Press review: West deals Belarus more sanctions and Russia halts ban on gasoline exports

Press review: West deals Belarus more sanctions and Russia halts ban on gasoline exports

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Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, August 10th

Izvestia: West tightens sanctions against Belarus one year after disputed reelection

Western countries need to sit down at the negotiating table with Belarus in order to prevent the outbreak of a third world war, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said during a meeting with the press and the public. On the anniversary of the elections that turned into protests, Lukashenko spent eight hours talking about relations with Russia and Ukraine, sanctions, and his resignation from office, Izvestia writes.

Despite its length, the conversation generally revolved around the same topics – the issues of the West, sovereignty, the anniversary of the elections, sanctions, Russia, and Ukraine. Lukashenko also unexpectedly advised stopping guessing when he would leave, and assured that this would happen “very soon”.

The United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada introduced sanctions against Belarus as the conversation was in progress. London and Ottawa imposed restrictions on imports of oil products and potash fertilizers, and on cooperation with Belarusian financial institutions. The US published a list of companies from Belarus that fell under the restrictions. Lukashenko responded that Western countries are trying to start a third world war. At the same time, according to him, Russia will place not only a base in the republic but all of its armed forces if necessary.

According to political scientist Azhdar Kurtov, Lukashenko will not take steps towards the West right now, since this will have no effect. The US, the UK, Canada, and the EU would perceive any rapprochement as a weakness of the country’s political leadership, the expert told Izvestia. However, this is not the first crisis in relations between Minsk and Western countries – and Lukashenko has managed to get out of such situations before, Kurtov noted.

Director of the Institute of Peacekeeping Initiatives and Conflictology Denis Denisov told Izvestia that the new sanctions certainly hit Belarus, but so far they allow it to maintain its economic development pace and the president’s position is stable. “If sanctions affect the social situation in the country, then it may affect the system’s stability. However, Russia may in one way or another compensate for the painful blow to its ally,” the expert said.

Kommersant: Yerevan expects more active support from CSTO in conflict with Azerbaijan

Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Stanislav Zas began his visit to Armenia on Monday, focusing on the de facto ongoing conflict with Azerbaijan, which at any moment may turn into a full-fledged crisis again. According to Kommersant, the goal of the military-political bloc supervised by Moscow is to ensure security in the region. However, Yerevan is dissatisfied with the current state of affairs and intends to increase the effectiveness of the CSTO during its chairmanship, which begins in September.

According to experts interviewed by Kommersant, the Armenian government will try to use its chairmanship in the CSTO in order to condemn Azerbaijan’s actions or, at least, to draw maximum attention to them. Meanwhile, experts believe that other members of the organization may not be happy about the excessive activity of the Armenian leadership.

Military expert David Arutyunov is convinced that Yerevan’s attempt to force the CSTO to work to resolve the conflict with Azerbaijan “is fraught with internal tension, if not a crisis within the CSTO” due to the close relations of a number of member countries of the organization with Baku, and the current priority of the Afghan issue.

Expert on the post-Soviet space Arkady Dubnov told Kommersant that Armenia’s attempts to make the organization more active in the military sphere “will not have any effect, since the CSTO was not initially geared towards solving problems in the region.”

Vedomosti: Russia postpones introducing ban on gasoline exports

Following a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, the Russian government decided not to introduce a ban on exports of gasoline just yet, sources told Vedomosti. Head of the Russian Fuel Union Evgeny Arkusha confirmed that the decision had been made. Another source told Vedomosti that oil companies were given time until September to stabilize the situation with wholesale gasoline prices.

Russian oil refineries have already significantly reduced exports in favor of supplies to the domestic market, Vedomosti writes. The government is trying to stabilize prices within the country against the backdrop of growing demand for gasoline during vacation periods, as well as the planned shutdown of refineries for repairs.

According to the Petromarket research group, the ban on gasoline exports may increase the volume of supply to the domestic market by 120,000-350,000 tonnes per month (4-11%), which would result in a decline in wholesale prices. But such a decline, according to General Director of Petromarket Ivan Khomutov, would negatively affect the profitability of Russian refineries with marginal losses amounting to around 30%.

Vice President of the Independent Fuel Union Dmitry Gusev called the measure to ban exports “an element of manual regulation” of the market. “It would help to temporarily remove the problem of rising wholesale prices for gasoline, but it will not solve it in the long term,” he said, adding that a global adjustment of the tax system is necessary.

Izvestia: Russian Paralympic team gets ready for Tokyo

One of the most compelling pieces of evidence of direct political interference in sport was the removal of the Russian Paralympic athletes from the 2016 Games, Vladimir Putin recalled during a meeting with members of the country’s Paralympic team, who are now undergoing final preparations for the upcoming competitions in Tokyo. Politicians and athletes interviewed by Izvestia believe that the current restrictions should not affect sporting results. According to experts, the Russian team may once again lead in the overall medal standings.

Russian Paralympians are also banned from competing under the flag of the Russian Federation. According to the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), these restrictions are valid until December 16, 2022. The athletes will also compete under the moniker of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) at the Winter Games in Beijing next year. Nevertheless, Minister of Sports Oleg Matytsin believes that nothing will prevent the Russian Paralympians from proving their leadership at the Games in Tokyo.

International sport has been thoroughly saturated with politics recently, State Duma deputy and Olympic speed skating champion Svetlana Zhurova told Izvestia. At the same time, boycotting international competitions cannot solve the situation, she said, adding that the only response to pressure would be winning at international competitions.

The chances of the Russian Paralympic team at the upcoming Games are very high, State Duma deputy Oleg Smolin, who previously served as vice president of the Russian Paralympic Committee said. “Paralympic sport is developing very successfully in Russia,” he told Izvestia.

Kommersant: Russian payment system Mir might be privatized

Russian authorities have begun discussions on privatizing the National Card Payment System (NSPK, operator of Mir cards), created to protect card payments in Russia from sanctions in 2014. Sources in the Finance Ministry and the financial market told Kommersant they are confident that the moment for privatization has come, and the company can expect a successful IPO. Sources in the Finance Ministry confirmed the information, noting that the concept is being developed.

“The market is discussing it with the Ministry of Finance,” one of the newspaper’s sources said. “There are two main ideas – to transfer 50% plus 1 share of the NSPK from the Bank of Russia to the government, and divide the rest between systemically important participants in the payment market,” the source said. However, the ministry prefers privatizing 100% of the company as part of an IPO.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Russia, which owns 100% of NSPK, “does not plan” on any changes in the shareholder structure of the system.

Experts believe that privatizing NSPK will remove the conflict of interest. “The Bank of Russia regulates the payment systems market and owns one of the players in this market,” Head of the Electronic Money Association Viktor Dostov noted.

“NSPK has already established itself in the market, and I believe that its privatization will have a positive effect on the further development and growth of the company’s business,” independent expert on the payment market Andrey Vylegzhanin told Kommersant.

The Radical Outlook is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews.


Copyright © Tass News Agency

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The Radical Outlook

The Radical Outlook is an online news web Portal designed for in-depth news analysis from the Eurasian region and beyond. It is Founded by a geopolitical analyst Shahzada Rahim.
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