Russian energy giant Gazprom and Austria’s OMV extended a contract on gas supplies until 2040 on Tuesday. Austria, the first country in Western Europe to get Soviet gas 50 years ago, became Gazprom’s first European client with such a long contract, Kommersant business daily writes.
Obviously, the deal was aimed at symbolically marking the anniversary amid the talks between the two countries’ leadership. According to the paper, the contract’s terms remain unchanged, and the deal on exchanging assets between Gazprom and OMV is up in the air.
OMV is also Gazprom’s partner in the Nord Stream 2 project. The contract’s extension may serve to convince banks to provide funding by confirming that Austria will continue receiving Russian gas during the recoupment period of the future gas pipeline. Meanwhile, the contract’s annual volume did not grow, though OMV CEO Rainer Seele had repeatedly hinted that he was willing to go for this possibility.
Alexey Grivach from Russia's National Energy Security Fund linked the refusal to increase the volume to uncertainty in Austria’s energy policy. "It is unclear whether the country will continue subsidizing renewable energy sources or will opt for an economically viable decision."
Given that the contract would have expired in 10 years, the decision to extend it seems to be symbolic, the analyst said. This step may "be a signal to other market participants to prolong contracts."
The contract’s extension runs counter to the European Commission’s policy which opposes lengthy agreements, sources in the sector told the paper, noting that Gazprom should hurry to extend other deals.
Iranian authorities warned in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency about their plans to increase the country’s uranium enrichment capacity. Tehran stressed that it was impossible to honor the nuclear deal while bearing the burden of US sanctions. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta note that the Iranian leadership’s decision does not breach the nuclear agreement but it sends a signal to European states about the need to counter US unilateral steps.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) to prepare for uranium enrichment. These plans will be fulfilled only if other parties to the JCPOA (Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany) fail to guarantee Tehran’s economic benefits as part of the deal.
Washington’s unilateral steps against Iran were enough for European companies to decide to pull out of the Iranian market. French car manufacturer PSA Group has started preparations for leaving the Islamic Republic, the paper writes. During his European tour, which began earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to convince Europe that it will benefit from breaking the Iran nuclear deal.
According to Professor Vladimir Sazhin, Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, "What the AEOI is planning to do - step up uranium enrichment - is in the framework of the JCPOA and therefore there are no violations here."
"Why are they [Iran] doing this? I think this is a signal to the Europeans. The fate of the JCPOA is hanging by a thread. The Americans are planning to launch the implementation of sanctions starting from August 6 and there can be some options before that. Europe - namely the UK, France and Germany - is interested in business with Iran and normal relations with it, but it is unclear if they are able to withstand US pressure. I think the Iranians have taken this step to remind the Europeans: if they can’t resist, the JCPOA will be ruined and then Iran will begin reviving its nuclear program," the expert said.
This summer’s combat training in the Russian army kicked off with large-scale maneuvers in nearly all military districts and fleets. The major drills are being carried out in the southwestern and western strategic directions. The Defense Ministry said that the maneuvers are being conducted as scheduled, while the Kremlin stressed that this activity is linked to military threats surfacing these days near Russia’s borders, including NATO’s Saber Strike drills in the Baltics, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
According to the Defense Ministry, during the tactical flight training, pilots will carry out missile strikes at the Opuk and Kopanskoy firing ranges in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov near the Kerch Strait and near Ukraine’s border.
The Kopanskoy firing range is located 80 km from Mariupol. Earlier, Kiev closed three sections of the Sea of Azov near the southern Ukrainian city until September 1.
Military expert Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev told the paper, "The borders in the Sea of Azov have not been delineated. Its northern coast is the zone of an armed conflict. Certainly, Ukraine does not have the right to close the maritime area there to hold some military drills there in a long-term prospect. This resembles preparation for real combat action rather than drills," he pointed out.
The expert did not rule out that this decision is related to Kiev’s plans to launch a major military operation against Donbass and Crimea.
Viktor Murakhovsky, a member of an expert-level council of the Military-Industrial Commission’s board, said," This is linked to a conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the Sea of Azov, this is a kind of political step. Meanwhile, Ukraine did not impose such restrictions on its territory when active combat steps in Donbass were underway."
Moscow does not intend to shut down the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Kiev despite numerous provocations and attacks carried out by Ukrainian extremists, the center’s head Konstantin Vorobyov told Izvestia.
"Provocations occur regularly and nobody is pursuing those who are guilty. There is always a threat that the center’s staff members and its visitors, mostly Ukrainian citizens, may fall victim to physical violence. Meanwhile, there is still no clear response to this situation from international structures such as the United Nations or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The situation remains tense. However, there is no talk of closing the center," he stressed.
Ukraine’s authorities have turned a blind eye to acts of vandalism and attacks on the center’s staff members, the diplomat said. The Ukrainian side is not meeting its commitments under Article 8 of an agreement on cultural centers, which stipulates the responsibility of parties to ensure the safe operation of these facilities. "They are ignoring this article and are not investigating these incidents," Vorobyov said. However, Russia’s authorities are not planning to close Ukraine’s cultural center on Arbat Street and its work may be suspended only if Kiev breaks the intergovernmental agreement on the operation of cultural centers.
MP of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada from the Opposition Bloc Yevgeny Balitsky told the paper that Kiev’s authorities have been fomenting incitement against the Russian cultural center and even stage incidents. "In our country it has become fashionable to see ‘Moscow’s hand’ everywhere. It is very convenient to attribute one’s mistakes and miscalculations to Russian-speaking citizens and Russians working here. The anti-Russian hysteria is stirred up to a maximum extent. By now, we are facing attacks by radicals against both the facilities and people. That’s why the Russian cultural center in Kiev, unfortunately, will apparently remain one of the favorite targets of nationalists while the current authorities are in power," the lawmaker told the paper.
Non-cash payments at stadiums during the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia will be available only with Visa payment system cards, Kommersant writes. The holders of other payment systems will have to pay cash. The US multinational financial services corporation received these advantages traditionally as a global sponsor of the event. Similar rules were introduced during the Olympic Games.
Should fans come to the stadiums with cards of other payment systems and without cash, they will be able to immediately get a pre-paid Visa card from Alfa Bank and transfer money there using a their bank’s mobile app, Director for E-Business Monitoring at Alfa Bank Alexei Golenischev said. Alfa Bank has exclusive rights on acquiring (processing credit or debit card payments) in ATM machines, and Russia’s top lender Sberbank has similar acquiring rights at points of sale, he said.
During major sports events, deals on providing services are signed only with official sponsors and that’s why there will be only one payment system at stadiums, Head of the Committee on FIFA Property Rights Protection and Deputy Head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service Andrey Kashevarov said. Russia, like other countries hosting competitions, will ensure compliance with international commitments to FIFA, the Central Bank’s press service told the paper.
However, lawyers note that there is a legal impasse since Russia’s law stipulates that outlets with trade transactions of more than 40 mln rubles ($644,000) must accept Mir payment system cards established by the Russian Central Bank. However, Russia’s national payment system is not planning to rival Visa at the World Cup, Kommersant writes.
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