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Press review: Qatar eyes NATO affiliation, Russian arms and OSCE envoy focuses on Donbass

June 07, 2018, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

1 pages in this article
© AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Qatar seeks security from Moscow, NATO

Doha might start buying Russian military equipment against the backdrop of threats from neighbors in the Persian Gulf, a diplomatic source in Qatar told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to the newspaper, Russia has something to strive for, since recently the emirate has significantly increased imports of military products. However, the main suppliers were the US and the EU, the military leadership of Qatar is even talking about long-term plans for joining NATO.

"I think that such contracts may be possible," the source in the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, answering a question on whether Doha could possibly turn to Moscow with a request to reach deals on military purchases.

According to the newspaper, the volume of military-technical cooperation between Doha and European countries supports the fact that Qatar's relations with NATO are good. Europe has long been a key source of arms supplies to Qatar, associate professor at King's College in London David Roberts told the newspaper. According to him, the statement by the Qatari defense chief about plans to join NATO is a tactic to protect itself. Qatar is a small country that is blocked by three neighboring states - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain - and is looking for as many external security mechanisms as possible, he added.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "It is quite obvious that by strengthening ties in the field of military-technical cooperation with major international players, Qatar is trying to increase its political capital and thereby ensure immunity. However, it is worth noting that the likelihood that Saudi Arabia or the UAE will decide to use military action against the emirate is minuscule."


Izvestia: Top OSCE official believes in peaceful settlement to Donbass conflict

The future of the OSCE special monitoring mission (SMM) will be decided by 57 participating states in March 2019 in Vienna, Principal Deputy Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug stated in an interview with Izvestia. He also spoke about the prospects for deploying UN peacekeepers to Donbass, the reasons for the ongoing hostilities on the contact line, the need to change the warring sides’ mindset and the fact that there is no alternative to the Minsk agreements.

According to Hug, the greatest safety risks for SMM employees include crossfire, artillery shelling and the use of long-range weapons. In addition, there is a serious risk of injury or death due to mines and unexploded bombs.

Hug said he believes that the parties themselves have the best prospects to mitigate these risks.

Answering a question about the SMM managing to reduce the tension in Donbass, Hug said that monitoring and facilitating dialogue are the two main pillars of the mission’s work. Every day, its members do their best to promote dialogue on the line of contact and people benefit directly from this, he added. This makes it possible to restore damaged infrastructure, water pipes, electricity networks, and gas pipelines. In addition, the mission’s activities also include assisting in the evacuation of the wounded and deceased from the area, he told the newspaper.

Hug stressed that the conflicting parties must work to end the conflict. The mission, as well as other actors involved in the settlement process, contribute to the parties fulfilling their promises. It provides objective information, and facilitates dialogue.

According to him, the Minsk deal generally does not present problems - after all, the parties to the conflict agreed that these measures are necessary in order to put an end to the violence. As for military-technical measures, when they are implemented, the situation will become stable, Hug said, adding that if all sides want to do this, he sees no reason why the commitments they made in Minsk could not be carried out.


Izvestia: Russian, Moldovan businessmen plan to ink deals worth $150 mln

Business deals to the tune of more than $150 mln are expected to be signed at the Russian-Moldovan forum, which will be held in Chisinau in September, one of the forum’s organizers, Co-chairman of Business Russia Andrei Nazarov told Izvestia.

The Russian-Moldovan Economic Forum is a business event organized to cover prevailing issues of trade cooperation between both countries. The first such Forum will be held on September 19-21, 2018 in Chisinau with the participation of Moldova’s President Igor Dodon.

"Most of the projects will be implemented on Moldovan territory. At the same time, we are talking about cooperation of Russian and Moldovan companies in the fields of agriculture, winemaking, logistics, construction, light industry and other sectors," Nazarov told Izvestia. He added that in 2017 the total volume of foreign direct investment in the Moldovan economy reached around $150 mln.

"We plan to exceed the total annual inflow. Cooperation is vigorously developing between Russian and Moldovan entrepreneurs. Actually, this is the reason why organizing this forum became necessary. More than 500 people will participate in it, including representatives from business and political circles. We hope that Russia will soon return to the first place among the list of foreign investors in the Moldovan economy. After all, the development of economic contacts can serve as good support for shaping political relations," he added.

Expectations are high for the upcoming business forum given that the event will be held at the initiative of Moldovan President Igor Dodon, and Moldovan MP Vladimir Turcan told Izvestia. According to him, despite the pro-Western vector of the country's current government, economic interests certainly prevail.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Will Russia withstand another wave of sanctions?

The Russian financial system might not endure another round of sanctions if they are more potent than the April wave, when the US prohibited doing business with the enterprises of Viktor Vekselberg and Oleg Deripaska, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. If the new restrictions have similar consequences, the Russian banking system might not weather the storm, according to analysts at Moody’s. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, generally agree with the assessment and note that Russian officials also seem to be gearing up for potentially new sanctions.

"In case the sanctions significantly expand like in April, large Russian companies may not be able to service their debt obligations to banks, which, in turn, can spark a crisis in the banking system," BCS Global Markets chief economist Vladimir Tikhomirov told the newspaper, noting that the probability of such scenario is not high. "Sanctions have a devastating effect on our knowledge-intensive industries, even for drilling, oil production. They harm large enterprises that are key borrowers of banks and that are the base of the largest banks’ profitability. If these companies stop taking loans, this will have a negative impact on the banking system," managing partner at Veta expert group Ilya Zharskiy added.

It will be even more difficult if Russia is disconnected from SWIFT, Finam analyst Alexei Korenev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. However, oil companies, according to the expert, are more resistant to sanctions than, for example, steel and aluminum producers.

That being said, the actions of the Russian establishment indicate that authorities are bracing for more anti-Russian sanctions, the newspaper wrote. According to experts from the Center of Development of the Higher School of Economics (HSE), Russia is ramping up budget revenues, and meanwhile the treasury's expenditures are not only not increasing, but also even decreasing. According to experts, building up reserves enables Russia to some extent to preserve the current economic situation.

"The government is forming a security cushion designed not only to counter possible sanctions, but also to create sufficient reserves that could, if necessary, become a source for major projects identified in the president’s May decrees," Korenev concurred. On the other hand, according to him, if the state really has to face a new wave of sanctions, putting together additional reserves can prove to be a very effective mechanism that makes it possible to minimize negative consequences for Russia.


Kommersant: Summa Group might sell its stake in Transcontainer

Following the sale of the Novorossiysk Commercial Sea Port, other plans by Summa Group owner Ziyavudin Magomedov, arrested for embezzlement, also seem to be falling apart. In particular, the idea to create a national container operator based on Transcontainer. Yet, according to Kommersant, Summa currently wants to sell a blocking stake in the company with a market price of over 16 bln rubles ($259.3 mln). Among the main contenders, sources on the market noted structures close to businessmen Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, who already own 24.5% in Transcontainer. Their most likely competitor is Vladimir Lisin’s UCL Holding.

Market sources told Kommersant that transport group FESCO (32.5% owned by Magomedov’s Summa Group) is collecting applications for the purchase of a 25.07% stake in Transcontainer.

Kommersant’s sources confirmed that Abramovich and Abramov are indeed interested in purchasing Summa's stake in Transcontainer, and that their business entities have indeed filed applications. However, according to the sources, "the process is competitive, and there are other contenders", and it is too early to talk about the deal, or its structure. The sources did not rule out that UCL Holding might be one of the bidders, yet UCL declined to provide a comment for the newspaper. At the same time, FESCO told Kommersant that in the framework of current activities they regularly assess their asset portfolio. Summa confirmed to Kommersant that the group "has in fact received proposals from buyers", noting that there is no principled position on the deal yet.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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