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Press review: G7 pushes EU to tap Russian assets and BRICS sends strong message to West

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, June 11th

MOSCOW, June 11. /TASS/. G7 leaders push the EU on Russian frozen assets; BRICS top diplomats send a message to the West ahead of Burgenstock conference; and Iranian presidential election has six candidates running. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Kommersant: G7 pushing EU to war of assets with Russia

The G7 summit set to be held at Borgo Egnazia, in Italy’s Apulia, from June 13 to 15 will be an attempt on the part of the group of the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan to go beyond the boundaries of the elite club of Western democracies behind closed doors. Apart from Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, the leaders of India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Algeria, Kenya and Mauritius are also expected to attend.

Guests of the summit will witness a geopolitical drama unfold as the G7 leaders will try to sign off on a decision to use dividends from frozen Russian assets for military purposes in Ukraine. For a number of reasons, this decision may be the toughest one the West has faced since it began its sanctions war against Russia.

While the West agrees that pressure on Russia must be intensified, the proposal to give $50 bln in loans for Kiev by using interest from immobilized Russian assets does not have Washington’s European partners enthused.

Speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova explained what measures Moscow could take in response. "Obviously, we will respond appropriately to such moves, as we always do. For we have a range of political and economic measures that we can use against anyone who tries to seize Russian reserves," she warned.

Andrey Kortunov, research director at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), told Kommersant that the decision to use interest from Russian assets has a number of potential costs in terms of politics, the economy and credibility. He laid out four points. "Firstly, the G7 has no jurisdiction over EU decisions, and there may be dissenters among its 27 member countries, meaning that there will be no consensus on this issue within the EU. Secondly, Europe risks harsh countermeasures from Moscow, including moves to seize European property. Thirdly, showing readiness to breach international law will create a precedent that may undermine trust in European institutions, as it will be impossible to explain to other countries that Russia is an exception and that similar methods will not be used against India, Turkey, or any third country one day," Kortunov said. "And finally, fourthly, such a step, if it is ever taken, will pave the way for the destruction of the global financial system on which the Western power was built, while the implementation of the plan will not in any way affect the Russian special military operation," he concluded.


Izvestia: BRICS foreign ministers send signal to West

On Monday, a two-day BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting kicked off in Nizhny Novgorod. The grouping gathered for its first high-level meeting since its latest expansion in January 2024. Also on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, and a number of other bilateral meetings, including between the top diplomats of Russia and Brazil, were held.

Professor at the Department of Public Administration and Public Policy at RANEPA Alexander Savchenko told Izvestia he expects no sensations at the event that he said would show steady and balanced work that will yield lasting results. "If you take things in three-year chunks, you can see that strategic progress is underway and that the situation is changing. BRICS has expanded in the past three years, and in the next three years, the expanded grouping will set up a viable framework in which its member countries will actually work," he said.

On June 11, a broader meeting involving, apart from BRICS top diplomats, delegates from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), ASEAN, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, or IORA, the African Union and the Arab League, will take place.

Given such a large representation, the BRICS foreign ministers’ meeting will discuss the conference on Ukraine coming at Switzerland’s Burgenstock this weekend, too. "The conference comes after SPIEF, which focused on multipolarity. And the BRICS meeting itself sends a message ahead of the conference. As we can see, the grouping did not actually support the Swiss conference," Alexey Maslov, director of Moscow State University’s Institute of Asian and African Studies told Izvestia.

China and Brazil, for one, presented their peace plan on Ukraine, which was met with criticism in Kiev and NATO. Unlike its BRICS allies, India will participate in the summit, but it has been cautious toward all Ukrainian proposals, Maslov emphasized. To New Delhi, the Burgenstock event is seen as an opportunity to strengthen its global posture amid competition from China in the Asian region, he said.

The BRICS’ foreign ministers formulated a joint statement following their meeting on Monday. In particular, they emphasized the need to use national currencies in mutual settlements within the grouping more broadly, as they expressed their support for a comprehensive reform at the United Nations, including its Security Council, and welcomed mediation toward resolving the Ukraine crisis. "They [the BRICS foreign ministers] conveyed their satisfaction with proposals toward mediatory and good services aimed at resolving the conflict through dialogue and diplomacy," the statement reads.


Vedomosti: Six candidates to vie for Iranian president

The election headquarters at the Iranian Interior Ministry has cleared six out of 20 candidates to run in the country’s presidential election on June 28 following the death of the Islamic republic’s leader Ebrahim Raisi last month. On June 9, the spokesman for the election headquarters, Mohsen Eslami, announced the six names live on state-run IRIB television. There are no clear frontrunners like Raisi was in the 2021 election among them though, experts say.

Conservative politicians among the candidates include the Supreme Leader’s Representative to the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani and Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi who serves as the head of the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs. "Ghalibaf and Jalili have a good chance of winning the election as they ran in the 2013 vote, were nominated in 2021, but the conservatives bet on Raisi," says Yelena Dunaeva, a senior researcher at the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies. Ghalibaf positions himself as neoconservative leader, while Jalili is an ultraconservative, she added.

Another candidate, former Iranian Minister of Health and Medical Education and legislator, practicing heart surgeon Masoud Pezeshkian, is a reformist politician who has represented the capital of East Azerbaijan, Tabriz, in the Majlis (parliament) for two decades now, Dunayeva explains. Pezeshkian is little known, and he was included in the list of candidates as a formality, as his chances are "close to zero," another expert in Iran, Nikita Smagin, told Vedomosti.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi who has served as Iranian interior and justice minister is also running. A centrist and up and coming politician, a talented orator, he stands no chance of winning on his own though, Dunayeva forecasts.

Smagin says the main competition will be between Ghalibaf, Zakani and Jalili as they are all seasoned politicians with election experience. "And Ghalibaf will most likely come out on top as the most recognizable candidate," Smagin said.

The presidential election will be Iran’s second major vote this year. In early March, parliamentary elections were held in the country in which conservatives won in all provinces, including Tehran. However, the voter turnout was a record low 41%, or 25 mln people. Due to an apathetic electorate, another anti-record may be set, Smagin said.


Izvestia: US races to support Armenian PM amid protests

Amid ongoing protests in Yerevan, James O’Brien, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, is traveling to the Armenian capital for a three-day visit. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan is feeling the heat from street protests, with thousands of protesters rallying across the country, some of them even camping out in front of the parliament building.

Supporters of the Tavush for the Homeland movement led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan marched on Yerevan in early May and they have been rallying against the move to delimit the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan since May 9.

"Today, the protests have a charismatic leader, and protesters are backing the protest movement, not Pashinyan. Even as he has enough administrative resources, he will not be able to bring all these people over to his side," political analyst Grant Mikaelyan told Izvestia.

Still, Alexey Martynov, director of the International Institute of the Newly Established States, argues, despite the scale of the protests, they stand little chance of pushing the current government to resign.

On Monday, the Council of the Armenian parliament turned down the opposition’s demand to convene an extraordinary meeting on June 11 to discuss a potential government resignation.

O’Brien is expected to discuss bilateral cooperation and efforts toward a peace agreement between Yerevan and Baku. He will also meet with high-profile Armenian officials, business leaders and civil activists, the US Department of State said in a press release.

"Pashinyan is solving the geopolitical issues that matter to the United States, namely reducing the presence of Russia and Iran in South Caucasus, with ceding Karabakh as a provisional stage before Turkey may increase its posture in Central Asia," Mikaelyan told Izvestia.

"The Armenian leadership is realigning its foreign policy course so that the West could become its major counterparty. The United States cannot ignore this, as quite a number of opportunities opens up for it here, including competing with Russia for a role in Transcaucasia or preventing other players from getting this role," Sergey Mikhailov, a leading expert at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, explained.


Kommersant: Russian LNG exports see 3.8% rise in January-May

Russian LNG exports increased 3.8% year-on-year to 14.47 mln metric tons in the first five months of 2024, Kommersant has learned. In May alone, the volume rose by the same amount, to 2.8 mln metric tons. Novatek’s Yamal LNG plant has begun operating four new conventional oil tankers, North Air, North Mountain, North Sky, and North Way, for LNG transshipments in Europe and Asia. Analysts say these tankers may back up Russia’s second-largest natural gas producer’s project if a ban on LNG transshipment in EU ports is imposed as part of the 14th package of sanctions currently being discussed.

Since hostilities broke out in Ukraine, the global LNG market tightened as Europe needed more LNG to replace Russian pipeline natural gas. While the United States and the EU have not yet imposed a ban on Russian pipeline or liquified natural gas supplies, pressure on the Russian LNG industry has gradually increased. Novatek’s Arctic LNG-2 plant was added to the SDN list, and the possibility of imposing a ban on the transshipment of Russian LNG in European ports is being weighed. This may primarily hit Novatek’s flagship Yamal LNG project, with substantial LNG volumes being reloaded in France’s Montoir and Belgium’s Zeebrugge.

Independent expert Alexander Sobko says if the transshipment is ever banned, the transshipment point may move eastward to Murmansk, which would mean a longer transport distance to sales markets. "In all, all the sanctions and route extensions lead to, other things being equal, a growing shortage of tankers. Therefore, prices on the spot market for freight rise as a result, so its own gas carriers with a fixed freight price will come in handy for Novatek," he adds.

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