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Press review: Israel in dock again with new ICJ hearings and Lavrov on Latin American tour

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, February 20th

MOSCOW, February 20. /TASS/. Hearings in a new lawsuit before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will put Israel in the dock once again for its actions against the Palestinians; Russia’s top diplomat is on a three-country tour of Latin America; and Ukraine’s prime minister promises a Japanese-style "economic miracle" for the Ukrainian people. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: Hearings in new ICJ lawsuit put Israel in dock once again

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague has opened hearings against the Israeli government in a new lawsuit filed by the UN General Assembly over the occupation of Palestinian territories. Tel Aviv does not recognize the jurisdiction of the court, which can only hand down a non-binding advisory opinion.

The UN’s top court began considering a lawsuit on February 19 that challenges the legitimacy of Israel’s control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The hearings were initiated at the request of the UN General Assembly, which filed a motion asking the court to assess the legal consequences of Tel Aviv’s actions in the occupied territories since 1967. Representatives from 51 countries and three international organizations will testify in court and the hearings will continue until February 26.

At these hearings, the ICJ can merely present an advisory opinion on the issues outlined by the General Assembly, Sergey Glandin, a partner at the BGP law firm, explained. According to him, the judges will consider the legal consequences of the continued violation of Palestinians’ rights in the territories occupied by Israel. They will have to assess how this policy may impact the occupation’s legal status and what consequences may arise for UN member states due to the undefined status of this territory.

According to Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) expert Kirill Semyonov, the court hearings will not seriously impact Israel's resolve to extend its military operation into the south Gaza city of Rafah. He thinks that the only factor that could compel Tel Aviv to postpone or cancel its military operation would be if the US cuts off aid or imposes sanctions on Israel. "Yet [Washington] is hostage to Tel Aviv and [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu’s [war] cabinet," the expert added.

Lyudmila Samarskaya, a researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), concurs. In her opinion, the court’s decision will not entail any real consequences for Israel as the Jewish state does not recognize the ICJ’s jurisdiction over the West Bank and, in any case, views the court hearings as overly politicized. Diplomatic pressure may grow but Israel is guided primarily by security concerns and its own domestic political dynamics, with external factors taking a back seat here, the expert noted.


Vedomosti: Russia’s top diplomat kicks off Latin American tour with visit to Havana

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived on a working visit in Cuba on February 19. The visit entailed bilateral meetings with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla. According to a press release by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov’s agenda included talks covering a wide range of global and regional issues and various aspects of bilateral interaction, including trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian aspects of the Havana-Moscow relationship. The visit to Cuba is part of Lavrov’s Latin American tour, which will also bring him to Venezuela on February 20 and then Brazil, where he will take part in a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting on February 21-22.

Cuba remains one of Moscow’s most important geopolitical allies in the Western hemisphere and it presents many opportunities for Russia, said Viktor Heifetz, editor-in-chief of the journal Latin America. The expert explained that this involves several factors. Since Soviet times, a lot of Russian-made equipment, including military hardware, has remained on the island, which requires servicing. Oil production on an offshore shelf near the island’s coast is also of interest.

Additionally, Russia and Cuba can develop cooperation in the sphere of healthcare. "Cuba has one of the [world’s] most advanced healthcare systems and a developed pharmaceutical industry," Heifetz pointed out.

Finally, Cuba has considerable clout among many third-world countries that align with Havana on many foreign policy issues. Therefore, bolstering ties with Cuba may facilitate the development of Russia’s own relations with these countries.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukrainian premier promises population future economic 'pie in sky'

At a conference in Tokyo on Ukraine’s economic development and post-conflict recovery, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal promised to create a Ukrainian economic miracle based on Japan’s example and urged Japanese investors to become part of this process. Such effusive calls are directed merely at bringing in yet more financial aid packages for Kiev, experts pointed out.

Speaking about the Ukrainian government’s latest "miraculous" project, Igor Yushkov, an expert at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation and the National Energy Security Fund, suggested that it is all about an increasingly desperate Kiev regime shaking down donor countries for yet more funds. Currently, Ukrainian representatives are touring the world asking for handouts everywhere, using increasingly more creative arguments. "For example, at the recent Munich Security Conference they were trying to give Western countries a scare that if Russia wins in its military conflict with Ukraine, afterwards it would definitely seek to take over all of Europe for some reason. The Americans [in turn] are being promised a good deal, wherein Kiev would continue to hold Russia back at the price of the deaths of [countless] Ukrainian soldiers," the expert noted.

That said, he continued, in Tokyo, Ukrainian envoys vowed to replicate the post-World War II Japanese economic miracle in their country, insisting that there is a certain similarity between the two countries. Although it is clear that they have nothing in common because Japan has a different mindset and corporate culture as well as a culture of interaction between business circles and the government. Apparently, corruption does exist in Japan as well, but by its nature and scale it clearly differs from the type of widespread corruption seen in Ukraine. It seems that the only shared factor is that, much like Japan, which became an "unsinkable aircraft carrier" in the region for the US in the past, Ukraine is also currently perceived by Washington as a "frontline blocking unit." Which does not necessarily mean that the US will continue to aid Kiev with such largesse. As for Japan’s reaction, it has most likely allocated a new portion of support in order to confirm its standing as a member of the club of Western powers but without any real intention of shelling out any serious funds, the expert concluded.


Izvestia: Washington pressures US attendees to shun Russia’s upcoming World Youth Festival

The US delegation may cancel its participation in the World Youth Festival, which is slated to be held in Russia on March 1-7, due to pressure by US government authorities. The committee in charge of making preparations for the US delegation’s participation said that the visit by the Americans may have to be cancelled because three delegates have already been threatened with up to 15 years of incarceration, among other things, for their remarks against financing for Ukraine.

Vladimir Vasilyev, senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies, noted that such measures will be implemented increasingly more often on the eve of the US presidential election as an instrument of pressure on voters who do not share the White House and Democratic Party’s stance.

"I think that in the near future we will see other legal battles as well. There are elements of both denunciation and persecution, which may be of different nature, including potentially getting fired or getting in trouble over taxes. Here, it is not publicized much yet, nevertheless, this is common practice. For the Democrats, apparently, legal and police action, the use of repression, so far remain among the most important means of putting pressure on voters," the expert concluded.


Kommersant: Polymetal to receive $300 mln for its Russian assets

Mangazeya, owned by Russian businessman Sergey Yanchukov, has become one of the largest gold-mining companies in Russia by acquiring Polymetal’s Russian assets. The deal has been valued at $3.7 bln. Out of this amount, only $300 mln will be paid out in cash but Polymetal will write off $2.2 bln in debt on the books of its Russian division. As a result, Mangazeya will gain access to facilities for processing refractory ores while Polymetal will receive funds for pursuing development projects in Kazakhstan and will skirt sanctions risks.

In 2022, Mangazeya’s production amounted to 3.2 tons of gold, said Union of Russian Gold Producers Chairman Sergey Kashuba. The production of the acquired Russian assets of Polymetal totaled 38 tons.

"Mangazeya is operating in the Trans-Baikal region with total gold resources of 282 tons. It is developing gradually but at a serious annual rate. As far as I know, the company has been looking into refractory ores for a while. Polymetal’s executive team as well as the Amur Hydrometallurgical Plant and in the future, the Amur Hydrometallurgical Plant-2, will help it gain a foothold in this market," Kashuba noted. He explained that, according to agreements, Polymetal will continue to process the concentrate from Kazakhstan’s Kyzyl deposit at the Amur plant, which, together with Polymetal and Mangazeya’s deposits in Russia "allows to speak of the potentially high load on the Amur Hydrometallurgical Plant."

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