MOSCOW, March 30. /TASS/. Russia and Iran are ready to sign a strategic partnership agreement, Zelensky hedges his bets if Artyomovsk falls and Finland joining NATO is fraught with a direct NATO-Russia conflict. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.
Vedomosti: Russia-Iran strategic partnership agreement to be ready in April
The foreign ministries of Russia and Iran will finalize a draft of a comprehensive treaty on a bilateral strategic partnership while the document itself may be signed during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Tehran in the near future, his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said during his visit to Moscow on March 29.
Russia and Iran have been working on an updated treaty for several years, says Research Fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at MGIMO Adlan Margoev. The previous such treaty was concluded in an entirely different era of bilateral and international relations. "Judging by open information, now we are talking about recognizing each other as strategic partners and, according to this status, developing relations in the long term," the expert notes.
The new strategic partnership document is the main subject of the talks in Moscow; it has taken years to sign because of various disagreements and the need to take sanctions risks into account, notes Russian International Affairs Council expert Kirill Semenov. Now both sides are ready because both are under comparable sanctions pressure. Apparently, the document will indeed be ready in the near future, the expert asserts.
According to him, the new approach to relations in the Middle East will be based on Iran’s refusal to clash with Saudi Arabia and its allies. "Currently, the framework for multilateral interaction is being shaped in the region by Russia, Turkey and China," Semenov says. In this context, the SCO has the opportunity of becoming a global Eurasian platform without the US or the EU’s participation. The expert notes that not only Saudi Arabia but also Turkey is interested in interacting with the SCO.
Saudi Arabia’s interest in China and the SCO stems from its realization that it is no longer possible to resolve the region’s problems with the US’ help alone and ties with the US leave something to be desired for Riyadh, Margoev says. "The American factor in the region cannot be eradicated even in decades but it is possible to reduce the US’ influence on the region. China’s mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia has demonstrated this for the first time. Russia is not simply fine with this outcome but this is precisely what Moscow has been waiting for for a long time," the expert concluded.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Zelensky covering himself in case of defeat in Artyomovsk
Ukrainian troops giving up Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine) is fraught with local fatigue, attempts by the international community to resume negotiations and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aspiration to "sell" it as his victory, Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky said. In this way, he attempted to downplay the military and strategic significance of the expected retreat from the city as purely a material loss. That said, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin practically confirmed the delivery of longer-range weapons to Kiev, apparently meaning ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB) with a range of about 150 kilometers.
Gaining control over Artyomovsk is crucial no matter how hard they try to play down its significance in Kiev and the Pentagon, Russian military expert Yury Knutov told the newspaper. He specified that later on it would be possible to attack Slavyansk, Maryinka and Avdeyevka, as well as Seversk, where many routes intersect, so the liberation of the city is important from a military-strategic point of view.
It is telling that the Kiev regime itself has for some time been promoting the subject of Artyomovsk but when it sensed that the city could be lost, it began to highlight the ethical side. Apparently, President Zelensky realized that his opponents, including those in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, may demand his resignation, replacing him with career military man and respected Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian armed forces Valery Zaluzhny. So, with all this in mind, Supreme Commander-in-Chief Zelensky tried to hedge his bets and convince everyone that if Artyomovsk is surrendered, it’s not his fault. Others would be to blame, particularly, those Western partners who did not provide the necessary weapons. "Meanwhile, up to two troop companies, that is, more than 200 people, are being killed daily in Artyomovsk. Even Western analysts are already saying that it would be better to surrender the city to avoid casualties," Knutov said.
Izvestia: Hungarian deputy speaker weighs in on Finland’s accession to NATO
Finland joining NATO will increase the possibility of an escalation and the risk of a direct armed conflict between the US-led alliance and Russia, Deputy Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament Dora Duro said in an interview with Izvestia.
She pointed out that if Finland joins NATO, then the dividing line between the North Atlantic Alliance and Russia will increase by 1,340 kilometers, and this carries no shortage of danger. Duro noted that the US is using NATO to protect its global role worldwide, forcing it to expand the organization by including two more players, namely, Sweden and Finland. She also reiterated that both countries have traditionally been independent and for 200 years have remained neutral on the international stage.
According to the deputy speaker, their independence and sovereignty will be lost following their accession to the alliance. She added that there was no referendum on the issue, so this decision was not made by the people but by ruling parties. Duro noted that the only pushback against NATO’s expansion came from six delegates from Mi Hazank Mozgalom (the Our Homeland movement), who were the lone party to vote against it in parliament.
Replying to a question as to whether NATO’s eastward expansion could resolve the situation around Ukraine, the politician noted that it is not in the EU’s interest to support the continuation of the Ukraine conflict or the sanctions regime against Russia. According to her, while a "bloodthirsty" militant atmosphere prevails among EU politicians, what European countries really need is to stop the conflict and convince the opposing sides to sit down at the negotiating table. The negotiations may end in a compromise with regards to Ukraine’s territorial losses but the main goal is restoring peace, she added.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: UOC leaders don’t stand up for Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery
The deadline set by Ukraine’s authorities for the priests and monks of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) to vacate the buildings of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery expired late at night on March 29. The public expected at least some resistance on the part of UOC representatives and even predicted things would turn violent, but nothing of the sort happened.
Bogdan Bezpalko, a member of the Russian Presidential Council for Interethnic Relations, thinks that the lack of proactive action on the part of the UOC leadership stems from their lack of desire "to become martyrs." "It looks like they simply decided to give up the Lavra without a fight," he told the newspaper. "In a recent interview, Metropolitan Pavel (Lebed) complained not so much that he had to leave the Lavra but that they were not given enough time to remove their belongings. And the very stance of the UOC leadership, when they came and waited for two hours by the president’s office, with their constant expression of loyalty to the Ukrainian state which practically condemned them to non-existence, is incomprehensible. It can only be explained by fear, which paralyzes their activities. They are afraid of physical violence," the political scientist explained.
He noted that the metropolitans might either quietly join the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) in a lesser role or will simply leave the church. The expert asserted that the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra monastery would without a doubt be taken from the UOC, with other buildings to follow, resulting in the complete eradication of the UOC.
Kommersant: Coal prices taking a dive this year
Russian coal of all grades and in all supply directions has fallen in price. Since the beginning of the year, power-generating coal has become 18-20% cheaper and prices have plummeted markedly for pulverized fuel used by steelmakers, almost by 30%. The prices are still high but this won’t save the industry from a production slowdown. According to experts, the coal price is impacted not only by the spring season but also by the global banking crisis which makes investors wary of investing in raw materials.
With the cold winter in Europe now in the rearview mirror, worries about the lack of energy resources worldwide are waning, triggering a drop in the prices of all energy products, including gas, oil and coal, says Sergey Grishunin of the NRA rating service.
According to him, the falling prices may result in some Russian exports, particularly of low-grade and unenriched coal, not being sold on global markets, taking into account the cost of freight and discounts on Russian products. He notes that the prices are being adjusted on the domestic market as well but it is "rather an excuse to partially decrease excessive coal production in Russia, especially with regard to low-grade products.
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