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China once again ranks among the top five major buyers of Russian armaments and the country’s portfolio of orders currently exceeds $8 bln, says Wednesday’s Vedomosti. Deputy Chief of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Vladimir Drozhzhov, said China’s portfolio of orders for Russia’s armaments significantly grew of late despite a downturn in the mid-2000s. "China is showing a growing interest in cooperation with Russia in the area of modern military technologies. Currently several joint projects are being hammered out at different stages," the official said.
In 1990s - early 2000s, China and India were key importers of Russian armaments. Later Beijing began full-scale production of its platforms, though some were created with Russia’s participation which led to a certain decrease in weaponry imports starting from 2005, the paper says. New contracts sealed in 2006 were worth just $200 mln while earlier annual deals had been estimated at up to $1.5 bln.
The overall volume of arms contacts with China has been named for the first time, expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Andrei Frolov stressed. Several years ago, the average figure was significantly smaller and did not exceed $3 bln or $4 bln per year. The turning point came after major contracts on the supplies of S-400 missile systems and Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets estimated at around $2 bln each were signed, the expert said.
A source close to the top brass of Russia’s state agency for exports and imports of defense-related products, technologies and services, told the paper that the signing of new major contracts with China is unlikely and military and technical cooperation with China could decline over several years. But Russia and China are expected to continue cooperation in the area of military technologies, he said.
Ukrainian MPs have put forward a bill for consideration on quotas for television and radio programs in the Ukrainian language, Izvestia writes. Its authors say the legislation is set to limit the use of the Russian language, yet in reality this affects ethnic minorities in western Ukraine and could spark mass protests.
This is another discriminatory move, which fails to take into account Ukraine’s regional peculiarity, said MP at the people’s council in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Miroslav Rudenko, who chairs the committee for education, science and culture.
"It is evident that the percentage of the Russian-speaking citizens is rather high in the southern and eastern regions, especially in the Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporozhye and Odessa regions, while there are those who speak Hungarian and Romanian in the west," he noted. "The initiative by Ukraine’s MPs will lead to a greater split in society, and protests may erupt. Sooner or later things will boil over and explode," Rudenko said. As for Donbass, granting this region a special status gives local authorities the right to choose their language policy themselves, he added.
The initiative by Ukrainian MPs in fact introduces a ban on the use of both the Russian language and regional languages of ethnic minorities in the country’s west. This contradicts the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages which Ukraine joined in 2006, Director of the Kiev-based Center for Political Studies and Conflict Management Mikhail Pogrebinsky told the paper.
The paper recalls that the wave of protests in eastern Ukraine that led to the creation of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics began after Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, abolished a law on language policy and Russian was stripped of its regional language status.
Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov paid a visit to Sochi at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. The last time the Turkmen leader visited Russia for bilateral talks was in December 2011, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says.
Experts interviewed by the paper said the current visit initiated by Turkmenistan is of great interest for Ashgabat and Berdimuhamedov met with Putin to solve the gas and security issues. "The most significant differences accumulated in the area of energy cooperation," said Ivan Ippolitov, a research fellow of the Central Asia Sector of the Center for Studying Problems of Post-Soviet Countries of the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (RISS).
Gazprom, the major buyer of Turkmen gas, has been trying to reduce the price for several years, explaining this is due to falling prices, but Ashgabat refused to make concessions. In January 2016, Gazprom broke a contract with Turkmenistan’s national gas company Turkmengaz. "Due to the low level of global prices on hydrocarbons, Gazprom not only has no use for Turkmen gas, but has to solve the issue of selling the gas produced in Russia," Ippolitov said. The sides could reach compromise and the exports of Turkmen gas to Russia may resume in the future, the expert said.
Andrei Grozin, Head of the Department on Central Asia and Kazakhstan at Russia's Institute for CIS countries, said Berdimuhamedov attempted to solve the gas issue. "We understand that Turkmenistan has now turned into China’s storage room in terms of gas. But this does not mean that Russia should leave this field and forget about it forever."
After the US presidential elections, Palestine plans to propose a vote at the United Nations Security Council on a draft resolution about Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Izvestia says. The mere idea of a discussion on the document arouses anxiety in Tel Aviv, but the document is unlikely to be endorsed.
The vote is expected to be initiated through Egypt, which now represents the Arab countries in the UNSC. Former Palestinian Foreign Minister and Fatah official Nabil Shaath told the paper all the members approve the document, which states that Israel’s settlement policy is illegal. "But everything bumps into Washington’s position," he said. "The idea to postpone the vote (until the new US administration is formed) is explained by the suggestion that there will be a chance that the US will not use its veto right," Shaath added.
The need to initiate the consultations with the UNSC member-states on the new resolution on Israeli settlements in the West Bank emerged after Israel unveiled plans to build another 98 settlements in Shilo, in the northern West Bank. This decision also aroused criticism from the US, the paper says.
As for Russia’s position, the Foreign Ministry traditionally voices concerns over Israel’s decisions on expanding the settlements and building new ones. Moscow stresses that they are "illegal and are not recognized by the international community."
A decision on the privatization of 19.5% of Rosneft’s shares is expected to be announced in the coming days, Vedomosti writes. A pool of companies loyal to the Kremlin, which are ready to take part in the privatization, is being formed now.
A source familiar with the talks told the paper that Russian President Vladimir Putin had suggested Lukoil participate in Rosneft’s privatization. The conversation took place on October 31. Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov assured earlier that he would not take part in the planned privatization.
China’s Sinopec, Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGas and Russia’s Surgutneftegaz are also among the contenders, a source who knows the score on the situation told the paper. A federal official also confirmed the companies’ interest. He voiced doubts that if they planned to create a consortium, saying that they could just buy the shares separately.
Lukoil, one of Russia’s largest oil companies, wanted to take part in Bashneft’s privatization, but Rosneft won the struggle to buy the government’s share there, the paper says.
As for China, they need a large stake to control the company, and the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) had warned about that, Vedomosti writes. President of the Russian-Chinese Analytical Center Sergey Sanakoyev said the Chinese company could take part in Rosneft’s privatization if the Indian companies participated in the tender. "China and India are large consumers of energy resources and global rivals," he said.
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