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Press review: US pushing Russia, China closer and Ukraine eyes Israel’s Iron Dome

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, February 4th
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

The Winter Olympics will open in Beijing on February 4, but the main political event on the first day of the Games will be the negotiations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Izvestia writes. As the Russian leader noted before his visit to the Chinese capital, relations between the two countries have reached an unprecedented level. Nevertheless, they still have room to grow. The heads of state plan to sign about 15 agreements following the meeting.

According to Russian Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, during Putin's visit to China, a package of intergovernmental, interdepartmental, and commercial agreements will be adopted, including agreements in the gas sector.

One of the documents will be a statement on international relations, emphasizing the two countries' shared views on world problems, including security issues. Moscow and Beijing often have similar approaches to solving global and regional problems. However, increased US pressure on both Russia and China has spurred both countries to even closer cooperation, Izvestia writes.

Chair of Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center Alexander Gabuev told Izvestia that there are three pillars to Russia’s relations with China: peace on the border, the similarity of the countries' economies, and their political systems. «These structures would exist regardless of whether the United States would hold us back or not. However, the US factor has certainly cemented the rapprochement between Russia and China even more," he added.


Izvestia: US beefing up its presence in Europe

Washington has approved the deployment of an additional contingent of its troops to Europe. According to Izvestia’s sources, they will include paratroopers, artillery, and anti-aircraft units. Experts told the newspaper, that by doing so, they are significantly worsening international security.

Sources familiar with the situation told Izvestia that the Pentagon plans to deploy not only infantry and paratroopers in Europe, but also heavy weapons. Most of them will be located in Poland, on the border where preparations are underway for massive Russian-Belarusian exercises.

«The United States is making a symbolic gesture by sending several thousand soldiers to Europe,” military expert Vladislav Shurygin explained to Izvestia. «Compared to the more than 50,000 Americans already permanently stationed there, this is not a big change. But in recent months, because of the situation around Ukraine, they have fomented such hysteria that they are now forced to reassure their Eastern European allies, primarily Poland, where on its border, preparations are underway for large-scale Russian-Belarusian exercises dubbed Union Resolve — 2022.

Washington’s statements are leading to an escalation, according to former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ordzhonikidze. «This sort of grouping is another factor of pressure in the negotiations. The United States thinks that they are strengthening their negotiating position with Russia in this way," he told the newspaper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukraine turns to Israel for military assistance

The Ukrainian authorities appealed to the leadership of Israel with a request for support in strengthening their air defense and cybersecurity, according to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba. Kiev has repeatedly demonstrated an interest in acquiring the Iron Dome air defense and Israeli missile defense systems. However, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the supply of military equipment of this kind could be hindered by Israel's relations with Russia.

According to the newspaper, the upcoming visit of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to Israel, which was announced long ago could clarify a lot in terms of arms supplies. So far, Kiev is taking steps designed to build confidence with its Middle Eastern partner.

Military expert Sergey Migdal told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that defense cooperation between Ukraine and Israel was established before 2014. «However, after 2014, Israel took a clear position: it does not want to interfere in the conflict, by taking one of the sides, taking into account friendly relations with both Russia and Ukraine," he explained. «Even if the US wanted to transfer one of the Iron Dome systems to Ukraine, I think Israel would not agree," he added. According to him, both the Netanyahu and Bennett governments support this position.

«Israel does not want to interfere at all, advocating a peaceful resolution to any conflict," the expert continues. «In addition, relations with Russia are much more important for Israel than relations with Ukraine," he said, adding that the Russian contingent is also stationed very close, in Syria.


Vedomosti: Russian car manufacturers may stop automotive assembly in Kazakhstan

Russian automakers, which have been actively investing in assembly plants in Kazakhstan in recent years, may stop production in the country and lose their investments, representatives of major Russian manufacturers told Vedomosti. They are concerned about Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s plans to revise the rates of recycling fees for cars. He issued these instructions on January 11 at a meeting of the Mazhilis (parliament) of Kazakhstan. Now an interdepartmental working group has to put forward a new recycling fee amount on cars within a month.

The country has historically been one of the key export markets for the Russian automotive industry. All Russian automakers have assembly facilities in Kazakhstan. A Kamaz representative told Vedomosti that the company is confident that the situation would be resolved in the near future, and stressed that the development plans of Kamaz's business in Kazakhstan had not changed yet.

Vladimir Bespalov, an analyst at VTB Capital, sees nothing critical for Russian automakers even if the protective barriers for the local market in Kazakhstan are lowered. Russian car brands will somehow be present in this market, and whether it will be in the form of a local assembly or direct import depends on the ultimate benefit for manufacturers, he told Vedomosti.


Vedomosti: Russia will not introduce new COVID restrictions amid Europe’s massive easing of regulation

On Thursday, February 3, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the government does not plan to introduce new restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19. On the contrary, restrictions for people who have been in contact with COVID-19 patients may soon be lifted in Russia. European countries are even more liberal. One by one they are removing the previously introduced restrictions amid the spread of the Omicron strain, Vedomosti writes.

Denmark was the first in the EU to remove all restrictions. On February 1, Covid passports and mask mandates were annulled there nationwide. France is lifting its outdoor mandatory mask mandates while ranking second in the world in the number of daily coronavirus cases. The partial lifting of restrictions is also being prepared in both the United Kingdom and Austria.

According to virologist Pavel Volchkov, there are now very few people around the world who have not come into contact with coronavirus in one form or another or have not been vaccinated, especially in Europe. Another reason for lifting restrictions is obviously political, he told the newspaper, the population is worn out after two years of restrictions, and politicians who need to be re-elected are making decisions regarding these measures.

European governments have agreed to significantly mitigate coronavirus restrictions due to the inability to stop the spread of the Omicron variant, political scientist Gleb Kuznetsov told the newspaper. According to him, the restrictions do not lead to a decline in the incidence rate, but only undermine people’s confidence in the authorities.

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