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Press review: Russian PM ends China tour and African nations to pitch Ukraine peace plan

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, May 25th
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin (center) Artem Ivanov/TASS
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin (center)
© Artem Ivanov/TASS

MOSCOW, May 25. /TASS/. Russia’s prime minister completes his first visit to China; upcoming Russia-Africa Summit to discuss six African nations’ peace plan for Ukraine; and EAEU leaders to gather and assess future outlook for Eurasian trade bloc. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Media: Key takeaways from Russian prime minister’s first visit to China

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and a high-level Russian delegation, consisting of the heads of government agencies and state corporations, attended the Russia-China Business Forum in Shanghai and wrapped up their visit to China in Beijing on May 24. In the capital city, Mishustin held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and met with his counterpart, Chinese Prime Minister Li Qiang, who took office in March of this year.

Mishustin’s visit to China above all indicates that systemic collaborative work between the two countries is being revitalized following the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s special military operation, Sergey Lukonin of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies told Vedomosti. In his view, from the start there should not have been any expectations of any groundbreaking documents being signed. Another goal of the visit was to give Mishustin the opportunity to meet the new Chinese leadership team in person, the expert thinks. That said, the problem remains that major Chinese companies are wary of cooperating with Russian businesses because of potential secondary sanctions by the US, but this was already clear without Mishustin’s visit. It is possible that not all of the nuances of the bilateral talks were disclosed to the media because neither side wishes to attract any unwanted attention from US and European watchdogs, the expert concluded.

In a conversation with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Andrey Karneyev, head of the Higher School of Economics’ (HSE University) School of Asian Studies, noted: "One shouldn’t overestimate Mishustin’s visit. Xi Jinping was in Moscow in March, visited [Russia’s] White House [the main office of the Cabinet and prime minister - TASS] and invited the prime minister to visit China. It was necessary, he said, in order to meet China’s new prime minister, Li Qiang, in person. From the Chinese viewpoint, it is important for the leaders to know each other and be able to resolve issues. I think that Ukraine was discussed as well during meetings with the Chinese leadership. After all, Special Envoy [for Eurasian affairs] Li Hui is supposed to visit Moscow after holding meetings in Europe."


Izvestia: Africa’s peace plan for Ukraine to be on agenda of Russia-Africa Summit in July

A peace initiative put forward by six African countries, Uganda, South Africa, Congo, Senegal, Zambia and Egypt, will be discussed at the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg, which is slated to take place in late July, Moses Kizige, the Ugandan ambassador to Moscow, told Izvestia. This information was confirmed by Ambassador Leon Dodonu-Punagaza of the Central African Republic (CAR). According to him, the Ukraine conflict will be on the summit agenda because it is an issue of importance to African countries. The diplomats confirmed that the presidents of the CAR and Uganda will be attending the summit.

According to the CAR envoy, the summit will discuss the Ukrainian issue because it is important for African countries to display their support for Russia under sanctions. The diplomat told Izvestia that it is critical to attempt to reconcile the sides and end the conflict. In his opinion, the Americans should stop supplying Ukraine with arms. The diplomat said that the standoff between Russia and the West sets an example for some African countries as a fight against the neocolonial system.

African countries are not going to sacrifice their ties to Russia, Kenyan Ambassador Benson Ogutu assured the newspaper, noting that his country maintains good relations with both Russia and the West, as well as the East and North. It is precisely this neutral position that allows African countries to act as mediators in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and gives promise to their efforts at fostering reconciliation.

Igor Morozov, chair of the coordinating committee on economic cooperation with African countries, told Izvestia that the summit would provide a venue for dialogue between Russian and African businesses and will help identify reciprocal needs and formulate relevant proposals.

According to Andrey Maslov, head of the Higher School of Economics (HSE University) Center for African Studies, the second Russia-Africa Summit will be less declarative in character and will focus more in its final documents on the concrete steps to be taken by various agencies. That said, the expert noted that, thus far, economic ties between Russia and Africa are essentially a thing of the future, because trade turnover figures between the parties are currently quite modest.


Media: EAEU leaders gather to look into future for glimpse into prospects for trade bloc

On the eve of a session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, the leaders of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) arrived in Moscow to attend the Eurasian Economic Forum. Russian President Vladimir Putin is hosting practically the same roster of guests who visited Moscow two weeks ago for the May 9 Victory Day parade: Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, and Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan, with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan expected to arrive later, on May 25.

The EAEU remains an important venue for all participants in spite of the economic pressure being placed on Russia by major Western economies, says Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the Institute of CIS Countries. "The sanctions policies applied by the US and a number of EU countries were aimed not only at weakening Russia but also at disrupting integration-oriented organizations that are important to Moscow. Yet, such calculations have not come to fruition. On the contrary, growth in the trade turnover among EAEU member states is continuing," the expert told Vedomosti. However, since the onset of the Ukrainian crisis, the economic benefits accruing to various EAEU member states have been uneven.

According to Boris Shmelev, head of the Center for Political Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Economics, Putin would like to take the EAEU to the level of an international, global structure that could rival the EU. Moreover, under the conditions of unprecedented Western sanctions, cooperation within the EAEU has become particularly important for Russia because it provides opportunities to diminish the effects of the financial, economic and political pressures [Moscow] is currently facing [from the West]. However, in his opinion, a critical factor in fostering integration processes is the need to resolve the issue of coordinating a joint policy on developing free-trade zones. "Today, there are already more than 200 exemptions (from the free-trade regime), which has the effect of slowing integration processes down. Russia is working on minimizing the number [of such exemptions]," he told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Florida governor to jump into US presidential race

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, is expected to make his long-awaited announcement in the near future that he will be joining the 2024 race to be elected president of the United States, according to US media outlets. The popular politician may announce his bid during a conversation with billionaire Elon Musk to be broadcast on Twitter.

"Unfortunately, Ron DeSantis lacks charisma. He has a wonderful background: he was raised in an ordinary family, worked as a teacher, served in the military, and then was elected to the [US] House of Representatives. Yet, even this is not enough to become a full-fledged politician on the national stage. He hasn’t managed to become a household name outside of his home state. However, he still has time and it is possible that he will receive some support from the media," Yury Rogulev, director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies, said.

In a conversation with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the expert stressed that Trump managed to become a national figure thanks to years of self-promotion through TV shows and books and giving colorful speeches.

"That said, one shouldn’t overestimate the role of the Republican Party during the primaries. The party’s national committee is not authorized to nominate candidates, [while] the era of influential ‘party bosses’ has passed, and so now this body is mostly engaged in organizing the election process. Each candidate sets up his own committee and the same is true for the Democrats. Even if some policy is attempted, it is quite possible that it would easily be ignored at the local level," the expert thinks.

He added that it may not be advantageous for the Republicans to reject Trump because that would be likely to result in a rift within the party.

"Trump, actually, does not care whether the party supports him or not. In this sense, he is going to be loyal neither to the party nor even to his country because he, essentially, called for a default, which would benefit him and bring down Biden’s approval ratings," the expert pointed out.


Kommersant: Russia’s gas production declines by 10%

Gas production in Russia continues to decrease versus last year’s figures. According to Kommersant, in January-April it dropped by 10% year on year to 235 bln cubic meters, and in April by 10.3% to 55 bln cubic meters. Over four months, Gazprom cut production almost by a quarter due to the decrease in exports to the EU. Independent producers have slightly increased production. Meanwhile, experts reiterate that, early last year, gas production figures hit record highs and in the near future the effect of this high base will disappear.

"Gazprom’s production remains disproportionally low and the company is forced to bear the burden of regulating Russia’s gas balance, suspending wells at its gas fields under the conditions of sharply decreased export demand for Russian gas in Europe," noted Vitaly Yermakov of the Higher School of Economics (HSE University).

Sergey Kondratyev of the Institute of Energy and Finance Foundation reiterates that March was the last month when last year’s high base was still in effect. In March 2022, production grew by 1% year on year, reaching a record level for the past three years. However, in 2Q 2022, gas production began to plummet, driven by decreased demand in external markets, and in June-September 2022 the decrease surpassed 20%. The expert says that in the next few months the production dynamics will be determined by last year’s base, so in May the declining trend may slow down to 5-6% year on year, stabilizing by June to the low levels seen in the summer of 2022.

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