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Press review: What’s behind Kiev’s attacks on Russia and US threatens China with sanctions

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, April 15th

Izvestia: What’s behind Kiev’s attacks on Russian territory?

A helicopter strike by the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the Russian village of Klimovo in the Bryansk region on April 14 resulted in eight injuries and over 100 destroyed houses. Two settlements in the Belgorod region were also shelled on the same day, the region's governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, revealed. Ukraine’s provocations, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia, are aimed at putting psychological pressure on Russians.

On April 14, the Ukrainian forces launched strikes on Russia’s territory. The governor of the Bryansk region, Alexander Bogomaz, said that the village of Klimovo came under shelling, local residents were injured, and 100 houses were damaged as a result. At the same time, the governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, announced the shelling of the village of Spodaryusheno by Ukraine. According to him, there were neither casualties nor destruction. Residents of the villages of Bezymeno and Spodaryusheno were temporarily evacuated. Later, Gladkov also reported the shelling of the Zhuravlevka village.

These are not the first recent strikes on the Russian territory. A border checkpoint in the Kursk region was shelled on April 13.

Military expert Alexey Leonkov told Izvestia that attacks on the Russian territory are intended to incite negative emotions among the country's population. "They [Ukraine’s forces] are attempting to persuade Russian citizens to demand that the special military operation be halted," he told Izvestia.

"There are no military objectives there, such strikes have no immediate impact either. They will have no effect on whether or not our troops will fight. On the contrary, they will fight even harder," the expert believes. "The goal is different altogether - to exert information and psychological pressure on Russian people. On the one hand, this is a provocation, and on the other, this is discreditation, an attempt to show people that the army cannot defend them, that the authorities do not care about the people, and so on," he added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US threatens China with sanctions for supporting Russia

The US is being hypocritical by calling for an end to the fighting in Ukraine while in reality adding fuel to the fire, the People's Daily, China’s largest newspaper, said in response to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's calls on Beijing to condemn Russia. Otherwise, China would have to abandon its plans to integrate into the global economy. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the US and the EU may consider putting sanctions on China similar to those imposed on Russia. However, analysts predict that this will lead to the collapse of the world economy.

If China does not take a harder line against Russia, it will lose its standing in the world, Yellen said. Her remark is consistent with the White House's previous requests that Beijing cut ties with Moscow. According to the Wall Street Journal, Washington delivered a similar warning to India. Biden, in particular, warned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that purchasing oil from Russia would be a bad idea. "The neutrality of both powers dissatisfies the United States. Those who do not keep up with the United States and its allies run the risk of being cut off from the global economy," Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

"Freezing Chinese reserves is technically possible, but it would bring the global economy to a halt. First, China is not just a keeper of dollars, but also a consumer. Companies in the United States and Europe are dependent on dollar and euro trade with China," Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University Alexey Maslov told the newspaper, adding, "Second, China's cumulative investment in the US reaches hundreds of billions of dollars. If all investments are frozen, which includes not only money, but also factories, production, companies, after that no country will invest in the United States".

China is the largest manufacturer in the pharmaceutical industry, consumer electronics, and other strategically important industries. "This would lead to the creation of two regions with their own technological standards, currency. This will only strengthen the yuan, rather than weaken it," the expert believes.


Izvestia: EU mulls expanding weapons supplies to Ukraine

The European Union urges its members to boost their arms supplies to Ukraine - Nabila Massrali, EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told Izvestia that the EU does not have its own weapons but is willing to cover the costs. The big question now is whether the EU nations will deliver heavy weapons to Kiev. So far, no final decisions have been made. According to Izvestia, Russia is certain that such deliveries will lead to an even bigger escalation "on the ground". At the same time, Brussels is drawing up the sixth round of sanctions against Moscow.

While the European Union does not have its own arms, Massrali told Izvestia that the EU can cover the costs on the equipment supplied by its member-states, emphasizing that the assistance is based on Ukraine's requests.

Four countries have abstained from deliveries - Bulgaria, Hungary, Cyprus, and Malta.

In the meantime, Moscow refers to European weaponry supplies as pumping up Ukraine with weapons. Previously, this was one of Russia's main claims to Western countries, with the Russian leadership regularly calling on the EU and NATO to halt deliveries.

"This may be called an attempt to escalate the tragedy - both Ukrainian and European," Chair of the Federation Council (upper house) Committee on Foreign Affairs, former Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told the newspaper. "It would imply that the European Union is trying to strangle Russia, its economy, and its future, using others. This is the intention to exacerbate an already difficult situation as much as possible," he added.

One way or another, there have yet to be definitive declarations about heavy weapon supplies from the European Union and its member countries.

"There are individual opinions of the EU countries - some fear that such supplies can prolong the conflict and, moreover, indicate progressive involvement in this Russian-Ukrainian conflict," Head of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov explained to Izvestia. "Other countries, on the other hand, believe that supplying heavy weaponry is both possible and necessary. In a nutshell, there is no agreement on this matter," the expert concluded.


Vedomosti: Putin announces plans to increase international settlements in rubles

At a meeting on the situation in the oil and gas sector on April 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his intention to significantly increase the share of settlements in national currencies in foreign trade and instructed the Russian foreign exchange market to prepare for it, ensuring that any foreign currency can be exchanged freely and in the correct amount for rubles, according to Vedomosti. Rejecting untrustworthy and compromised currencies is critical for the country's economic and financial stability, he said.

Transferring exports of raw materials from foreign currencies to rubles has always been a strategic goal of the Russian leadership, according to commodity markets analyst at Otkritie Investments Oksana Lukicheva. The exchange infrastructure at SPIMEX, for example, has long been ready for selling Urals oil for rubles, she added. "But the market was not ready to take this step. Apparently, the time has come for the transition," she told Vedomosti.

The ruble is already a currency of international settlements - over the past year, almost 65% of exports of goods from Russia to the CIS were settled in rubles, for the BRICS countries the share reached around 14%, in particular over 50% with India, Senior economist for Russia at VTB Capital Alexander Isakov told the newspaper. However, the development of the international ruble market is now impossible, as the ruble rate must be predictable and stable. The economy should offer a liquid financial market, an open and understandable ruble exchange rate.

Meanwhile, the G7 countries condemned Russia's stance, and the European Union agreed with them. Only Hungary has officially stated that it is willing to pay for gas in rubles. On April 4, Latvian state-owned energy company Latvijas Gaze stated that Moscow's suggested settlement method may not formally violate the sanctions regime.


Kommersant: Russia gears up to transfer oil and gas supplies to Asia

Russia is preparing for a large-scale shift in energy supplies from Europe to the East. President Vladimir Putin instructed the government to submit a plan for creating the necessary infrastructure by June 1, including the development of a gas pipeline system in Eastern Siberia to direct Gazprom's gas exports to the Chinese market. However, analysts told Kommersant, it will take at least five years to build additional and expand existing capacities and that there are no contracts in place with Asian countries for such big purchases of Russian oil and gas.

The president instructed, among other things, that the Power of Siberia and Sakhalin-Khabarovsk-Vladivostok gas pipelines be included in the Unified Gas Supply System (UGSS).

In terms of oil, the president's directives may include expanding the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline system to at least compensate for the anticipated loss of supplies to Europe via the Druzhba pipeline — 36 mln tonnes in 2021.

These volumes can already be rerouted to Asia by sea - the capacity of the ports in the Baltic and the Black Sea already allows it without additional investments. However, due to sanctions, Russian companies are facing difficulties with tanker freight, which would only worsen if the EU and the US tighten restrictions, Kommersant writes.

According to Raiffeisenbank's Sergey Garamita, long-term expansion of ESPO may make sense, but pipelaying is not a quick or cheap process. He recalls that the construction of ESPO-1 started back in 2006 and was completed in 2009, and it took ten years to expand it from the initial 30 mln tonnes - first to 58 mln tonnes, and then to 80 mln tonnes.

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