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Press review: Lavrov's China visit paves way for Putin and Israel, Hamas talk truce again

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, April 9th

MOSCOW, April 9. /TASS/. Russia’s top diplomat is on a trip to China ahead of a potential visit by President Vladimir Putin; Israel and Hamas continue efforts to achieve a ceasefire amid contradictory reports from the Cairo talks; and a wildcard emerges that may take votes away from both Joe Biden and Donald Trump in the upcoming US election. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: Lavrov's China visit sets stage for potential Putin trip

One of the possible goals of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to China is to work out a trip to the country by President Vladimir Putin, said experts interviewed by Vedomosti. The Moscow-Beijing agenda also covers bilateral cooperation and international security issues, including the Ukraine crisis and the situation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Russian-Chinese relations are as good as ever, Yana Leksyutina, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of China and Modern Asia, points out. Over the past year, the parties have been able to fine-tune the way they do business amid sanctions on Moscow.

Meanwhile, the two countries are trying to navigate a difficult political landscape as they try to boost economic ties, Sergey Lukonin, head of the Chinese economy and politics sector at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said. Payment difficulties created by the threat of secondary sanctions from the US against China’s financial industry remain the main problem. China does not want to further complicate relations with the European Union and the United States.

Leksyutina believes that although the US element has an effect on Russia-China relations, it’s not a decisive factor. The two countries are working to build closer ties based primarily on the high level of mutual trust achieved in past years. It’s about mutual respect for each other’s core interests, Leksyutina emphasized.

The expert did not rule out that preparations for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to China were among the goals of Lavrov’s trip. Putin may visit China in the second half of May, a source close to the Russian government and a source familiar with the paperwork for the visit told Vedomosti. If it happens, it would be the president’s first foreign trip since his inauguration.


Vedomosti: Israel, Hamas resume ceasefire talks

Israel and Hamas have made significant progress at their Gaza truce talks in Cairo, Egypt’s Al-Qahera news TV channel reported on April 8, citing high-ranking Egyptian officials. However, a Hamas official later declined to confirm this to Reuters. The talks, brokered by Egypt, the US and Qatar, resumed on April 7. On the same day, the Israeli military announced the withdrawal of most of its troops from Gaza, Vedomosti notes.

According to Al-Qahera News, the delegations of Israel and Hamas left Cairo on April 8 and will return in two days to agree on the terms of a final agreement.

The way things are now, Israel and Hamas are unlikely to come to a truce, Russian International Affairs Council expert Kirill Semenov said. According to him, at the moment, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current prerogative is to prolong the conflict, while preventing the situation in the region from escalating further. If a deal gets done, the opposition may accuse Netanyahu of going back on his word, putting him in jeopardy of being ousted as prime minister, Sergey Balmasov, senior expert at the Institute of the Middle East, pointed out. First, the Israeli army has not yet succeeded in its goal of destroying Hamas. Militants from the Palestinian movement are sure to seize the areas that Israeli forces leave so the Jewish state will continue to face pressure from the south. Second, most of the Israeli hostages remain captive.

"Given the situation, the Israeli prime minister is trying to toe the line set by the Americans. His expression of readiness for negotiations is a gesture of goodwill," Balmasov added.

Semenov notes that the Cairo dialogue was resumed because the US had put pressure on Tel Aviv following Israel’s April 1 airstrike on Damascus, which killed seven officers from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.


Izvestia: Independent RFK Jr. emerges as potential wildcard in US presidential race

The US Democratic Party has recently increased its criticism of independent presidential candidate Robert Francis Kennedy Jr. (RFK Jr.) as he is seen as a serious threat to incumbent President Joe Biden in the upcoming election. However, experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that RFK Jr. will not only take votes away from Biden but also from Republican contender Donald Trump.

Robert Francis Kennedy Jr., the nephew of 35th US President John F. Kennedy, and son of former Attorney General Robert Kennedy, said he would run for president as a Democratic candidate last April but six months later, he announced he would run as an independent. According to an opinion poll conducted by Quinnipiac University, 13% of voters are currently willing to cast their ballots in favor of RFK Jr. The independent candidate vows to put an end to the corporate greed that has infected the government and calls for dialogue with Russia, as well as for an end to US aid to Kiev.

Junior Research Fellow of the Center for North American Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) Anastasia Bunina points out that RFK Jr. appeals to Republican and Democratic voters alike. "The majority of his supporters are people with liberal views and a sense of righteousness but believe that the government is hiding something from them and should not be trusted. These people don’t fit into either of the two main camps," the expert said.

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), shares a similar view. "He may turn out to be quite a significant factor in the race because his presidential bid offers an option to those who want to vote neither for Biden nor Trump, unwilling to choose between two evils. He is providing swing voters with an opportunity to show how they feel about the current situation," the expert explained.

"This is a signal to the system that it needs to change; it’s a major factor. I wouldn't say that RFK Jr. really can win but he is definitely capable of playing a very important role in the race," Zhuravlyova concluded.


Izvestia: Lack of infrastructure stymies Canada's bid to supplant Russian gas in Europe

Canada has failed to replace Russia on the European gas market amid the EU’s policy to abandon Russian energy imports. The reason is that Canada lacks the necessary infrastructure, Izvestia writes.

After Europe announced plans to abandon Russian gas in 2022, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that his country would look into the feasibility of exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to European countries. In 2023, Canada started supplying gas to Germany but the overall export amount, 646.5 metric tons, or $146,000 worth, can be regarded as quite modest. This low number was due to the fact that Canada does not have the necessary infrastructure to become a reliable LNG supplier for Europe, an official at the Russian embassy in Ottawa told the newspaper.

"Canada currently has no operating terminals for liquefied natural gas. A terminal is under construction but it is located on the Pacific coast, not the Atlantic one, and even though it will soon go live, it is meant for exporting LNG to the Asia-Pacific region," Yelena Komkova, senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for US and Canadian Studies, noted. Besides, Canada is ultimately unable to compete with Russia as the country’s conventional gas reserves stand at 2.2 trillion cubic meters, while Russia has 50.5 trillion.

Meanwhile, the EU is in no hurry to abandon Russian gas, which continues to be supplied to the European market. The RePowerEU program includes a recommendation for EU member states to fully stop Russian gas imports by 2027. However, Alexander Frolov, deputy director general of the National Energy Institute, points out that the document is advisory in nature rather than a mandate. Some EU members, namely Hungary, have already signed contracts for additional Russian gas supplies. The expert also emphasizes that gas prices have stabilized to pre-crisis levels since the beginning of 2024 and Russian gas consumption has started to grow.

Back in 2022, statements about abandoning Russian gas imports only led to a sharp rise in energy prices and production costs. The EU blamed economic problems on Russia. Frolov is confident that such accusations stem from the EU’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for economic problems and the consequences of an energy crisis that will continue to affect the economy for years to come.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Sanctions push global diamond prices down

The price of cut diamonds has fallen by 17% in the past year, affected by sanctions and the production of synthetic gemstones, experts interviewed by Rossiyskaya Gazeta said.

Diamond prices have fallen because of sanctions, Russian Jewelers' Guild Association Acting Director General Vladimir Zboikov pointed out. "Geopolitical difficulties immediately created instability on the diamond market. Discussions of possible sanctions on Russian diamonds started two years ago but they were met with opposition from Western diamantaires who had a lot to lose," the expert explained. Russia profited only from diamond production, while Western diamantaires were also involved in cross-border resale chains and made four to five times more money than Russia on the country’s rough diamonds. Still, Western officials eventually imposed restrictions. They apply only to large diamonds, but it’s not the large gemstones but rather small ones that have dropped in price.

"Price trends on the diamond market depend on the balance between supply and demand. Excessive stocks were the reason behind the downward price trend last year, when major companies suspended almost all deliveries, trying to keep prices from collapsing," Yelena Voronkova, associate professor with at the Department of Public and Municipal Finance at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, said.

The booming synthetic diamond industry is another key factor pushing prices down. "The share of synthetic gemstones is growing, particularly with regard to smaller ones. They are really three to four times cheaper than natural diamonds but that doesn’t mean they will go to market at this price as their appearance is indistinguishable," Zboikov noted. Moreover, in his view, the price of large diamonds will only go up in the future.

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