The primary motive for the murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko, who was shot dead near his apartment in Kiev on Tuesday evening, is being attributed to his ‘professional activities.’ Another motive under consideration is his civic position, Kommersant writes. Ukrainian police have opened an investigation into the killing. Since Babchenko was a Russian citizen, Russia’s investigative Committee has also opened a criminal case. Ukrainian authorities used a similar scheme during the investigation into the murder of former Russian State Duma MP Denis Voronenkov, who likewise was shot dead in Kiev on March 23, 2017, the paper says. As a result, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General back then had stated that Russian citizen Vladimir Tyurin was the mastermind behind Voronenkov’s murder. Kiev alleged that Tyurin acted in the interests of Russia’s Federal Security Service (the FSB). The Russian investigation into the case has not been completed yet.
Babchenko, 41, was a writer, journalist and military correspondent. He left Russia in 2017, and lived in Czech Republic and Israel. Since August 2017, Babchenko had resided in Kiev, where he hosted a show on a Crimean-Tatar TV channel, ATR. He contributed to Russia’s Moskovsky Komsomolets daily, as well as TV Tsentr and Channel One TV, and also wrote articles for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper. Babchenko’s friends told Kommersant that his exodus from Russia came in the wake of several incidents, chiefly a slew of threats from unknown people. In addition, he also struggled to find a job in Russia. However, when he moved to Kiev, the threats did not stop. He confirmed that he was harassed over the phone and on social networks. The journalist’s statements in relation to various subjects have fueled serious scandals and court proceedings.
As an Israeli military delegation headed by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is arriving in Moscow from Israel later in the day, all eyes are on what steps will be taken regarding Iran's presence in Syria, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says. The Israeli defense chief plans to discuss the issue with his Russia counterpart Sergey Shoigu, who has initiated the meeting. Both Moscow and Tel Aviv admit that the presence of Russian military forces in the Middle East is connected with concerns over a massive military conflict, which Russia and Israel are willing to scale down. The key topic often raised by Tel Aviv in its talks with Russia and other partners is the presence of Iran’s Shiite groups and Hezbollah on Syrian soil close to the Israeli border and their real threat to Israel.
Israel’s influence on the events in Syria is yielding favorable results, Nezavisimaya writes. It also says that Israel’s attacks on Syrian airfields may be expected to cease. Military expert Vladimir Popov assumes that "Tel Aviv’s participation in the talks in Moscow demonstrates that the Russian side will be given various sensitive information by Israeli intelligence services." This includes goals, targets, activities and the location of Shiite divisions on Syrian soil," he added. "The two countries are likely to develop steps aimed at pursuing their own interests in Syria on a mutual basis as efficiently as possible," the expert explained.
Russia plans to deliver its S-400 missile systems to the tune of at least $6 bln to its biggest partner in terms of military and technical cooperation, India, RBC daily writes on Wednesday with reference to sources in Russia’s Defense Ministry. "The issue may be about five regiments, which makes up ten divisions," one of them said. The other one specified that "four S-400 regimental units and a mixed regiment with ammunition allowance and supply parts" would be delivered to India. He said that a respective memorandum of intent was signed earlier this week, adding that the contract is worth $6.2 bln in total.
The S-400 long-and medium-range air defense missile system is designed to hit aerial targets at a range of up to 400 kilometers and tactical ballistic targets flying at a speed of 4.8 km/s at a distance of up to 60 kilometers. The system’s radars detect aerial targets at a distance of up to 600 kilometers. The system’s surface-to-air missiles can hit aircraft targets at altitudes of 10,000-27,000 meters and ballistic threats at altitudes of 2,000-25,000 meters.
Earlier media reports said that the talks between Moscow and Delhi on S-400 supplies had come to a standstill over high prices and Russia’s refusal to share technologies. However, a source from the Indian side familiar with the talks told RBC that the S-400 deal is in the final stage of endorsement. The only remaining obstacle for India is the risk of being slapped with US sanctions. The source noted that Delhi is currently negotiating an agreement with Washington to be freed of restrictions over the S-400 deal.
Though Stockholm is committed to the European Union’s sanctions policy regarding Moscow, it plans to expand cooperation with Russian citizens and businesses, Sweden's State Secretary to the Minister for EU Affairs and Trade Oscar Stenstrom said in an interview with Kommersant. "Trade brings people together and triggers economic growth. Around 500 Swedish companies operate in Russia, and many of them are demonstrating very good results, though there are a few newcomers," he elaborated. According to the official, Sweden is travelling down two paths. "Sweden is a reliable and stable EU partner on anti-Russia sanctions. We are committed to our principles that borders cannot be changed using force, and it is necessary to stick to the Budapest memorandum. We were surprised by the events in Georgia, Ukraine and Crimea. Meanwhile, there is the other path, which is widening contacts between the people of Russia and Sweden, part of it being the expansion of cooperation between companies," he explained.
Asked why Stockholm has been putting more emphasis on military construction and its move to boost military spending, Stenstrom replied by saying that this strategy is in line with the country’s needs. "Our policy in this field has a three-tier structure: Sweden-European Union-United Nations. Our defense expenditures have always been very low, and we have considered them insufficient," he stated. "Those changes are not targeted at any country. We are not joining NATO, and we feel no threat coming from anyone, even Russia. That said, we cannot ignore the fact that there are countries in our region with rising defense outlays. Not only Russia, but also other European countries. The global environment is becoming increasingly unpredictable," the official stressed. He added that Sweden does maintain close ties with NATO, though it has no plans to join the bloc.
VEB, Russia’s state-run development bank, is ready to invest in the construction of Russia’s biggest coal-steam plant on the Chinese border, RBC says citing sources close to the project’s participants. Russia’s Inter RAO and the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) have agreed to revive the project to build the Erkovetskaya coal power station worth over $10 bln, sources said. According to two of them, ex-head of VEB Sergei Gorkov sent a letter to Inter RAO CEO Boris Kovalchuk a couple of weeks ago, describing the construction project as highly crucial and suggested financing it.
Russia’s development bank may provide project financing for the construction, and attract the China Development Bank (CDB), the country’s biggest state-owned bank, as a co-investor, four sources told the paper. CDB is VEB’s strategic partner that has already financed its projects to the tune of $10 bln and continues investing, particularly in energy projects.
The plant’s capacity is expected to total 4 GW, it is also planned to build a power transmission line to China and launch the development of the Erkovetskaya coal pit, sources told RBC. Plans to construct a power station for energy supplies to China have been discussed since 2010, though in 2015 the growth rates of energy consumption in China dropped as its demand only added half a percent after the prior 5-9% growth. This prompted putting the export-oriented venture on hold.
Meanwhile, energy consumption in China has been on the rise over the past two years, one of the sources told the paper, adding that Inter RAO was given a green light from its Chinese partners to revive the project. Another source said that the latest meeting of the Russia-China intergovernmental commission ended up with the Chinese delegates themselves suggesting a return to the project. Given VEB’s interest in the venture, chances have substantially increased on this score. Whether the new head of the development bank Igor Shuvalov will support the construction plan remains to be seen, the source added.
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