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Press review: New sanctions hit Russia ties and Trump’s '24 hour' peace vow mostly hot air

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, February 26th

MOSCOW, February 26. /TASS/. The European Union and the United States have introduced new sanctions packages that target both Russia and its trading partners; the US is worried that China may launch a military operation against Taiwan in 2024; and if he returns to the White House ex-US President Donald Trump may prove unable to resolve the Ukrainian conflict. These stories topped Monday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Media: Latest sanctions imposed by EU, US aimed at Russia’s partners, allies

The EU passed its 13th package of sanctions against Russia, while the US also imposed fresh restrictions. According to experts, the most stringent sanctions against Russia itself are already in place and so, now, the West is tightening sanctions against Moscow's allies and trading partners. However, analysts believe they will not have a major impact on export and import volumes.

The latest package of anti-Russian sanctions includes no sectoral restrictions as they are primarily personal, directed at specific companies and individuals. However, there is one factor that may make their impact particularly acute for Russia: they include secondary sanctions against companies that assist Russia in circumventing previously imposed sanctions, according to Alexey Zubez, director of the Center for Socioeconomic Research at the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. "Pressure on Russia's international allies is one of their remaining reserves, and it is a major tool. However, these regulations should not have a significant impact, but rather will boost the incentives to grow domestic production," the expert believes.

"This package of sanctions targets our partners in China, North Korea and other countries. This is the result of a method aimed at increasing secondary sanctions and it has already expressed itself in the financial sector, as well as payment and settlement instruments for the former Soviet republics and the Middle East," Nikita Maslennikov, chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Development's Finance and Economics Department, told the newspaper. However, the European Union faces a significant risk of worsening trade, economic and diplomatic relations, notably with China.

Meanwhile, the US announced another wave of penalties against more than 500 individuals and legal entities from Russia and third countries deemed by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to be so-called Specially Designated Nationals (SDN), who are subject to the most stringent level of US sanctions. According to Washington, these organizations and individuals are assisting Russia in securing future revenue flows from energy exports while also circumventing sanctions.

Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) General Director Ivan Timofeev told Vedomosti that the latest package of US sanctions is notable for its scope, as it places restrictions on more than 500 individuals and legal entities. "Everything is heading towards [a situation where] the European market will be much more dependent on US supplies than it is now," Timofeev said.

The sanctions list includes many officials, defense sector-related organizations, engineering firms and IT industry enterprises, as well as 26 individuals and legal entities from third countries. Alexander Isakov, head economist for Russia and the CIS at Bloomberg Economics, told Vedomosti that the imposed sanctions are unlikely to have a significant impact on Russia's overall exports and imports. "We expect that Russia's GDP will expand by about 1.5% in 2024. Russia's exports of products and services will fall from $465 bln to $430-440 bln as the average price and volume of oil production fall under the OPEC+ agreement," he said.

"The main thing, in my opinion, that the United States will try to ensure on its list is a psychological effect of volume. The EU and the United States almost always synchronize the introduction and the content of their sanctions," Pavel Sevostyanov, associate professor in the Department of Political Analysis and Socio-Psychological Processes at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.


Izvestia: Trump unlikely to attain resolution of Ukraine conflict despite '24 hour' pledge

If former US President Donald Trump succeeds in retaking the White House in the November election, it is not likely he would be able to resolve the Ukrainian conflict, American experts told Izvestia. The former chief executive has often said that he would be able to achieve an end to the hostilities "within 24 hours." However, this is doubtful given how the US political system has evolved, Izvestia writes.

Trump, the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party, has recently amped up his criticism of incumbent President Joe Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic Party nominee, despite doubts about his advanced age and mental acuity. Given the strong likelihood that the 2020 rivals will once again face off for the presidency this fall, Trump's words should be seen as nothing more than fiery campaign rhetoric, the newspaper writes.

Philip Brenner, professor emeritus of International Relations and History at American University in Washington, told Izvestia that Trump has no fundamental understanding of international politics. Even if he attempted to halt US backing for Ukraine, this would not end the crisis, he believes.

According to Jim Jatras, former foreign policy assistant to the Republican Party leadership in the US Senate, all of the existing political mechanisms would effectively prevent Trump from doing what he frequently asserts he would do. Even if Trump rolled out a reasonable plan to end the conflict, well-placed functionaries within the government structure would likely be able to block it, because the chief executive would not really have complete control of the government, he told Izvestia.

Cornell University professor Richard Bancel also believes that Trump would be unable to resolve the Ukrainian conflict. In his view, if elected to a second term the former president may be able to halt military support for Kiev, but Europe would undoubtedly oppose resolving the conflict on US conditions, he told the newspaper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US fears China may launch military operation against Taiwan in 2024

Wang Huning, a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee, met with top CCP members regarding the issue of Taiwan, where he stated that any attempts by Taipei to declare independence must be rejected and outside intervention must be blocked, while patriots seeking reunification to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China should be supported. In Washington and on the island, some are questioning whether this is all hyperbole, or if Beijing truly intends to seize Taiwan in time for the 75th anniversary, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Reuters and other Western news agencies see Wang's statement, as well as the conference itself, as proof that China is escalating pressure on Taiwan. Furthermore, a historic occasion is approaching as October 1 marks the 75th anniversary of the proclamation of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

"The situation around Taiwan had improved marginally following [Chinese President] Xi Jinping's meeting [in San Francisco] with US President Joe Biden last year, but it remains tense. As for Wang Huning, it is his job to speak out on this issue," Vasily Kashin, senior researcher at the Higher School of Economics, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

"His role includes making statements about Taiwan, hosting study sessions on the subject several times per year, and seeking participation from Taiwanese who sympathize with Beijing. On the other hand, China has frequently stated that the island will be reunified by 2024. So, nothing can be ruled out," the expert added.

Morris Chan, founder of Taiwanese chip manufacturing giant TSMC, and TSMC CEO Mark Liu, are likely to hold similar views. On Saturday, they attended the opening ceremony for their first semiconductor plant in Japan.

Taiwan is also expected to receive a slice of the $95 bln aid package that passed the US Senate but has stalled in the House of Representatives. The plan includes $1.9 bln to restock weaponry in Taiwan and $3.3 bln to supply American submarines to the island.


Izvestia: Russian businesses open 11,000 branches in friendly countries

Over the past two years, Russians have opened around 11,000 branches of their businesses in the most popular friendly nations for entrepreneurs: Serbia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, according to a survey conducted by Finion. These jurisdictions attract companies with tax breaks, a large Russian population, and the potential to enhance exports and expand operations, Izvestia writes.

"Russian businesses are thriving in friendly nations, despite occasional obstacles caused by bank and mutual settlement regulations. The primary economic sectors in which Russian corporations are creating branches include information technology, logistics and services," Finion Director Vyacheslav Kartamyshev told Izvestia.

He added that the more Russian businesses explore new markets, the stronger the economy will be. Trade turnover is increasing, while international business ties are rising, which represents an influx of currency into these countries. At the same time, companies continue to be Russian tax residents, resulting in increased budget revenues, the expert explained.

According to the survey, branches of 800 Russian companies were opened in the UAE in 2022-2023. Also, around 9,000 new companies were incorporated in Serbia by Russian citizens in 2022-2023. Finion stated that since 2022, Russian companies have opened on average 400 corporate branches in Armenia per year. Russian businesses are also expanding to Kyrgyzstan, where experts believe 450 branches have been opened to date.

Antonina Levashenko, head of the Russian Center for Competencies and Analysis of OECD Standards of the Presidential Academy, told the newspaper that Kyrgyzstan and Armenia are members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which simplifies customs procedures and business registration. In addition, according to Dmitry Zavyalov at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, a common background, a partially comparable mentality, and the fact that the residents speak Russian, also play a part.


Kommersant: Russia may use European standards on alternatives to App Store

Russia’s Digital Development Ministry (DDM) revived the notion of requiring Apple to allow installing software from third-party stores, which was first proposed a little more than a year ago. The measure will be introduced in the State Duma during the spring legislative session, Kommersant writes. According to analysts, Russian regulators have limited procedures in place to force Apple to comply with such rules, but the company generally continues to comply with decisions by Russian courts and regulators.

Digital Development Minister Maksut Shadayev told Kommersant that the DDM intends to present a bill during the State Duma's spring session that would require Apple to unlock its phones in order to allow installing software from third-party stores. Shadayev compared it to the Digital Markets Act (DMA) introduced by the European Union. According to the minister, the bill is currently being finalized based on input from the presidential administration.

The project was introduced in the context of the removal of the apps of Russian organizations under sanctions, primarily banks, from the Apple and Google mobile app stores. According to Kommersant, if the bill is passed and enacted into law, all mobile system owners, device manufacturers and store operators would be subject to the legislation, which would require them to ensure that all apps can be installed equally.

Flowwow CTO Dmitry Shesternin told Kommersant that regulations such as the DMA, if a similar law is approved in Russia, might make the work of sanctioned app publishers easier, "but without details, it is difficult to say how much easier or more difficult it would be for developers in general to work with Apple."

Alexey Minaev, an instructor at the Moscow Digital School, agrees that Russian regulators have few procedures in place to force Apple to comply with changing legislative requirements. "However, despite the suspension of sales in Russia, the corporation generally continues to comply with court and regulatory rulings and pay fines. As a result, the ministry’s initiative appears to be viable," he told the newspaper.

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