Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, July 13th
Media: Unrest puts Cuban regime to the test
Unrest unseen in the past 26 years has taken place in Cuba as thousands of disgruntled citizens took to the streets. Some of them demanded the end of what they called “a dictatorship” but there were also others who carried symbols of support for the 1953 revolution. It’s not actually freedom that people lack but money, food and electricity. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the country’s problems by almost destroying the tourism industry, the key sector of Cuba’s economy. But still, there is no sign of a regime change, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
“There are several reasons for the protests, including the embargo imposed by the United States. The very model of socialism has proved to be ineffective though it’s hard to specify the government’s mistakes because it is even carrying out market reforms in order to attract investment,” Head of the Center for Ibero-American Studies at St. Petersburg State University Viktor Kheifets pointed out. According to him, the Cuban president has quite a strong support base. However, the expert did not rule out that the protests had emerged spontaneously and there had been no foreign interference. Nevertheless, the United States will try to capitalize on them.
Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that the protests were spontaneous but the external factor became one of the drivers behind them. According to Spanish political scientist Jose Antonio Egido, the Washington elite seeks to prevent a new anti-imperialist wave in Latin America, as demonstrated by the elections in Peru and Bolivia, the resistance shown by Nicaragua and Venezuela, and the electoral expectations in Brazil and Colombia. Political analyst Andres Serbin notes that the Cuban public’s hope that US President Joe Biden would promote normal relations with their country has faded. The current White House occupant moved to maintain economic pressure on Cuba and kept it on the state sponsors of terrorism list.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Beijing seeks to prevent terrorists from infiltrating Xinjiang from Afghanistan
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi intends to visit Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to discuss the consequences of the US troop pullout from Afghanistan and agree on ways to prevent chaos from spilling over into Central Asia. The central intrigue is a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting, which will, apart from Russia and China, also involve Pakistan, Beijing’s main regional ally. Since Islamabad is a sponsor of the Taliban (outlawed in Russia), experts wonder if Chinese diplomats will be able to take advantage of Pakistan’s assistance to make sure that the Taliban won’t obstruct efforts to create a new Silk Road, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
Yan Zheng, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says that Beijing’s policy is aimed at supporting Afghanistan instead of interfering in its domestic affairs. That allows China to act as a mediator and security guarantor for the entire region, and Beijing needs a stable Afghanistan to ensure its Road and Belt initiative, which includes the construction of roads, bridges and factories along the economic corridor leading from Xinjiang to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan. This is why Beijing maintains talks with the Taliban with the secret help of Pakistan. A thing to note is that, according to Indian sources, the Chinese are even paying the Taliban.
Vasily Kashin, a leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, pointed out that “Turkmenistan is a major gas exporter for China, and China, in turn, has become the most important arms provider for Turkmenistan.” “And now that Taliban units have reached Central Asia, security issues are taking central stage in bilateral relations. The same goes for Uzbekistan and Tajikistan,” the expert added.
As for the Xinjiang region, China engaged in dialogue with the Taliban with Pakistan’s assistance more than 20 years ago. “However, the Taliban is not a strictly integrated organization. If you make an agreement with one of its players, it doesn’t mean that the entire Taliban will abide by it. This is why China is reluctant to put all its eggs in one basket. Beijing has been and will continue providing assistance to Kabul as well. If the government falls, China will activate multilateral mechanisms, such as the SCO,” the expert explained.
Media: Moscow facilitates election win of Moldova’s pro-Western party
Moldovan President Maia Sandu is the one who actually won the parliamentary election that took place in the country on Sunday. The Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS), of which she is an informal leader, secured 63 out of 101 parliamentary seats. Leader of Moldova’s Social-Democratic Party Viktor Shelin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Moscow had in fact facilitated Sandu’s victory. Russia used to sympathize with Moldovan socialists but this time, it distanced itself from them and as a result, Moldova’s pro-Russian voters either did not participate in the election or cast their ballots for Sandu.
Political scientist and former Moldovan Ambassador to Russia Anatol Taranu believes that as far as relations with Moscow go, Chisinau’s main interest lies with the Transnistria region. “Russia has influence on the region, as well as on Russian-speakers who live in the government-controlled part of Moldova. Moldova and Russia have a basic agreement on friendship and cooperation and the new authorities won’t terminate it. Judging by Sandu’s careful remarks about Russia and Vladimir Putin, she intends to maintain contact with the Russian government,” he added.
Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations Dmitry Ofitserov-Belsky, in turn, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that “the party of socialists needs a change.” According to him, the country’s former President “Igor Dodon has done a lot to establish the party but it is the younger generation that will apparently assess its prospects for the next electoral cycle.” “The movement towards Romania is an objective process. Since 1991, Russia had been Moldova’s major trade partner, but Romania recently edged it out. However, Romania itself is not ready to unify with Moldova and Moldovan elites are wary of Bucharest,” the expert pointed out.
“Chisinau will perhaps take steps to improve relations with Transnistria. I don’t rule out that at first, an economic blockade will be imposed in order to force Tiraspol to make concessions but later, efforts will be launched to build ties,” the analyst emphasized.
Kommersant: Fifteen out of 32 eligible parties intend to participate in Russia’s parliamentary election
Monday was the last day for Russian political parties willing to take part in the September State Duma election to submit their papers to the Central Election Commission. Fifteen out of 32 eligible parties filed applications, out of which 14 parties have “the parliamentary privilege,” that is, the right to nominate candidates without collecting voter signatures. Experts are not surprised at the fact that less than half of the Russian political parties will participate in the election because those who have to collect signatures are realistic about their capabilities, Kommersant writes.
As for the parties that intend to run in the upcoming election, only three of them did not participate in the previous one. The Russian Party of Freedom and Justice, which used to be called the Communist Party of Social Justice, secured its “parliamentary privilege” after the 2016 vote, while the New People and the Green Alternative parties were created in early 2020 and gained the right to nominate candidates without collecting signatures through their successful performance at regional elections.
Political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov says that there is nothing unexpected about the list of parties planning to take part in the election. “On the whole, they realize that in fact, the requirement to collect signatures is a restrictive barrier so there is no use trying, particularly amid the coronavirus pandemic and expectations of administrative resistance,” he pointed out.
From a legal standpoint, there can be an unlimited number of parties but the number of those that can have any claims on the federal political level, or at least on the regional one, “is limited in any normal party system,” political analyst Boris Makarenko emphasized. “What bothers me more is that it’s been ten years since the party legislation was liberalized, but not a single party has emerged that is capable of joining the big league and entering the State Duma,” the expert noted. “The fact that only one party seeks election registration by way of collecting voter signatures makes it clear that parties are getting smarter. It is a tough barrier and they are apparently clear-eyed about their capabilities,” Makarenko said.
Izvestia: Russian government to boost unmanned transport projects
There are plans to spend over 800 bln rubles ($10.7 bln) on unmanned transport vehicles and related infrastructure by 2030, Izvestia writes, citing the Russian Transport Ministry’s draft federal project dubbed “The Infrastructure of Unmanned and Connected Transport Vehicles.”
The national government agency confirmed to the newspaper that a draft federal project’s passport was in the works with the aim of creating infrastructure facilities for unmanned vehicles in all sectors of transport. “As for initiatives related to the development of unmanned transport vehicles, a public-private partnership is viewed as a priority. That said, the assumption is that the government’s investment will be comparable to extrabudgetary funding,” a ministry official said.
The introduction of autonomous transport vehicles will have a major social and economic impact, Center for Strategic Research Vice President Tatyana Gorovaya pointed out. According to her, first, transportation costs will decline as a result of decreasing fuel and insurance costs. Second, the number of traffic accidents will go down and at the same time, the transportation industry will become more environmentally-friendly. Besides, the construction and maintenance of roads will become less expensive in the future.
It is the government that needs to foster infrastructure projects, particularly when a technology is new to the industry, Director of Corporate Ratings at the National Credit Ratings (NCR) Alexander Shurakov emphasized. And once a technology is established, it will become the basis for which private companies will boost the industry.
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