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A visit by Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada’s MP Nadezhda Savchenko to Moscow has stirred up animosity in Kiev, Kommersant business daily writes on Thursday. Several newspapers’ sources in Kiev said the former pilot, who had been sentenced in Russia to 22 years behind bars for the killing of two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine, and spent nearly two years in Russian custody and later pardoned by the Russian president, might have arrived for behind-the-scene talks on releasing other Ukrainians convicted in Russia. However, Kommersant writes, no talks were scheduled for Savchenko in Moscow.
A Ukrainian deputy from the "Pyotr Poroshenko Block" told the newspaper that the visit was "part of a massive campaign conducted by various political forces against the president, and primarily by Yulia Timoshenko." "The visit has unveiled Timoshenko’s and Savchenko’s ties with the Russian leadership," the deputy said, adding that Savchenko is planning to agree to the release of Roman Sushchenko, the journalist arrested in Russia on espionage charges and probably other Ukrainians. "In this case, Timoshenko will have a new justification to blame president for being unable to protect Ukrainians jailed in Russia," which will help Timoshenko’s Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party chalk up points, he said.
Yulia Timoshenko herself bolstered Savchenko’s initiative. "It’s a pity that no one attends the court proceedings for our guys in Russian prisons. Nadya did because she had got no feedback from anyone," Timoshenko stated.
Russia is closely watching how the rights of its nationals are being protected abroad, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Izvestia daily. "It has become obvious recently that the authorities of certain countries and extremist elements have been putting more pressure on our nationals, apparently aiming to undermine their rights. For the most part, Russian communities are standing up against discrimination, abuse and sometimes outright defamation," he told the newspaper, adding that Moscow "is keeping a close eye on the state of affairs regarding the protection of our nationals’ rights and raises those issues at bilateral consultations with representatives of other countries, as well as on at the venues of esteemed international organizations."
According to Karasin, ethnic Russians’ rights are under attack in Ukraine and the Baltic states where local authorities often view the Russian-speaking population as Moscow’s ‘fifth column’. "The lies about the ‘fifth column’ are not the best fabrication by Baltic politicians and intelligence services. Unfortunately, now those delusions are being fueled to further demonize Russia," he said.
Deputy Minister also stressed the importance of awareness about the ‘Russian world’ concept, which he said cannot be regarded as "an aggressive, offensive or a closed and isolated" community. "On the contrary, we want to stress the contribution Russia has made to the development of European and global civilization," Karasin said, adding that "this contribution is part and parcel of the culture of many countries."
Once the US presidential elections on November 8 are wrapped up, Moscow intends to offer Washington a joint plan aimed at tackling IS (terror group, outlawed in Russia) militants in the Syrian city of Raqqa, Izvestia writes with reference to a source in Russian foreign policy circles. "At this point, Russia’s key goal is to finish its mop-up operation in Aleppo, which it plans to complete by the end of this year. After that Moscow intends to turn to Washington with a proposal on a joint military operation to liberate Raqqa," the source said, adding that the issue is about "coordinated actions in the air and sharing intelligence information on militants’ positions." The source said that a final decision on the issue would be made after the US presidential elections, when it becomes clear who is going to lead the country.
According to First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee Franz Klintsevich speaking with Izvestia, Russia is ready to cooperate with the United States in the Raqqa operation, though Moscow is expecting Washington to be frank on the counterterrorism issue. Vladimir Jabarov, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, shares the view, saying that Moscow will welcome this kind of cooperation with Washington. "The key thing is to make sure that this is a shared desire and the Americans do not backpedal once certain agreements are reached," he told the newspaper. "Also, it is unacceptable if Washington cooperates with us in Raqqa and Mosul, but not in Aleppo," he said, adding that "tackling terrorism should be all-encompassing, without differentiating between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists."
The third quarter of 2016 has seen alcohol imports to Russia plummet following a slight recovery in the first half of the year. According to customs statistics obtained by Kommersant, whiskey supplies dropped by 41%, rum imports plunged by 61.4%, table wines decreased by 25.6% while sparkling wines sank 13.4%. The main reason for negative dynamics in the third quarter was a shortage of new excise labels that plagued many alcohol import suppliers during the middle of this summer, the newspaper says. The updated labels were to be introduced as of July 1, though the process only started at the end of the summer due to red tape.
"Only by the end of September were the bulk of companies able to steadily receive new labels. That’s why starting from July, when the old labels ran out, the supplies of all alcohol categories went down," Maksim Kashirin, President of Simple Wine Trade Company told the newspaper. According to Veniamin Grabar, President of Ladoga, the lack of excise labels did not turn into an issue of monumental proportions and did not spark a projected alcohol deficit in Russian stores. However, he explained that since it was a sweeping shortage that affected all importers, it had nonetheless adversely influenced the supplies statistics.
Market watchers polled by RBC business daily think the Central Bank will not cut its key interest rate at the upcoming board meeting on October 28. The consensus forecast says the rate will stay at the level of 10% until the beginning of 2017, the crude oil price will be below $50 per barrel while the ruble will weaken versus the dollar.
The latest meeting of the regulator’s board of directors on September 16 saw a reduction of the key rate by 0.5 percentage points. Previously, the Bank of Russia cut its key rate on June 10 from 11% to 10.5% per annum.
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