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Press review: Putin, Erdogan to talk revived grain deal and Teflon Trump in new legal trap

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, August 3rd

MOSCOW, August 3. /TASS/. Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan to meet for talks on revived grain deal; Donald Trump’s White House bid to survive ex-president’s latest indictment in connection with the Capitol Hill riot; and Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah gathering to discuss Ukraine settlement without Russia's participation. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Vedomosti: Moscow, Ankara announce plans for talks between Putin, Erdogan

Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay an official visit to Ankara to hold discussions with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the parameters for a resumption of the Black Sea grain deal, as well as issues of bilateral cooperation, Vedomosti writes. According to the Turkish presidential office, the two leaders agreed on the visit during an August 2 telephone conversation. The date of the visit has not yet been announced. The Kremlin in turn confirmed the presidents' meeting, but gave no further details.

In addition to the visit to Turkey, the presidents discussed the now-defunct grain deal over the phone. Erdogan assured his interlocuter that Ankara would continue its efforts to revive the deal. Putin, in turn, said that there was no longer any rationale for Moscow's involvement in the initiative given the lack of progress in implementing Russia's conditions. At the same time, Putin expressed Moscow's willingness to resume participation as soon as the West fulfills its obligations to Russia, including reconnecting the Russian Agricultural Bank to SWIFT and restarting the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline.

The revival of the Black Sea Grain Initiative would have little effect on global grain prices, according to Arkady Zlochevsky, president of the Russian Grain Union. "There are no problems with global food supplies. Although market prices jumped when Moscow withdrew from the agreement, this was due to the psychological effect on market participants. The total supply of grain on the market exceeds demand," the expert added.

Iqbal Durre, associate professor of the theory of regional studies at Moscow State Linguistic University, told Vedomosti that Erdogan's meeting with Putin may score the former some political points with Turkish voters in the run-up to local elections in the fall. According to the expert, Erdogan also wants to resume the grain deal as Turkey is one of the world's largest producers of flour and needs a steady supply of grain. It also happens to be the last NATO member to maintain ties with Moscow.


Vedomosti: Donald Trump's latest indictment may not block chances of return to White House

Ex-US President Donald Trump is facing his third and most serious indictment in connection with the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in which five people were killed. The indictment charges Trump with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction and attempted obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy to violate rights. The court hearing is scheduled for August 3 in Washington, Vedomosti writes.

The Trump team denies the charges against him and argues that the US Department of Justice is acting on instructions of President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party to prevent the 45th US president from regaining control over the White House. Democrats, on the other hand, welcomed the new allegations against Trump.

According to Vladimir Vasiliev, chief researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of American and Canadian Studies, before the latest accusations of Trump’s role in the storming of the Capitol, American public opinion had generally been favorable for Trump, as his approval rating had only gained points from the concerted prosecutorial campaign against him. According to the expert, American society at large does not view the events of January 6, 2021 as an attempted coup and believes that Trump was entitled to a ballot recount in the contested 2020 election. Moreover, even if the former president is put behind bars, his path to being nominated by the Republican Party (for the third time in a row) and running in the general election would not necessarily be significantly hampered because, under the US Constitution, incarceration does not disqualify a citizen from mounting a campaign as a candidate for the highest office in the land.

The new charges do not prevent Trump from running in the election, the newspaper writes, because he would be eligible to run even if he was to be sentenced to a prison term and was behind bars on Election Day. The only thing that could conceivably stop him would be a potential charge of insurrection, as the Democrats are lobbying for, which would entail a ban on holding public office.


Izvestia: Why Saudi Arabia's Jeddah summit on Ukraine peace settlement is doomed to fail

Representatives of Ukraine, the West and some countries outside of the anti-Russian bloc will meet this weekend in Saudi Arabia to discuss options for reaching a settlement of the crisis between Moscow and Kiev. Russia has not been invited to the meeting, and the focus will be on the so-called Zelensky peace plan, which Moscow condemns as a collection of ultimatums that ignores the state of affairs "on the ground," Izvestia writes. The make-up of the expected participants in the Jeddah confab is also unclear as China skipped the previous such meeting in Copenhagen in June, while Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced that Mexico City would not be sending a representative to Jeddah unless both sides to the conflict were given a seat at the table.

At the same time, Moscow has repeatedly stated that it is not opposed to talks with Kiev, despite the fact that such a dialogue is illegal in Ukraine. Russia also noted that global security must be equal and indivisible and cannot be achieved at the expense of one or more countries.

The talks are best viewed as a political maneuver by several countries that are not members of the anti-Russian coalition, which are seeking to demonstrate their independent policy line toward the crisis, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine Fyodor Lukyanov told Izvestia.

"If we talk about the declared goal, which is to find solutions to end the conflict, these talks will have no effect. I think that this is clear to the participants, and that’s not what they are gathering for. If we are talking about political signals, they will of course be sent; that's perfectly natural. Ukraine, as one of the main organizers of the summit, is trying to show that Russia allegedly lacks serious international support, especially from a number of countries outside of the Western bloc," the expert concluded.


Izvestia: US sovereign credit rating downgraded to AA+ for the second time in history

The downgrading by global ratings agency Fitch of the United States’ sovereign credit rating to AA+ for the second time in history has already caused the price of Treasury bills, or US government bonds, to reach all-time highs. However, sentiment-based sell-offs of these assets by investors is unlikely in the near future, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. Fitch's decision will not affect the Russian stock market, which is now virtually closed to non-residents. At the same time, however, economists noted that this move shows that the expansion of US public debt and Federal Reserve interest rates pose risks to the economy.

Fitch explained the move by the forecasted deterioration in the US fiscal environment over the next three years. There is also the possibility of an economic downturn and further Fed rate hikes. Experts predict that the US budget deficit will grow over the next three years.

According to Mikhail Vasiliev, chief analyst at Sovcombank, the country's bonds will continue to be in demand as long as the United States is the world's dominant economic power and the dollar remains the world's main reserve currency. He added that US allies and friendly countries will continue to purchase its debt instruments. However, this is another minor factor that undermines trust in the country's debt and the dollar's status.

"The downgrade of the US rating by Fitch will not affect Russia or Russian investors," the expert added. Moreover, the decision will have little impact on the domestic financial sector, as there are virtually no non-residents in the Russian market at the moment. The domestic stock market reacted neutrally to the latest news.


Kommersant: Egypt purchases Russian wheat at increased prices

The first tender by Egyptian state corporation GASC after the suspension of grain trading turned out to be beneficial for Russian wheat exporters. Russian grain accounted for five of the six lots purchased, totaling 300,000 metric tons, and the approved price of $250 per metric ton represented a reduction in the discount compared to competitors. However, analysts told Kommersant that in the future Russian wheat may be less profitable than grain from the European Union’s eastern flank, where huge stocks have been accumulated.

Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat, and in recent years virtually all supplies to the country have gone through GASC. According to the Union of Grain Exporters, Egypt increased its wheat purchases from Russia by 61.1% to 8.1 mln metric tons last season. This is the second-best result after Turkey, which bought 9.2 mln metric tons, or 33.8% more than in the previous season.

Vladimir Petrichenko, general director of Prozerno, told Kommersant that the tender turned out to be quite advantageous for GASC, as the state-owned company bought wheat at the lowest market price. According to the expert, the results are also beneficial for Russian wheat exporters, as they translate into a reduction in the discount compared to competitors. Petrichenko noted that there are currently no new grounds for major price changes.

According to Dmitry Rylko, director general of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies, the prices seen in the GASC tender are largely in line with market trends, indicating an overall moderate growth trend.

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