Press review: Moscow ready to talk but without Kiev 'formula' and Israel, Iran on warpath

MOSCOW:  Moscow may be prepared to negotiate with Ukraine, but not based on the 'Zelensky formula'; Israel and Iran may be close to ...

MOSCOW:  Moscow may be prepared to negotiate with Ukraine, but not based on the 'Zelensky formula'; Israel and Iran may be close to engaging in open conflict; and the United States is threatening foreign banks over their cooperation with Russia. These stories topped Friday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

Vedomosti: Moscow ready for negotiations with Ukraine, but not based on 'Zelensky formula'

Russia is ready for a dialogue on settling the Ukrainian crisis, but only if its vital interests are taken into account, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after a roundtable discussion on Ukraine on April 4 at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow. Ambassadors from more than 70 countries of the Global South and East took part in the discussion, the ministry said. In his speech, the top Russian diplomat supported calls made by his colleagues in attendance at the roundtable to the Western countries and Ukraine to refrain from discussing the crisis as it relates to Russia without Moscow’s participation, Vedomosti writes. At the same time, Russia is ready to discuss Ukraine’s security issues, but taking into account the new realities, Lavrov said.

The foreign minister also noted the efforts of other countries, in particular China, adding that to date Beijing has put forward the clearest, most reasonable plan for a settlement of the Ukraine conflict. According to Lavrov, however, the West is trying with all its might to impose the so-called "Zelensky formula."

A summit on the settlement of the Ukrainian conflict is being planned for summer 2024 to be hosted by Switzerland. Russia, as Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has made clear, will refuse to participate in this summit, even if it is invited. In turn, Chinese Ambassador Wang ShiTing did not rule out attending the event. However, Politico writes, citing sources, that if no Russian representatives are in attendance at the Switzerland summit, China may also boycott the event.

Lavrov's meeting with ambassadors of non-Western countries created the necessary informational background before the meeting in Switzerland, Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Research Director Andrey Kortunov told Vedomosti. The minister's clear message about his attitude to the "Zelensky formula" will prevent anyone from succumbing to the temptation to misinterpret the Russian position, he added. Ukraine, in a sense, has reached its limit, as its pool of supporting countries does not include the main players from the Global South, the expert added.

Kiev has begun to change its tactics against this background. While earlier it had insisted that all points of its plan be supported unquestionably, now Kiev is inviting other countries to pick and choose those that they are ready to endorse. And the main thing is to get as many countries as possible involved, even as they are trying to distance themselves from the conflict, Kortunov emphasized. However, it will not be possible to achieve peace through negotiations without Russia's participation and willingness to compromise, the expert believes.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: War between Israel, Iran exiting proxy mode, quickly becoming kinetic

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has begun to strengthen its air defense system amid the escalating situation in the region. The United States warned its key ally in the Middle East that Iran could authorize a direct attack on Israeli territory in retaliation for the Israeli air strikes on Tehran’s diplomatic compound in Damascus. In this situation, the IDF has begun calling up additional reservists and cancelled all leaves for members of deployed combat units, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Security sources told i24News that Lebanon may join in opening a front against Israel. They estimate that there is a high risk that some form of escalation will take place on April 5, the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

At the same time, calls are growing within Israel for early elections to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, amid renewed anti-government demonstrations. Political instability in Israel has traditionally been seen as a window of opportunity by its regional adversaries, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Thus, it is widely believed that in preparation for its October 7, 2023 attack on Israel, the armed wing of Gaza-based Palestinian movement Hamas relied on the Jewish state being weakened by political infighting within the ruling coalition over reforms.

Yuri Lyamin, senior researcher at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told the newspaper that Iran is in a difficult situation after the destruction of its consulate in Damascus. "The Iranian leadership has been carefully calibrating its actions in recent months to avoid being drawn into an open war with Israel and the United States, but the Israeli strike crossed a very important line that Iran's opponents had previously tried not to cross," the expert explained. According to him, the targeted military shelling of the consular section of Iran’s diplomatic compound in Syria equals the shelling of Iran itself.

"If an attack on one of Iran's diplomatic missions is not followed by a visible, serious response, it will be perceived by everyone as a sign of weakness," Lyamin believes. "On the one hand, this will provoke Israel, and not only Israel, to take even more active actions directly against Iran. On the other hand, it may shake the resilience of Iran's regional allies. Third, the situation is causing a crisis of confidence in the strength of their own country, even among the most loyal supporters of the Iranian authorities. It's difficult for me to say which response option Iran will ultimately choose, but for the above reasons, the option of a limited, demonstrational retaliatory strike against Israel or one of its diplomatic missions is very likely," he noted.

Izvestia: US tries to gain control over sanctions against North Korea as anti-Russian tool

The United States may create an alternative group of experts to monitor compliance with sanctions against North Korea, a diplomatic source told Izvestia. Although it will not have the authority of the United Nations, Western countries could use such a structure to accuse Russia of violating restrictions, Izvestia writes. Earlier, Russia vetoed the extension of the mandate of the UN Security Council panel of experts, which expires in April. However, this should not be seen as a way to lift restrictions on Pyongyang, the sources clarified.

"The non-extension of the mandate of the expert group does not mean the lifting of all sanctions against North Korea. There are still 10 ‘sanctions’ resolutions in force against this country, and the question of their possible lifting depends not only on Russia and China, but also on the other members of the UN Security Council, including the permanent ones - the US, the UK, and France," a diplomatic source told Izvestia.

Although the suspension of the expert group's work does not affect compliance with sanctions, the West will use the opportunity to increase pressure on Russia, the newspaper writes. Several countries have long accused Moscow of violating restrictions against Pyongyang, pointing to alleged military cooperation between Russia and North Korea.

"Now Western countries have gained leverage to blame Russia for all its sins with impunity and uncontrollability. A large number of unfounded accusations will be perceived as things that are already proven," another diplomatic source told Izvestia.

According to the source, it is possible that Western countries represented on the UN Security Council will try to create an alternative structure to monitor compliance with sanctions. Although it will not have the authority of the UN, the West will begin to widely use these "documents" for making accusations, the source noted

Izvestia: Slovakia's parliament opposes creation of NATO fund for Ukraine

NATO has no right to demand that its members make obligatory contributions toward military aid for Ukraine, Marian Kery, chair of the Slovak parliament’s foreign affairs committee and member of the ruling Smer party, told Izvestia. Earlier, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg proposed creating a special $100 bln fund, calling for military supplies to Kiev to be made mandatory rather than voluntary, as has been the case heretofore. Meanwhile, in contrast, Slovak Parliament Deputy Speaker Andrej Danko told Izvestia that he would do everything to ensure that Ukraine does not receive any money for weapons. According to the expert community, Stoltenberg's initiative meets only the interests of the United States, since such a fund may ease the financial burden on a cash-strapped Washington, which has been the key contributor for military support for Kiev, but may serve to heighten the divisions among Western countries.

"First, Ukraine is not a member of NATO. Second, Slovakia is not the only country that does not want to provide military assistance to Ukraine. Hungary, for example, shares the same opinion. In addition, Germany and Spain are in no hurry to transfer all types of weapons. In particular, Germany does not want to send Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine," Kery told Izvestia.

Andrey Koshkin, an expert at the Association of Military Political Scientists and head of the Department of Political Analysis and Socio-Psychological Processes at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, believes that the NATO leadership’s mandatory funding initiative is primarily intended to meet the interests of the White House.

"Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that accelerating Ukraine's entry into NATO is out of the question, but in return he is offering $100 bln. However, if you have to invest in a losing project, it is a very unprofitable for any businessman. That's why everyone has begun to see this proposal so pessimistically," he told Izvestia.

NATO plans to finally agree on the idea of creating a fund for Ukraine by the summit of NATO leaders in Washington in July. Koshkin believes that by that time Stoltenberg's initiative may become a bargaining chip among individual member countries, which could end up pushing the split within the North Atlantic Alliance out into the open for all to see.

Vedomosti: US threatens foreign banks because of their interactions with Russia

The US government is making targeted efforts to cut Russia off from the international payments system by gleaning information about Russian banks opening new correspondent accounts at foreign financial institutions, monitoring the growth of turnover, and personally warning the senior executives of such banks about the negative consequences of interacting with counterparties from Russia, a source at a large raw materials company told Vedomosti. The information was confirmed by a source at a top 10 bank, a source close to the topic of settlements within the BRICS framework, and another person familiar with the issue. The problem affects banks in Turkey, China, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the CIS countries, the sources said. Thanks to such US efforts, the average "lifespan" of new correspondent accounts of Russian banks in foreign banks is six months, they added.

It is true that US officials have talked with both the public and private sectors about the risks of doing business with sanctioned Russian financial institutions, or using systems such as the Mir payment system, a US Treasury Department spokesman told Vedomosti.

Maxim Barashev, managing partner at the BBNP law firm, told the newspaper that pressure on foreign banks mainly affects Chinese, Turkish, and Kazakh banks. Partner at BKHK law firm Roman Khaminsky also highlighted the CIS and neighboring countries with significant connections between local and Russian banks.

There is a wide range of possible mechanisms that allow the US to determine that a particular foreign bank is serving Russians, Barashev noted. For example, even before the special operation in Ukraine, the US authorities had the right, as part of the investigation of any offenses, to request any information about the accounts of foreign banks that have a correspondent account in the US. Refusing to cooperate with the US is extremely unprofitable from an economic point of view, the expert added.

Khaminsky believes that it is unlikely that Russia will be able to find a systemic solution to the problem of international payments, as it would require changes in the global financial system, which is unrealistic for the foreseeable future. Something fundamentally new can be built with friendly partners, based on the understanding that what is happening now with respect to the intrusive, heavy-handed extraterritorial US sanctions on Russia’s financial sector could well befall any other country that may invoke Washington’s displeasure, the source at a raw materials company told Vedomosti.

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Local Glob: Press review: Moscow ready to talk but without Kiev 'formula' and Israel, Iran on warpath
Press review: Moscow ready to talk but without Kiev 'formula' and Israel, Iran on warpath
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