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Press review: Putin sets out future vision for Russia and Kiev spurns possibility of peace

Top stories from the Russian press on Friday, March 1st

MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. Putin presents a detailed development plan for Russia in his latest State of the Nation Address; Kiev once again rejects new peace negotiation proposals; and Armenia may exit the CSTO in favor of aligning with the European Union. These stories topped Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: Putin lays out detailed development plan, vision of Russia’s future before vote

Each presidential address to the Federal Assembly is, first and foremost, a glance into the future, President Vladimir Putin said during his annual State of the Nation Address to the Russian parliament. This year, he gave less attention than usual to key geopolitical issues, such as sanctions or the conflict with the West, focusing instead on a comprehensive long-term growth strategy for Russia that is centered around the well-being of society at large and fostering strong families, Vedomosti writes.

The president's development model is structured into several sweeping, interrelated themes. Vedomosti identifies seven such areas: an enhanced quality of life for the population at large; self-realization for each individual; financial and technical sovereignty; a globally competitive economy; regional development; an environmentally responsible country; and transportation connectivity. The president's stated priorities will be reflected in the national goals, a source familiar with the process of formulating them told Vedomosti. Discussions are still ongoing, the source said, but it is believed that the list may be expanded.

According to Bloomberg Economics' Alexander Isakov, spending beyond current budget expectations might total almost $1 trln each year until 2030.

Vladislav Onishchenko, general director of the Agency for Transformation and Economic Development, told Vedomosti that Putin's address to the Federal Assembly can be viewed as an election program, as he attempted to outline a comprehensive picture of the long-term development of the Russian economy over the next six years, or the entirety of the next presidential term. Putin's speeches in prior years were more akin to reactions to fast-changing situations, but this time the president made it plain that long-term economic patterns have been set and that the transformation processes that have appeared recently will continue in earnest, according to the expert.

Lyudmila Bogatyreva, head of the Polylog agency's digital solutions department, believes that digital platforms, particularly industry-specific ones, will make communicating with the government easier and more transparent. At the same time, the government faces numerous obstacles, she cautioned. "First, the active process of digitalization in all fields, as well as the rapid expansion of commercial services, place significant demands on how government services are offered, including client convenience, 24/7 availability, and speed of provision. Second, in recent years, concerns about the security of citizens' data and services have emerged," she told the newspaper.



Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kiev once again turns back on new peace negotiation initiatives

Head of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry's Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Kirill Budanov has once again spoken out against halting the conflict with Russia. At the same time, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated his willingness to provide a forum for negotiations between Russia and Ukraine. As well, Beijing announced that Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs Li Hui would visit Moscow, Kiev and a number of European capitals in early March to promote a peaceful settlement. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is expecting to host his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, in Kiev in March, along with receiving an explanation of the French president’s headline-making statement on the potential direct participation of troops from NATO member countries in the conflict, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

According to Kiev media outlets, Budanov emphatically put to rest the question of freezing the conflict in an interview with Canada’s CBC News. According to him, any such "freeze" would indicate Kiev’s consent to surrendering the territory now under Russian control. Thus, diametrically opposite processes will be moving forward in parallel next month, with one attempting to facilitate a peaceful settlement while the other is promoting a military escalation, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

According to Konstantin Zatulin, first deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots, the pro-war cause of former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains alive and well even after his departure from 10 Downing Street, but is now in the hands of his cross-Channel successor, Macron.

"Macron's statements regarding the potential deployment of the armed forces of NATO countries in the military conflict [in Ukraine] has frightened not Russia, but Europe itself, judging by the reactions of various [European] officials. But, at the same time, he gave the Ukrainian president a pass, which Zelensky took full advantage of to once again create a justification for calls to continue hostilities until victory is achieved. The Western public has ceased talking about the prospects of Russia's defeat, and is now consumed with the cause of preventing Moscow's victory. This, you see, indicates a change in the circumstances. And, at the same time, Zelensky is making statements that confirm that the presidential office is concerned about stopping the fighting because they understand that it will not bode well for them domestically. That is why Kiev is now clinging to Macron, as they once were to Johnson, as a means of persuading the Ukrainian people to endure some more and continue the battle, while support from overseas is supposedly on its way, and NATO is just around the corner," the lawmaker told the newspaper.

Under such circumstances, according Zatulin, Beijing and Ankara's proclaimed intentions to foster negotiations confirm their nations' willingness to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the difficult process of forging peace agreements, as well as their determination to contribute to this effort. However, it is apparent that they understand the positions of Ukraine and its Western sponsors on this matter, he added.


Vedomosti: Dialogue with US on strategic stability may prove impossible

Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in his State of the Nation Address to the Federal Assembly on February 29 that Moscow is willing to engage in a dialogue with Washington on strategic stability only as part of a comprehensive discussion that encompasses other security problems. This may prove impossible at the moment given that the US has set itself the objective of dealing a "strategic defeat" to Russia in Ukraine, Vedomosti writes. Putin also noted that Western accusations of Russia’s alleged plans to deploy nuclear weapons in space are "unfounded."

Putin believes that the White House is only willing to engage in talks on matters that benefit them, the newspaper writes. "If you want to discuss vital issues of security and stability that are important for the entire planet, then it is necessary to do this only in a single complex, touching on all those aspects that affect our national interests and directly affect the security of our country," he said.

According to Alexander Ermakov, military expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), Putin's words imply that no negotiations on strategic stability with the current White House will take place until after the US presidential election and, most likely, not before the hot phase of the Ukrainian crisis comes to an end.

Dmitry Stefanovich at the Center for International Security of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS) told Vedomosti that the United States must show its willingness to engage in a constructive dialogue in order to get negotiations started. At the same time, the expert added, the Russian leadership’s arguments about the need to highlight the most acute threats, such as nuclear weapons in space, in a separate negotiation track can be dismissed because of the connection of these threats to the actions of the US and its allies in Ukraine.

As for the placement of weapons in space, formally they are not there now, but there are no agreed-upon definitions on this matter. The military use of outer space did not begin yesterday, and it is one of the key elements of the modern approach to ensuring combat operations, the expert noted. According to Stefanovich, changes in this trend can hardly be expected, but at the same time, Russian measures to avoid space weaponization, or the direct deployment of strike weapons systems, are aimed at restricting confrontation in this area.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Armenia looks to European Union, says goodbye to CSTO

Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov, the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, respectively, held two-day consultations in Berlin, with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock serving as a mediator. She first met with each of them separately before beginning to negotiate a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the establishment of diplomatic relations. Baerbock believes that peace can be achieved between Azerbaijan and Armenia, while Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that his country had no plans to invade Armenia. However, Armenia continues to distrust its neighbor, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

While diplomats in Berlin sought to reach an agreement, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan proceeded to clarify Yerevan’s relationship with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Speaking in parliament, the Armenian head of government stressed that in 2021, he asked the military bloc what its area of responsibility was in his country. Since there has been no response, the Armenian authorities have frozen their membership in the CSTO and will formalize their decision legally if the situation does not change.

"Pashinyan's behavior is really provocative. He is attempting to provoke Moscow into making harsh diplomatic comments and other impolite actions in order to break off Armenian-Russian relations under this guise. Furthermore, Pashinyan would claim that he did not start the crisis," Vladimir Novikov, chairman of the Institute of CIS Countries' Caucasus Department, told the newspaper. "Most likely, Armenia's prime minister believes that the longer Russia’s military operation in Ukraine lasts, the more issues Russia will face and the less interest it will have in the South Caucasus. As a result, he is seeking additional security guarantors, which can only be Western countries that are unable to accept Yerevan without [the latter] severing [its] relations with Moscow," the expert added.

At the same time, Novikov noted that if Yerevan wants to suspend its participation in the CSTO, it must follow a specific legal procedure to do so. As a result, everything Pashinyan says in private has no legal ramifications. However, the expert believes that if Armenia is able to reach a peace treaty with Azerbaijan through one of the Western platforms, it will most certainly quit the CSTO.

"Many Armenians are dissatisfied with the military bloc's failure to protect them during difficult times, and Yerevan is nearing the end of its relationship with this organization," Vadim Mukhanov, head of the Caucasus division at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAS), told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "At the same time, there is no talk of breaking off relations with Russia, but overall Russian-Armenian relations are at an all-time low," he added.


Izvestia: Trump’s electoral path again in doubt after Illinois court bans him from primary

The US Supreme Court is likely to support former US President Donald Trump in a lawsuit originating in Colorado, where the former president was barred by a state court from participating in Colorado’s primary election. A similar judicial primary ban was issued in Maine, and another has now been handed down in Illinois. All states invoked the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits anyone who took part in an insurrection from holding public office, Izvestia writes. The Maine and Colorado primaries will be held on "Super Tuesday," March 5.

A court in Illinois ordered that the former occupant of the White House be removed from the ballot during the state’s primary election to select the Republican Party’s nominee for president of the United States. The Illinois court's ruling will take effect on March 1, thus giving Trump the opportunity to challenge it. His campaign headquarters has already stated that it will seek an appeal.

Cornell University professor Richard Bancel told Izvestia that by initiating the ban, Maine and Illinois are not only joining Colorado in the case before the Supreme Court, but also indicating their strong hostility to Trump's candidacy.

If the ban is deemed lawful, any state that considers Trump ineligible may prevent him from being on the ballot, according to Saeed Khan, a professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. He told Izvestia that this, however, does not imply that he would be barred from participating in those states that allow it. Although, if enough states reject him, Trump may not have enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination and, in the general election in November, may struggle to reach the requisite 270 electoral votes to win. If the court finds in Trump's favor, however, no more states will be able to remove him and his name will appear on all ballots.

The US Supreme Court is expected to reject all arguments for why Trump cannot serve as president, Izvestia writes. Its justices, both conservative and liberal, are concerned that individual states are implementing overly broad policies that could have a significant impact on the electoral process.

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