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Press review: UN ousts Russia from Human Rights Council and US to prolong Ukraine conflict

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, April 8th

Russia ceased to be a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) when 93 members of the General Assembly voted to remove it. On the same day, Moscow itself declared that it would be leaving the council early. This does not mean that the country is leaving the council for good. Recent experience suggests that membership can be restored, according to Izvestia. According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, the termination of participation in the Council is more of a public relations matter than a practical issue.

Previously, on March 2 and March 24, the General Assembly criticized Russia's actions in Ukraine. The current vote in the General Assembly had a somewhat different turnout: 93 countries voted in favor of the suspension, 24 opposed it, and 58 abstained. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan joined the five countries that had previously rejected resolutions condemning Russia. Thus, after the recent vote, Russia can no longer participate in the council. This restriction, however, only applies to its current Council mandate, which expires in 2023. Russia rejected the result of the voting, claiming that the US resolution was solely based on the collective West’s geopolitical priorities.

"This resolution is primarily political in nature; it reflects the majority of General Assembly members' views on the special military operation in Ukraine. It was vigorously promoted by Western members of the Council, in particular," Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov told Izvestia. "Of course, this deprives Russia of a certain platform, but when we talk about the Council itself, we must remember that it was criticized by many; take the United States under Donald Trump, it left it for some time," he added.

"From an image and status standpoint, there is nothing positive in this," Research Director of the Valdai Discussion Club and Russia in Global Affairs Editor-in-Chief Fyodor Lukyanov told Izvestia. "At the same time, because the Council is mostly a ceremonial entity, this will have no specific consequences. So, as a method of signaling to Moscow that it does not approve its policies, this exemption works, but nothing fundamentally changes in terms of UN actions and Russia's role inside its framework," he added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington getting Kiev ready for prolonged hostilities

With the US putting together its first lend-lease law for Ukraine since World War II, this suggests that the Americans do not anticipate the armed struggle between Moscow and Kiev to end soon, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta. The United States will provide more assistance, but it in the future it will not be free. The supplies will begin to be fulfilled on credit for an extended period. That is, the US will not abandon Ukraine and will continue to assist it for as long as possible, which will be tremendously unprofitable for Russia.

The Western media associates Washington’s official position with the fact that Russia pulled its troops from the Kiev and Chernigov Regions without achieving its goals in these areas, and tactical-level battles are taking place in Donbass and the south, allegedly indicating the "successes" there of the Ukrainian military’s units.

"The US and NATO are committed to promptly establishing a new system of more frequent and consistent deliveries of defense items and other material resources to Ukraine in order to rebuild its army," military expert, retired colonel Nikolay Shulgin told the newspaper. "The Lend-Lease Act that Washington is about to pass might mark a new front line running along Ukraine's western border. From there, aid from the alliance and the US military will reach far into the country," he added.

According to the expert, the Russian troops’ principal mission in these conditions will be to prevent such deliveries. Another essential objective for the Russian army, according to the expert, will be to defeat units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and national battalions in Donbass as quickly as possible, allowing Russia to declare the completion of combat tasks in Ukraine. "It is quite dangerous for Russia to become embroiled in long-term hostilities with the Ukrainian army, which will be supported to the greatest extent possible by the US, NATO, and other nations across the world," the expert cautioned.


Izvestia: What made Russia's currency rebound to 75 rubles per dollar

Prices for imported goods may fall in the mid-term as the ruble recovers to pre-crisis levels, according to analysts interviewed by Izvestia. On April 7, the exchange rate moved below 75 rubles per dollar, owing to the fact that the supply of dollars outnumbers the demand for them. Residents sell 80% of their foreign exchange earnings, yet physical dollars cannot be purchased within the country. The greenback may retreat as far as 60 rubles in the coming months, but should limitations be lifted and imports resumed, the exchange rate would stabilize at 90-100 rubles, experts noted.

"The current rate is the outcome of a currency overstock relative to collapsed demand, which faded due to natural causes and regulatory efforts. Exporters were forced to sell nearly all of their foreign exchange revenues on the market. At the same time, non-residents are not permitted to sell Russian assets or withdraw foreign currency. Implementing a 12% charge for the purchase of dollars, euros, and pounds sterling relieved pressure on the ruble. Furthermore, this money can mostly be converted to cash in rubles," Head of Global Research Department at Otkritie Investments Mikhail Shulgin explained.

Since the exchange rate of the ruble on the Moscow Exchange is now artificially strengthened, there is no point in monitoring its dynamics, Finam analyst Alexander Potavin concludes.

In the medium term, the dollar will rise as imports recover and limitations are relaxed. Under a conservative scenario, Freedom Finance predicts a range of 80-100 rubles. At the same time, Otkritie Investments expects that support from energy and metal exports will continue to dwindle, and the ruble will gradually return to a fairly wide range of 95 to 105 rubles per dollar.

Importers are already lowering prices in response to the dollar's devaluation from a high of 120 rubles to the present level of 75 rubles, said Artem Tuzov, executive director of the capital market department at Univer Capital. He stated that a substantial decline in pricing should not be expected until the goods purchased by suppliers during the rush demand are sold out.


Kommersant: NATO mulls northern expansion

NATO countries will continue to send weapons to Ukraine, but will not intervene in military operations on its territory in order to avoid being directly involved in a conflict with Russia, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. At the same time, one of the primary issues during a meeting of the US-led bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels was the possibility of Finland and Sweden joining NATO. Helsinki may apply in the coming weeks, Kommersant writes.

Stoltenberg, speaking in Brussels on Thursday, admitted that the fighting in Ukraine "may last for weeks, but also months and possibly also for years." Meanwhile, he confirmed that the bloc’s members do not plan to "become involved in this fight." He also stated that at the NATO summit in Madrid in June, a new strategic framework for the alliance will be agreed on, outlining additional initiatives to bolster the alliance’s defense.

By June, judging by the statements of the participants at the Brussels meeting, NATO’s possible further expansion will also be clarified by June. The top diplomats of Finland and Sweden were invited to the bloc’s headquarters for discussions, and one of the primary issues discussed, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, was the integration of these two nations into NATO.

According to recent Finnish media reports, Helsinki could apply for membership as early as late April or early May. The issue of joining NATO is also being considered in Sweden. Meanwhile, Russian officials have stated repeatedly that Moscow views the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO as unacceptable.


Vedomosti: Russia aims to redirect coal exports from Europe to Asia Pacific

The Russian Federation will be able to redirect coal exports from the European Union to Asia-Pacific countries through seaports in Russia’s European zone, according to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak. He explained that Russian companies have the opportunity to export coal to the Asia-Pacific market through underloaded ports. According to experts interviewed by Vedomosti, diverting coal supplies to the Asia Pacific is an understandable decision for Russia.

A Vedomosti source in one of the Russian coal companies says exports from Europe could be mainly redirected to Southeast Asia. There are prospects for this because other suppliers will take Russia's position in the marginal European market, causing a scarcity in Asia, the source added.

Daniil Karimov, Managing Director of the metallurgy sector at Otkritie Research, noted that in order to restructure logistics for Asia, a lot of hurdles must be tackled, beginning with finding new customers. Companies, in his opinion, will have to set "significant discounts" to current prices to do this. "India, China, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian countries are looking for low-cost energy. Russia will compete for consumers in this market with Indonesia and Australia, both of which may begin offering discounts.

In addition, coal producers will have to settle the payment issue, according to Karimov. China has already begun to pay in yuan for Russian energy imports; comparable mechanisms must be established with other countries.

Reorienting Russian coal exports to Asia-Pacific countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan appears to be the most natural choice, according to Mikhail Burmistrov, CEO of Infoline Analytics. Another interesting area, he said, is the supply of coking coal to India, which is rapidly building its steel industry.

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