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Press review: Putin comes out with peace plan and tough road ahead post-Ukraine summit

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, June 17th

MOSCOW, June 17. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin lays out his terms for peace in Ukraine; Swiss conference on Ukraine shows no quick resolution on horizon; and far-right’s win in France may poison Paris-Kiev ties. These stories topped Monday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: Putin puts forward his peace initiative

Russian President Vladimir Putin laid out his terms for a ceasefire with Ukraine at a meeting at the Russian Foreign Ministry on June 14. Russia will be ready to cease fire immediately if Ukraine withdraws its troops from Russia’s four new regions, with the new territorial layout being recognized in international treaties. In order for negotiations to begin, all sanctions against Russia must be lifted, and Kiev must forget about joining NATO, Putin said. Russia's previous effort to get a peace deal done with Ukraine failed in late March 2022, even though Russia pulled its troops from Kiev.

Putin’s latest peace demands are tougher than before, reflecting a new political landscape, Russian International Affairs Council Director General Ivan Timofeyev told Vedomosti. However, the Russian president’s plan looks quite fair to the expert, who reiterated that any future peace proposals would not be so nice. "While Moscow understands full well that Kiev will not accept these demands, a future peace plan may include even harsher terms if Russian troops show success on the battlefield," he concluded.

Corresponding member of the Academy of Military Sciences Sergey Sudakov agrees. According to him, the president’s demand concerning the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the four Russian regions was a signal to the United States and its military-political allies who support Kiev.

Political analyst Alexey Makarkin, however, argues that Putin’s message is to the Global South, not the West. The former likes the idea of a ceasefire within the current line of engagement. Russia would agree to put an end to the hostilities if "the situation on the ground" is recognized, the expert explained. "The Istanbul talks were about recognizing the two Donbass republics only, while now Moscow insists that the outcome of the 2022 referendum be recognized, too," he added.

As regards Putin’s demand concerning Ukraine’s accession to the North Atlantic Alliance, the bid to join NATO has been in the country’s Constitution since 2019, and in 2020, Kiev joined the bloc’s enhanced opportunity partner interoperability program, while last July the Ukraine-NATO Council was established to coordinate things. IMEMO RAS Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky told Vedomosti that the Verkhovna Rada, or Ukraine’s parliament, too, can make amendments to the Constitution for the country to stay out of NATO. "For Russia, the best scenario would be a public vote by Ukrainians, as this decision would be hard to reverse and would have to be respected by the West," he said.


Kommersant: Swiss conference on Ukraine shows conflict far from over

The Swiss-hosted peace conference initiated by Ukraine resulted in a communique signed by the majority of forum participants, with some notable exceptions. While the document includes three out of the ten points from Ukraine’s peace formula, it does not lay out any specific steps toward peace - those have yet to be formulated.

The document, which has been in the works since May, has been amended several times. It was signed by 79 out of the 92 countries present at the forum. Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Libya, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Thailand, the UAE, and Mauritius refused to sign the document, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs said on its website. While Mauritius was not on the list of attendees, a delegate from the island nation did take part. As regards the international organizations which attended the event, those of which Russia is not a member, namely the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament, signed the communique, while the OSCE, the United Nations and the Organization of American States refused to do so.

The fact that the document mentioned Ukraine’s territorial integrity was big for Kiev. Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky said at a news conference following the event that Ukraine would be ready to negotiate peace "as early as tomorrow," if Russia respects its territorial integrity. "The communique has some political weight as it solidifies Ukraine’s position, albeit quite vaguely. It's on paper now and they will refer to it later," Russian International Affairs Council Director General Ivan Timofeyev told Kommersant.

However, Ukraine’s stance in the communique clashes with Russia’s position formulated ahead of the summit by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Ukrainian leader and the governments who support him cite the UN Charter as per the country’s territorial integrity, while Putin refers to the UN Charter’s Purpose 1 stated in Article 1 which mentions self-determination of peoples. Moscow insists that the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as well as the Zaporozhye and Kherson regions exercised their right to self-determination as they proclaimed independence before joining Russia. And now, Russia demands the complete withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the four regions as a condition for starting peace talks.

Therefore, Ukraine and Russia are still far apart in their positions, leaving little hope for a quick resolution. They refuse to talk at this point, so we don't have a good idea about what else could be at play, political scientist Samuel Charap told Kommersant in an interview.


Izvestia: Far-right’s win in France may aggravate Paris-Kiev ties

Should the National Rally score a win in the coming parliamentary election in France, it may make support to Ukraine more challenging for Paris. Nevertheless, despite loud chatter from the party’s opponents, France will not see any wholesale changes in its foreign policy any time soon, said Karine Bechet-Golovko, doctor of public law and visiting professor at Moscow State University.

"The electorate is willing to vote against [French President Emmanuel] Macron. If the National Rally controls a majority of the seats in parliament, Jordan Bardella may become prime minister, but he is a pro-Ukrainian politician. While he supports Ukraine, he is against the war with Russia. This would benefit Moscow as he is a moderate globalist, unlike Macron, who is a radical one. This may slow down support for Ukraine," she explained.

If Bardella heads the Cabinet, the country will find itself in a situation where Macron would have to coexist with an opposition premier. And though the Fifth Republic has seen this before, the dynamic here would be a strange one, with Macron representing centrists and Bardella being a far-right politician, Alexey Chikhachev, a researcher at the MGIMO Laboratory of International Trends Analysis (LITRA), explained to Izvestia. "The only major difference between him [Bardella] and Macron is that the former is not willing to up the ante. While throughout 2024 Macron has been saying that France may send troops to Ukraine, such a scenario would be unacceptable for Bardella," the expert maintained.

Anyway, a potential win of the National Rally may signal weakening Western support to Kiev, something that the Ukrainian authorities seem to be aware of: addressing the Bundestag on June 11, the Ukrainian leader described as dangerous the pro-Russian rhetoric of far-right parties in Europe.

The Hungarian government led by Viktor Orban remains in staunch opposition to the war in Ukraine. According to the Hungarian premier, the EU election showed that those European governments who push their people to support the conflict have lost, as evidenced by the dissolution of the French parliament, the resignation of the Belgian government, and the German ruling party’s taking second place in the election.


Izvestia: Russian social media platforms Telegram, VK set to steal ad dollars from foreign competitors

Russian market players will start to siphon advertising dollars from their foreign rivals as early as by the end of this year. Social media platforms Telegram and VK, whose market share is growing rapidly, will continue to put pressure on YouTube, an industry study shows. In 2024, ad revenues may see a 33.5% increase to 42.5 bln rubles ($482 mln).

An optimistic scenario may see the influencer market growing further, propped up by increased interest from advertisers, and the platforms will continue to compete for the main audience, according to a joint study by the Association of Bloggers and Agencies and the eLama service seen by Izvestia.

The forecast for the next few years looks quite optimistic, with advertisers flocking to Russian social media, CEO of Pochva influencer agency Georgy Lapshakov says. "These social media build their infrastructure for various video content types, both horizontal and vertical," he explains. According to Lapshakov, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitalization and changed the behavior of consumers who have lately been buying more online, creating a new consumption pattern.

The expert sees a political aspect here, too. Foreign social media will be increasingly subject to certain restrictions and lose the trust of advertisers, he forecasts. This, too, could lead to more advertisers switching over to domestic social media, he adds.


Vedomosti: Manganese ore rises to four-year high

Since the start of 2024, spot prices for black iron ore have risen by 45% to $5.80 per metric ton as of June 14, data from the Shanghai Metals Market show. This mostly concerns South African ore in China’s port of Tianjin, or the international benchmark.

Global manganese prices spiked after Australia’s Gemco mine suspended production in March following a devastating tropical storm, analysts from Metals & Mining Intelligence (MMI) say.

The world’s top three producers are Australia, South Africa and Gabon, with Australian producers accounting for around 17% of global manganese ore supplies. And demand for the ore remains high in China and Europe, independent industry expert Leonid Khazanov told Vedomosti. According to him, the 45% rise in manganese ore prices this year may push Russian ferroalloy prices up by 20-30%.

And Russia totally relies on imports in its manganese ore consumption, the Industry and Trade Ministry said in its development strategy for the period until 2030. In 2021, Russia imported as much as 1.39 mln metric tons of this ore. Amid anti-Russian sanctions, there is a high risk of foreign supplies bein halted, the document reads. Vedomosti has sent inquires to the Ministry.

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