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Press review: Plutonium deal suspension, ApplePay in Russia and budget spending increase

October 04, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Top stories in the Russia press on Tuesday, October 4
Material has 1 page
© Lev Fedoseev/TASS


Kommersant: Russia suspends plutonium agreement with Washington

Russia has suspended its plutonium disposal agreement with the United States due to Washington’s inimical behavior towards Russia. The bill lists conditions on which the agreement could be resumed, including scrapping the so-called Magnitsky Act and all anti-Russian sanctions with compensation for any damages incurred, while calling for a reduction of US military infrastructure in NATO countries. Washington, in turn announced that it had suspended participation in bilateral communication channels with Russia, created to maintain the ceasefire in Syria. Now, cooperation between the United States and Russia is limited to one interaction channel, through which the parties will try to avoid any air incidents, Kommersant wrote.

"In fact, these conditions are virtually impossible. The crisis in relations between Moscow and Washington has reached a new level," the newspaper noted.

According to the Director of the Center for Energy and Security Anton Khlopkov, the agreement was concluded in 2000 and then in 2006 and 2010 it was amended. "The document includes the schedule, according to which the disposal was set to begin in 2018. This agreement is an important step in the field of irreversible nuclear disarmament, since not only are nuclear warheads destroyed, but so are weapons-usable nuclear materials," he told the newspaper.

Formally, Russia still does not refuse disposal. According to the document, despite suspending the agreement, 34 tonnes of plutonium remaining in Russia will not be used "for manufacturing nuclear weapons" or other military purposes. "The most important thing is that this is not a document on withdrawing from the agreement, but suspending its operation. Thus, Russia is still committed to the disposal of 34 tonnes of plutonium, which were considered redundant for defense purposes, but is not going to do it unilaterally in 2018," Rosatom told Kommersant.

According to Alexey Arbatov, an expert from the Moscow Carnegie Center, amid deteriorating relations, the suspension of the agreement was a symbolic gesture. "Nobody has treated the agreement seriously for a long time. It looks like some kind of intricate diplomatic joke - we have set the conditions as if we had the US nuclear briefcase and would not return it before Washington fulfills a number of conditions," the expert told Kommersant.


Izvestia: Presidential adviser says Washington and Moscow have to negotiate on cybersecurity

In recent years, cybercrime has become a notable scourge. Consultations between Moscow and Washington on cybersecurity are tentatively scheduled for the beginning of 2017. Russia’s Presidential Adviser on Internet Development German Klimenko told Izvestia, why these bilateral meetings are important, and what are the main threats in cyberspace.

"A modern hacker group consists of people of different nationalities. Without cooperation between nations, it is impossible to fight it. Cybercriminal activity is detrimental to all countries. That is why, no matter how complex our relationship with the United States is, we will have to negotiate," Klimenko told the newspaper.

The problem of countering cyber threats lies in the absence of a clear understanding of what can be considered a cyberattack, and any agreements between countries on monitoring cyber activity. "The main difficulty is identifying the source and the organizer of an attack. This is a subject of discussion at the highest level, and in the current situation such dialogue is necessary," Chief Security Expert at Kaspersky Lab Alexander Gostev told the newspaper.

Senior Lecturer in cybersecurity at the UK Higher Education Academy Andrew Futter told Izvestia, "Today it is very important to establish intergovernmental dialogue to develop international rules and standards for administering cyberspace, where it would be easy to explain what cyberspace is. Today, it is much more dangerous when countries try to hack each other. "One of the most logical steps towards establishing international rules is to sign bilateral agreements, for example between the US and Russia," he said.


Vedomosti: Finance Ministry proposes increasing budget spending in 2016

With less than three months left, the Finance Ministry hammered out amendments to the budget for 2016, viewed by many as unrealistic almost immediately after its adoption, in which revenues would be lower, costs would rise by 304 bln rubles ($4.87 bln), or 0.7% of GDP, instead of the expected decrease. However, these adjustments differ from the expectations of the Ministry - the deficit could be even higher, according to the explanatory note, which was made available to Vedomosti.

The budget was recalculated based on $40 per barrel of oil against $50 in the original document. Inflation, which was taken into account in the calculation of the basic parameters, was reduced to 5.8% from 6.4%.

Budget revenues dropped by 1.3% of GDP - 369 bln rubles ($5.9 bln) - oil and gas revenues declined by 1.9% of GDP, non-oil revenues by contrast rose by 0.6% of GDP. However, the budget has yet to receive a significant proportion of non-oil revenues from the sale of the state’s 19.5% stake in Rosneft, accordingly, the Finance Ministry expects 703.5 bln rubles ($11.28 bln). If the deal is postponed to 2017, non-oil revenues would increase by only 194 bln rubles ($3.1 bln) due to a rise in revenues from VAT and excise duties.

The amendments to the 2016 budget differ from the Ministry's earlier expectations. According to the forecasts, spending would climb by 230 bln rubles ($3.7 bln), while revenues would remain unchanged. It is planned to finance the deficit by possibly increasing the GDP 0.2% through domestic sources.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Kiev mulling over visa regime for Russian citizens

This week, the Verkhovna Rada might consider introducing a visa regime for Russian citizens. Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Andrey Parubiy had put forward the corresponding draft resolution at the beginning of the year, and now the issue has become timely due to the arrest Roman Sushchenko, a Ukrainian citizen in Moscow, on espionage charges, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

The Director of the Political Department of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Alexei Makeyev said, "Visiting Russia is dangerous for Ukrainians - unwarranted detentions, provocations on the border and during customs inspections..." According to the newspaper, Verkhovna Rada deputies are looking at introducing a visa regime as a measure to protect citizens.

At the same time, Ukrainian citizens are hoping for the promised cancellation of visas to the European Union before the end of October. Vladimir Gorbach, an expert at the Institute of Euro-Atlantic cooperation told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the prospect of a visa-free regime with the EU and the introduction of visas for Russian citizens did not relate to each other. "The thing is that a visa-free regime with the EU does not automatically mean possibility of uncontrolled entry into the EU - all documents will be checked at the border. That is, citizens of other countries in any case will not be able to enter the EU from Ukraine. Europe is not worried about this," he said.

Russian citizens currently can enter Ukraine only on their international passports, Ukrainians, on the other hand, can use their internal passports to travel to Russia, just as they always have.


Vedomosti: Apple Pay makes its debut in Russia

Sberbank and MasterCard launched the Apple Pay system on the Russian market. Apple representative told Vedomosti that launch of the payment system for clients of other banks is in progress.

"We are working with our partners to launch Apple Pay as soon as possible," Vice President in charge of Apple Pay Jennifer Bailey told Vedomosti. At the time of launch in Russia, contactless mobile payments will be accepted in Azbuka Vkusa, Auchan, Starbucks and other companies. "When Apple Pay became available in the United States, the penetration of mobile payments was at the level of 4%, in just 2 years, this figure increased to 30%," Bailey said.

Telecom Daily CEO Denis Kuskov told Vedomosti that Russian cellular networks currently register 62-63 mln smartphones, including up to 5 million Apple devices, such as iPhone 6, 6s, SE and 7, which can use Apple Pay system. According to employees at one of the mobile operators, the Big Three mobile operators in Russia (MTS, VimpelCom, MegaFon) registered 3.5-5 million iPhones 6-7 devices.

On September 29, 2016, the main competitor to Apple on the global market - Samsung launched its payment system in Russia. According to VTB’s forecasts, next year's turnover for Samsung Pay using VTB 24 cards will exceed 1 bln rubles ($16.01 mln).

Oksana Pankratova, Partner at AC&M Consulting told Vedomosti, "Apple Pay and Samsung Pay might warm up the Russian market of mobile financial services, giving it momentum."


/TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews./

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