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Press review: Russia cracks down on Google and Iran, Israel threaten to hit nuke sites

Kommersant: Israel, Iran threaten to destroy each other’s nuclear facilities

The drills that Iran conducted last week, which involved a simulated attack on an Israeli nuclear reactor, are a warning to Israel, Commander-in-Chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Hossein Salami pointed out. The exercise came as a response to reports of Israel’s plans to practice an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities during an exercise set for the spring of 2022, Kommersant writes.

“Iran’s threats aren’t unsubstantiated,” Russian military expert Yury Lyamin told the newspaper. According to him, Iran fired a total of 16 missiles during the drills. “Out of these missiles, four types are capable of reaching Israel’s territory from Iran,” the analyst stressed, adding that the use of missiles unable to reach Israel from Iran “is probably a hint that in the event of a war, Israel will be attacked not only from Iran.” Lyamin noted that Israel’s missile defenses potentially could intercept some of these missiles but not all of them, particularly when it came to the most advanced and precise ones.

Syria is one place where Iran and Israel are engaged in a standoff. It is rare for the Israelis to admit strikes on the country, which have become a regular occurrence. However, the Walla website reported on Sunday, citing Israeli security sources, that the Israel Defense Forces had targeted dozens of Hezbollah facilities in Syria over the past three years, seriously complicating the organization’s efforts to gain a foothold in the Golan Heights and on the border with Jordan and Israel. Still, according to the website, the threat remains that Hezbollah will attack Israel from Syria with Iran’s support.

The situation is disturbing Russia who is concerned about Syria turning into a battlefield between Iran and Israel. This is why Moscow maintains active dialogue with both parties to the conflict. “No one wants war because it will not end well, so we are searching for ways to prevent a negative scenario,” an informed Russian source who is in contact with both the Israelis and the Iranians told the paper.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia alarmed at Japan’s increasing defense budget

Japan is stepping up its military potential in view of a possible standoff with China and North Korea. Tokyo is also concerned about the growing defense cooperation between China and Russia. That said, the Japanese government has boosted the country’s defense spending by 6.5%. It is still way behind the defense budgets of the United States and China but, according to experts, it is a sign indicating that expenditures may be increased further, Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes.

Head of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Oriental Studies Valery Kistanov pointed out that “China and North Korea, as well as Russia, will be primarily concerned about Japan’s move to ramp up its military buildup.” “From Japan’s standpoint, Russia is also on the threat list, albeit implicitly. North Korea tops the list because Kim Jong-un is considered to be unpredictable, and he has nuclear missiles capable of reaching all of Japan. However, it is China that Tokyo views as the most serious threat. Kim keeps trumpeting threats to Japan, while China actually maintains aggressive activities. It continues to send its ships to the disputed islands that Japan controls and demands that Tokyo return them,” the expert explained.

After the Americans had abandoned their allies in Afghanistan to their fate, Japan started asking itself if Washington could leave it high and dry as well. This is also spurring Tokyo to take charge of its security on its own.

According to the analyst, the trend became clear under former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He got the country’s Defense Agency renamed the Defense Ministry though officially, Japan does not have an army. He also introduced the idea that Tokyo should be able to conduct a preventive nuclear strike on enemy bases if those pose a threat to Japan. “This refers to North Korea, China and Russia, in a somewhat covert manner,” Kistanov emphasized.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia gets tough on Google, Meta, slapping tech giants with record fines

Russia has fined the US companies Google and Meta (previously known as Facebook) 7.2 bln rubles ($97.2 mln) and two bln rubles ($27.2 mln) respectively for once again failing to remove banned content. The penalties are, by far, the largest handed to the tech giants by Russian courts. Experts believe that the court’s decision will become a point of no return for the Silicon Valley-based titans, making them decide in favor of interacting with the Russian authorities, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

Partner at the TMT Consulting analytical agency Konstantin Ankilov pointed out that the fine issued to Google was practically equal to the monthly revenue of the company’s Russian office. “It is a considerable blow to Google’s business in Russia,” Ankilov told the paper.

Member of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Technologies and Communications Anton Gorelkin believes that the court’s decisions were logical. “No digital corporation can make money on the Russian market and overtly ignore our laws. And this is what we have been seeing for several years. They’ve been failing to fulfill the regulator’s demands that destructive content be deleted and previous fines be paid. I think that the tech behemoths will now get the obvious signal that our intentions are serious,” Gorelkin stressed.

Experts point out that as of now, Google and Meta have two options: either fully pay the fines and then try to monetize their services in Russia in an aggressive manner or come to terms with the Russian telecom watchdog so that the fines are reduced and the companies abide by the regulator’s demand to strengthen content filtering. Almost all experts are convinced that the fines are more like another effort to bring the IT giants to the negotiating table rather than drive them out of Russia.

Izvestia: Will the coronavirus pandemic end in 2022?

The coronavirus pandemic will end once the level of herd immunity is high enough and mutations drive the pathogenic ability of the virus down to a minimum, said infectious disease experts interviewed by Izvestia. Medical specialists believe that this process may take up to a year.

The end of the pandemic will depend on herd immunity and the virus’ ability to mutate, said Alexander Butenko, a department chief at the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. “Like other coronaviruses, COVID-19 is highly capable of mutations. The longer the pandemic lasts, the more the virus mutates. However, such processes don’t always increase the pathogenicity of the virus, sometimes they reduce it. It’s possible that this is a scenario for COVID-19,” the expert pointed out.

“The second possible scenario for the end of the pandemic is that the virus has no place left to exist. Today, we can see the Omicron strain is spreading rapidly, but most people who contract it have a mild case. This is how herd immunity develops. Besides, people are actively getting vaccinated. Before the pandemic, four coronaviruses causing respiratory diseases were known to science. However, mankind got used to them and no epidemics broke out because people are immune to those viruses. If the virus has no place to replicate and mutate, it will fade away. This is why prompt vaccination is so important,” the specialist stressed.

The pandemic will continue into next year but it most likely has passed its peak so 2022 should be less dramatic in terms of the number of infections and deaths, head of the genome engineering laboratory at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology Pavel Volchkov noted.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russians usher in new year with hope

Russians cannot be described as complete optimists but they certainly can’t be denied willingness to hope, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes, citing the survey results of the year released by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center.

The second year of the coronavirus pandemic was easier than the first one, people’s sentiment and expectations stopped dropping. “We are beginning to crawl out of the hole,” the center’s head Valery Fedorov pointed out.

The All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center has been measuring the year-end sentiment of the country’s people for 19 years so the pollster is well aware of long-term trends, which have not changed in 2021. One of the trends is that people’s personal results for the year are always better than those in general. “When we speak about what is familiar and clear to us, we feel more confident, but when we start following public life on TV and the Internet, we become more skeptical and pessimistic,” Fedorov specified.

As for the outgoing year, 12% of those surveyed said that it was better than they had expected, 37% found it worse than expected, while 49% said that it was exactly like they had thought it would be. A thing to note is that when comparing their country to others, 34% of the poll’s participants tended to agree that it was easier for Russia to make it through all the difficulties than for other nations, while 32% believe that Russia’s situation was not different from that of other countries.

“People’s sentiment, particularly personal ones, have improved four-fold, though a positive mood has not overcome the negative one yet. So, if no devastating misfortunes happen, positive sentiment will prevail next year,” the pollster’s head noted. “The cornerstone of the national character and mindset is to look into the future with hope,” Fedorov added.

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews.

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