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PRESS TOP 5: Tuesday, September 27

September 27, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Russian pilot's extradition from the US, Syria deadlock, Moscow pollster as foreign agent, capital outflow and tax dodging

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Izvestia: US prison authorities ask Russian pilot to sign transfer request

The US Federal Bureau of Prisons has asked jailed Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko to sign a document on his extradition under the 1983 Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons, Izvestia writes on Tuesday.

In an interview with the newspaper, Yaroshenko said on September 12 a US prison official gave him a document with the following question: "Would you like to be transferred under the Strasbourg Convention?" The pilot said that according to the guidelines he alone had to make such a request, but he signed the document the next day anyway.

The pilot said that earlier requests that he had personally sent to the relevant authorities in the US were left unanswered. Yaroshenko also said he was afraid that the latest initiative could turn out to be an attempt to protract the negotiations on his fate. "I think it would be right if the Russian Justice Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and human rights organizations said that there was the need to transfer me to Russia as I had been abducted and my rights had been violated," the pilot explained.

When asked if a possible decision by US President Barack Obama to pardon him upon the mother’s request would hamper the transfer process, he said: "Of course not. If he signed the pardon, it would be even better."


RBC: Syrian truce ends in deadlock

Over the past several days, the truce in Syria has been broken, RBC daily writes. An urgent meeting by the UN Security Council on the situation in Aleppo on Sunday was held amid hostile rhetoric by the United States, hurling accusations at Russia of "barbaric actions."

On Monday, the bombing of Aleppo’s areas controlled by the armed opposition continued, but the airstrikes were less intense, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. US Secretary of State John Kerry, one of the architects of the Syrian ceasefire, said the talks on creating a coalition government of national unity were "rather complicated." He claimed that Russia and the Syrian government planned to seize Aleppo and level it to the ground.

At the same time, politicians and experts have not rushed to speak about the collapse of the truce, the paper writes. Director of the Analytic Center of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) Andrei Kazantsev said the sharp hyperbole by both Russia and the West over the past days does not necessarily translate to a deterioration of ties between Moscow and Washington, or the failure of the truce. "This rhetoric to a greater extent is aimed at the public, I see no wish to sever relations between the countries," he said.

Alexey Malashenko, a member of the scientific council of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said crises like the attack on the aid convoy and the bombing of Aleppo are in fact a pretext for crucial talks on the fate of President Bashar Assad. Russia, now more than ever, wants Syria’s president to stay in power, while the West has other plans. In this context, the situation in Syria is again in a deadlock, the expert said.


Vedomosti: Western academics call for delisting of Moscow pollster as foreign agent

Global research associations and Western academics, including those from the University of Oxford, the King’s College London and the University of Manchester, have asked Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov to reconsider the decision on including the Levada Center on its list of foreign agents, Vedomosti business daily writes.

In a letter obtained by the paper, professors from the University of Oxford say that the Levada Center helps Russia maintain its reputation as a country carrying out research on a global level. The representatives of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies (BASEES), uniting more than 500 researchers from Europe and the UK, stress that the "foreign agent" stigma may lead to a grinding halt in the Levada Center’s research.

The European Society of Marketing Research Professionals (ESOMAR) and the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) said in a letter that the members of these associations act in line with their codes and the grants allow them to conduct their research independently and this is precisely the Levada Center has done.

The letters in support of the Levada Center are sent to Russia’s embassies, the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry, its director Lev Gudkov said. Russia’s authorities stress that they take no notice of the letters sent by scientists and public figures and this position is unlikely to change in the near future, political scientist Alexei Makarkin told the paper. "The lifting of the agent status may be expected if the authorities decide to improve their reputation in the eyes of the West or among liberal academics but now it is not planning to do anything of that," he said.


Kommersant: Economic Ministry’s optimistic outlook sees end of capital outflow in 2019

All three macroeconomic outlook alternative scenarios by Russia’s Economic Ministry for 2017-2019, which lay the foundation for the future budget, are very optimistic, Kommersant business daily writes.

The basic scenario in the document, approved by the government on September 21, is a conservative forecast in which growth gradually slows from the current trends, with an oil price of $40 per barrel. The basic "plus" scenario relies on a surge in the oil price from $43 in January 2017 to $55 in December 2019. It also envisages a sharp jump in Russia’s annual oil exports by 11 million tonnes in three years.

The target scenario promises GDP growth of 4.5%, zero capital outflow and an investment boom in 2019, but oil prices would need to rise to $55 per barrel for that. This seems to be in line with the demand by the Russian president to reach GDP growth of 4% or 5% by 2020, the paper says.


RBC: Russian expats may not be able to dodge taxes overseas

The Finance Ministry suggests that all Russian citizens should not have the possibility of discarding their currency residency, which means being a taxable entity, RBC business daily writes.

Russia’s citizens will always remain its taxable entities no matter how long they live in other countries, the ministry’s draft law says. Under the current law on foreign currency, nationals who live abroad for a year or more on any legal grounds, stop being Russia’s currency residents.

The changes will potentially affect at least 2 million people - that’s the number of Russians counted by consulates around the world as of August 2016, according to the Russian Central Election Commission.

Individual taxable entities, that is currency residents, in Russia should comply with the country’s currency law, namely to inform the tax authorities within a month after opening accounts in foreign banks and report the movement of these funds annually. Besides, Russia’s residents are subject to a number of limits on certain operations with foreign accounts.

The Finance Ministry says these rules should not apply to Russia’s citizens, who have lived abroad for a year or longer. But if these citizens decide to return home they will have to inform the tax authorities of all their foreign accounts and currency operations over all the years they had stayed abroad, the document says. This also concerns citizens who stay in Russia for more than three months during one year but do not plan to come back.


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

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