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Press review: Barbados dumps the Queen and Berlin urges Congress to nix pipeline sanctions

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, December 1st

Izvestia: German Embassy in US urges Congress to abandon sanctions against Russian pipeline

The German Embassy in Washington has called on the US Congress to abandon new sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, the media reported. According to German politicians, Berlin is trying to protect its independence from Washington because it’s interested in implementing the project, Izvestia writes.

A dispute over Nord Stream 2 continues in Washington. Republicans have delayed a vote on the National Defense Authorization Act for the next fiscal year, citing Democrats’ refusal to include amendments on mandatory sanctions against Nord Stream 2. There is no consensus on the pipeline among Democrats, too, but the Biden administration opposes pressure on the project, because it does not want to push Germany away.

Meanwhile, Berlin seeks to stop Washington from turning up the heat on the project. Axios has recently published a letter from the German Embassy in the United States to the US Congress, which contains a request to abandon sanctions against Nord Stream 2 as it may erode trust in the United States. German Foreign Ministry officials declined to confirm or deny the authenticity of the letter to the paper, but said that contacts on the matter were underway with Washington.

It would be logical to view the document as an effort to protect Berlin’s interests, Bundestag member representing the Alternative for Germany party Steffen Kotre told the newspaper. According to him, Berlin has yielded to US pressure for a long time, which runs counter to international law, and now it needs to stop actions against export guarantees that are important for the country’s economy.

First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Vladimir Dzhabarov, in turn, pointed out that Nord Stream was a purely commercial project for Russia and Germany and both parties were interested in it. The senator is confident that the pipeline will eventually be launched because Europe needs it amid a crisis on the gas market.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Other Caribbean nations might follow Barbados cutting ties with British monarchy

The number of countries recognizing the British monarch as their ruler has declined for the first time since 1997, when Hong Kong was handed over to China. Barbados has become a republic, removing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. The move can encourage others with Jamaica already talking about abandoning the monarchy, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Barbados’ move away from the British monarchy is a symbolic one but it still remains important. The island’s decision was much influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and rallies protesting discrimination against black people in the United States and many Western European countries.

The British crown’s global influence is declining. Barbados’ decision to remove the Queen as head of state will strengthen the position of those calling for a similar move in other Caribbean countries. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who stands for declaring the country a republic, has already stated that Barbados’ decision may serve as an example for his fellow countrymen.

However, a thing to note is that Barbados does not plan to leave the Commonwealth of Nations, which means that the country will maintain benefits from being in the British orbit of influence.

"The British Department for Culture covers many of the island’s expenses. There are also certain tax benefits. The application of British laws makes foreign nationals trust banks there and invest in them, as well as in real estate. Along with the tourism industry, this is the only way that Barbados can boost its development," Leading Researcher of the Institute for Latin American Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World History Andrei Shchelchkov emphasized.


Izvestia: Russia’s revenue from hydrogen sales may exceed oil export earnings

Russia’s revenue from hydrogen sales may exceed that from exports of hydrocarbons, said experts interviewed by Izvestia. In accordance with President Vladimir Putin’s order, government officials and Russia’s gas giant Gazprom need to explore the possibility of delivering this kind of fuel to Europe through the existing gas pipelines and present a report on the matter by June 1, 2022.

An Energy Ministry source told the newspaper that hydrogen deliveries were already under consideration. Deputy Director General of Russia’s National Energy Security Fund Alexei Grivach also confirmed the fact.

Russian officials have repeatedly stated that the country’s potential in terms of hydrogen production and export is rather high. Russia’s current Energy Strategy sets the goal of increasing the export of this sort of fuel to two mln tonnes by 2035.

If the highest possible production is taken into account, export revenues may pass $200 bln in the future, exceeding the current oil export earnings, which stood at $150 bln in 2020, Managing Partner at WMT Consult Ekaterina Kosareva pointed out.

"As for the possibility of delivering hydrogen via pipelines as a mixture with methane (with hydrogen’s share reaching up to ten percent), then in my view, the newly built gas pipelines such as Nord Stream 2 suit the goal the best," Associate Professor at the Department of Renewable Energy at the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas Vladislav Karasevich emphasized.

Associate Professor at the Russian Government’s Financial University Valery Andrianov shares that same opinion. According to him, technologies like these in fact make it possible to add any amount of hydrogen into gas.


Media: New Omicron variant boosts reasons for vaccination

With the emergence of the new coronavirus variant named Omicron, the question arises if the existing vaccines will have to be modified in order to be able to fight it, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.

It will become clear in the coming couple of weeks whether the Omicron variant can escape the antibody response, Leading Scientific Editor at the service for the training of medical workers Mikhail Kagan told the newspaper.

Should the virus be able to dodge immunity, there will be two options, the expert explained. "The first option is to make people get booster shots more often as long as the strain continues to exist," Kagan emphasized. However, the second scenario is also possible, which means that vaccines will need to be updated. "It’s not technically difficult to do that, given the present day platforms," the expert noted. "The problem is that logistics issues cannot be resolved quickly. There will be a need to get a new licence, conduct trials to figure out the newly made vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, then produce millions of doses and vaccinate millions of people. It’s quite a difficult task that requires time," Kagan stressed.

Konstantin Severinov, a laboratory head at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Molecular Genetics, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta: "The main issue with the new variant is that it seems to have replaced the Delta strain rather quickly in some regions of South Africa, and the rate was faster than that of the Delta variant that had replaced previous strains half a year ago."

US-based Russian infectious disease expert Mikhail Favorov believes that the new coronavirus variant needs to be carefully studied before any alarming conclusions can be made. Still, experts agree that people should abide by strict sanitary measures and certainly get vaccinated.


RBC: Almost half of Russians oppose moving away from paper money

Nearly half of Russians are negative about the idea of banning the use of paper money, making it only possible to pay for goods and services with a bank card or through an online transaction, RBC writes, citing a poll conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center.

According to the survey’s results, 47% of people were negative about the idea of ditching paper money, while 26% viewed it positively. As many as 45% of respondents said they preferred to use non-cash payment when purchasing goods and services. A total of 28% use both cash and non-cash payment methods, while 26% of Russians prefer to pay cash.

Most of those who tend to go for cash are people aged over 60 years, 46% of whom use cash always or in most cases. Younger people (56-70%) and Russians aged between 35 and 44 years (50%) favor non-cash payment more. A total of 62% of the poll’s participants agreed that paper money would fall out of use in the next 20 to 30 years. However, 27% believe that paper currency will more likely still be there.

Russia’s Central Bank announced in June that Russians conducted 544 mln transactions to withdraw cash from credit cards in the first quarter of 2021, the lowest number since 2012. The withdrawn cash totalled a little more than six trillion rubles ($81.3 bln), a decline of nearly 400 bln rubles ($5.4 bln) from the year before. Chairman of the Association of eMoney and Remittance Market Participants Viktor Dostov points out that the downward trend for cash withdrawal comes as no surprise amid the rapid development of non-cash payment services.

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