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PRESS TOP 5: Friday, September 23

September 23, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

New State Duma speaker, reforms in Ukraine, Russian pension system, Australian citizen's participation in Bashneft privatization

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Vyacheslav Volodin

Vyacheslav Volodin

© Anna Isakova/Russian State Duma press service/TASS


Media: Vyacheslav Volodin to take State Duma Speaker post

First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Administration Vyacheslav Volodin is most likely to replace Sergey Naryskin as Speaker of the State Duma (lower house of Russia’s Parliament), Vedomosti daily writes with reference to three sources close to the leadership of the United Russia party. His candidacy will be proposed at a joint meeting of the Supreme and General Councils of the ruling party later this week (on September 24), Vedomosti says.

A source close to the Kremlin told the newspaper that "United Russia has begun a reshuffling." This comes after the statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that the role of the State Duma (lower house) and Federation Council (upper house) will be increased.

Kommersant’s sources in the Duma have various views on Volodin’s candidacy. Some say "he is a dictator by nature" so he may follow the course of Gryzlov (speaker of the fourth and fifth Dumas) who used to say "the Duma is not a place for discussions." Others say Volodin "has extensive experience so he will commence straight away with lawmaking duties and avoid proxies."


Izvestia: Europe realizing Kiev policy is major fiasco

Russia's Permanent Representative to the European Union (EU) Vladimir Chizhov told Izvestia daily that Germany and France are increasingly becoming aware of the harmfulness of the Ukrainian authorities’ course of action. "I’m confident that both the awareness of the disastrousness of Kiev’s current policy is rising both in Berlin and in Paris, not only regarding the events in Donbass, but also in economic terms and regarding other reforms are being implemented," he said, noting that "the west has set it (the reforms) as a condition for Ukraine to get financial and other support." According to Chizhov, Paris and Berlin need to take more principled standpoints for the quickest possible settlement to the Ukrainian crisis, particularly bearing in mind their weight in the EU’s political arena.

Also, Chizhov said, Russia is interested in European integrity. "Of course, we’re interested in Europe not being in tatters but self-dependent and what is crucial, an independent player on the political and economic fields in this multipolar world," he told the newspaper, adding that this is Russia’s "indirect answer on Brexit." However, he said, Moscow’s position assumes that "both processes related to inconsistency and processes related to EU’s consolidation is its internal matter." Russian pension contributions may be unfrozen in 2017

The government has initiated a plan to unfreeze the contribution share of pensions by 1% next year, which will be followed by a gradual recovery of the contributed portion of insurance payments to the whole of 6%, reports with reference to sources in the government. "The baseline scenario now implies unfreezing 1% out of 6%, which would be transferred to individual savings accounts in non-state pension funds, or VEB," the sources said. Deputy Economic Development Minister Oleg Fomichev confirmed to that the Ministry supports the initiative.

According to Fomichev, "distribution imbalances are a systemic problem, requiring additional contributions by employers and constant federal budget transfers to provide funds for insurance pensions payments." The recent proposal may allow transfers of up to 60 bln rubles to private pension funds as early as next year, says. The government has been freezing the pension payment contribution portion since 2014, redirecting the funds for current expenses and for maintaining an appropriate level of the budget.


Vedomosti: Australian businessman eyeing bid for Bashneft

An Australian national of Russian origin, Vladimir Dzhamirze, is seeking to participate in the privatization of the state-owned oil producer Bashneft, Vedomosti business daily writes Friday with reference to the businessman’s letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the government. Dzhamirze’s Lighthouse Donoilgas registered in Rostov-on-Don in 2013, may shell out over $6 bln for the 50.1% stake in Bashneft. In his letter, the Australian is requesting that the "competent authorities" allow him to transfer funds to Russia and facilitate a fair and open auction with equal access by all participants.

Dzhamirze is tied to Australia’s private Lighthouse Corporation registered in Melbourne in 1998, he told Vedomosti. According to the businessman, the company, which reported $1.3 bln net revenue in 2015, is involved in trading crude oil, oil products and liquefied natural gas. Its structures also have three long-term contracts on LNG supplies for 25-30 years, Dzhamirze said. The corporation works with Malaysia’s Petronas, Brunei and owns extraction projects in Malaysia, Indonesia and Brazil, refinery shares in Italy and Greece and manufactures equipment for solar panels in China, he added.

According to Dzhamirze, the decision to postpone Bashneft’s privatization was the right move, as the prices were too low. His company and its partners have accumulated a total of $10 bln in Swiss banks, which they are ready to invest in Russia’s oil and gas sector, Vedomosti writes.



Izvestia: Rostec gears up to create low-cost smartphone by 2018

Ruselectronics (part of the state-owned corporation, Rostec) is planning to finalize the restructuring of its assets, invest around 100 bln rubles in their development and shift its activities from military to civilian areas within the next two years, its CEO Igor Kozlov told Izvestia. Particularly, the company intends to create a low-end smartphone by 2018, with the targeted price hovering around $130. Analysts say that the new production of smartphones, valued at up to $150 mln, will be located outside Russia, otherwise it would be unprofitable due to expensive logistics and currency risks, the newspaper writes.

According to Kozlov, the total investment in expanding Ruselectronics’ enterprises will reach 100 bln rubles in the coming two years, "including around 75-80% of budget funds." Regarding smartphone production, the transmitting chip will be domestically produced. "We won’t reveal our technology partners, though we can say that outsourcing makes it possible to produce non-critical elements," he added. The current restructuring program will allow the company to integrate all its 108 enterprises into one structure with total revenues exceeding 100 bln rubles per year, Kozlov said.


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

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