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Press review: Moscow dismisses one-sided Saudi peace bid and sanctions for post-coup Niger

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, August 1st
Russian Foreign Ministry Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry
© Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

MOSCOW, August 1. /TASS/. Russia skeptical about utility of Saudi Arabia’s Ukraine peace conference at which Moscow has no seat; Niger faces sanctions, isolation following military seizure of power; and China’s ban on exports of large drones to impact Russian UAV market. These stories topped Tuesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: Russia skeptical about prospects for Saudis’ Ukraine summit that shuns Moscow

Russia intends to observe from afar the announced Saudi Arabian summit in Jeddah on August 5-6 on a peaceful settlement in Ukraine, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Up to 30 countries have reportedly been invited to attend the meeting, including Indonesia, Egypt, Mexico, Chile and Zambia. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan may represent the United States at the gathering. But Russia is not being invited and will be absent. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Vedomosti, "if Saudi Arabia's talks on Ukraine help the West understand the dead end of [President Vladimir] Zelensky's plan, then they will not be useless."

Any peace discussions about the situation around Ukraine that do not include Russia will have no effect, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine Fyodor Lukyanov told Vedomosti. The summit in Jeddah is a purely political show backed by Kiev and the West. Their objective is clear: to demonstrate that countries outside of the anti-Russian coalition do not support Moscow's actions, the expert noted. Meanwhile, however, all parties, even those countries allied with Russia, already support a peaceful resolution to the conflict, Lukyanov stressed.

The absence of China at such an event will effectively strip it of any substantive meaning, given that Beijing is Russia's main economic partner and wields economic leverage over many of those Global South, African and Middle Eastern countries that will gather in Jeddah, nearly as weighty as that of the United States itself, Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the Higher School of Economics (HSE University), told the newspaper.


Izvestia: Niger may face sanctions, isolation over military seizure of power

The unrest in Niger has lasted nearly a week. President Mohamed Bazoum is still being held by his own guards, and Western and African countries are refusing to recognize the authority of the rebellious military leadership that has declared itself the West African country’s new rulers. Nonetheless, experts interviewed by Izvestia predict a regime change, saying that there will be no opposition from the people, as some among the country’s 25 million population are even welcoming the coup. Sanctions have already been imposed on Niger, and the country's membership in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is likely to be terminated.

"From the standpoint of Europe's energy balance and the confrontation with Russia, this is an important country, especially in the long term. There is a French military contingent stationed there. There could be an attempt to intervene in order to safeguard it," Andrey Maslov, Valdai Discussion Club specialist and director of the Higher School of Economics (HSE University) Center for African Studies, told the newspaper.

Nikita Panin, Russian International Affairs Council program coordinator and researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for African Studies, said: "For ECOWAS, this is certainly another, and perhaps the most serious, challenge, because the chairmanship of this regional organization also changed less than a month ago. In any case, ECOWAS has already taken some measures: the borders with Niger have been closed, and all financial transactions with anyone associated with the putschists who took power have been prohibited."

"Sanctions have already been announced against Niger, and its membership in the organization is likely to be suspended. Thus, a belt of states in political isolation and bordering on each other is forming in the Sahara-Sahel region: Guinea - Mali - Burkina Faso - Niger. Russia is interested in expanding relations with Niger, as well as with all other African countries, and thus could help to normalize the situation there," Vsevolod Sviridov, expert at the HSE University Center for African Studies, told Izvestia.


Kommersant: China’s ban on drone supply exports could trigger shortages and higher prices

The Chinese government's ban on the export of large civilian drones may result in price increases and shortages of drones in Russia for several years, according to market participants and experts interviewed by Kommersant. The agribusiness sector is particularly vulnerable, as thus far it has relied solely on Chinese tech. In the event of a complete ban on the supply of components, Kommersant's sources predict a marked jump in prices due to the inevitable search for viable gray import channels. However, some domestic Russian drone makers see the situation as an opportunity for import substitution.

The ban, imposed by the Chinese Commerce Ministry on July 31, prohibits exports in the interests of "the country's national security" and encompasses civilian unmanned aerial vehicles that can be converted for military purposes; it is expected to take effect on September 1.

From the perspective of Russian drone developers, the Chinese authorities' decision "can only be welcomed," Aeronext association head Gleb Babintsev told Kommersant. He believes that if Chinese drone makers abandon the Russian market, space will open up for the homegrown solutions of Russian enterprises.

According to Fly Drone founder Nikita Danilov, the decision will have no fatal effects for any area of the Russian unmanned aviation industry. "Parallel import worked, works, and will continue to work," he stated, adding that, at the same time, prices for both imported components and gadgets on the Russian market will "increase somewhat."

The situation may aid import substitution and, thus, parallel import of drones may not even be necessary, Alexey Semenov, chairman of the board at the Geoscan Group, told Kommersant.


Vedomosti: Russia expected to reduce oil exports by 500,000 bpd from August 1

Russia will begin to reduce oil exports starting from August 1. The reduction will reach 500,000 barrels per day (bpd), according to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who oversees the fuel and energy sector. According to experts interviewed by Vedomosti, this could push prices up to $90 a barrel in the short term.

This is Russia's second voluntary oil export decrease since the beginning of 2023; the first has been in effect since March and also included cuts of 500,000 bpd.

According to Kirill Rodionov, an expert at the Institute for the Development of Technologies in the Fuel and Energy Complex, any decline in Saudi Arabian oil production will currently have the biggest impact on the oil market. The drop in output in Russia will also hurt the market, but the expert noted that the market has already recovered from and priced in the reduction in production in both nations.

According to Ekaterina Krylova, managing expert at the PSB Analytics and Expertise Center, the prolonged decline in Russian oil supplies and the global lack of raw materials will contribute to future price increases. Thus, the Brent global benchmark price may consolidate at $85-90 per barrel in August, and prices may fall to $80-85 by the end of the year, according to her projections.


Izvestia: Transitioning to settlements in rubles may help Russia’s agricultural exporters

The Russian government is considering switching to ruble payments for agricultural exports. The proposed presidential decree is intended to ease friendly countries' access to Russian food supplies. Specifically, the decree will allow foreign buyers to apply to open special ruble and foreign currency accounts for purchasing Russian agricultural products. Analysts polled by Izvestia believe that the ruble settlement mechanism will help mitigate foreign exchange volatility risks.

Transferring payments into rubles or the currencies of friendly countries will in turn help reduce the risks borne by Russian companies of having their funds blocked due to sanctions, and will boost demand for the Russian national currency, thus leading to an increase in the ruble's share of international trade, Vadim Klementev, director of the Food and Agriculture section of Gazprombank’s electronic trading platform, told Izvestia. Finally, it would boost confidence in the ruble as a payment currency among those countries that buy Russian commodities.

"The use of ruble settlements in agricultural exports should be considered for all agricultural products. However, it can be especially useful for commodity items, where the share of imported components is small and Russian agricultural products are competitive in the global market," Yulia Zubareva, head of the Department of Economics, Organization, and Management at the Northern Trans-Urals State Agrarian University, said. However, she warned that rising prices due to ruble exchange rate volatility may be one of the risks facing those parties switching to ruble payments.

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