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Press review: Russia seeks Africa’s support against sanctions and EU eyes visa freeze

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, July 28th
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen Russian Foreign Ministry Press Office/TASS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen
© Russian Foreign Ministry Press Office/TASS

Moscow opposes a unipolar world based only on Western interests, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated during his visit to Ethiopia, which concluded the minister's African tour. Demeke Mekonnen, his Ethiopian counterpart, told Izvestia that the ministers discussed the impact of the food crisis on Africa and promised to work together to find a solution.

Mekonnen stressed that "Russia has been supporting the African country for the last hundred years" and is developing cooperation in space, medicine and nuclear technology. "The visit of the Russian colleague was very timely. We had really fruitful discussions. We talked about national, regional, and global topics. We brought up the present food crisis and associated concerns in order to work together to solve this problem," he told Izvestia. In turn, Lavrov said that Russia values "relationship with Ethiopia, which has a long and rich history."

According to the leading researcher at MGIMO Yuri Zinin, Russia now obviously needs to revisit relations with Africa. "There is a foundation for cooperation; it only needs to be developed. The visit of our Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to African countries, in and of itself, clearly proves that our country is coming to accept this direction as one of the most important," the expert specified.

He believes that the countries have the opportunity to collaborate in new sectors such as space, the nuclear industry, technology, and tourism. At the same time, Russian doctors are working in Ethiopia to study and fight pandemics.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Gazprom left without working turbines, and EU without Russian gas

Gas prices in Europe on Wednesday surged to $2,300 per 1,000 cubic meters against the backdrop of reduced supplies via the Nord Stream pipeline. The current volume of pumping through it is at around 20% of its design capacity. If the current scenario continues, the European Union's intentions to fill its underground gas storage facilities (UGS) by 80% by November 1 will fail, experts warned Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Due to the shutdown of another gas compressor turbine, gas throughput via the pipeline was reduced to 31 mln cubic meters of gas, despite the fact that the pipeline can transport up to 167 mln cubic meters of gas. According to Gazprom, Siemens Energy not only delayed the turbine's return from scheduled repairs, but also failed to carry out repairs on faulty line engines.

Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the EU still has a chance to pump gas before the start of the withdrawal season, but only if pipeline throughput volumes are restored in the next weeks. "A further escalation of the trade war could exacerbate the issue. At the same time, there are technological options for pumping gas through land pipelines and Nord Stream 2, but they are blocked from the European side," department head at Iva Partners Dmitry Alexandrov said. He believes that by doing so, the EU might test their energy system ahead of time, attempting to establish the crucial threshold of minimal consumption volume and maximum price level.

In order to get the required volume of gas to UGS facilities, that would require the remaining two months (August-September) of supplies through the pipeline to remain above 67 mln cubic meters of gas per day, TeleTrade analyst Alexey Fedorov believes. "So, if the current levels of gas pumping through the gas transmission system of Ukraine (about 40-42 mln cubic meters per day) are sustained, and European countries save gas and maintain the level of LNG supplies, then the EU’s UGS facilities can reach the planned reserve levels of 80% by November 1," he said.


Vedomosti: Germany once again offers delayed arms supplies to Ukraine

The German government approved the sale of 100 PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, Der Spiegel writes. According to the report, the German arms concern, Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW), received a request for howitzers back on July 13 initiated by Minister of Economic Affairs from the Green Party Robert Habeck. Ukraine has already received 18 such weapons from Germany and the Netherlands, however, the deliveries of this batch could be delayed, Vedomosti writes.

Representatives of KMW confirmed that the federal government ordered arms for Kiev from the concern, specifying that the terms of the contract are now being discussed with Ukraine. At the same time, the shipment will not be at the disposal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine immediately. The production will take several years, and the project itself is aimed at the long-term strengthening of the Ukrainian army.

The production of 100 howitzers of this type could take about four years, according to RIAC expert Andrey Frolov, which means that there will always be an opportunity to abandon the contract if the situation changes.

Berlin's promises differ greatly from its actions, researcher at the Institute for International Studies at MGIMO Artem Sokolov told Vedomosti. The German authorities have repeatedly declared their support and future arms supplies to Kiev. At the same time, either

the execution of these decisions is hindered by the German bureaucracy, or Ukraine’s Armed Forces receive less assistance than they were promised. The situation with PzH 2000 will unfold according to a similar scenario, Sokolov believes. German enterprises are not interested in supplying Ukrainians with advanced weapons either, since they do not particularly believe in its combat effectiveness and are afraid that their advanced developments will fall into the hands of the Russian army, the newspaper writes.


Kommersant: What awaits Russia at the Non-Proliferation Treaty conference

The upcoming conference on the implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), perhaps the most important international security agreement, will be held in an exceptionally tense atmosphere, Kommersant writes. The US and its allies think that Russian soldiers in Ukraine imperil key treaty provisions and increase the possibility of nuclear war. Meanwhile, Russia rejects the allegations and urges that the extremely tough burden of preserving the nonproliferation system not be exacerbated.

Western officials accuse the Russian authorities of raising the risks of nuclear war through rhetoric. In addition, after the outbreak of hostilities, the United States froze any dialogue with Russia on strategic stability, implying that no reduction in arsenals or new agreements should be expected in the near future.

Judging by the commentary of Russia's Embassy in the US, Moscow will defend the position that the operation in Ukraine has nothing to do with the Treaty and that bringing irrelevant topics into the conversation will simply "aggravate an already difficult situation."

Meanwhile, Russian analysts see slightly different issues with the situation. According to a report released on Wednesday by PIR Center experts Vladimir Orlov and Sergey Semenov, these include a deterioration in strategic stability, the growing nuclear arsenals of states armed with nukes, polarized approaches to nuclear disarmament, issues with the Iranian nuke deal, and the sharing of nuclear weapons and sensitive technologies between "friends."

Experts, however, believe that adopting "an unambitious final document, maybe shorter than normal, confirming the validity of the NPT" is still feasible.


Izvestia: EU mulls halting visas to Russians

EU member states are free to raise the issue of banning or restricting the issuance of visas to Russians at any time, the bloc’s permanent mission in Moscow told Izvestia, noting that Brussels has not considered the issue so far. Previously, the European Commission assured the newspaper that this option is not being addressed and that the EU will always offer humanitarian visas.

The Estonian Foreign Ministry recently revealed that Tallinn is considering a proposal to prohibit the issuing of tourist visas to Russians across the entire European Union. The main parties in Finland, a country that provides a transit route to Europe for Russians, also support such a dramatic measure. However, so far, discussion of closing Russians off of Europe has not been translated into an action plan, the newspaper writes.

According to the Finnish Embassy in Moscow, there has been a noticeable increase in applications for Schengen visas in recent weeks.

So far, the probability of all Russians being denied Schengen visas at the EU level is vague, Director of the Center for European Information and Associate Professor of the Department of European Law at MGIMO Nikolai Topornin told Izvestia. "Such a political decision requires the approval of all 27 EU member states. Even today, there are differences on this matter, and it is clear that overcoming them will be extraordinarily tough," he said.

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