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Press review: US turns up heat on Nord Stream 2 and Gazprom faces Turkish currency jitters

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, November 24th

Izvestia: What the new sanctions against Nord Stream 2 mean

The US Treasury has imposed sanctions on Transadria and the Marlin vessel associated with Nord Stream 2. This move announced by the United States against the vessel and the company involved in the construction of Nord Stream 2 is insignificant and will hardly be able to prevent the gas pipeline from being launched in any way, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. Analysts do not rule out that the restrictions are part of the internal political struggle in the United States.

According to US political scientist Bruce Marks, the sanctions are very insignificant and they will not suspend the launch of Nord Stream 2 or its implementation.

Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov believes that the new restrictions are a manifestation of unfair competition. "Dialogue through sanctions is unacceptable and violates international law. We regard all attempts to impede Russian oil and gas exports to Europe as unfair competition, undermining the free market principles," he wrote on Facebook.

Washington’s actions are partly an element of domestic policy, Deputy Director of the National Energy Security Fund Alexey Grivach told Izvestia. "Congressmen put pressure on the Biden administration for political reasons and to earn money from lobbyists. So, they introduce sanctions against individual vessels in order, on the one hand, to adhere to agreements with Germany, and on the other, to demonstrate adherence to the policy of sanctions," the expert said.

The imposed restrictions may show European bureaucrats that they should not rush to certify the gas pipeline, Stanislav Mitrakhovich, a senior expert at the National Energy Security Fund told the newspaper. He noted that the certification could be withdrawn later. "Just like what happened with OPAL," the expert recalled.


Kommersant: Putin, Pashinyan, Aliyev to discuss border situation

Russian President Vladimir Putin will once again gather his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for a trilateral meeting. The talks, as the Kremlin reported on Tuesday, will be held on November 26 in Sochi, and the main topic will be restoring and developing trade, economic, and transportation links. Given the recent escalation on the border in the Syunik Province of Armenia, through which Azerbaijan expects to build a corridor to the Nakhichevan enclave, the meeting will be an attempt to extinguish a mounting blaze, and also presents an opportunity to discuss the chances of improving relations between Armenia and Turkey, Experts interviewed by Kommersant believe.

The meeting was originally planned to be held in Moscow, presumably on November 9, that is, a year after inking the initial deal to end the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh. But at the last moment, Pashinyan backed out, and Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov later said that the negotiations would not take place.

"The agenda for the meeting in Sochi is ready," Azerbaijani political scientist Ilgar Velizade told Kommersant. "It was developed in advance for a meeting in Moscow. However, the Armenian prime minister did not want to meet in the Russian capital at that time, deciding that a meeting in Brussels without a specific agenda would be less binding for him. Now, under the pressure of the circumstances and the situation at the border, he decided to accept the proposal of the Russian side," the expert added. At the same time, Baku does not expect to see the signing of any documents: "Most likely, the documents will be adopted later in Moscow, at a meeting of the trilateral commission on unblocking transportation links. And the agreements in Sochi can contribute to this."

Armenian political commentator Hakob Badalyan speaking with Kommersant, called the trilateral summit in Sochi before the bilateral meeting in Brussels a landmark event. According to him, these are "not competing, but complementary platforms."


Izvestia: Kiev suspected of using US weapons in the country’s east

Kiev might use new high-tech weapons obtained from abroad in Ukraine’s east amid a sharp escalation there, namely, US-made Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and Turkish-made Bayraktar combat drones. However, sources familiar with the situation told Izvestia that the US missiles turned out to be ineffective. The aggravation of the conflict is taking place against the backdrop of relentless accusations claiming that Moscow is preparing an invasion of Ukraine.

In recent days, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have twice tried to use weapons similar to Javelin anti-tank missiles, sources close to the situation told Izvestia. Both cases, according to sources, ended in vain, the weapons failed to strike their intended targets. Meanwhile, the sources noted that there was no exact confirmation that the Ukrainian military used the US systems in both cases. Less than a month ago, Kiev also announced the first-ever use of Turkish-made Bayraktar combat UAVs against the units of the People's Militia of the Donetsk People's Republic.

In the meantime, CNN reported that the Biden administration was considering expanding the list of supplied weapons. This occurred while the American media and officials, since the end of October, have been trumpeting the possibility of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Washington’s position looks hypocritical, former Russia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva Sergey Ordzhonikidze told Izvestia. "The question is who is approaching whose borders. We regularly see maneuvers near our borders. And despite the fact that Ukraine has not been accepted into NATO, it is actually made part of this bloc, the armed forces of the alliance’s member countries are stationed there, the army is equipped with NATO weapons according to NATO standards. In fact, there is no fundamental difference between Ukraine's formal membership in NATO and what is really happening there now," he told the newspaper.


Kommersant: Local currency jitters hinder new gas contracts between Gazprom, Turkey

The current plunge in the Turkish lira exchange rate may hamper renegotiations of gas contracts between Turkey and Gazprom, some of which are set to expire at the end of the year. The lira has lost about 20% of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the month, casting doubt on Turkish private importers' capacity to pay for gas. According to analysts interviewed by Kommersant, direct guarantees from the Turkish government may be necessary.

The depreciation of the local currency amid rising global gas prices makes purchasing imported gas difficult even for Botas, not to mention private companies, the newspaper writes. At the same time, Russian gas is now one of the cheapest options for Turkey on the market, and for ten straight months in 2021, its supplies increased by 110%, to 23 bln cubic meters, according to Gazprom. Meanwhile, the total portfolio of Gazprom's contracts with Turkey now reaches 32 bln cubic meters.

"The situation is really challenging, given the scale of Turkey as a major client of Gazprom, as well as chronic problems with fulfilling obligations by private importers," Deputy Director of the National Energy Security Fund Alexey Grivach told Kommersant.

He believes that if Turkey intends to keep private companies in the Russian gas supply chain, then state guarantees should be provided, or relatively short-term contracts requiring full or partial prepayment. Gazprom could also offer Turkish companies the option of buying gas on its electronic trading platform to cover peak demand.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Belarus-Poland border standoff triggering price hikes in Russia

The waiting time for trucks to cross the Polish-Belarusian border has substantially increased due to the ongoing migrant crisis. Foreign companies operating in Russia see this as a serious problem, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The downtime of trucks accumulated in traffic jams raises the costs of enterprises and creates the risk of a shortage of imported goods in Russia. First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov of Russia gave orders to deal with the new restrictions on imports of goods into Russia. The Ministry of Transport will also work on these issues, the department confirmed to the newspaper.

Continued transport problems could drive up prices. Especially after trucking bottlenecks began to form on alternative routes through Latvia and Lithuania. One day of idle time for a single truck costs at least 500 euro. There are indeed problems, and they seriously affect the delivery time, since vehicles line up at the border both when leaving the EU and in the opposite direction, Alexey Lipatov, who heads the ACEX Multimodal Transportation Department, told the newspaper.

There are fewer problems for our imports at the borders of Belarus with the EU countries than with exports, political analyst Andrey Suzdaltsev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "European customs officials inspect export cargo very carefully. And not only during this November crisis, a similar situation arose in July on the border with Lithuania. Traditionally, transport entering the EU is very closely checked for migrants and contraband cargo," he said, adding "in my opinion, as long as Lukashenko is in power, there are no prospects and Deputy Prime Minister Belousov won’t be able to do anything to normalize foreign trade on the Belarusian borders".

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