The summit of the US and North Korean leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, scheduled for late May to early June, is likely to be held in Mongolia, sources in diplomatic circles of Seoul and Moscow told Izvestia. The likelihood that Ulaanbaatar would host such a historic meeting is reinforced by the fact that Mongolia has equally warm relations with the United States and North Korea, as well as due to certain technical reasons. Experts told the newspaper that the Pyongyang’s outdated air fleet would not allow the country's leader to reach Sweden or Switzerland, which were also considered as potential meeting places.
"Mongolia is first on the list of possible candidates by process of elimination. China and Russia are unacceptable for the Americans, and North Korea would never want to hold a summit in China, no matter how big a smile Kim gave the Chinese," expert at Kookmin University in Seoul Andrei Lankov told Izvestia.
Northern Europe, according to the expert, is not suitable for the meeting for purely technical reasons - it would be problematic to reach European capitals on Pyongyang airplanes manufactured in Soviet times, without landing for refueling.
However, not only logistics, but also politics speak in favor of Mongolia, Head of the Korean and Mongolian Studies Department, Institute of Oriental Studies, at the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Alexander Vorontsov told Izvestia. "Mongolia always tries to actively present itself as a mediator for the North Korean issue, by noting that it is one of the few countries that has normal relations with Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington. This potential will be in demand," the expert said.
"Right now it is very likely that it will be Mongolia. Trump does not want to go to Pyongyang for the reasons related to domestic policy, and Kim would not go to Seoul," a senior diplomat from Seoul told the newspaper.
Reshuffling the management of Russian aluminum company Rusal, after the US Treasury talked about the possibility of lifting sanction from the company, move towards a climax. Oleg Deripaska, the company’s founder and main shareholder (owned 66% of the company’s shares as of late 2017), essentially agreed to relinquish control over it by reducing its stake in the holding company En+. So far, it is unclear who would enter the capital of En+, the industry players expect either a large business with a good reputation in the West, or Russian state banks or government agencies that would not be afraid of sanctions, Kommersant wrote.
According to the newspaper’s sources, Deripaska is already talking to his partners in Rusal, and another person from the sanctions list - Viktor Vekselberg - about the dissolution of the shareholder agreement. In addition, Rusal is completely restructuring the board of directors and management, in order to be excluded from the sanctions list, Kommersant wrote. The new board, to be appointed shortly, will consist entirely of independent members, two sources familiar with the situation told Kommersant. One of the sources told the newspaper that the first steps have already been taken - CEO of Rusal Vladislav Solovyov is going to leave the company.
A source familiar with the situation assured the newspaper that the shareholders of Rusal are already holding consultations on terminating the agreement, which, however, would not help the company unless Vekselberg and Deripaska significantly reduce their shares in the company, losing control over Rusal.
Partner at Herbert Smith Freehills law firm Alexey Panich told Kommersant, that potential buyers for Deripaska's stake in En+ can include the group itself or third party non-US residents. According to him, the second option could be preferable for the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury, that has to be consulted on the matter.
Relations with Russia became one of the key topics of the most recent meeting of NATO foreign ministers, held for the last time in historical headquarters of the organization before moving. The alliance stated that they have no reason to doubt United Kingdom's conclusions on the Skripal case, but noted that the situation only creates grounds for a dialogue with Moscow. Moving headquarters, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, signifies a new page in the history of NATO. However, the subjects of discussions and approaches to world problems do not seem to have drastically changed, Kommersant wrote.
Thus, speaking of Russia, Stoltenberg reiterated his long-standing thesis of a dual-track policy towards Moscow - deterrence and dialogue. According to the Secretary General, Moscow’s dangerous behavior over the last few years includes the "illegitimate annexation of Crimea", destabilization of Eastern Ukraine, interference in democratic processes, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, and a "likely" involvement in the poisoning of former GRU officer Sergei Skripal.
The alliance is working on preparing a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council. Stoltenberg told Kommersant that the date has not yet been set, but he hopes that the meeting takes place in the near future. In turn, Russian diplomatic sources told Kommersant nothing is set in stone yet. Whether the meeting will take place depends on the issues NATO would want to discuss, the sources told the newspaper.
According to the newspaper, in a similar vein the conversation about Russia continued at the press conference of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. According to him, Moscow repeatedly threatened NATO allies and partners. Actions of the Russian Federation are unacceptable now more than ever, he added, noting the Salisbury incident, which the Secretary of State called a "reckless action" that "put the lives of innocent civilians at risk".
The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade has developed and approved a plan for localizing the production of critical LNG equipment for Russia. The plan includes creating new scientific developments for gas liquefaction, as well as testing grounds, which could require around 10 bln rubles ($161.37 mln) from the budget, Head of Department of Machine Tool Building and Investment Machine Building at the Ministry Mikhail Ivanov told Izvestia. Russia is making a big bet on LNG in terms of exports, and developing its own technologies would significantly help reduce a potential effect from sanctions, the newspaper wrote.
"We believe that this is one of the promising areas. We would need to start making not just samples, but our own working technologies, licensors who could build new plants by themselves, including sites outside of Russia," Ivanov told Izvestia.
According to Ivanov, the budgetary funds would finance the program until 2021. The program also plans to attract extra-budgetary funds from companies, the official said, without specifying the volume. However, the allocation of funds from the treasury will require coordination with the Finance Ministry. A representative of the Finance Ministry told the newspaper that the Ministry of Industry and Trade has already sent a draft law on making changes in the budget to the Finance Ministry.
According to the program, Russia should have its own technology for medium-and large-tonnage LNG with a capacity of 1 mln tonnes. According to Izvestia, so far Russia does not have any experience in using domestic developments for such a large-scale gas liquefaction. Novatek and Gazprom are currently working on the development of their technology for large-tonnage liquefaction.
The Russian Federation Council is going to submit a final review of the State Duma’s counter-sanction bill on Saturday, April 28. The document, which is scheduled for consideration on May 15, includes restricting and prohibiting activities of American and other foreign companies in Russia in many areas. A lawmaker who prepared the review told RBC there are no serious amendments planned to be offered for the first reading of the law.
The Russian Federation Council review recommended supporting the concept of the document without any changes, Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Economic Policy Vyacheslav Timchenko told RBC. "The concept is not changing. We do not object to the framework law, but we reserve the right to change the text between the first and second reading, if the draft law is passed in the first reading," he said.
He added that he thinks there will hardly be any major changes, with the only possible amendments concerning prohibiting or restricting imports of medicinal drugs manufactured in the United States an/or other foreign countries to Russia, which also happens to be the most controversial point of the bill. "This point might have some restrictive measures. There was a proposal to include specific pharmaceuticals," Timchenko said
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