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PRESS TOP 5: Friday, September 30

September 30, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

US and Russia's "rivalry" in Syria, sacking civil servants for using WhatsApp, latest oil price forecasts and Russian polar bears exports

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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Media: Russia, US may turn into military adversaries in Syria

The failure to resolve the crisis in Syria has led to the most serious conflict between the United States and Russia since the Cold War, Kommersant business daily writes on Friday. The unprecedented degradation in bilateral relations was caused by a recent statement of US State Department Spokesman John Kirby who has threatened Moscow for the first time with combat losses and terrorist attacks if the Syria operation continued.

Experts interviewed by the paper said relations between the US and Russia has moved beyond the war of words. There is a real threat that before the new US administration comes into office the conflict will only gain steam, and after curtailing cooperation Moscow and Washington may start exchanging strikes in Syria - against each other’s proxies, the experts fear.

A diplomatic source told Izvestia that the so-called plan B on Syria envisages a military scenario if the US State Department’s efforts fail. The plan, drawn up by the US military agencies secretly and kept from the White House, implies intensified airstrikes carried out by the US-led international coalition, the deployment of additional special forces and increasing supplies of weapons to the moderate opposition, the source told the paper. There are also plans to use insurgents for toppling the leadership in Damascus.

"Now the alternative plan is rising to the forefront as the recently launched offensive against the militants’ positions in Aleppo came as a surprise for the supporters of a military solution to the Syrian crisis. For them it is not acceptable that government forces regain control over this city, and that’s why these powers search for any possibilities to obstruct this," the source said.


Izvestia: Russian civil servants could be sacked for using WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has been authorized to design a plan for punitive action against civil servants who use foreign messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram for their official correspondence, Izvestia writes on Friday.

For violating the ban, officials would face disciplinary action including job dismissal.

Talks on this issue were held on September 28 during a meeting in the Russian Presidential Administration attended by the representatives from the Ministry of Communications, the FSB, the Ministry of Economic Development and industry players. "Russia’s Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev has raised the issue of unacceptable use of non-certified apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and Telegram for discussing work-related information several times before," Ilya Massukh, who heads the Internet+sovereignty subgroup, told the paper.

After the discussion, the subgroup included measures in its roadmap on "introducing responsibilities for organs of state authority and officials" for using these apps, he said. In line with the roadmap, the FSB is due to draw up respective guidelines by the end of the first quarter of 2017.


RBC: Oil price forecasts remain unchanged amid OPEC output cut

Late on September 28 at talks in Algeria, the member-states of the OPEC oil cartel agreed to cut oil output for the first time since 2008. Most experts interviewed by RBC have not changed their forecasts for oil prices amid the latest resolution.

"This decision is positive and nothing more," said Yevgeny Koshelev, an analyst at Rosbank, to the paper. The bank estimates that the oil price will stand at $50 per barrel late this year and could reach $55 or $70 in two or three years.

Chief Analyst at Nordea Olga Lapshina said this move only means that the countries have agreed to reach a deal in November. "We lack many important details - the amount of quotas and how they will be distributed among the countries. The decision seems to have not formalized yet. The reaction that we see confirms this opinion," she said.

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak told the Rossiya 24 TV channel that Russia plans to keep its production at least at the current level. According to the ING Group, Russia’s oil production reached a record level of 11.1 million barrels per day in September compared with 10.7 million barrels in August.

The main point at issue is the level of Iran’s oil output. Earlier, the differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran were the reason behind the failure of talks on a production cut, the paper stresses.


Kommersant: Monaco refuses to extradite Russia’s ex-bobsleigh chief charged with embezzlement

Monaco’s authorities have rejected a request of Russia’s prosecutors to extradite Georgy Bedzhamov, the former co-owner of the bankrupt Vneshprombank and ex-president of Russia’s Bobsleigh Federation, Kommersant business daily writes. Bedzhamov is facing charges of embezzling almost 1 billion rubles ($15.8 mln).

The decision, which was first made by Monaco’s court in July, has been recently confirmed by the Prince of Monaco, Albert II. Secretary-General of Monaco’s Prosecutor-General’s Office Magali Ginepro said the reason is Bedzhamov’s poor health: he recently underwent heart surgery.

Kommersant is not ruling out that the decision could be due to the fact that Monaco’s prince was acquainted with Bedzhamov when he was Russia’s bobsleighing chief. Albert II is a member of the International Olympic Committee and took part in bobsleigh competitions in five Olympic Games from 1988 to 2002.

Russia’s prosecutors said they so far have not received any official documents from their colleagues in Monaco regarding the extradition request.

The paper writes that in those rare cases when Monaco’s police did apprehend Russian suspects, the issue on their handover was solved quickly and in Russia’s favor. In case with Bedzhamov, Monaco complied with all the necessary procedures, including his arrest, but made a different final decision.


Izvestia: Russia turning into chief supplier of polar bears to world’s zoos

Russia will start supplying zoos worldwide with polar bears from a mother born in the wild, Izvestia writes. This will happen as soon as the eight-month-old bear cub Nika, saved by Chukotka reindeer herders and taken to the Moscow Zoo in September, will mature.

"The zoologists have recommended not releasing the bear cub into the wild - the little predator cannot hunt for food for itself and would simply not survive out there. The zoo provides a real chance for the bear cub to survive after it lost its mother," the Director General of the Moscow Zoo, Svetlana Akulova, told the paper.

Europe’s zoos have already shown a great interest in Russia’s polar bears as almost all of theirs in captivity come from Russia, she said. This new blood enables the species to maintain genetic diversity under artificial conditions.

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

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