccines, including jabs made in the West."
A nasal spray coronavirus vaccine will not replace the usual injection but will complement it, Gintsburg went on to say. "A nasal spray vaccine develops immunity down the throat, creating an additional barrier for the virus that is trying to enter the body," the expert explained. According to him, the time when a nasal spray vaccine will be registered depends on how soon clinical trials begin. He said that if they were launched right away, such a medication could be registered in the middle of 2022.
Kommersant: Russian Energy Ministry expects record high oil production in 2023-2024
Russia may once again reach the record high oil production level of 560 mln tonnes in 2023-2024, Energy Minister Nikolai Shulginov said in an interview with Kommersant.
"We believe that our oil output will stand at about 560 mln tonnes in 2023-2024. The goal actually is to ensure our competitiveness on the global market rather than achieve a high figure," he noted. Shulginov added that in the future, it would be reasonable to stabilize the level of oil production because it was too early to talk about the end of the oil era. "I would like to point out that not only do we follow such an approach, but so do our overseas partners," he stressed.
Meanwhile, the Russian Energy Ministry believes that the idea of producing hydrogen at tidal power plants, particularly in the Far East, is not effective. The minister noted that "it takes at least 20 years to build a major tidal power plant," while the impact that a project like this could have on the environment had not been assessed yet. Shulginov added that "these sorts of projects can operate only as part of an isolated system." "If production rates fall, the electrolyser system needs to be shut down, which means that the quality of hydrogen will be questionable. Besides, there needs to be a permanent source of energy. Second, if it is about a project involving the use of seawater, it will have to be desalinated, entailing additional costs. It is even unclear, what kind of an investor would take on this job," Shulginov said.
The energy minister went on to say that Russia might continue to use coal for domestic energy production even in 2050. "As far as the energy sector is concerned, there should be no sudden and ill-considered moves, and a sudden decision to ditch coal or any other sudden change in the fuel and energy balance can lead to dire consequences," Shulginov stressed.
"We have to make reasonable and economically sound decisions. Natural processes need to take place that will result in a decline in the use of thermal coal," the Russian energy minister emphasized.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian consumers no longer want to buy groceries in stores
The number of couriers for grocery delivery services in Russian supermarkets has already exceeded that of actual customers. Online grocery sales may reach 380 bln rubles ($5.4 bln) by the end of 2021, an about 2.5-fold rise from last year, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.
The share of online grocery sales in retail trade currently stands at about 5%. However, that volume has been steadily increasing since the third quarter of last year, INFOLine Director General Ivan Fedyakov pointed out.
In the past, online grocery shopping was an anti-crisis measure but now, many Russians have gotten used to it. At first, customers ordered groceries to stock up for a week but starting in the middle of last year, customer behavior began to change as Russians started to grow accustomed to the swift delivery of perishables such as milk and bread.
Notably, express delivery companies currently offer favorable conditions to customers. "It has spoiled consumers who lost the habit of shopping in stores," Fedyakov noted. This situation is rare for other countries, there are no such services in New York, Paris and London.
Fedyakov expects online grocery sales to continue to grow next year. According to his estimates, the share of groceries in retail trade will rise from the current 5% to about 20% by 2025.
Chairman of the Council for the Development of Electronic Commerce at the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Alexei Fedotov believes that next, grocery vending machines will come to apartment buildings.
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