The West needs Russia to maintain stability and security, France’s Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann told Kommersant ahead of French President Emmanuel Macron’s upcoming visit to Russia scheduled for late May. Together with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, he is expected to take part in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum and launch the Trianon Dialogue Civil Society Forum.
"Russia is our strategic partner on many strategic issues, such as security, the war on terror, the environment and climate change. Moscow is a permanent UN Security Council member, and it is impossible to resolve the crises in Syria or Ukraine without Russia," the ambassador stressed.
She pointed to the existing disagreements between Moscow and Paris, specifically on Syria and the Skripal case, but said that the French leader is open to bilateral dialogue. "That was why President Macron not only invited Vladimir Putin to Versailles shortly after his inauguration but also communicates with him over the phone regularly," the ambassador said.
Speaking about Paris’ objectives in Syria, she noted that it is, above all, the fight against terrorism. "We see eye-to-eye with Russia here. France’s first strikes were against Raqqa, the so-called Islamic State (IS, terror group, outlawed in Russia - TASS), which was involved in organizing terror attacks against French citizens, including in Paris in November 2015."
When asked whether the political crisis affected Russian students willing to study in France, Bermann pointed out that the number of requested student visas had remained unchanged in recent years. "However, if we talk about visas for Russian citizens as a whole, we have not returned to the pre-crisis level, that is, prior to 2014, yet. Nevertheless, the number of visa requests is growing, there was a 50% increase in 2017. If this trend persists, 2018 will be one of the top three years in this decade in terms of visa request numbers," she said.
Glencore, the Anglo-Swiss commodity trading giant, has announced that it is terminating a proposed deal to sell its 14.16% stake in Russia’s Rosneft state-owned oil company to China Energy Company Limited (CEFC). Glencore and the Qatar Investment Authority also decided to disband the QHG Oil consortium established in December 2016 to purchase a 19.5% stake in Rosneft.
After that, the QIA will become the owner of an 18.93% stake in Rosneft. The bigger stakes will be controlled by the state-owned Rosneftegaz (50%) and BP (19.75%), while Glencore will have 0.57%, Vedomosti writes.
The CEFC has already shelled out about $400 mln for Rosneft’s stocks, and the Chinese company is unlikely to get this money back, said the paper’s source close to one of the parties in the deal.
It was clear that the deal with the CEFC would hardly take place, according to ATON’s analyst Alexander Kornilov.
"Glencore will have an opportunity to comply with its obligations under a loan from Intesa. The trader’s reluctance to increase the share of direct ownership in a Russian company may stem from the sanctions, among other factors," the paper quotes Sergey Vakhrameyev, GL Asset Management’s Portfolio Manager, as saying.
The issue at hand is the new round of US sanctions, which affected major public Russian companies, such as Rusal, said Alexey Panin, a founding partner of Urus Advisory. The risk of the sanctions encompassing Rosneft should not be ruled out, and that may hinder a potential deal, he added.
Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko who is serving out a 20-year prison term in a US penitentiary has said in a telephone call with his wife that this could be their last conversation. Because of his deteriorating health, the Russian national is certain that he will not endure a 30-day solidary confinement, Yaroshenko’s wife Viktoria said in an interview with Izvestia.
"My husband sounded very tired and lost. His condition is grave indeed, as his disease is progressing. Konstantin seemed to be bidding farewell to us. He said he was tired of this torture and noted that 30 days in solitary confinement would kill him," Viktoria Yaroshenko said.
She is worried that the prison wardens could deliberately poison her husband. "That could be done in response to his remarks in an interview with Izvestia in April. He said at that time that he feared harassment from the prison administration. All that was revenge, (they) put him into solitary confinement knowing his condition so that he had access to neither doctors nor diplomats, and so that he could not let me know about that," Victoria said.
Meanwhile, Yaroshenko’s lawyer Alexei Tarasov told the paper that Konstantin had already been put into solitary confinement a few years ago after an interview with some Russian media outlets. "So, I will not be surprised if that was the reason for his isolation again," he said, adding that he is determined to seek a personal meeting with his client.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov earlier informed Izvestia that Russian diplomats are keeping a close eye on Yaroshenko’s case and will make every effort to secure his return home.
Russia’s Rusal aluminum giant has dramatically reduced exports a month after Washington had slapped sanctions on the company and its major shareholders. Rusal’s aluminum shipments abroad fell 70% by March, Kommersant writes citing data provided by Russian Railways. Yet by contrast, there has been a notable - up to one-quarter - increase in aluminum shipments inside Russia.
Rusal’s problems are due to US sanctions against the producer itself and its key shareholders, Oleg Deripaska and Viktor Vekselberg, who have been blacklisted by Washington.
It is unclear so far where Rusal’s aluminum is transported, because domestic consumption has traditionally lagged behind exports. Maxim Khudalov, an analyst at AKRA, believes that the growing volumes in warehouses close to Rusal’s plants have spurred the growth of shipments within Russia. According to the expert, this aluminum will be purchased by small traders, which do not fear sanctions and will try to use various export schemes. Russian consumers could likewise increase purchase volumes, but it is not the right time for that now, since aluminum prices have risen, and Rusal is hardly ready to sell it at old prices.
Judging by data provided by Russian Railways, Rusal shipped about half of the aluminum to warehouses in April, Kommersant’s source in an investment company said. According to his estimates, this could result in an increase in Rusal’s working capital of $200 mln per month or even more. If this practice continues, Rusal will definitely need financial aid from the government to maintain production and jobs, he emphasized.
The share of Russian-made medicines for cancer treatment almost reached 50% in its segment of the market in 2017, rising from 13.2% to 46.9% over the past five years, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade said in its 2017 report obtained by Izvestia.
Meanwhile, the share of Russian medicines in the vitally important and essential drugs sector exceeded 84% last year. The share of domestic drugs to treat hepatitis reached 31.6%, while the segment for HIV treatment doubled in 2017.
The share of domestic medicines is growing, first and foremost, in the segments with high amounts of government financing, said pharmaceutical expert Evgeny Kardash. However, many Russian factories are just beginning to master modern production technologies, for example, in accordance with the GMP standards, therefore, some drugs cannot compete with imported ones.
On the other hand, Alexander Saversky, President of the League for Patients’ Rights Protection, is certain it is necessary to push ahead with efforts to increase the production of domestic medicines due to the complex political situation.
Despite the unstable economic situation, the popularity of Russian-manufactured drugs is gradually growing, said Head of the Pharmacy Guild Elena Nevolina. According to the expert, these drugs can be cheaper than imported ones, owing to the absence of customs duties. "Our country is capable of boosting production capacities to such an extent that Russia will be able to do without imported drugs in the coming decade," she stressed.
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