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Press review: Russia strikes back and Belarus joins forces with Russia

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, October 11th

Vedomosti: Russia strikes critical infrastructure in several Ukrainian regions

Russia shelled critical infrastructure facilities in several regions of Ukraine, as well as the country’s capital Kiev. President Vladimir Putin explained the maneuver as a reaction to the attacks on the Crimean Bridge and other Russian infrastructure, warning that any future responses would "correspond" in scale to the level of possible threats. However, according to experts interviewed by Vedomosti, Russia is a long way from using nuclear weapons.

At around 8.40 Moscow time, messages and videos regarding the attacks on numerous locations in Ukraine started to circulate online. The Ukrainian government claims that 11 crucial infrastructure sites, including power plants and railway infrastructure, were hit in eight different regions of the country and in Kiev.

President Vladimir Putin met with the permanent Security Council members later on Monday. The president referred to the Crimean Bridge incident as a terrorist attack. He claimed that three terrorist actions were also committed against the Kursk NPP in Russia by the special services of Ukraine. Additionally, Putin disclosed that there had been an attempt to compromise a section of the Turkish Stream gas transmission system.

Senior researcher at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at HSE University Vasily Kashin believes that the attack on a crucial component of civilian infrastructure provided the Russian armed forces with justification for their strikes. According to editor-in-chief of Arsenal Otechestva magazine, retired colonel Viktor Murakhovsky, such retaliatory strikes should deter the Ukrainian government from carrying out terrorist operations on Russian soil. He asserts that there are other alternatives to utilizing more lethal weaponry to respond even if Kiev's provocations persist. "There are high-explosive bombs that cause significant damage. Russia is a long ways away from the use of nuclear weapons," Murakhovsky believes.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Erdogan seeks dialogue as EU prepares its ninth set of sanctions against Russia

On Monday, Russia's strikes on Ukrainian cities dominated international news. The most influential Western politicians publicly supported Ukraine, denouncing Russia's actions, and announced further sanctions and aid packages for Kiev. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, recent developments might jeopardize the alleged efforts of the Turkish president to foster global peace.

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were among the first world leaders who spoke to Vladimir Zelensky on Monday. Scholz also gave the Ukrainian president reassurances that the G7 also supported Ukraine. The G7 leaders' decision to convene an emergency session to discuss fresh restrictions against Russia is all but assured. At the same time, the ninth package of sanctions from the EU is on the way, confirmed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Meanwhile, the future of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s peacekeeping efforts now remains in question, the newspaper writes. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, he expects to play the role of intermediary between Moscow and Kiev, and even further, between Russia and the West, which would serve him well considering the difficult upcoming presidential elections.

Turkish newspaper Milliyet reported last week that Erdogan sent a proposal to Washington through some private channels to organize a meeting of Russian representatives with delegates from the US, France, Germany, and the UK.

The situation could be clarified after Putin's visit to Astana for the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), set for October 12-13, where talks between the Russian leader and Erdogan are expected.


Kommersant: West tries to push resolution on Ukraine at UN

The UN General Assembly is getting ready to hold a historic vote after Ukraine and its Western allies filed a draft resolution harshly denouncing Russia's decision on the accession of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, Zaporozhye and Kherson Regions. The authors of the document would like to secure the support of as many states as possible and in order to do that, they reportedly conducted a true "hunt for votes" on the sidelines of the UN, Kommersant writes.

The document, titled "Territorial integrity of Ukraine: defending the principles of the Charter of the United Nations" called Russia’s recent referendum illegal and "incompatible with the UN Charter." The authors of the resolution call on the Russian authorities to withdraw all their armed forces from Ukraine’s territory.

The vote on the third resolution will take place either on Tuesday or Wednesday. If the document receives the approval of at least two-thirds of the voters, it will be considered to have been adopted. Nevertheless, Kommersant notes that it is crucial for the resolution's authors and proponents to secure not just a formal passage of the resolution but also its adoption by a sizable majority with a small number of undecided and abstention voters.

Meanwhile, according to Russia’s First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Dmitry Polyansky, the Russian delegation decided to make a subtle move and propose a secret vote. Polyansky noted that representatives of many countries have already backed the idea of a secret ballot. The authors of the resolution, on the contrary, do not - they have already accused Russia of attempting to alter the General Assembly's customary working procedures.


Vedomosti: Belarus forms joint group of forces with Russia

The Presidents of Russia and Belarus agreed to deploy a joint regional group of forces, according to Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. The president claimed that "aggravation on the western borders of the Union State" was the reason behind the decision. The Belarusian leader did not reveal the number of Russian troops, saying that it was "more than one thousand" people. According to experts interviewed by Vedomosti, at the moment Ukraine does not intend to attack the territory of Belarus in any capacity.

Minsk believes that Ukraine is preparing to launch an offensive on the territory of Belarus. According to Lukashenko, he was warned about this through unofficial channels. Belarus' president alleges that Kiev is planning an attack on his country akin to the recent terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge.

It is possible that Kiev may be considering some form of limited retaliation because of the aid provided by Belarus at the beginning of the special military operation, researcher at the Center for International Security at the IMEMO RAS Dmitry Stefanovich said. According to the expert, NATO forces in Poland and Lithuania pose a secondary threat to Belarus in addition to Ukraine. Even without any active steps, the deployment of the Russian-Belarusian coalition might destabilize military preparations in Kiev and Brussels.

Ukraine is now unlikely to launch attacks on Belarusian soil, military expert of the Russian International Affairs Council Alexander Ermakov believes. He added that Minsk no longer offers Moscow the same level of active support that it did at the start of the military operation. Additionally, he told the newspaper, an attack would spur Belarus to work even more closely with Russia.


Izvestia: Geopolitical shocks pose uncertainty for stock market and Russian ruble

In the near future, volatility on the Russian stock exchange will remain high, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. The geopolitical escalation as well as dividend cut-off for the shares of Russian majors Gazprom and Tatneft led to a decline in the leading trading indices by 9-10% on Monday. Meanwhile, experts predict the ruble to trade in the range of 55-65 against the dollar and the euro in the coming weeks.

The reason for the slumping indices, as well as the weakening of the national currency, was the deterioration of the external situation and the escalation of tensions after the terrorist attack in Crimea, experts believe. According to Vasily Karpunin, expert at BCS World of Investments, dividend gaps were a significant factor of Monday's decrease in addition to the broader environment.

As for the weakening of the ruble, chief analyst at Sovcombank Mikhail Vasiliev pointed to the deterioration of the conflict in Ukraine after the terrorist attack on the Crimean Bridge as the main reasons. Another spike in tensions increases the risk of new sanctions, he believes. At the same time, the recent measures from the US and the EU did not introduce new restrictions on Russian infrastructure, namely the National Clearing Center, the expert added, explaining that this somewhat reduced the toxicity of the dollar and the euro, bringing back investors.

Mikhail Vasilyev predicts that the ruble will stay in the 55-65 range against the dollar and the euro in the upcoming weeks, maybe being helped by high oil and gas prices. Before the end of the year, the ruble might well reach 65-70 against the dollar and the euro, Vasily Karpunin believes. Russia’s Ministry of Finance is interested in moderate growth of the USD/RUB pair in terms of tax revenues from exports, he concluded.

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