Protests in Lebanon will not jeopardize Russian companies

The ongoing protests in Lebanon won’t undermine interests of Russian companies in the country and nothing poses a threat to the life of Russian citizens there, Russia’s Embassy in Beirut told Izvestia, stressing that the protests had not spiraled into confrontation and it was safe in the cities. However, experts interviewed by the paper predict that the protests could last for long, turning into the Middle Eastern version of the "yellow vest" movement. Meanwhile, the government’s resignation, a key demand of protesters, is not on the horizon, but the cabinet would still have to make some concessions.

Russia’s interests in the Arab country are mainly focused on energy - sizeable natural gas deposits have been discovered in the republic’s Mediterranean shelf, the paper writes. Major Russian companies operating in Lebanon are Novatek and Rosneft. Moscow and Beirut also cooperate in the field of armaments. "It’s unlikely that Russia’s companies would face any threats in the light of the ongoing mass demonstrations. The Lebanese demand domestic social and economic reforms, and they treat Russia well," the embassy told the paper.

According to Vladimir Fitin from the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, regional actors would not seek to disrupt peace in Lebanon and therefore foreign meddling was highly unlikely. The expert explained that Hezbollah, a Shia Islamist group, had strong influence in Lebanon, and it was supported by Iran and its units were better armed than the Lebanese government troops. Hezbollah could use force against protesters, but in this case a civil war could start in the country, Fitin warned.

Leading research fellow at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies of the Institute for Oriental Studies Alexei Sarabyev expressed hope that the protests would remain peaceful and a fierce bloodshed could be avoided. He noted that the Lebanese government was mobile and capable of making surprise decisions, and its resignation was not in the cards.

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