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Britain, Russia Face Rocky Relations as Liz Truss Becomes New Prime Minister

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Liz Truss Sergey Lavrov new Prime Minister

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

The Russian and Western media headlines have glaringly shown the future of Britain-Russia’s bilateral relationship and how that will further work in a multilateral format in the context of the current global changes as Ms Liz Truss becomes Britain’s new Prime Minister.

Of course, this does not need a simplified or detailed explanation, as both have locked horns over many publicly-known issues within the context of geopolitical changes.

Media articles’ headlines, “Kremlin scathing over Truss but Kyiv praises Britain’s new PM” (The Guardian) and, “Russia says relations with Britain could get worse as Truss elected PM” (The Independent) painted gloomy pictures of the future relations between the two countries. And of course, Britain and Russia have been struggling to raise their bilateral relations during these past several years with little success.

Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss is not new to Britain and Russia’s politics and diplomacy, and geopolitical changes. She previously served as the British Foreign Secretary. Now, she has won the race for the leadership of the ruling Conservative Party, as indications from the results of an internal party vote, declared on September 5.

Truss, 47, received the votes of 81,326 rank-and-file Conservatives. Her rival, former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak, 42 got 60,399 votes. As the leader of the ruling party, Truss replaces Boris Johnson as Prime Minister and has to appoint a new cabinet. Truss becomes Britain’s 56th Prime Minister, and formally confirmed as head of Her Majesty’s Government at an audience with Queen Elizabeth II.

Ms Liz Truss’ perspectives on many important issues are completely at variance with the position often taken by the Russian Federation.

In July 2022, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized her in an official statement for her anti-Russia remarks which are invariably steeped in painful aggression and nationalism, that is, Russophobia. Within the political spectrum, she is considered a threat to the country and its leadership, especially the current “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“She looks like a second-rate politician afflicted by megalomania. And she is doing all of this instead of addressing the issues at home, which are plenty. This collection of empty slogans vocalised by a raging Truss clearly shows that, in fact, she is either unable to spot the serious crisis in the economy and in domestic politics in a country whose government she is striving to lead, or she simply does not know how to overcome it and is trying to distract voters. Clearly, the well-being and living standards of ordinary Brits are not among her priorities,” Zakharova described her in comments posted to the official website on July 14.

While there are thousands of shreds of evidence pointing to the worsening bilateral relations in political, economic and cultural spheres between the two countries, Russia usually slams Britain together with the European Union into the same category. Similar to the previous well-known Cold War, Russia is battling multiple confrontations from the United States and European Union.

Russia, most often, views Britain from its historical perspectives and the colonial past and directly connects with the present time. Russian authorities have convincingly and publicly highlighted the British colonial practices that spanned more than half a century. Perhaps, taking a line from Russia’s MFA sources, Russia views these two geopolitical blocs as “aggressive and warlike nature and obvious narrow-mindedness” and to deepen our understanding of the situation.

As Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointed out during the 30th Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, “The external circumstances have not changed radically, not becoming more elevated unfortunately with each passing day. The choice we have taken is made easier by the fact that the ‘collective West’ has declared a total hybrid war against us. It is hard to forecast how long this will last. But it is clear that its consequences will be felt by everyone without exception throughout the world.”

Lavrov further explained that this is not only and not so much about Ukraine, having decided the way to global hegemony, which is being used as an instrument to contain the peaceful development of the Russian Federation in the context of their course to perpetuate a unipolar world order, right after the end of the Cold War. Russia’s diplomacy is, on the one hand, to act with great resolve to fend off all adversarial attacks, while, on the other hand, to consistently, calmly and patiently reinforce positions in order to facilitate Russia’s sustained development from within and improve the quality of life for its people.

Britain’s diplomacy has posed problems, in the political, economic and cultural spheres of the Russian Federation. In the cultural sphere, for instance, Russia was forced to close the British Council. Until now, educational and consular services are still not resolved, and many important issues in political and economic bilateral cooperation. At one time, the fatal 2006 poisoning of former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko in London. And the next one, London also used the incident in Salisbury linked with the suspected poisoning of former GRU employee Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia as a provocation against Russia.

Britain has joined the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and many other countries in imposing draconian sanctions on Russia. In addition to that, Britain as a member of the Group of Seven acts in complete coalition with Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States on a number of issues against the Russian Federation. The Group of Seven is composed of the seven wealthiest advanced countries.

After the historic fall of the Soviet era, Russia dreamed of raising its status by joining international organizations. Over the past three decades, Russia became a member of many global bodies, participating actively in the United Nations. But with the Group of Eight (G-8), due to sharp differences among members and the last straw relates to its undertaking of “a special military operation” in Ukraine, Russia ultimately withdrew its membership.

David Harding, a British journalist and author, in early September wrote that Russia’s relations with Britain would get worse under new Prime Minister Liz Truss. He referred to issues that include a growing energy price crisis and the war in Ukraine, both of which are affected by Britain’s relations with Russia. The article was based on Kremlin’s warning shots across the new government by claiming that the low level of the current relations between Moscow and London could get even worse than they are now.

“I wouldn’t like to say that things can change for the worse, because it’s hard to imagine anything worse,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked if Moscow expected any shift in relations with Britain. “But unfortunately, this cannot be ruled out, given that the contenders for the post of British prime minister competed with each other in anti-Russian rhetoric, in threats to take further steps against our country, and so on. Therefore, I don’t think that we can hope for anything positive.”

Truss is chiefly known in Russia for a visit she made to Moscow in February when she and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov held a rancorous meeting. Lavrov described their conversation as like a dialogue between deaf and mute people, complaining that facts had ‘bounced off’ her. Russia’s foreign ministry has also openly mocked her over geographical gaffes, including on one occasion when she mixed up the Black and Baltic seas.

Truss openly challenged Lavrov at their meeting over Russia’s troop build-up near Ukraine, saying: “I can’t see any reason for having 100,000 troops stationed on the border, apart from to threaten Ukraine.” Moscow, which had denied invasion plans, sent its troops in two weeks later. Since then, Britain has been one of the most active and vocal supporters of Ukraine in the war, supplying it with weapons and training.

While there have been several congratulatory messages for Liz Truss, none came from Russia’s official domain. Dutch PM Mark Rutte said on Twitter: “The Netherlands has long enjoyed close ties with the UK, and I look forward to working with Ms Truss to strengthen them even further.”

In addition, Austrian media compared her to Margaret Thatcher but one French newspaper, Les Echos, called her an Iron Weathercock, rather than Iron Lady, for constantly changing political position. Further, German chancellor Olaf Scholz also took to social media to proclaim: “The UK and Germany will continue to work closely together – as partners and friends.”

Russian media, however, published many reports about political developments and have speculated about the directions in future relations. Russia’s wide-circulated Izvestia wrote that British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has become the new prime minister. As a successor and loyal supporter of former leader Boris Johnson, Truss would lead the ruling Conservative Party, at least, till the 2024 parliamentary election. “Notorious for her harsh rhetoric on Russia, Truss used it proactively in her election campaign. And yet foreign policy is secondary for the British, with a solution to the energy crisis and the fight against falling living standards being their top priorities,” wrote the newspaper.

The British PM favours active support for Kiev and believes the goal for London is to have Russia defeated in Ukraine. With that in mind, Truss could be viewed as a direct successor of Boris Johnson’s policies. The outgoing premier, perhaps, was involved in the Ukrainian conflict more than any other Western leader. Boris Johnson visited Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, three times since Russia launched its special military operation, and he was accused of overlooking domestic issues due to his preoccupation with foreign policy.

The key tasks faced by the new prime minister certainly relate to the economy and the well-being of ordinary citizens. “The United Kingdom is faring much worse economically than the other West European countries,” Vasily Yegorov, an expert on British politics and the author of the Westminister channel on Telegram, told Izvestia. According to forecasts, Great Britain could face 18-22% inflation rates. If the government copes with that issue this fall, it would be easier further down the road. Truss should come up with her economic program in the near future.

Britain and Russia established relations several years ago. Even with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall much of the relationship has been under constant strain. During these past few years, the relationship has been tense due to European Union sanctions against Russia. The British were viewed as a driving force for those sanctions, making the relationship awkward. In conclusion, Britain and Russia will still have rocky relations in the coming years and even more turbulent over many bilateral and global policy issues under Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister of Britain.

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UK’s Royal Mint Releases King Charles III Coins

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Royal Mint king charles

By Adedapo Adesanya

On Friday, Britain’s Royal Mint unveiled King Charles III’s official effigy that will appear on coins following his accession to the throne.

The effigy is the work of British sculptor, Mr Martin Jennings, and was personally approved by the new king.

The first coins bearing the king’s portrait will be a special £5 coin and a 50 pence coin commemorating the life of Queen Elizabeth II.

Mr Jennings said his portrait was sculpted from a photograph of King Charles, in which he is facing left on the coin, in keeping with a tradition that sees each successive monarch switch profile.

In line with royal tradition, King Charles’ portrait faces to the left, the opposite direction to his late mother.

He is not wearing a crown, which previous kings also did not, though Queen Elizabeth II did in the five coins produced during her reign.

“It is the smallest work I have created, but it is humbling to know it will be seen and held by people around the world for centuries to come,” he said.

The text on the new coin says “CHARLES III • D • G • REX • F • D • 5 POUNDS • 2022,” a shortening of the Latin “King Charles III, by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith.”

The existing 29 billion coins featuring the queen in circulation in the UK, as well as in Commonwealth countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada, will remain legal tender and be phased out naturally and over time with use.

The image of King Charles will begin to appear on coins in circulation and on commemorative pieces in the coming months, the Royal Mint said in a statement.

Two new portraits of Elizabeth will feature on the reverse of the commemorative five pound coin.

The Royal Mint has been responsible for depicting monarchs on coins for over 1,100 years since Alfred the Great.

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8 following a record-breaking 70 years on the throne.

Mr Kevin Clancy, director of the Royal Mint Museum, said the late queen had appeared on more coins than any other British monarch.

“Over the coming years, it will become common for people to find coins bearing His Majesty and Queen Elizabeth II’s effigy in their change,” he said.

The Royal Mint said historically, it had been commonplace for coins featuring the effigies of different monarchs to co-circulate.

“This ensures a smooth transition, with minimal environmental impact and cost.”

There are currently around 27 billion coins circulating in the UK bearing the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.

“These will be replaced over time as they become damaged or worn and to meet demand for additional coins,” the Royal Mint added.

The Royal Mint, which has made coins featuring the monarch for over 1,100 years and is Britain’s oldest company, said it would be available to collectors next week and in general use before the end of the year.

King Charles ascended to the throne following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, his mother and earlier this week, the palace said the cause of death recorded on her birth certificate was “old age.”

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Russia Struggling to Explore Africa’s Market

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Russia explore Africa's market

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh

Building on post-Soviet relations with Africa, Russia has been struggling with strategies on how to establish economic footprints, promote investment and deepen cooperation in Africa. Despite the road map adopted at the end of the first Russia-Africa summit held in October 2019, little has been achieved since then.

In late September, the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the participants to another round of conferences under the theme “Russia-Africa: Prospects for Cooperation” held in St. Petersburg. That gathering featuring a few interesting Russian enterprises was part of a series of steps to brainstorm and discuss opportunities, developments and challenges in preparing for the forthcoming Russia-Africa summit planned for July 2023.

Additionally, the goal of this St Petersburg conference event was in line with the priorities on how to engage with credible investors who can partner with the government and private sector to exploit the market. It discussed the possibilities of strengthening the partnership between Russia and Africa, as well as issues related to export/import, logistics and peculiarities of working with African partners.

Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation Vladimir Padalko welcomed the participants via video link from Moscow. In the video, Padalko emphatically stated that “preparations for the second Russia-Africa summit, scheduled for July 2023 in St. Petersburg, are in full swing, and we should come to it with concrete results in the form of agreements ready for signing.”

According to him, the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries should focus on conducting business missions that would identify specific areas for conducting business cooperation with African countries. It is necessary to help Russians learn what the African market is so they are not afraid of taking investment risks in Africa.

Padalko said that the prejudices that Russians have regarding Africa should be overcome. He referred to his own experience, emphasizing that the first trip to the African continent made him change his mind significantly about the opportunities offered by cooperation with Africa. Russia is trying hard to improve its commercial relations with its African partners. In 2009, it established the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with sub-Saharan Africa to assist in promoting Russian business interests.

Senator Igor Morozov, Chairman of the Coordinating Committee for Economic Cooperation with African Countries, called for increasing the pace and level of cooperation with African countries by “bringing small and medium-sized businesses to Africa.”

According to him, Russia is far behind in its activity on the African continent from countries such as the United States, Britain, China, France, India, and Turkey. These countries are developing a network of technology parks, working in the continental free trade zone, participating in the development of the infrastructure of African countries, and the construction of roads, bridges and railways.

Senator Morozov further noted that “Russian business does not have the tools to enter Africa ​​and, above all, in the field of the banking system. No other banks give guarantees to Russian businesses. According to him, African countries are interested in the supply of agricultural machinery; in this sense, the Kirov Plant in St. Petersburg may have good opportunities. And in this sense, we should take an example from our Belarusian friends.”

That was not the first time analyzing the development of business and trade relations with Africa. The African market is competitive and complex, therefore, Russian business needs to work thoroughly and systematically in it in order to achieve success.  It is necessary to help interested businesses willing to navigate African realities, find a niche for their work, and learn about the conditions for entering certain markets.

According to Morozov, there is a need for a specialized investment fund to support entrepreneurs. In general, with the prospect of working with African partners for many years, more serious state support is needed and finally suggested that it is necessary to return to barter trade and concessions, which will make it possible to obtain minerals from Africa.

“We need to develop our international payment instruments – sanctions are already being imposed against the Mir system,” he said. A great deal of hope is being placed on the working group for developing new mechanisms in currency regulation and international settlements led by Kremlin aide Maxim Oreshkin, “which is supposed to work out these mechanisms soon,” Morozov said.

“We need to see how we will work within the framework of national currencies” and use them for settlements with African countries, he said. “We need to work in this direction, understanding that SWIFT will never again be [the main system for interbank payments] for us,” Morozov, who also serves on the Federation Council’s Economic Policy Committee, said.

Talks on options for settlements between Russia and African countries in the current economic circumstances are already being held, but “we shouldn’t get ahead of events. African central banks are already beginning to come [to Russia]. Everyone understands that we are leaders in grain exports, leaders in sunflower oil, mineral fertilizers, and it is necessary to settle up,” Morozov.

Other options for settlements could be barter and concessions. The outlook for cooperation and possible Russian projects in Africa, Morozov said Russia could offer its competencies in hydropower, electric passenger transport, automobile manufacturing, farm machinery and pharmaceuticals. Afrocom operates with the support of the Federation Council and government institutions, according to the committee’s website.

Associate Professor Ksenia Tabarintseva-Romanova, Ural Federal University, Department of International Relations, acknowledges huge existing challenges and perhaps difficult conditions in the current economic cooperation between Africa and Russia. Creating African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the most important modern tool for Africa’s economic development. This is unique for exploring and getting acquainted with the opportunities it offers for business cooperation.

She, however, maintains that successful implementation requires a sufficiently high level of economic development in the participating countries, logistical accessibility, and developed industry with the prospect of introducing new technologies. This means that in order for African Continental Free Trade Area to effectively fulfil its tasks, it is necessary to enlist the provision of sustainable investment flows from outside. These investments should be directed toward constructing industrial plants and transport corridors.

Speaking earlier in an interview discussion, Tabarintseva-Romanova pointed out that Russia already has vast experience with the African continent, which now makes it possible to make investments as efficiently as possible, both for the Russian Federation and African countries. In addition, potential African investors and exporters could also explore business collaboration and partnerships in Russia.

Local Russian media, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, also published an interview with Professor Irina Abramova, Director of the Institute of African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, focusing on economic cooperation with Africa. In this interview, Abramova reiterated explicitly that Russians have to do away with negative perceptions and attitudes toward Africa. The change in attitudes has to reflect in all aspects of the relationship between Africa and Africans.

“In Russians’ minds, Africa is synonymous with backwardness, poverty and hunger, which is not true. It is currently one of the most promising regions for foreign investment. It is a tiger ready to pounce. Africa today is in the same situation that China was in the 1990s. Today, China is the world’s number-one economy in purchasing capacity, a strong power which largely determines global development,” she explained.

“Africa is the zone where all big players overlap since its geographic location between the east and the west puts it at the peak of controversy and the big game between all players, meaning between Europe and America, on the one hand, and China, India and other countries, on the other. And if Russia poses as a superpower it will also lose its global influence without indicating its position in Africa,” she said.

According to her, seven African countries, specifically Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria and Sudan, account for nearly 90% of Russia’s trade. “At the same time, China is present in almost all African countries. Millions of Chinese work in Africa today. It is a good moment for Russia now because Western partners are trying to impose their values on the Africans, while China is dealing with its challenges at the expense of Africa,” the expert stressed.

The middle class is expanding very fast there, already amounting to 250-300 million people, and this constitutes a huge consumer market for products and services, according to her estimation.

Professor Abramova noted that it is a very good market for Russian products. The Chinese understood that long ago and are tapping the African market, having flooded it with their products, though Russia also has opportunities as it is fairly competitive in the energy, infrastructure and agriculture sectors and exporting products such as fertilizers, trucks and aircraft supplies.

The fact that many prominent politicians and businessmen of the African continent graduated from Russian universities and speak Russian well contributes to the strengthening of the Russian-African relationship, the expert said, adding though that a new generation is about to take over in Africa, which is also the reason why Moscow should maintain the existing solid social and cultural ties.

Senator Igor Morozov and Professor Irina Abramova are members of the Kremlin’s Committee assigned to coordinate and prepare for the next Russia-Africa summit in July 2023. Both Russia and Africa had problems finding a suitable African venue for the summit. The joint declaration adopted in Sochi says the summit be held every three years and the venue alternated between Russia and Africa.

Sampson Uwem-Edimo, President of the Nigerian Business Council and General Director of Trailtrans Logistic LLC, delivered a report “Nigeria as a Window to Africa” and further stressed that Russia does not have a common strategy on how to enter African markets, which exists, say, in China or France.

By removing barriers to trade in the region will create new entrepreneurial activities and spur innovations in technology. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) seeks to create better conditions for investment. On the other hand, Russian corporate directors most often have problems with their business in Africa. The key obstacles ranging from their inconsistencies in own approach and poor knowledge of the local political and business environment. Russians must also invest more in R&D collaborations with their African partners.

According to him, while Russians hope for brisk business, many African business leaders today are still Western mind-oriented and have various support from the United States and Europe. But the practical reality, Russia could still steadily transfer technologies for local processing of raw materials as a catalyst for Africa’s development.

Uwem-Edimo noted that former colonial powers like France and Great Britain, although they left their colonies, kept control panels in their capitals. The Nigerian businessman, who spoke in Russian, introduced the conference participants to the opportunities and vast potential of the African continent, focusing on Nigeria, which makes up 18 per cent of the continent’s population – 240 million people.

President of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Vladimir Katenev, also addressed the conference participants with a greeting. The moderator was Ekaterina Lebedeva, Vice-President of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry Union, who called on business community representatives to consistently work towards prioritising Africa despite the emerging challenges.

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UST, Luna Founder Dodges Arrest as Interpol Issues Red Notice

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Luna TerraUST

By Adedapo Adesanya

In what is the latest scandal in the cryptocurrency industry, Mr Do Kwon, the founder of Terraform Labs, has said that he is not on the run from South Korean authorities after the country’s prosecutors’ office said it had received an international arrest warrant on him.

Mr Kwon’s company was behind the algorithmic stablecoin TerraUSD or UST and its sister token Luna which, combined, were worth around $60 billion and in May collapsed to near-to-nothing.

The collapse of Terra cryptocurrency (Luna) and the so-called stablecoin TerraUSD (UST) wiped out investors’ money, prompting an uproar that caused the prosecutors to launch investigations into Kwon and his colleagues.

South Korea has been seeking Mr Kwon’s arrest since earlier this month. But prosecutors in the country have alleged that he is on the run.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office in South Korea’s capital city said that global law enforcement agency Interpol has issued a “Red Notice” for Mr Kwon.

Red Notices are issued for fugitives wanted either for prosecution or to serve a sentence, according to Interpol. The notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and arrest the person in question. This could then lead to extradition.

Mr Kwon, however, said he was not on the run, using his Twitter account to hit back at authorities.

“I’m writing code in my living room hbu,” Mr Kwon tweeted in reply to someone asking about his whereabouts.

Mr Kwon insisted he is making “zero effort to hide,” saying he goes on walks and to malls.

He also said he does not see his name on Interpol’s “Red Notice” list, a statement that can be contested since the international agency does not always make these notices public.

While Mr Kwon’s Twitter location says he is in Singapore, the Singapore Police Force said that Mr Kwon was not in the country earlier this month.

The South Korean prosecutors said the purpose of the Red Notice is to locate Kwon, bring him back to South Korea and then officials will decide within 48 hours whether to issue an arrest warrant for him.

South Korea issued an arrest warrant for the founder earlier this month, a move that saw many investors sell their positions in the revived Luna token.

“We are in the process of defending ourselves in multiple jurisdictions — we have held ourselves to an extremely high bar of integrity and look forward to clarifying the truth over the next few months,” Mr Kwon said in a tweet this month.

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