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NATO ramps up drills in Ukraine, Georgia and Russia to monitor carbon online! Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, July 26th

Posted on July 27 2021, 03:54am

NATO ramps up drills in Ukraine, Georgia and Russia to monitor carbon online! Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, July 26th
NATO ramps up drills in Ukraine, Georgia and Russia to monitor carbon online! Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, July 26th

Moscow: The successful construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline helps Europe ensure a stable energy supply, and it helps Russia lower transit costs, experts surveyed by Izvestia note, adding that this major project will serve as an important step for European states to achieve carbon neutrality. The launch of the new pipeline does not mean that gas transit to Europe via other routes will cease, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller said. He noted that Gazprom is ready to prolong the transit deal through Ukraine beyond 2024 and even scale up deliveries. This decision will depend on the pipeline’s economic feasibility and the condition in the country, Miller stated.

Gazprom has always seen Nord Stream 2 as an economic project, Miller said earlier. He added that another important goal of the project is to adhere to all the necessary modern environmental requirements. The head of the Russian gas giant stated that Nord Stream 2’s carbon footprint is 5.6 times lower than that of the Ukrainian route.

Leading analyst at the National Energy Security Fund Igor Yushkov agreed with Miller’s outlook. "Considering that the Europeans plan to introduce a carbon tax, the possibility of transporting gas with a lower carbon footprint through Nord Stream 2 is becoming more important. The distance is lower, there is less energy spent on transit and less gas burnt to ensure the functioning of gas compressor stations, which means that the carbon footprint is smaller," Yushkov explained.

For his part, Deputy General Director of Russia's National Energy Security Fund Alexey Grivach noted that Nord Stream 2 is an environmentally friendly project considering the available technology. Thanks to a shorter route than the Ukrainian corridor and new, more effective equipment, the emissions will be half that during transit transportation to the EU and about 75% lower than during transportation of US LPG to European markets, he told Izvestia.

The expert reminded that the "old Europe" represented by Germany, France, Austria and the Netherlands did not just approve Nord Stream 2, they were among the project’s initiators.

"Major European energy companies, including the ones with active state participation, poured billions of euro into it. The country’s governments were forced to maneuver due to US opposition in order to strengthen their position during the talks with Russia, but at the end of it all, they managed to protect the project," Grivach concluded.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US, NATO scaling up activity in Ukraine and Georgia
NATO is gradually scaling up activity in the post-Soviet space, with its active stage of the Three Swords 2021 military exercises underway in Ukraine’s Lvov Region with the participation of Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian and US forces. On Monday, the Agile Spirit 2021 drills are starting in Georgia, which will involve about 2,500 troops from 15 NATO states and partners (Ukraine and Azerbaijan), Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports. Like before, these drills are of an anti-Russian nature, the newspaper pointed out, with provocative statements aimed at Moscow heard from some NATO officials.

"As far as I know, Poland will purchase America’s Abrams tanks for protection against the "Russian threat" to the tune of $6 bln. About 1,000 tanks can be purchased with this money. That is, an entire army (four divisions) of American tanks will appear near the borders of Russia and Belarus. Tanks are mainly an offensive means. This means that Warsaw has aggressive plans regarding its eastern neighbors," military expert Nikolai Shulgin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He noted that according to Western media, works on deploying the Aegis Ashore systems to the tune of over $180 mln had begun in Poland’s Reznikowo. "This will be the second US missile base in Europe after the Deveselu base in Romania was established in 2015." Russia thinks that Tomahawk cruise missiles can be launched from the Aegis ground launch systems located in Poland and Romania, which can destroy targets deep in the country. This is a factor of concern as well, the expert said. "Warsaw is clearly provoking Moscow to respond. At the same time, not only are the Poles trying to strengthen their defense, they are helping their allies in the post-Soviet space," Shulgin stressed.

Polish troops are set to take part in a joint airborne operation during the Agile Spirit 2021 drills together with their US, English and Georgian colleagues at one of the bases in Georgia.

Russia cannot ignore such challenges, the newspaper points out, adding that the Russian military on the border with Georgia and at Russian bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are on standby, taking part in maneuvers and drills. The joint strategic drills of the Union State (Russia and Belarus) "Zapad-2021" can be considered a response to NATO as well. Media reports say that Russian troops and equipment are already being deployed to Belarus within the framework of the upcoming exercises planned for September.

Kommersant: Investors exiting Russian stocks
Last week, foreign investors pulled out the largest sum in the past nine months from Russian stocks. According to Emerging Portfolio Fund Research (EPFR), non-residents withdrew $85 mln through country and global funds, Kommersant informs, adding that global investors are selling Russian securities amid decreasing oil prices and the overall drop in the global risk appetite.

According to Kommersant’s estimations premised on reports of Bank of America and BCS Global Markets, which include data from the EPFR, the overall volume of foreign investment withdrawn from the Russian stock market in the week ending July 21 reached $84 mln, which is a third more than the previous week’s figures. This is a record outflow not since October 2020, when it surpassed $140 mln. In November, after Joe Biden won the US presidential election race, the inflow of investments into Russian stocks resumed and reached nearly $3.7 bln in eight months.

Unlike the previous week, this time, the lion’s share of the outflow fell on the Russian market. They lost $102 mln in a week, five times more than the week before. Two weeks before that, another record for this year was set, when the funds lost over $150 mln.

Recently, investors had been fixing positions on shares of cyclical industries (the Russian market is largely represented by them) as COVID-19 figures had been going up, Aleksei Potapov, head of Portfolio Management at UFG Wealth Management told the paper. The COVID case rate is on the rise in several states, with figures several times higher than the June numbers recorded in the US, the UK and France. "The sale of Russian stock is due to the general "no-risk" attitude on global markets," Vitaly Isakov, investment manager at Otkrytie, noted.

Over the coming weeks, the influx of investment into Russian stocks can resume, experts suggest. According to Potapov, the Russian market will attract investors for the medium-term after this wave of withdrawals. "The money will be invested in the stock of cyclical industry companies dominating on the Russian market," he told Kommersant. "We maintain a positive outlook on Russian stocks taking into account the reflation and the high prices on commodity markets," Tatyana Simonova, head of the investment consulting department at General Invest, told the paper, adding that these factors lead to a re-estimation of financial figures, high dividends and relatively low company scores.

Izvestia: Russian researchers offer way of tracking COVID mutations faster
Researchers with the Central Research Institute of Epidemiology of the Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing have offered a fast and cheap way of controlling coronavirus mutations, Izvestia reports. Specialists offer not to decode the entire genome of the virus, like it is done now, but to analyze just a part of it whose mutations affect important viral properties. This approach can lower research costs by 90% and double the speed of the research. The fast monitoring of the situation will allow specialists to detect the viral strain prevalent on a certain territory quicker and choose the most effective way of counteracting it.

"The method of target sequencing of separate fragments of the S-protein gene helps lower the costs for preparing and decoding the sample by about 10 times compared to the full genome analysis of the coronavirus," said Kamil Khafizov, one of the authors of the research and an expert with the center when speaking to Izvestia. "Research speed doubles as well, specifically due to the fact that this method leads to fewer defects of biological material, that is, a larger share of samples undergoes all research stages and manages to receive the genome sequence itself."

According to Director of Kazan Federal University’s Research Clinical Center for Precision and Regenerative Medicine Albert Rizvanov, the method proposed by the center can be useful both in research and healthcare. The PCR tests used in labs right now can only detect the presence or the lack of the coronavirus, without providing any data regarding its strain. The proposed method can be used to decode the genome in the S-protein, which is important to estimate the virus’ contagiousness. This approach is more informative than the standard PCR tests but cheaper than full genome sequencing, the expert noted.

The number of coronavirus mutations continues to rise, the newspaper pointed out, adding that the method of partial genome sequencing can help document their spread and the necessary measures that need to be taken to counteract the pandemic, so it can become popular among specialists.

Vedomosti: Russia plans to establish online CO2 emissions monitoring system
The Market Council association is developing a project focused on online monitoring of CO2 emissions by energy companies, chairman of the association’s board Maxim Bystrov said in an interview with Vedomosti.

When asked about the potential risks of carbon regulations that Russian energy companies face, he pointed out: "Considering the comparatively low carbon intensity of the Russian electric power industry, the introduction of carbon regulations can hardly be considered a risk to the industry on the whole. However, another thing is that in the past couple of years, the climate agenda has intensified, and there are fewer and fewer people indifferent to the negative impact on the climate. So, we not only do we need to think about the development of renewable energy sources, we need to think about increasing the efficiency and reducing the carbon intensity of traditional generation. In order to do that, we need to see the existing trends.

"In a number of European states, the volume of CO2 emissions by energy companies can now be monitored online. <…> We want to create a system like this in Russia. We are now concluding work on the methods that will be used, and we plan to present a project that will help track the shifts in balance and the country’s trend towards lowering CO2 emissions in the energy sphere," he explained.

The need to establish such a system in Russia can be explained by the special focus placed on the climate agenda, Bystrov told the paper. He added that an online CO2 emission monitoring system is already active in France.

Worldnews24 is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

NATO ramps up drills in Ukraine, Georgia and Russia to monitor carbon online! Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, July 26th

In the coming months, Russia and the Central Asian republics will hold a series of joint exercises on the Afghan border. Russia will be represented by motorized infantry and mountain units, air mobile units, special purpose squadrons, aviation and artillery, as well as air defense forces. At the upcoming maneuvers, the troops will practice eliminating illegal armed units as well as countering destabilization attempts in the republics. According to experts, in modern conditions, the troops should be ready to repel an incursion of extremists from Afghanistan, Izvestia writes.

"The threat in the region is very pressing now since the situation in Afghanistan is spiraling out of control," military expert Vladislav Shurygin told the newspaper. "Despite the established contacts with the Taliban (terror group outlawed in Russia), we should fully prepare military structures, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), for being ready to repel any threats from this direction. The announced series of drills is aimed at practicing cooperation between the SCO countries’ armed forces and all possible scenarios. The idea is to switch to a new level of combat readiness - not one where Afghanistan is under weak control of the US, but a situation when a de facto boiling volcano is nearby.

According to Shurygin, a possible Taliban incursion into the Central Asian republics is not the main threat. "The incursions of those units, which will be fleeing from them, are more dangerous," the expert explained. "They may try to survive on the territory of the Central Asian republics or hastily capture some areas and redeploy their permanent bases there. We need to practice maneuvers by forces and means, and skills to quickly redeploy additional groupings to the region."

Colonel Valeriy Yuryev, Chairman of the Central Council of the Paratroopers' Union of Russia, believes that the upcoming drills are first of all a demonstration of force. "They are aimed at showing that we have sufficient capabilities. The second task is to organize cooperation with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, if in fact the situation in the region critically deteriorates," he explained. The expert notes that although during the first year after the US troop pullout from Afghanistan an attack on the Central Asian republics from this country’s soil is unlikely, later extremists could try to test the borders for strength.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Biden seeks thaw in relations with China

US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is due to meet with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng in the city of Tianjin next week. The visit is expected to pave the way for talks between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Although the White House has branded China a key potential adversary, Biden believes that face-to-face contact will clarify on which issues the sides would find common ground and where it would not. According to experts, the Chinese and US leaders could meet either in a bilateral format or at a G20 conference. In any case, Sherman’s choice for testing the waters is not a coincidence: she is more a dove than a hawk on the issue of China.

Deputy Director for Scientific Work at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations Alexander Lomanov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that a Chinese-US summit is unlikely to take place soon. "First of all, there is no certainty that the G20 meeting in Rome will be face-to-face. Second, the sides have so far failed to find a new agenda," the expert said.

The first high-level meeting of the Biden administration and Beijing in Alaska this March, showed that Washington seeks the same authority and influence like 10 years ago, whereas China has survived the pandemic, becoming more self-confident. "Therefore, this will be a summit, where the sides can only outline problems, while it will be very difficult to solve them. No tangible results should be expected, except for the issue of climate and the fight against cyber crimes (if the Americans are ready for this)," Lomanov said. The old informal agreement, when the US respected the Communist Party’s rule in China, and Beijing, in its turn, did not try to dismantle the US-led world order, is not being observed anymore. Partially, the reason for this is what Donald Trump did, when he started energetically exerting pressure on China. "No matter what, it’s very difficult to return to the previous relationship," the expert said.

The expert’s conclusion was confirmed by a virtual meeting between the US and ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), where US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Beijing’s territorial claims in the South China Sea were illegal. Since the control over major sea routes and oil and gas resources is at stake, the prospect of easing the US-Chinese standoff is not on the horizon.

Izvestia: What awaits Ukraine in its gamble for a new long-term fuel transit deal

Moscow is ready for dialogue with Kiev on further gas transit. However, Chairman of the State Duma’s (lower house) Energy Committee Pavel Zavalny believes that these talks should be held on an equal basis and not from a position of force or through blackmail, which the Ukrainian leadership resorts to. Amid the imminent launch of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Ukraine has started demanding guarantees for further pumping of Russian fuel through its territory. In particular, it suggests signing a new contract with Russia for 15 years. Kiev expects some clarity on guarantees after the July 15 meeting between the German and US leaders.

Experts told Izvestia that Kiev’s demand to sign a new long-term contract could have a boomerang effect for Ukraine. "From my point of view, this is insolent, and this will backfire on Ukraine," said Deputy General Director of Russia's National Energy Security Fund Alexei Grivach. "Transit through Ukraine’s system is possible but only in the framework of trilateral commercial agreements. If there is insufficient demand for Russian natural gas in Europe, no one will use it and pay for transit through Ukraine. And if no artificial restrictions emerge, Ukrainian transit may be in demand also in case Nord Stream 2 is fully loaded," he noted.

According to the expert, the best solution for Kiev would be signing a contract with Moscow on the import of Russian gas. Otherwise, Ukrainians will keep paying extra money for purchasing it from European traders, Grivach pointed out. "However, I’m afraid that it will be hard to reach this format of cooperation."

Some German mass media outlets voiced an idea that Berlin could pay compensation to Kiev, should Ukraine cease to be a transit country. "In my view, there can be no talk about compensation payments from Germany to Ukraine, they should not be expected from German taxpayers," said Klaus Ernst, who chairs the Bundestag Committee on Economics and Energy. "It is absolutely unacceptable that Germany pursues its energy policy in order to meet Ukraine’s interests."

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko cracks down on Belarusian elite ahead of referendum

A new wave of searches and detentions has swept Belarus. Wednesday was a ‘rainy day’ for public organizations in the country. Experts believe that this is a response by the authorities to Europe’s sanctions and groundwork for a constitutional referendum. Human rights activists claim the major task in Belarus is to stamp out all dissidents.

"The key goal of the authorities is to eliminate the political, cultural and national counter-elite in Belarus. The elite that comes up with alternative ideas," political scientist Pavel Usov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He also shares the idea that President Alexander Lukashenko won’t stop here. "After destroying the elite, the authorities will start exerting pressure on the private community, which was a social basis for the revolutionary movement in Belarus," the expert said.

Political scientist Igor Tyshkevich believes that by cracking down on civil society, the authorities are getting ready for a referendum on the Constitution. "For the authorities it is very important to have only two options at the future referendum: an old Constitution by Lukashenko or a new Constitution by Lukashenko." In any case, the authorities will say: "people support the president." So, the goal is to prevent even the possibility of any other options. It is necessary to get rid of human rights activists so that nobody finds out about the repressions or possible protests, the expert noted.

However, given the current development of technologies it will be impossible to fully purge the media and discussion space. At the same time, Lukashenko’s opponents claim that the repressions won’t force Europe to cancel sanctions.

Ahead of the ‘black Wednesday,’ Lukashenko visited Russia and met with President Vladimir Putin. Many experts and activists see a direct link between these events. "I think there could be a connection between the internal repressions and the activity of Russia’s special services and security structures in Belarusian zone," Usov noted.

Kommersant: OPEC+ close to approving new terms

OPEC+ countries are getting closer to a compromise with the UAE that blocked agreements on new production levels. Abu Dhabi may receive a higher production baseline from April 2022 if the deal is extended until the end of next year. Initially, the OPEC+ members were inclined to increase production by 2 mln barrels a day (bpd) before the end of 2021 but the decision and the official meeting date have not yet been announced.

OPEC+ made progress at unofficial talks with the UAE on the terms for the second half of 2021 and 2022. According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia agreed to a higher baseline for the UAE of 3.65 mln bpd instead of 3.17 mln bpd after the effective agreement expires. Such a compromise is possible if all OPEC+ members concur on extending the deal until the end of next year, but this has not yet been announced. The UAE’s Energy Ministry did not comment on the agreements with Saudi Arabia but stressed that they have not yet been reached at the OPEC+ level.

The UAE is an important OPEC member and Riyadh thought it was easier to make concessions to partners rather than threaten the existence of the entire alliance, according to Fitch expert Dmitry Marinchenko. It is highly likely that other countries will follow suit.

According to Darya Kozlova of Vygon Consulting, the demand may grow by 2-3 mln bpd by the year’s end, thus OPEC+ members have to react to market demand, otherwise the deficit may grow to 4 mln bpd, which will affect prices and the post-crisis economic recovery. Anna Kishmariya of Aton points out that other countries may also ask to review their quotas. According to BCS World of Investments expert Igor Galaktionov, the most likely scenario with the UAE receiving a slightly lesser concession than it is bargaining for will not significantly influence oil prices. He noted that Russia could support the decision since it was one of the mediators at the talks.

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