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Press review: Zelensky fears second Maidan and what lies ahead for Argentina post-election

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, November 21st
Ukrainian President  Vladimir Zelensky AP Photo/Evan Vucc
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky
© AP Photo/Evan Vucc

MOSCOW, November 21. /TASS/. A decade after the 2013 coup, Ukraine's Vladimir Zelensky worries about a second "Maidan;" experts weigh in on what Argentina can expect under new president Javier Milei; and Arab states make their pitch to China. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: Ten years after 2013 coup, Zelensky worries that a second 'Maidan' may be coming

The events of November 21, 2013, which led to the "Maidan" coup in Kiev, eventually sparked fighting in Donbass, while the Kiev regime’s policy prompted Russia to begin its special military operation. As a result, Ukraine lost Crimea, the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Lugansk People’s Republic, as well as the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, whose residents chose to join Russia in a referendum.

A decade later, Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky sees the risk of another "Maidan," while experts believe that the coup in Ukraine was entirely avoidable.

According to Oleg Bondarenko, head of the Progressive Policy Foundation, the main problem was that Kiev entertained the idea of integrating with Europe until the last moment, despite admitting that such an agreement would not benefit it only a week before it was signed.

Besides, a number of political analysts say that in an effort to make everyone happy - Russia, the West and local elites, - Ukrainian officials condoned the growing popularity of radicals, while turning a blind eye to collaborators being honored and attacks on Victory Day celebrations. As a result of this policy that went every which way, the Party of Regions led by the president ended up without any partners to make a deal with. Meanwhile, the radicals reaped the benefits of the situation.

Toward the end of 2013, when the United States took an interest in what was going on, it was too late to turn things around, says Vladimir Bruter, an expert with the International Institute for Humanitarian and Political Studies. "The Maidan itself was turned in that direction by those who benefited from the situation themselves," the expert explained. And today, Zelensky is talking about the risk of another Maidan, apparently in his own interests. "Zelensky realizes that there are many in Washington who understand that he needs to be removed. They will likely carry out a new Maidan, with such talk running rampant around Kiev," Bruter added.

The expert believes that a false flag operation at the front may help the implementation of this plan in general. For example, Ukraine retreating from a large locality could be used as a pretext for another coup.


Vedomosti: What can Argentina expect from Milei post-election?

Right-wing populist Javier Milei, a flamboyant libertarian economist, won the presidential run-off in Argentina with almost 56% of the vote. His rival, Economy Minister Sergio Massa, the candidate from the ruling left-wing coalition Union por la Patria, or unity for the homeland, conceded defeat after he secured just 44% of the vote.

In one of his first moves as the new president, Milei may revoke his country’s application to join BRICS starting on January 1, his adviser Diana Mondino announced as she said that Argentina would halt cooperation with China and Brazil. The grouping is slated to hold an online summit involving Russian President Vladimir Putin as early as on Tuesday.

By refusing to join BRICS and seeking to reorient toward the West, Milei is banking on getting economic assistance from the United States, but "Argentina will hardly be first in line to receive such aid from Washington," Deputy Chairperson of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Svetlana Zhurova told Vedomosti. According to her, the Argentinian president-elect’s rhetoric regarding BRICS is part of his "populist bent." "It’s worth watching what specific actions Milei takes and what his supporters said right after his victory. The more so since the application [to join BRICS] was not submitted by him as there may be certain forces in Argentina who coordinated all this in advance. These forces remain in Argentina," Zhurova said.

As regards Argentina’s foreign policy, we should expect a rapprochement with the United States, said Yan Burlyai, Director of the Center for Ibero-American Programs at Moscow State Linguistic University and former Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Argentina. In parallel, he said, Argentina’s relations with China, Brazil and Russia may cool. However, this may be mere rhetoric, while putting the country's entry into BRICS on hold will not affect the grouping, the expert said.

According to Burlyai, Milei’s victory came amid an economic crisis and the population’s fatigue with the ruling Peronists. "While Argentina may abolish the peso, opt for dollarization and eliminate the Central Bank, Milei will face major oversight from Congress," the expert said. And street democracy may play a role, too, he added, as the Peronists could mobilize hundreds of thousands of workers and activists to take the streets, which could deal a blow to Milei, Burlyai concluded.


Media: Arab states want to get China on the Palestinian team

On Monday, a delegation of top diplomats of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the League of Arab States (LAS) arrived in Beijing to discuss the conflict between Palestine and Israel. This is the delegates’ first stop on a tour of world capitals following their joint summit on November 11. The Russian Foreign Ministry has announced that the delegation will arrive in Moscow for talks with Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov later on Tuesday.

At their recent summit in Riyadh, participants called on the International Criminal Court to investigate "the war crimes and crimes against humankind that Israel has committed." However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reiterated that China is a friend and brother of Arab and Muslim countries. Since the military conflict erupted, Beijing has not condemned Hamas directly, while at the same time supporting de-escalation and establishing an independent Palestinian state.

China being invited to act as a mediator in the Middle East does not come as a surprise to Andrey Zeltyn, senior lecturer at the Higher School of Economics’ School of Asian Studies. Beijing already had some experience in settling things between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March, so regional players are seeking China’s assistance amid their dissatisfaction with the US' policy. However, in reality China does not have too many levers to influence the situation in Palestine. The escalation has gone too far, and Israel, which is engaged in a major military operation, is unlikely to backtrack, the expert said. It will be difficult for Beijing to influence Tel Aviv as it is the United States which has the main levers of influence, he told Vedomosti.

China has economic ties with Israel, so expecting China to side with Palestine would be unrealistic, as Beijing takes heed of the interests of both combatants, Alexander Lomanov, head of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, told Vedomosti.

Alexander Lukin, research director at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of China and Contemporary Asia, agrees. In an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta, he said: "China has major economic interests in the Middle East. These include oil imports and promoting its investments. Therefore, China is seeking a peaceful solution, as the military conflict harms Beijing. And there is a political aspect, too: China views itself as the leader of the Global South <…>, while the United States, the self-proclaimed leader of the free world, backs Israel, and is China's natural rival," he said. While China maintains a good relationship with Israel, Arab countries carry much more weight in Beijing’s eyes, than Israel, Lukin added.


Izvestia: Will Finland close its border with Russia?

On Monday morning, the Finnish Interior Ministry told Izvestia that it was not aware if all the checkpoints on its border with Russia would be closed. The Finnish embassy to Russia also said it was unaware of the latest goings on.

The IltaLehti newspaper reported earlier that Helsinki is ready to close all border crossings with Russia starting on Wednesday. The corresponding decision should have been made on Monday. Finland’s border service refused to comment on the potential closure of the remaining checkpoints later this week, while saying that more than 600 people have sought asylum this year.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Glushko said that Finland potentially shuttering its border with Russia would run counter to the Nordic country’s national interests. The Russian Foreign Ministry underlined that the decision to close border crossings was a further attempt to aggravate relations with Russia as it violates the rights and interests of tens of thousands citizens in the two countries, too. While it said that no discussions whatsoever have taken place with Russia, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on November 20 that his government had discussed the situation with Moscow via diplomatic channels but that the negotiations had not yielded any results.

Meanwhile, Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told Helsingin Sanomat that the closure of four checkpoints had brought the desired result and that Helsinki would introduce more measures for better security on its border. In addition, she said, Finland has already requested more funds from the European Union Agency, or Frontex, to enhance security in the east.

The European Parliament believes that the move to close the border is Finland’s response to the bloc’s ineffective migration policies. Finland, Denmark and the majority of Eastern European nations oppose the open-door policy being pursued by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, German MEP Gunnar Beck told Izvestia. "In fact, the only reason why Brussels has not criticized Helsinki’s decision is that it too is closing its border with Russia, while the EU is seeking to blame Moscow for certain migration problems. Otherwise, the EU would be very critical of Finland," he added.

Roman Plyusnin, research fellow of the Center for Nordic Studies of the Institute of Europe at the Russian Academy of Sciences, says Finland is intentionally ruining its relations with Russia. "The Finnish government does not act in the interests of its country. They do not pursue the goal of improving relations with Russia," he told Izvestia. The expert expects Finland, just like the Baltic states and Poland, to take as many negative steps against Russia as possible, as he says banning Russian vessels from passing the Finnish Strait jointly with Estonia or revisiting the status of the Aland Islands as a demilitarized zone could be the next step.


Vedomosti: Russia may up coal exports to China by 50% in 2023

This year, Russia will export a total of 100 mln metric tons to 102 mln metric tons to China, said Department Director of the Russian Energy Ministry Pyotr Bobylev. According to him, last year 67 mln metric tons of coal were exported to China, which will represent a 49% to 52% increase year on year.

According to Bobylev, in the first nine months of 2023, Russi exported 76.5 mln metric tons of coal to China. Over that period, Russian coal exports to India amounted to 21.3 mln metric tons against 20 mln metric tons in the whole of 2022, according to the Energy Ministry. The ministry expects to fix the 100 mln metric ton figure in an intergovernmental contract with China, the official added.

According to Boris Krasnozhenov, head of securities market analytics at Alfa-Bank, China currently imports a mere 5% to 6% of its total domestic consumption, a total of 4 bln metric tons per year. Russian coal exports to China will depend on railway capacities and infrastructure in ports. Yevgeny Grachev, an analyst at Gazprombank, says the cost of fuel on alternative markets and potential transportation of coal products to ports in western Russia will also affect the volume of exports.

Finam analyst Alexey Kalachev says an intergovernmental agreement between Russia and China could guarantee stable supplies, as China is seeking to diversify its imports, while export volumes may vary from month to month, depending on their conditions. Kirill Rodionov, an expert with the Fuels and Energy Technology Development Institute, adds that the Russian Energy Ministry’s ambitions to fix the amount of coal exports to China in an intergovernmental agreement are associated with the risk of the geography of the export of Russian coal, both thermal and metallurgical, narrowing further.

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