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President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer and Russia’s Foreign Minister dwelled upon three main issues during their meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly - Syria, Ukraine and Russia’s potential support in tackling the Zika virus, Maurer told Kommersant following the event. He added that the shelling of the UN humanitarian convoy and the Syrian Red Crescent near Aleppo had not been discussed. According to the ICRC president, the organization he heads does not protect its convoys with the help of military or weapons, but calls for the warring parties to respect the convoys and use restraint instead of shelling them. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told Izvestia that he considers the attack on the humanitarian convoy absolutely unacceptable from the viewpoint of international law.
Russia’s top diplomat also discussed the Syrian conflict with the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini during a closed meeting. Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Meshkov told Kommersant that Lavrov’s "bilateral meetings are mainly focused on discussions about a whole range of Russia’s relations with various countries." "In this regard the meetings have been very productive as they allow us to see where we are and agree on respective political and economic steps with those countries over a very short period of time," he added.
According to Meshkov, issues related to the European Union were also on the agenda of Lavrov’s talks in New York. "It is no secret that a whole range of representatives of the UN countries demonstrate their reluctance to put up with the sanctions policy at the bilateral meetings. The sanctions policy has driven trade turnover between Russia and the European Union to unprecedented lows, which surely affects the trade and economic relations with the bulk of European states," he noted.
Despite the framework agreement on disengaging forces in Donbass, the key political issues of the Ukrainian crisis can hardly be settled at the moment, Izvestia writes on Thursday. Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the newspaper on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that signing of the framework agreement was only the first step towards implementing the Minsk accords, though further measures such as "ungrouping of forces" should follow. "We’re expecting a reply from Minsk regarding the issue, while the agreement will bring us closer to the full implementation of the Minsk accords," he said.
The Foreign Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and its representative in the political subgroup, Natalya Nikonorova, told Izvestia the efforts of the French and German top diplomats have facilitated the signing of the framework agreement on disengaging the forces in Donbass. However, she agrees that it will take time to settle certain political issues. "A divergence of views by the conflicting sides still remains," she said, adding though that there is no other option but to follow the Minsk accord in order to put an end to the conflict.
According to Denis Pushilin, the head of the delegation of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic at the peace talks, "the first item of the Minsk agreement has been accorded and initialed." "Further on it will be submitted to heads of the republics and the representatives of Ukraine for signing," he added.
Russia’s approach to settling the North Korean dispute differs from that of Washington, which demands Pyongyang give up its nuclear ambitions in order to resume dialogue, Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) Deputy in the Committee on Defense Viktor Vodolatsky told Izvestia. "Russia is only focused on a peaceful dialogue. We constantly put this forward, particularly to the United States, which is trying to establish a unipolar world. Moscow has always said that it is impossible to put pressure on other states in a multipolar world," he stressed.
According to Volodatsy, "similar things are happening in Syria, where the US ink truce agreements that practically give terrorists an opportunity to relocate and reinforce their defenses." "Since this is a policy of double standards, our position regarding North Korea differs from that of Washington. We don’t say that tomorrow we’ll sit down to talk only provided that Pyongyang closes its nuclear program, but we insist on the need to launch talks in a move to find compromises and reach an agreement, which implies that the creation of nuclear weapons in those countries that are not nuclear-armed powers, poses a threat to the whole world," he said, adding that "to set forth preconditions means humiliating the country and its leadership" and he considers it possible to resume North Korean talks "after a new president is elected in the United States."
The economic downturn has not prevented and to some extent helped Russia’s biggest companies on RBC’s top-500 rating to boost revenues and profits. According to RBC daily, the weak ruble, inflation and salary cuts were the main factors that contributed to growing gains.
For the second time, the consolidated revenues of the rating’s participants published by the business newspaper, had surged by 13.6% in 2015 to more than 63.6 trillion rubles, while their profits even doubled to 4.05 trillion rubles. By comparison, Russia’s GDP saw a 3.7% drop last year, which was the first contraction since 2009, with real household earnings decreasing 4.3%, while consumption plunged by 9.6%. Though the ratings-listed companies’ total receipts account for 79% of the country’s 2015 GDP, their profits amounted to nearly half the net profits of all Russian firms, RBC writes.
According to survey leader Sergei Tsukhlo at the Gaidar Institute sentiment survey, the surge in profits was backed by the highest inflation over the past seven years and the ruble’s weakening, which allowed exporters to increase sales by 30-50%. Tsukhlo expects the trend, which may seem surprising, to continue in the future. Big companies usually weather financial difficulties better than small businesses, senior economist at Sberbank CIB Anton Struchenevsky told RBC. Also, he said, "the share of loans granted to big enterprises is on the rise, while the share of small ones in the total loan portfolio has seriously decreased over the past a year and a half."
The Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications has proposed introducing specialized software for customer devices to identify users’ Wi-Fi networks and Internet access, in addition to insisting on the legal accountability of private individuals, who own those networks, Kommersant writes with reference to a source in the regulator. This measure is part of a strategy to fight terrorist activities, the source said.
Around one-third of the owners of Internet access points in Russia do not identify their users and Wi-Fi networks of those that allow free access to the Internet, are not regulated at all, the newspaper says. However, market participants say that it is not going to be an easy task to install specialized software on all customer devices as there are lots of them being used, functioning with various hardware platforms and various operating systems, Kommersant writes.
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