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The UN Security Council will make a decisive attempt to stop the escalation of the Syrian conflict on Monday. France will submit to the UNSC a draft resolution on halting combat actions in Aleppo and introducing a no-fly zone over the Syrian city, Kommersant business daily writes.
The consideration of the French resolution, dubbed the last chance for peaceful settlement, comes shortly after Russia took over presidency in the UNSC this month. The proposed measure does not seem to meet the interests of Moscow and Damascus, which actively use aviation in the Aleppo fighting. However, the French diplomats told the paper Russia was not unalterably opposed to the document during the preliminary consultations.
Still, there is little chance that the document will be adopted in its original form, Kommersant writes. Sources in Russia’s Foreign Ministry told the daily that Moscow has "serious questions" to Paris regarding the proposal. If no diplomatic solution is found, the United States may switch to its plan B that envisages forceful intervention.
The fact that this scenario is discussed more actively is confirmed by the leaks from Washington and the contacts of the White House with the US Congress during which the new means of countering the Syrian army’s offensive are studied, the paper writes. Ahead of the upcoming November elections, Barack Obama is forced to hurry up in order to prove that he has not lost to President Putin who began Russia’s military campaign in Syria a year ago.
Experts interviewed by Kommersant do not rule out a radical scenario - the US strikes on the Syrian forces under the pretext of protecting civilians. Such a development of the situation will not leave Moscow another choice than to increase its military support for Damascus. The consequence of such development of events may be the new escalation of conflict between Russia and the West.
A year ago, on September 30, 2015, Russia’s Aerospace Forces began military campaign in Syria. Russia has spent at least 58 billion rubles ($922 million) on the operation, RBC business daily says.
The daily has analyzed data from open sources on the number of Russian sorties, the use of Kalibr cruise missiles and other armaments. No official data on these particular Russian expenses are published. Russia flew some 13,000 sorties, which accounted for the major part of military expenses - at least 50 billion rubles ($795 million).
RBC also took into account the cost of maintaining Russia’s base in Hmeymim, the loss of combat vehicles and compensation paid to the families of 20 Russian servicemen who died during the operation.
The US-led coalition spends $12.3 million on the operation against the Islamic State group (outlawed in Russia) in Iraq every day, according to the US Department of Defense. By August 15, the overall operation cost some $9 billion.
Moscow’s campaign is cheaper than that of the US because the spending on Russia’s army is much less, military expert Viktor Murakhovsky told the paper. "We have another price scale on armament, military equipment, aircraft and munitions. Our servicemen are paid less," he said.
The leadership of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) is ready to comply with the demand of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to suspend court proceedings against the organization that banned Russia’s athletes from the Rio Games, Izvestia writes on Monday. This is needed to restore its membership in the IPC system and therefore to make possible the access of Russian athletes to the 2018 Paralympic Games in South Korea’s Pyeongchang.
"Now indeed there are certain talks between the representatives of the IPC and RPC, but no principal agreements have been reached so far," Russia’s State Duma MP Oleg Smolin confirmed to the paper. "The position of the IPC is that we must stop turning to courts and then they will present conditions to us for holding talks on restoring the organization’s membership in the IPC system," the lawmaker said.
A source in Russia’s organization said: "Now it’s highly probable to say that the RPC will suspend its proceedings against the IPC in the near future."
IPC spokesman Craig Spence said the organization is holding dialogue with the Russian Paralympic Committee on criteria for restoring its membership in the international system. The IPC has not so far given any clear answer when these criteria will be announced, the paper says.
Donbass is ready to resume coal supplies to Ukraine if Kiev implements the political elements of the Minsk agreements, Izvestia writes. The issue is on the agenda of the economic subgroup at the talks, but its work is blocked as it directly depends on the decisions of the political subgroup, the envoy of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic at the Minsk talks, Vladislav Deinego, told the paper.
"The issues considered by the economic subgroup are those points that come amid the unresolved political issues. As soon as the process goes ahead, I hope all the current obstacles in the political area will be removed," Deinego said.
The economic subgroup is charged with adopting a program of restoring the economy of Donbass. This concerns the supplies of water, coal from the Lugansk and Donetsk republics and railway services. The Donetsk republic halted the supplies of coal to Kiev in November 2015 due to problems with paying for the fuel, the paper writes. In December that year, the Lugansk republic followed suit.
Amid the conflict Ukraine lost access to most coal mines in Donbass. The most lucrative coal mines are located on the territory not controlled by Kiev. The enterprises that remain under Kiev’s control are forced to mine for unprofitable coal. Therefore, Kiev has to import coal from South Africa, the United States and Russia, the paper says.
Russia’s authorities are discussing the possibility of extending the list of goods subject to no value-added tax for foreign tourists. Kommersant business daily writes that Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has sent the proposal to the Finance Ministry and the government to allow returning part of taxes on the foodstuffs bought in Russia.
The experiment to introduce tax free shopping for foreigners will begin on January 1, 2017, says a letter of the Ministry of Industry and Trade obtained by the paper. Since 2018, foreigners will be able to recover this tax, but during the first year the system will work only in shops in Moscow, in the Moscow Region, St. Petersburg and Sochi.
Kommersant first reported about the plans to introduce tax free this spring. The minimum sum of such food purchases will be 10,000 rubles ($159). Later retailers with trade transactions of at least 100 million rubles ($1.6 million) may join the tax free system.
Foreigners usually buy black and red caviar, crabs, Russian vodka, chocolate and zefir, a local kind of marshmallow, the press service of Russia’s famous GUM mall said. The retailer also offers food gift packages of the most demanded goods.
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