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Press review: Lukashenko chalks up win and global warming eroding Russia’s Arctic coast

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, November 19th
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko Nikolai Petrov/BelTA/TASS
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko
© Nikolai Petrov/BelTA/TASS

Izvestia: Russia unwilling to put up with NATO's Black Sea schemes

The West does not take Russia's warnings about red lines seriously, particularly when it comes to the Black Sea region, with NATO's strategic bombers conducting flights as close as 20 kilometers from the Russian border, which is what Moscow will not leave unanswered, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated at an expanded meeting of the Foreign Ministry. Lawmakers pointed out to Izvestia that by sending signals about its readiness to cooperate with Russia, NATO only seeks to distract Moscow from the alliance's policy aimed at stepping up military activities in the Black Sea and Ukraine.

Federation Council Deputy Speaker Konstantin Kosachev told the newspaper that just signals from NATO weren't enough for restoring relations, especially since those signals were not supported by practical steps. "We would like them to take practical steps to prove their readiness to build equal relations with Russia and take each other's interests into account," the senator emphasized. According to him, Moscow has had "a deplorable experience of NATO turning its statements into nothing, ditching them time after time. "This is why I wouldn't rush to draw conclusions about a restoration of relations," Kosachev noted.

Head of the Federation Council's Information Policy Commission Alexei Pushkov stressed that all signals about cooperation coming from NATO were aimed at diverting attention from the alliance's policy to step up its military activities in the Black Sea and Ukraine. "As far as relations with Russia are concerned, the alliance seeks to create a situation where it would be able to impose its conditions on Moscow. They want to make sure that their military activities on Ukraine's territory allow them to set forth a package of demands. This kind of dialogue is unacceptable for Russia, in fact, it is a set of ultimatums and not a dialogue at all," the senator said.

"When on the one hand, military build-up is underway in Russia's neighboring regions and on the other, signals are coming about readiness to build a peaceful dialogue, the second thing only serves to cover up the first, that is, a desire to establish dialogue from a position of strength. This is just a way to present an ultimatum," Pushkov pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko chalks up win from migrant crisis

Tensions caused by the ongoing migrant crisis on the border between Belarus and the European Union have somewhat eased following two telephone calls from Berlin. A small group of migrants even went back home. However, Minsk has hinted that most migrants are unwilling to leave, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Telephone conversations between Alexander Lukashenko and Acting German Chancellor Angela Merkel took place on Monday and Wednesday. The parties concurred that the issue would generally be taken to the Belarus-EU level, Lukashenko's press service said. According to the press service, "the relevant officials" from Minsk and Brussels "will immediately engage in talks in order to resolve outstanding issues."

Experts are now trying to explain what Merkel and Lukashenko actually told each other and if it's possible to say that Minsk and Brussels have launched a dialogue marking a win for the Belarusian leader who seeks to prove his legitimacy.

According to political scientist Valery Karbalevich, Lukashenko's blackmail has worked as in fact, he achieved what he wanted, making the other party talk to him. "It shows that Brussels has changed its tactics. A decision has been made to start a dialogue and bargain with Minsk," the expert wrote. In his view, Lukashenko will take his blackmail further because he can see that it's effective.

"I won't pretend that a direct top-level contact with Berlin and Brussels is nothing, even if it's on a humanitarian issue," political analyst Artem Shraibman agrees. "If they manage to sort things out this time, it will mark the first direct de-escalation agreement that Minsk and Brussels have reached in a year and a half," he noted. However, according to the commentator, it doesn't mean that a thaw in relations will follow. The contact may remain a one-time story aimed at solving the humanitarian problems of migrants and later "the parties will return to a lack of dialogue until tensions rise again."


Izvestia: Nord Stream 2’s launch may be delayed for another six months

The German regulator's decision to suspend the licensing of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project interrupts the four-month certification period, an official from Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology told Izvestia. The process will resume once the project's operator Nord Stream 2 AG registers a subsidiary and shares powers with it so that Nord Stream 2 is compliant with German and EU laws. German lawmakers point out that the move may delay the pipeline's launch for nearly six months and EU consumers will have to face more energy price spikes.

The press service of Nord Stream 2 AG told the newspaper that everything was being done to ensure compliance with the related rules so efforts were underway to create a subsidiary.

"Nord Stream 2 AG will establish a German subsidiary that will be responsible for a certain small segment of the pipeline on Germany's territory. The management will be handed over to the subsidiary. Once it is done, the operator will become independent and compliant with the European Union's laws," National Energy Institute Director Sergey Pravosudov pointed out. According to him, it's hard to say at the moment what form the subsidiary will take as it may be a legally different company with a different share capital or new shareholders may emerge in terms of management. In any case, this is the only way that Russia's gas giant Gazprom will be able to fill the pipeline with gas to 100-percent capacity.

The gas market has already reacted to news about the suspension of Nord Stream 2 certification with a new hike in prices. German businessmen have expressed concern about the suspension. Chairman of the German Eastern Business Association Oliver Hermes told reporters that Russian pipeline gas was currently much cheaper than gas on the spot market. In his view, it is Nord Stream 2 that can make a crucial contribution to ensuring energy security.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Global warming closing in on Russia's Arctic coast

Under the steady onslaught of sea waves, Russia's Arctic coast has been receding several meters a year. Global warming has seriously accelerated the process, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, citing experts.

The shoreline usually recedes one to three meters a year. However, in the eastern parts of Russia's Sakha region, where 90-95% of the seashore is made up of ice, the rate reaches ten meters a year in some places, emphasized Stanislav Ogorodov, who heads the geoenvironmental laboratory at Moscow State University's Department of Geography. As a result, every year, the sea swallows a piece of land the size of downtown Moscow.

This points to a serious environmental threat. Millions of empty fuel tanks have been scattered across the Arctic coast since the Soviet era, each of them containing some residue of petroleum products that may total hundreds and even thousands of tonnes.

Besides, the coastal erosion issue is important in light of the increasing industrial activities in the Arctic. As a rule, ports, oil terminals and gas processing plants are built on the shores of Arctic seas, and underwater pipeline and communication cables are also laid there. In this case, the wearing away of the sea coast may lead to major disasters. "When choosing a place for a construction site on the Arctic coast, it is crucial to find the most stable plot of land," Ogorodov pointed out.

It therefore means that the Arctic coast requires careful monitoring. That said, Russia's Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring plans to establish a special system to monitor the melting of frozen soil. Holes will be drilled at every meteorological observing station where thermal sensors will be installed. Several hundred posts of this kind will need to be created for researchers to see the processes that are going on in the permafrost.


Vedomosti: Logistics troubles pushing prices of imported goods up all over the world

Bottlenecks in maritime supply chains may hamper the post-pandemic recovery of the global economy, in addition to hikes in charges on container transportation services, which may significantly push up prices of imported goods. Coastal nations and small island developing countries that depend on maritime transport will suffer the most but the world's biggest economies will also have to face a negative impact, Izvestia writes, citing a review by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

If container freight rates continue to grow at the current pace, the global prices of imported goods may rise by 10.6% by 2023, the document says. According to analysts, persisting bottlenecks in logistics chains, huge pent-up demand, quarantines and coronavirus restrictions at ports, particularly in China, are the main reasons for the rising freight rates.

"We expect that the crisis situation in supply chains will remain the same in 2022. First of all, coronavirus restrictions at ports and a trade imbalance between China and the United States will continue to pressure the sector," said a department head at Russia's major maritime container carrier.

The market seems to have accepted high rates, a spokesperson for the Delo Group of Companies noted. According to him, tariffs are unlikely to fall to the previous level in the coming two years and a drop is possible no sooner than in the second half of 2023.

Freight rates will remain high in 2022, Head of Intermodal Transport Department at Itella Russia Yulia Nikitina said. Rates may plunge only if the pandemic situation stabilizes and smaller ships are put into operation, which have been in high demand since 2021 due to restricted port capacity, the expert noted.

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