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Press review: New realities push UN reform drive and Slovaks vote for Ukraine aid skeptics

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, October 2nd

MOSCOW, October 2. /TASS/. The United Nations is in need of reforms, but carrying them out will prove no easy task; Ukraine-skeptic party wins Slovakia’s parliamentary elections; and Baku, Yerevan and the UN mission to Karabakh are all pledging to protect the region’s Armenian population. These stories topped Monday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: UN badly in need of reforms, but carrying them out may prove far from easy

The United Nations is gradually losing its influence due to its failure to adapt to changing geopolitical realities. Against this background, a growing range of major regional powers and organizations are declaring their intentions to expand their role in global affairs, Izvestia writes.

There are numerous draft conceptions for reforming the UN, being put forward both by individual countries and groups of counties, as well as by international organizations. Some of them propose expanding the number of permanent and rotating members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), while others call for granting all UNSC members equal rights while bumping the number of permanent members up to 20. The second important issue is whether the right to veto should be preserved, restricted or abolished. That said, any move to expand the UNSC must be a balanced initiative, based on a negotiated agreement among its current permanent membership. This hardly seems achievable in the current situation, said Dmitry Suslov, deputy director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University).

"There would be no point in initiating [UNSC expansion] negotiations if differences are not resolved beforehand. However, if a decision is made not to make any changes in terms of the membership and rights of the current five permanent member states [Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and the United States], this could hypothetically facilitate the implementation of reforms," the analyst pointed out.

Reorganizing UN institutions to make them more fit-to-purpose for reaching the organization’s goals is a difficult task, Suslov noted.

"There are a number of organizations that are formally independent but operate under UN auspices. They were established in the 1940s-1950s, when the United States dominated the global capitalist economic order. The US accounted for over one-third of global GDP in 1945, which is why it received a corresponding number of votes at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. But, now, the West is losing its relative weight. As a result, these institutions will either improve their effectiveness by making changes to address existing imbalances, or they will cease to exist; in the latter case, they will be replaced by new institutions representing the global majority," the expert concluded.


Vedomosti: Ukraine-skeptic party wins Slovakian parliamentary vote, seen forming coalition

Slovakia’s Direction-Slovak Social Democracy (Smer-SSD) party, led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico, won the country’s parliamentary elections on Saturday, September 30. Fico said at a press conference that his political movement viewed the situation in Ukraine as "a huge tragedy for everyone." The politician said that, "if Smer-SSD is entrusted with forming a government, we will do everything to make sure that peace talks begin as soon as possible," Vedomosti notes.

Fico is most likely to form a coalition with the Voice social democratic party, which broke off from Smer-SSD in 2020, and the Slovak National Party, Kirill Teremetsky, an expert at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), noted.

"If Fico really acts on behalf of the so-called ‘peace party’ on the Ukraine issue, then Hungary and Austria will have an ally within the European Union calling for an immediate ceasefire and peace talks," the expert pointed out.

But, Fico’s purported "pro-Russian stance" is in fact a myth created by the Western media, which is aimed at tarnishing the politician’s image, the analyst stressed. "Fico is not known for providing some sort of special support for Russia, and allegations against him are based [solely] on his statements that the European Union should not supply weapons to Kiev and that sanctions on Russia are destructive," Teremetsky emphasized.

Regarding Fico’s election win, the key thing to note is not his allegedly pro-Russian stance, but rather the overall fatigue among the Western political establishment with the continuous need to keep up support for Ukraine, particularly the provision of military assistance to Kiev, amid a deteriorating economic situation within Europe itself, said Artyom Sokolov, a researcher with the Institute for International Studies at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO University).


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Baku, Yerevan, UN mission pledge to protect Karabakh Armenians

A UN mission arrived in Nagorno-Karabakh on October 1 to monitor the situation first-hand and determine the needs of local residents. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry emphasized that the mission had been invited by Baku, which hopes that the visit will help publicize throughout the world the Azerbaijani authorities’ humanitarian activities in the region, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

According to Yerevan, there are few Armenians left in Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia recorded the arrival of 100,483 people from the region as of the morning of October 1. While Baku says that these people made a voluntary decision to leave, the arrivals are calling themselves refugees.

In the meantime, Armenia has filed a lawsuit against Azerbaijan with the International Court of Justice. Yerevan claims that when it comes to the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku violated the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Yerevan wants the Azerbaijanis to stop driving Armenians from their land, at the same time refraining from preventing all those willing to leave the region from doing so. The Armenian authorities also expect that Azerbaijan will not take reprisal measures against current and former Nagorno-Karabakh political and military officials.

Armenian political analyst Arshaluis Mgdesyan told the newspaper that Yerevan would not get any tangible benefit from turning to international institutions as its previous efforts had led to nothing. "In particular, Baku previously ignored a call from the UN court, Russia, the US and the European Union to unblock the Lachin Corridor. Nothing is likely to change now," the expert noted.

As for the international mission to Karabakh, Mgdesyan said that it arrived in the region too late. "Azerbaijan has for all practical purposes already begun integrating Nagorno-Karabakh into the country," the analyst pointed out.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijani political scientist Ilgar Velizade stressed that Baku had been unwilling to give access to Nagorno-Karabakh to a UN mission for 30 years because there had been no political conditions for that. "I hope the UN mission will confirm that Baku is not conducting an ethnic cleansing and Armenians are leaving Karabakh voluntarily," he explained.


Vedomosti: US Congress passes stopgap funding bill, leaving Ukraine aid in the lurch

The US Congress broke the budget stalemate to approve a stopgap funding bill, making it possible for the US federal government to continue operating for the next 45 days, until another vote takes place. The House of Representatives and the Senate voted overwhelmingly for the compromise bill, which was later signed by US President Joe Biden, Vedomosti writes.

The stopgap funding bill, which was put to a vote by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, excludes financing of support for Ukraine. Biden stated that interrupting assistance to Kiev was unacceptable and urged McCarthy to facilitate the approval of another funding package through a separate bill, which is expected to be presented soon.

The congressional vote does not mean an end to US aid to Ukraine because most of such funding is provided through alternate channels, including a lend lease program [that came into force on May 9, 2022], said Andrey Kortunov, academic director of the Russian International Affairs Council. He believes the Republicans will try to insist that assistance for Kiev be reduced but, in the end, any such reduction will not be significant.

There is no point in expecting any serious change in US policy toward Ukraine until the presidential election in November 2024, Viktoria Zhuravlyova, head of the Center for North American Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), pointed out. However, according to the expert, the issue of assistance for Ukraine is turning into a key point of contention in disputes between the Republicans and Democrats.

"Providing funds to Kiev is a tool of manipulation for the right-wing Republicans who are seeking to use it [as leverage] to gain concessions from Biden, primarily on domestic issues," Zhuravlyova said. She added that McCarthy was ready for dialogue with the Democrats, which increased the odds that more aid packages for Ukraine would be approved, either through a separate bill or as part of the budget for the next fiscal year. "Some additional [oversight] tools to control expenditures may be created and the process of providing aid will be delayed, but it should not be expected to come to an end anytime soon," the expert concluded.


Kommersant: Russian oil exporters turn to African markets

Russian companies became the leading exporters of oil to the West African nation of Ghana in September, sending two tankers carrying 1 mln barrels of Arctic oil each to the Tema Oil Refinery. Until recently, Russia had supplied almost no oil to the country, but exports resumed in the spring, Kommersant notes.

Russian oil producers began redirecting maritime exports after EU member states had refused to purchase commodities from Russia following the start of military activities in Ukraine. Before that, Europe used to be the largest market for Russian oil. However, the EU embargo and oil price cap took effect on December 5, 2022, and were expanded to Russian oil products on February 5, 2023. Now, India and China are the key recipients of Russian seaborne oil exports.

Ghana became the leading purchaser of Russian oil products in West Africa in 2022, before oil exports began. According to Viktor Katona of Kpler, Russia’s light Arctic crude oils are as good as the best grades of oil in West Africa.

However, oil exports are not the only reason why Russian companies find Africa attractive. In recent years, Lukoil has been actively interested in offshore oil fields in West Africa, including in Ghana. The oil major already owns 38% of the Tano offshore deepwater project in Ghana. In addition, Lukoil owns shares in offshore exploration projects in Cameroon and Nigeria.

Additional supplies of Russian Arctic oil to Ghana make it clear that the Tema Oil Refinery will soon become fully operational and Russia may turn into a key oil supplier for the facility, Katona said.

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