Empowering the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) with punitive functions will undermine the Syrian peace process, which starts in early 2019, Russia's Permanent Representative to the OPCW, Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Alexander Shulgin said in an interview with Izvestia. He noted that if the organization’s mandate expands, the West would be given carte blanche on blaming Damascus for any sort of chemical attacks, which devalues its participation in a peaceful settlement. The diplomat also assessed the current relations between Moscow and Amsterdam and explained how Russian diplomatic methods differ from American ones.
Talking about the extension of the OPCW's mandate, Shulgin noted that he believes it contradicts the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). "Unfortunately, what is happening now in the OPCW is a consequence of the policy adopted by the United States and a number of its allies to replace international law with a set of certain rules of the world order established by them," he said.
The diplomat noted that within international organizations the Russian delegation interacts with small states differently than Western states. "At the same time, the main difference from our Western partners is that we do not impose anything on anyone, and we do not intimidate anyone. We only explain our position, and sovereign states make decisions," he told Izvestia. "Therefore, any isolation of Russia or putting it in a humiliating position is out of the question," he added.
Speaking about relations between Moscow and Amsterdam, Shulgin said, "The turning point was with the Malaysian Boeing that was shot down on July 17, 2014, for which The Hague blamed Moscow without proof. After that, The Hague embarked on curtailing cooperation." "Apparently, this is an integral part of the West's information blitz against Russia in recent years, in which we are regularly accused of all mortal sins," he added.
"Trade and economic cooperation continues, and relations between individual regions are maintained. It is nice to see that commodity turnover has been growing recently, over 10 months it saw an increase that was 15% greater than in 2017 and reached $38.2 bln," the diplomat noted, when commenting on this positive development in the countries’ ties.
Roscosmos has no plans to sever contacts with NASA either on the lunar program or on other issues, despite the "unpleasant surprise" when the invitation for the corporation’s CEO Dmitry Rogozin to the US was cancelled, the enterprise told Kommersant. The decision was announced in early January. However, Roscosmos has not yet received a formal rejection to organize a visit from Washington, scheduled for February 2019. Any decision on an answer, the Russian side will take during the first working week of January, Kommersant reported.
"No, all these assumptions about the immediate withdrawal from the negotiations with NASA on taking part in the creation of the near-moon Gateway station or the waiver of other obligations have no grounds. We intend to comply with all agreements and follow the signed documents, Roscosmos is not going to have any mirror reaction yet," Vladimir Ustimenko, an official corporate representative, told the newspaper.
Earlier, Rogozin said that Roscosmos was interested in the American project to create an international near-Moon station, but the Russian side has its own aspirations and suggestions.
The fact that the invitation was cancelled came as an “unpleasant surprise” and this was confirmed by other Kommersant sources. The sources noted that both parties were waiting for the negotiations, as they were expected to end the discussion of the ISS scandal, as well as become a starting point for making fundamental decisions on other topics.
Gazprom was able to strike a deal with Yerevan on imposing a 10% gas price hike on Armenia starting from 2019 to $165 per 1,000 cubic meters. However, according to Kommersant, the agreement looks nominal - the price was increased for Gazprom Armenia - but Armenian authorities are not ready to raise domestic tariffs. According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, Gazprom could virtually cancel the internal discount, due to which its subsidiary was able to invest in the country's infrastructure.
Russia’s gas giant conducted negotiations on an additional agreement with the new authorities of Armenia. On December 31, Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller and Armenia’s acting Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan signed an additional agreement to the gas supply contract of Gazprom Armenia (gas distribution company, 100% Gazprom subsidiary). Gazprom is the only supplier of gas to Armenian consumers. The contract with Gazprom Armenia was concluded in 2013 for the supply of up to 2.5 bln cubic meters per year in 2014-2018. In the first 9 months of 2018, Gazprom exported 1.37 bln cubic meters.
Andrey Polishchuk from Raiffeisenbank believes that the new deal between Gazprom and the Armenian authorities may lead to a reduction in Gazprom Armenia’s margin, but it will not be critical. Alexey Grivach from the National Energy Security Fund believes that the discount that Gazprom provided to Gazprom Armenia to secure investments in developing infrastructure has been partially canceled. Given that the new authorities clamped down on the Gazprom subsidiary, it would be strange to expect the status quo to remain the same, the expert believes. However, he added that this might be the subject of further negotiations.
Chief Economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Sergey Guriev believes that Russia is much more corrupt than one would anticipate, given its level of development and even more so, the level of education, he said in an interview with Vedomosti. Guriev plans to leave his post in 2019 and return to full-time academic work at the University Sciences Po in Paris.
EBRD was established in 1991 to facilitate the transition of Eastern European and CIS countries to a market economy, funding projects in more than 30 countries. However, in Russia, due to sanctions in 2014, the bank stopped funding its projects.
Three years ago, Guriev was appointed Chief Economist at the bank. "In terms of the stability of financial markets, Russia has gone a long way: it has built an inflation targeting system, a flexible ruble exchange rate, and has shown that it does not depend that much on external shocks," he said, commenting on Russia’s development during these three years. "However, there is not much progress in other categories. The country’s infrastructure development leaves much to be desired, and integration into the global economy has deteriorated sharply. There is definitely no progress on environmental sustainability. Competition, the development of the private sector, privatization, and the fight against monopolies are facing a significant setback," he added.
At the same time, according to Guriev, Russia remains a country with a low quality of state institutions and a high level of corruption. "Russia is much more corrupt than one would expect, given its level of development and even more so, the level of education," he told Vedomosti.
Talking about the things that the Russian authorities can do to bolster its economy, he said, "This includes protecting property rights, the rule of law, an independent and fair legal system, and integrating (itself) into the global economy."
Four Russian companies teamed up to create the first domestic processor designed to drastically improve the performance of computer neural networks. The chip makes it possible to significantly accelerate facial recognition, images, and more accurately analyze CT scans and other medical data, among many of its complex strategic tasks, Izvestia wrote. Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that Russian developers have real opportunities to make a name for themselves in the emerging global market of neural processors.
According to Alexander Semenov, Executive Director of the Neuronet industry alliance that works to combine the efforts of several companies, the group’s composition and the start of its activities will be officially announced in February.
"Russian mathematicians and engineers who develop hardware and algorithms in the field of artificial intelligence and neural networks are the best in the world. Now they have around four years to outshine their foreign colleagues and set the standards of the future market," he told Izvestia.
There are currently around 2,000 companies in the world participating in the race to create a reference neural processor, Head of the laboratory of neural network technologies and computer linguistics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology Stanislav Ashmanov told Izvestia.
"Whoever becomes the first to develop the chip, which will become the industry standard, will earn money commensurate with the incomes of the current market leaders in central processing units, such as Intel or AMD. So far, out of the 2,000 startups worldwide, no more than five companies are close to victory," Ashmanov said.
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