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Press review: What Macron told Zelensky and Russia moves to regulate cryptocurrency

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, February 9th
French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky EPA-EFE/SERGEY DOLZHENKO
French President Emmanuel Macron and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky

Izvestia: Macron assures Zelensky Moscow not planning further escalation with Ukraine

Russia does not intend to go to war with Ukraine: this was the fundamental signal that French President Emmanuel Macron transmitted from Moscow to Kiev. Over the past two weeks, Macron has been actively involved in resolving Europe's escalating security crisis. First, he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, recognizing Moscow's interests, and then with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, thanking him for his desire to implement the Minsk deal, Izvestia writes. However, the actual test of how effective this diplomatic marathon turns out will be on February 10, when the Normandy Four's political advisers convene in Berlin.

Macron informed Zelensky that Russia has no intention of escalating the conflict in Ukraine and that diplomacy is the only option to resolve the situation, emphasizing that there is no alternative to the Minsk agreements. Moscow has frequently urged Germany and France, the Normandy format's mediators, to persuade Ukraine to follow the Minsk deal. According to Izvestia, it is unclear whether Macron's visit to Kiev should be viewed as this sort of "influence".

Benoit Simian, a member of the French National Assembly commission on defense, told the newspaper that Macron's visit to Russia is the start of a difficult diplomatic dance that will take place in the coming days. According to him, the current diplomatic crisis over submarines and the development of the AUKUS alliance have demonstrated that France's foreign policy methods must be transformed.

The French leader definitely needs foreign policy victories now, since the nation’s presidential elections are on the horizon in April, the newspaper writes. According to Izvestia, the French political establishment generally welcomes the president's initiative and considers it logical.

Vice President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces in the French Senate Joël Guerriau told the newspaper that France’s EU presidency, its participation in the Normandy Four, and NATO membership are three reasons why Macron is diplomatically involved in resolving the Ukrainian crisis, while Ukraine's proximity to the EU and Russia indicates that both sides' positions are taken into account.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US and Europe try to agree on new anti-Russian sanctions

A delegation from the State Department and the US Treasury is leaving for Europe to discuss planned sanctions that are to be imposed against Russia. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the West is torn between wanting to punish the Kremlin and wanting to negotiate. The visit comes amid reports of progress in European security discussions, with French President Emmanuel Macron claiming to be the peacemaker who can reach a deal with both Moscow and Kiev on Ukraine.

The mission is technical in nature, according to US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price, and its objective is to coordinate the sanctions strategy of the US and its allies. The fact that such a mission is being conducted is not surprising, but the US mission to Europe currently appears to be attempting to reconcile two decisions that are scheduled to be made soon, the newspaper writes.

Influencing Russia will be a hot topic in Congress in the foreseeable future. The Senate is currently debating a new bill on sanctions. Senator Bob Menendez, one of the individuals behind it, said that the document is almost finished, but there is no clarity on two crucial aspects: Nord Stream 2 and the timing of sanctions.

On the other hand, Menendez himself bluntly admitted that the Biden administration does not want anti-Russian sanctions to be introduced preemptively, the newspaper writes. The White House's determination to prevent early punishment of Russia could be strengthened after the recent news from Moscow. According to media reports, during his visit to Russia, French President Emmanuel Macron achieved an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine.


Kommersant: Russia and Belarus reveal the content of their allied military doctrine

The new edition of the Military Doctrine of the Union State was approved by Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus back in November, but the content of the document became public only recently. According to Kommersant, compared to the 2001 doctrine, the new document lists many more factors that negatively affect the security of the union of both countries. Nonetheless, contrary to NATO's fears, it does not explicitly say that Russian nuclear weapons can be stationed on Belarusian soil.

The 19-page document specifies that the military-political situation developing around the Union State is characterized by growing negative processes in global and regional security, caused both by the geopolitical rivalry between the leading world powers and by a clash of interests of individual states. Compared to the 2001 doctrine, the number of factors threatening the security of the Union State members has expanded considerably. According to Kommersant, several of these threats were referenced by Russian authorities as legitimate reasons for their demand that the US and NATO provide security assurances to Moscow.

That said, the new pact states that Russia and Belarus are committed to resolving issues through political and non-military means. Military force is considered to be a last resort only when all other non-military options have been exhausted.

The text stressed that Russian nuclear weapons will continue to play an important role in averting nuclear and conventional armed engagements. The United States and its NATO partners are deeply concerned about the likelihood of Russian nuclear weapons being stationed on Belarusian territory. However, the new Military Doctrine of the Union State does not explicitly state that Russian nuclear weapons can be deployed anywhere beyond the Russian Federation, according to Kommersant.


Izvestia: Russia approves concept of cryptocurrency regulation

Conducting all cryptocurrency transactions through Russian banks, licensing operators of such transactions, introducing limits for unqualified investors, identifying digital currency owners, and other measures to legalize crypto in Russia are contained in the concept of the Ministry of Finance, approved by the government on February 7. Now the Ministry, together with the Bank of Russia, must submit the bill to the government by February 18. Having approved the concept, the government officially sided with those who advocated regulating the cryptocurrency, and not banning it, experts told Izvestia.

According to expert data from the Ministry of Finance, the amount of money Russians (their number exceeds 12 mln) have in cryptocurrency wallets comes to about 2 trillion rubles ($26.72 bln), with Russia ranking third in the world in terms of mining digital assets.

Deputy Head of the State Duma Working Group on Cryptocurrency Regulation Andrey Lugovoy told Izvestia that he supported the government's decision. "In my opinion, this is a sensation. The approved concept proposed by the Ministry of Finance supports cryptocurrency. Individuals can own and dispose of it as they see fit. But at the same time, it will be legalized as much as possible, identified, and taxes should be paid from its turnover," he said.

Credit institutions already have a developed system for identifying and monitoring financial transactions, and using it for cryptocurrency transactions is a logical move, head of Raiffeisenbank's client department Kirill Matveev told the newspaper. In his opinion, despite significant costs, the introduction of such a mechanism by the bank will take no more than a year.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Tax on hydrocarbon emissions might be looming over Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Council for Science and Education on Science Day. According to the Kremlin press service earlier, the event was dedicated to implementing the most important innovative projects - in particular, monitoring climate change and developing low-carbon energy. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Russia might need to move towards the "green agenda" more actively by introducing a tax on hydrocarbon emissions. Scientists believe that this will help the country move towards higher rates of development.

On the one hand, Russia has signed the Paris Agreement and supports the global climate agenda, on the other hand, it has entered a small club of countries that are negotiating the right to move to carbon neutrality not from 2050, like most countries, but ten years later, the newspaper writes. Meanwhile, Russia plans to create its own global climate model, Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said in January. The EU's proposed border carbon regulation would harm Russia's trade with the EU, he added.

There are two ways to make the use of fossil fuels responsible for significant greenhouse gas emissions unprofitable - to introduce quotas for CO2 emissions or a tax. Russia may consider the second option more preferable.

Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that introducing such a tax is a step in the right direction, but this alone is not enough, decisive steps are needed.

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews.