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Press review: NATO readies Kiev for war of attrition and Russia to take aim at UK's crimes

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, March 24th
NATO Headquarters in Brussels AP Photo/Virginia Mayo
NATO Headquarters in Brussels
© AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

MOSCOW, March 24. /TASS/. NATO is preparing Kiev for a war of attrition as Russia unpacks its tank reserves, Russian envoy to London says Moscow won’t leave the UK’s violations of international law unanswered, and Turkey starts thinking about withdrawing its troops from Syria. These stories topped Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: NATO preparing Kiev for war of attrition as Russia unpacks tank reserves

After Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s trip to the city of Bakhmut (Artyomovsk), Kiev is no longer hiding its plans for a counteroffensive in the area. On March 23, Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Alexander Syrsky said that Ukraine could be on the verge of launching an offensive operation, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

NATO officials say that the offensive is unlikely to be successful without heavy artillery support. Efforts are being made to solve this problem byway of Ukraine launching the production of Soviet-standard munitions. "This won’t be a quick fix because the process requires specialists, industrial sites and resources. That said, the Ukrainian armed forces will continue to be starved of ammunition for some time, perhaps, for a long time, until the end of the conflict," military expert retired Colonel Nikolay Shulgin said. He pointed out that in Russia, ammunition production had significantly increased, according to official statements. Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said the same, adding that the domestic defense industry will produce 1,500 tanks in 2023. "The 1,500 tanks will be enough to form five tank divisions in Russia. They will be a force to be reckoned with," military expert retired Lieutenant General Yury Netkachev said.

"The T-54, T-55 and T-62 tanks are in demand for the ongoing special operation," Netkachev noted. "According to open sources, there are up to 10,000 tanks of this type at the Russian Armed Forces’ storage depots. There are also several million shells for them. Under the operating instructions adopted back in the Soviet era, they were put away for long-term storage across the country’s military districts. The tanks’ components were maintained to be combat ready," the expert added.

"Upgraded, advanced tanks such as the T-72, T-80 and T-90 will be used for the breakthrough. However, the Soviet armored vehicles of the past century will play an important if not decisive role on the second and third lines in the tactical order of battle," Netkachev explained. "Ukraine does not have such Soviet tanks because the country received only modern military equipment after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. However, this equipment was destroyed in the first year of the special military operation, which is why Kiev keeps asking NATO to send its tanks and other weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces. Meanwhile, Russia is only beginning to unpack its Soviet-era reserves, which are immense," the general emphasized.


Izvestia: Russia won’t sit back and watch as UK violates international law, envoy says

Moscow won’t leave London’s crimes unanswered, including the supply of banned weapons to Ukraine, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Andrey Kelin said in an interview with Izvestia.

When asked about the UK’s possible supply of depleted uranium munitions to Kiev, Kelin stated that by doing so, London sought to create the impression that it was a leader among US satellites. "Today’s London sees its goal as being always and everywhere at the head of the collective West’s ‘party of war.’In this way, it expects to form some semblance of leadership among US satellites. This is a manifestation of the malady of a former empire whose influence has been fading for decades. It is also an attempt to divert attention from growing economic problems. They are guided by the logic that "the war is to blame for everything". That’s why they are deliberately escalating things,"the ambassador noted. "The British don’t care at all about long-term consequences, including those for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,"Kelin emphasized.

"London’s actions are driven by its sense of irresponsibility and impunity. The British establishment believes that it can control the constant raising of stakes in the conflict. They try to ignore those who talk about the most extreme and severe consequences. We, in turn, keep pointing to London’s violation of the fundamental principles of international law. All the crimes, including the supply of banned weapons, are being documented. We won’t leave them unanswered,"the diplomat stressed.

When speaking about relations between Moscow and London, Kelin noted that they had never been simple. "The present-day elites in the United Kingdom and other Western European countries emerged after the US had secured its dominance on the continent. Once they took power, their members could not fathom being bound by the limits set by Atlanticist ideas. They are happy to be part of the West’s common policy against Moscow and Beijing. Besides, the British economy currently strongly depends on Washington’s goodwill,"the envoy explained. According to Kelin, "in many respects, London ruined relations with our country by its own doing."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Turkey mulls withdrawing troops from Syria

The Turkish authorities are ready to reconsider the presence of their regular troops in Syria in order to promote talks on restoring bilateral relations, say the sources of media outlets loyal to Damascus, who point to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s desire to ensure diplomatic progress ahead of May’s general elections. It’s possible that Ankara will indeed schedule its troop withdrawal but experts expect such a scenario will be difficult to put into practice, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

The diplomatic momentum that was created at a meeting between the defense chiefs of Russia, Turkey and Syria in Moscow at the end of last year, has recently started to fade, supposedly due to increased demands from Damascus. In particular, Moscow was expected to host consultations between the deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, Turkey and Syria last week, which would have paved the way for a meeting of the top diplomats, but the event failed to take place. Still, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed hope the other day that the four-party consultations would eventually be held in the near future.

"In theory, compromises can be made, for instance, by creating a clear timetable for the pullout of Turkish troops from Syria in exchange for the resolution of Turkey’s concerns about Kurdish groups," Senior Researcher at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Yury Lyamin pointed

out. "Unfortunately, in practice, it will be very hard to do this because the US continues to de facto back the Kurds in Syria, to say nothing of other problem areas," he said.

This is why the future of talks largely depends on how the overall situation in the region and some key countries unfolds," Lyamin pointed out. The expert did not rule out that Damascus might well be waiting for the outcome of the Turkish elections. In addition, the analyst believes that the recent reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia may strengthen the bargaining position of the Syrian authorities, who traditionally rely on Tehran’s support.


Media: Russian PM reports to lawmakers about efforts to overcome impact of sanctions

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has presented another report to the State Duma (the lower house of parliament). Last year, he delivered his report on April 7, in the midst of the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia. The 2022 report could be described as preparations for defense, while this year, it was about what was accomplished, Vedomosti writes.

This year’s government’s report was unique due to the fact that the past year in no way resembled previous years in terms of the challenges that the country was facing, Head of the Regional Policy Center at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Vladimir Klimanov said. "The bottom line is that the cabinet succeeded in maintaining economic sustainability despite the current situation," he noted.

The prime minister stated that the economy has begun to grow, which is a positive sign for businesses, Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Economic Forecasting Alexander Shirov pointed out. The government understands that businesses need additional funding mechanisms and long money, and this was in answer to requests coming from entrepreneurs, he added. One of the goals of the report was to highlight the positive side of where the economy is growing, Shirov noted. However, there are also some minuses, which are first and foremost related to the restrictions that remain, the economist stressed. The government seeks to make it clear that it knows what to do to minimize the impact of the restrictions.

The cabinet’s activities can be viewed positively, political scientist Ilya Grashchenkov told Izvestia. He pointed to measures to boost parallel imports and the launch of new domestic production facilities. Also, all promises of social guarantees to the population were fulfilled, the expert emphasized.

Political strategist Konstantin Kalachev says that the prime minister’s popularity has been growing since the West announced major sanctions on Russia last year. In his view, good economic performance amid restrictions cements the people’s attitude. The government keeps showing its effectiveness and high quality of public administration, which has been recognized even by Western countries, the expert added.


Izvestia: Russia becomes number one investor in Iran

Russia became the largest foreign investor in Iran over the past year, Iranian Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Ehsan Khandouzi said in an interview with the Financial Times. Tehran received a total of $4.2 bln in foreign investment, of which $2.76 bln came from Russia, Izvestia writes.

After Russia faced tough Western sanctions similar to those imposed on Iran, interest in cooperation between the two countries started to grow. Also, the risks of secondary sanctions on Russian businesses from the West are no longer viewed as significant, Macroeconomic Analysis Chief at Finam Olga Belenkaya maintained.

According to her, the energy sector is one of the traditional areas for cooperation between Russia and Iran. "The second phase of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant is under construction, and the development of oil fields continues. Besides, the development of the North-South Transport Corridor (connecting Russia and India via Iran) became a priority due to changes in Russia’s foreign trade," the expert added.

In addition, the sanctions made Iran one of the sources of industrial imports for Russia, Belenkaya went on to say. Iran is still under international sanctions, which considerably limit its opportunities for economic development and cooperation with other countries. However, China is Iran’s major foreign trade partner, with significant shares taken by the United Arab Emirates, India and Turkey, the analyst noted.

Iran’s economic situation remains difficult as the country has been under sanctions for almost half a century, said IVA Partners expert Artyom Shakhurin. According to him, over such a long period of time, the Iranians have gained great experience in bypassing restrictions and substituting imports. "Their experience will be very useful for Russia who is facing increasing pressure on its economy," Shakhurin noted. Cooperation between the two countries can be multifaceted. The main areas of cooperation include the automotive industry, machine building, the energy sector, the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, oil service and metals projects.

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