Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) took reasonable measures to combat Covid-19. This is how he responded to US President Donald Trump’s statement about the need to reform the WHO following its alleged mistakes during the pandemic. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron intend to discuss ways to reform the WHO at a summit of the United Nations Security Council permanent members, the idea of which was put forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin back in January, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.Trump earlier voiced US grievances over the WHO’s activities. The main gripe was that the global organization failed to adequately assess the threat of the coronavirus, ensure the effective monitoring of the epidemiological situation in China and thus indirectly let the infection spread across the globe. Trump made it clear that he was determined to use tough methods. Washington, the WHO’s major funder, suspended its funding to the organization on April 15.As for the EU’s leaders, Macron views the idea of reforming the WHO in the most favorable way. He stated earlier that, in his opinion, the Chinese authorities had not told the global community the whole truth about the coronavirus epidemic.However, Chief Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe Vladimir Shveitser believes that it won’t be easy to persuade even EU countries to support such reform. “It seems that the pandemic has made everyone realize that something should be done about the healthcare system. But any reform in this area will, first and foremost, require spending a significant amount of money. And the Europeans don’t have money to spare at this time,” the expert pointed out.”Trump and Macron tend to put the carriage before the horse and send signals that have no consequences. For instance, Macron earlier called for creating a European army. Where is this army? The process of its creation is stalled. I don’t rule out that this time, it will only be about making statements,” Shveitser emphasized. Turkey has launched a mop-up campaign in Syria’s Idlib province. Its efforts to disperse extremists blocking the M4 highway escalated into fighting against the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group (outlawed in Russia). However, Ankara’s determination to implement the Moscow agreements on resolving the conflict has set radical Islamists and local residents against Turkish troops. Experts interviewed by Izvestia expect the fighting to continue.”Clashes between Turkish troops and Islamist militants were inevitable,” military expert Vladislav Shurygin pointed out. “Extremists weren’t going to back down and voluntarily unblock the M4 road. Meanwhile, the time that Ankara was given to drive militants back from the highway is running out. However, Turkey is still trying to use as little force as possible to settle the issue,” he added.The troops that Turkey has in the Idlib province are enough to carry out a large operation. Chances are that the current fighting will morph into a larger-scale standoff with the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, the expert said.The position of Idlib residents is also to be taken into consideration, Academy of Military Sciences Professor Vadim Kozyulin noted. The province remains the radical Islamists’ last stronghold in Syria. Most civilians are intimidated by the terrorists, but many truly share their radical ideas and don’t want to compromise with the government.”The thing to remember is that several thousands of the most resilient militants and their family members were evacuated to the province from the areas that had reconciled with Bashar Assad,” the expert emphasized. “This is why it won’t be easy for Turkey to gain the loyalty and support of the locals. More incidents will inevitably follow. There will also be other issues with local residents because they have ties with both Turkey and Syria. Many have relatives in areas controlled by the Assad government and they will take the severance of these ties very hard,” Kozyulin stressed. Nearly half of Italians support the idea of leaving the Eurozone and the European Union, according to an opinion poll published by Termometro Politico. Italians are frustrated with the fact that their EU neighbors chose to act on their own, while China and Russia were among the first to provide assistance to the country. It is argued that Rome may follow in London’s footsteps and pull out of the EU, Izvestia notes.Europeans are split over who will have to pay for overcoming the crisis. The countries hardest hit by COVID-19, including Italy and Spain, would like the wealthier and less affected countries — namely, the Netherlands, Germany and the Nordic states — to bear most of the burden. Italy insists that the so-called “corona-bonds” be issued that would allow poorer EU members to take out loans, yet if they failed to repay their debts, all EU countries would service the debt obligations. Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Finland disagree with that idea because they doubt that Rome and Madrid will be able to pay off their debts.Other EU countries are sure that populist statements about Italy’s potential withdrawal from the European Union are a mere bluff. As for Italy, many in the country don’t want a new wave of Euroskepticism to bring Matteo Salvini from the far-right Lega Nord back to power. In addition, Rome will eventually get financial help from Brussels. That said, Italy will remain an EU member for now, despite the rising Euroskeptic mood, Rome-based historian and political scientist Alexander Dunayev said.”The reason is clear: Italy needs foreign assistance. It is no secret that according to various estimates, Italy will face a GDP drop of 9-10%, the highest among EU countries. Italy may lack resources to support its economy, so Rome will need Europe’s help,” the expert explained. “Euroskeptic sentiment will not fade away and may even surge in Italy. However, even far-right populists realize that it would be suicidal to leave the EU at the moment and even later, when the country will start to recover from the pandemic, since Italy’s economy would collapse if that happened,” Dunayev pointed out. Russia has moved up to fourth place in the global military spending rankings, Vedomosti wrote, citing a report published by Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on April 27. According to the report, Russia’s military expenditures stood at $65.1 bln in 2019, which is 4.5% more than in 2018.According to SIPRI, the top three military spenders are the United States ($732 bln), China ($261 bln) and India ($71.1 bln). Russia is followed by Saudi Arabia in fifth place ($61.9 bln).These top five account for 60% of global military spending, SIPRI analysts pointed out.Konstantin Makienko, an expert with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, says that SIPRI tends to exaggerate Russia’s military expenditure. In 2019, like in 2018, the “National Defense” segment of Russia’s federal budget did not exceed three trillion rubles, which amounts to about $50 bln.Even if money allocated to other paramilitary agencies and programs not covered by this particular segment of the budget is taken into account, the total amount will hardly reach $65.1 bln, the expert noted.According to Makienko, given the inflation rate, Russia’s military spending has more likely been declining in recent years, compared to that of other major countries. It is hard to say what the picture will be once the coronavirus pandemic is over but Russia’s military spending will hardly increase in the coming years if the current trends persist, the expert emphasized. All spring art auctions have been postponed or moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. The prices of Russian artworks may halve and overall sales will plummet, experts interviewed by Izvestia predicted.The art industry was one of the first to be hit by the pandemic as museums and art galleries across the world had been shut down and auctions had been postponed or cancelled even before the lockdown restrictions took effect.”The art auction business is seasonal, our major auctions take place in the spring and fall. This year, all spring auctions had to be postponed to June and July or moved online because of the pandemic,” Sotheby’s Moscow Managing Director Irina Stepanova said. “We offer more affordable items online,” she added.While art prices haven’t dropped much yet, experts expect the 2014 collapse to recur. “The art market — like the entire economy — is going through a shock. The current situation is reminiscent of the crisis six years ago. Auction sales plunged by 39% back then,” said Ksenia Podoinitsyna, the founder of the InArt rating agency.According to Igor Markin, an art collector and the founder of the Art4 museum, auction prices for Russian art pieces will halve both domestically and overseas.However, experts are cautiously optimistic about the industry’s prospects. They say the market will revive rather quickly once the economic situation stabilizes. But it is hard to make long-term forecasts at the moment since no one knows how long the pandemic and its related restrictions will last. Though history has seen many crises, the world is facing a situation of this magnitude for the first time. TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews.