Press review: US tries to strong-arm China and Zelensky's bid to bring men home

MOSCOW, April 25. /TASS/. Washington seeks to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing as top US diplomat Antony Blinken visits China; Kiev ...


MOSCOW, April 25. /TASS/. Washington seeks to drive a wedge between Moscow and Beijing as top US diplomat Antony Blinken visits China; Kiev is trying to force men who fled Ukraine to return home and go to war; and the Israeli army stands ready for an operation in the city of Rafah. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.

Media: US seeking to drive wedge between Russia, China

As part of his current visit to China, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken plans to hold talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and meet with members of the business community. He may also be received by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, the US has openly said that it intends to air its grievances with Beijing, Vedomosti notes.

Blinken said at a briefing that China’s alleged support for Russia’s defense industry would be at the top of the agenda in Beijing. Washington has made no bones about the fact that it’s ready to take action against companies which the US believes are undermining European security.

The US still continues to act from the position of a hegemon, while China wants to make it clear that the country is not anyone’s "whipping boy" and cannot be told what to do, Andrey Karneyev, head of the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics, pointed out. He is sure that apart from the Ukrainian conflict, the parties have a lot to discuss, including the Middle East, cybersecurity and business projects, which may still get political support.

"Artillery preparations" for Blinken’s visit indicate that the US has decided to employ its entire arsenal to put pressure on China in order to show it has the firepower to influence the country, Alexey Maslov, director of Moscow State University’s Institute of Asian and African Studies, said.

Still, Blinken’s chances here are slim as there is no punishment the US can unleash or incentive they can dangle to get the Chinese to turn away from Russia. It's simple logic, Alex Krainer, publicist and founder of Krainer Analytics, tells Izvestia, as Russia today remains the biggest military power on the Eurasian continent.


Yang Cheng, executive president of the Shanghai Academy of Global Governance and Area Studies, points out that China should not be expected to make any unilateral concessions. According to him, the upcoming US presidential election may cause volatility in relations between the two countries, and China will take retaliatory measures if necessary, Yang added.

Media: Zelensky trying to lure men who fled country back home

Ukrainian consulates have stopped serving men who don’t have military IDs. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people won’t be able to renew their expiring documents and will be cut off from their home country, Izvestia writes.

A new mobilization law was adopted in Ukraine in mid-April. The legislation stipulates that men between the age of 18 and 60 will be able to receive consular services abroad only upon presenting a military ID. If they don’t have one, they will have to go back to Ukraine and visit an enlistment office, from where they are highly likely to be sent to the frontline. The mobilization law will take effect on May 18 and many people decided to use the remaining time to renew their documents while old rules are still in place. However, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry announced the suspension of consular services from April 23 as part of preparations for the enactment of the new mobilization rules.

Kiev expects that the new rules will bring hundreds of thousands of potential recruits back home. However, the majority of Ukrainian men who left the country did so to get out of sight of draft officers, so now they will probably more actively try to assimilate into other countries and cut ties with their homeland.

Andrey Koshkin, head of the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, believes that the current situation will be an eye-opener for many Ukrainians. "Ukrainian refugees are seeing how their government really feels about them. They now realize that [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky’s team considers them to be nothing more than a commodity to be used for their own ambitions. It’s quite possible that in the future, this mood will spread wider and wider not only abroad but inside the country as well, posing a serious problem for the Kiev authorities," the expert noted.

It is already clear that the US move to provide another aid package to Ukraine was directly linked to the country’s tightening of mobilization rules, Ivan Skorikov, head of the Ukraine Department at the Institute of CIS Studies, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Putting restrictions on those who left the country will lead to a situation where the Ukrainian government essentially cuts legal ties with millions of the country’s citizens living abroad. Meanwhile, the extradition of refugees back to Kiev would be a strong political blow to the countries that provided shelter to them as it would mean a blatant violation of traditional democratic norms regarding people fleeing hostilities, Skorikov added.

Izvestia: Israeli army ready for action in Rafah

Israel is fully prepared to launch an operation in the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, where over 1.5 mln people have taken shelter, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson told Izvestia. The IDF General Staff has approved an assault plan, which, according to the Israeli authorities, will make it possible to bring kidnapped Israeli hostages back home and destroy the Palestinian movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Israel is currently expanding the humanitarian zone to evacuate civilians from the city. One thing that is clear is that any military operations will be directly coordinated with the US, Israel’s key ally.

"We can see the political will of the Jewish state’s leadership, while certain humanitarian missions are being carried out. All this suggests that the IDF is generally ready to launch an operation in Rafah. I believe that tactics-wise, the operation is unlikely to be much different from what we have been witnessing in Gaza over the past months," Ivan Bocharov, program coordinator at the Russian International Affairs Council, said. According to him, Israel is seeking to minimize its losses by carefully preparing a multi-phase operation that will take at least several weeks.

Military activities are expected to be coordinated with the US through a joint operations center, Israeli media outlets reported. However, the Pentagon is in no hurry to officially confirm the start of the assault. Farkhad Ibragimov, political scientist and lecturer with the Economic Department of the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, notes that, in light of the upcoming US presidential election, the Biden administration is interested in putting an end to the Gaza conflict as soon as possible. This is why the US actually wants to control the course of the Rafah operation.

The operation in Rafah will definitely make the situation in Gaza worse, Bocharov pointed out. "Although Israel intends to evacuate civilians, it won’t be easy to implement this plan," the expert added. "The potential consequences of the operation include damage to Israel’s reputation. The narrative around the Gaza war is not painting it in a good light, and once the military operation begins in Rafah, diplomatic pressure on Israel should be expected to increase with another wave of anti-Israeli sentiment highly likely to rise across the world," the analyst said.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Gaza crisis stokes fears of terrorist attacks in Europe

European intelligence agencies prevented at least ten jihadist attacks last year. The Netherlands’ General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) warns that the threat of terrorist attacks is quite serious.The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has issued similar warnings regarding the US. According to the intelligence community, the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip has become a rallying cry for jihadists around the world, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

"After Hamas carried out its attack against Israel on October 7 last year, serious concerns emerged in European capitals that the developments in the Gaza Strip might create a real terrorist threat to European countries," Andrey Yashlavsky, leading researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations and expert in religious terrorism and extremism, pointed out.

"However, we must admit that, with a few exceptions, no major terrorist attacks triggered by events in the Middle East, namely in Gaza, have so far taken place in Europe," Yashlavsky said, mentioning isolated cases of local attacks in France and Belgium. Still, in his words, the fact that no large-scale acts of terrorism occurred in Western countries in the first six months of the Gaza war does not mean that no attempts to carry out such attacks will be made in the future.

"The thing to keep in mind is that usually, dramatic events in the countries of the greater Middle East always cause a great reaction in European countries, given the large number of immigrants from the region living in the EU," Yashlavsky noted. "But what makes the current situation different from, say, the Iraq and Afghanistan war, is that European countries weren’t supposed to get directly involved in the conflict," he explained. However, the analyst argues that developments in the Gaza Strip have triggered a huge surge in xenophobic attitudes in Europe. "Notably, on the one hand, there was an anti-Semitic aspect to the outburst, and an Islamophobic aspect on the other. This, too, is having an impact on the big picture," Yashlavsky concluded.

Vedomosti: Russian gas production on the rise

Russia produced 191.2 bln cubic meters of gas between January and March, a 9% increase over the same period last year, Vedomosti writes, citing data from the Energy Ministry.

Experts interviewed by the newspaper attribute this year’s steady growth in gas output to a combination of factors. The key factor is that Russian pipeline gas exports have started to grow, while in 2022-23 they saw a decline after supplies to the European Union through main export routes were suspended and gas transit via Ukraine was significantly reduced. This year, gas exports are recovering. According to Vedomosti estimates based on data from the Gazprom gas giant and the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Gas (ENTSOG), Russian gas exports to Europe rose by 32% between January and March 2024.

Russian gas supplies to Europe grew due to a better price for buyers compared to spot market rates, Ronald Smith, senior analyst at BCS World of Investments, points out. Simultaneously, gas exports to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline are also growing, he added.

Finam analyst Sergey Kaufman notes that rising gas demand on the domestic market is also having a positive impact on gas production. Smith attributes this to the weather as it was colder than usual in Russia in the beginning of the year.

Kaufman says that overall, pipeline gas exports might rise by 12-15 bln cubic meters this year as supplies to China, Central Asia, Europe and Turkey will grow. Russia’s domestic gas consumption may also go up by about 2% amid economic growth and the ongoing process of creating new gas lines.

Meanwhile, the risk of a decline in exports to Europe will restrict further output growth because the EU is seeking to fully abandon Russian gas, Yekaterina Krylova, managing expert with the Center of Expertise and Analytics at Promsvyazbank, said.


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Local Glob: Press review: US tries to strong-arm China and Zelensky's bid to bring men home
Press review: US tries to strong-arm China and Zelensky's bid to bring men home
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