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Press Review: Economy minister detention over $2 mln bribe and Aleppo mop-up operation

November 15, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, November 15

1 pages in this article
Alexey Ulyukayev

Alexey Ulyukayev

© Mikhail Metzel/TASS


Vedomosti: Economy Minister detained on suspected $2 mln bribe for giving green light to Bashneft deal

The Russian Investigative Committee (IC) has detained Economic Development Minister Alexey Ulyukayev on suspicion of receiving $2 mln on November 14 for the positive assessment provided by the Economic Development Ministry that allowed Rosneft to complete the deal on purchasing the 50% state stake in Bashneft. According to Vedomosti: "These are very serious charges that require very powerful evidence. In any case, only a court can solve anything," Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Vedomosti.

Rosneft purchased a 50% state stake in Bashneft in mid-October. The acquisition of Bashneft’s shares by Rosneft was legal and is not subject to investigation, according to IC.

Ulyukayev said earlier that the decision to sell Bashneft shares to Rosneft was accepted because it had put up the most funds. That said, no privatization tender was carried out.

However, according to Vedomosti, the government investment consultant, VTB Capital did not even suggest sending other applicants such requests. Rosneft took the initiative. "The company has received only one letter from VTB Capital offering to participate in the privatization, to which it had agreed," a representative of one of the corporate bidders. The bank did not invite other applicants, because it had not received instructions from the Economic Development Ministry and the government, a source that participated in the sale of Bashneft told Vedomosti.

The minister is now in custody and a criminal case has been launched against Ulyukayev after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) completed a series of operational activities. The case was opened by the Russian Investigative Committee’s Main investigative department on probing high-profile cases.


Izvestia: Aleppo mop-up operation to be launched within next 24 hours

In the next 24 hours, the Syrian army with the backing of the Russian Navy and the Russian Aerospace Forces are gearing up for a mop-up operation in Aleppo, First Deputy Chairman of the Security and Defense Committee of the Federal Council Frants Klitsevich told Izvestia.

"There is a raging humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo now. There is no water and no food. People are being killed. If we do not carry out any operations, civilians will die. With regard to the distribution of leaflets demanding the militants leave the city within 24 hours, these things are agreed upon with the Russian Aerospace Forces’ command. The logic of war is that with high probability the mop-up operation will begin in the next 24 hours. In this regard, aircraft carrier group of ships that came to the Syrian shores will be used for attacks," Klintsevich told the newspaper.

Syrian Parliament member, Mohammed Kheir al-Ahkam, told Izvestia that ridding Aleppo of terrorists is a priority for the leadership in Damascus.

"Aleppo is a strategically important city. We will provide guarantees of a safe exit for the militants from the surrounded eastern regions. In addition, we are prepared to take in civilians and provide all necessities. But ultimately the chief goal of the country's leadership is to rid Aleppo of the terrorists and free the city completely," he said.

Aleppo’s eastern districts have been surrounded since July. Since then, militants have made a number of unsuccessful attempts to break the siege. Russia and Syria have repeatedly announced ceasefires and humanitarian pauses in order to give people time to leave the war zone.


Kommersant: Russia finds approach to Latin America

On Monday, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with colleagues from the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador and the Commonwealth of Dominica, representing the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), as well as a special representative of the Nicaraguan Prime Minister, Kommersant wrote.

Kommersant’s sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry claim that Moscow has chosen a pragmatic approach to the countries of the region, rather than high-profile joint political statements, and systematically expanding practical cooperation.

Among other things, Moscow intends to expand initiatives for training and updating the skills of Latin American professionals in various fields. For example, employees of the Russian anti-drug services previously successfully held training courses for their colleagues in Nicaragua and Peru. Lavrov said at the meeting, more than 700 people from Latin America were trained in Russia within various educational programs. The Foreign Ministry assured that this practice will continue.

According to the newspaper’s Russian diplomatic source, the tactics lived up to expectations. According to the newspaper, this policy has been viewed in a positive light in Latin America - the recent changes in leadership in several countries, which were previously governed by pro-Moscow politicians, did not affect their relations with Russia.


Kommersant: Moldova’s president-elect expected to visit Moscow

Party of Socialists leader Igor Dodon’s victory in Moldova’s presidential race might improve relations between Chisinau and Moscow. The Russian Presidential administration congratulated Dodon and invited him to visit Russia. This will be the first full contact of the two countries’ presidents since 2012. However, Russian-Moldovan relations are unlikely to be trouble-free - Igor Dodon will have to quell the attacks on Russia from the uncontrollable parliament and government, according to Kommersant.

Igor Dodon said earlier that during his visit he would discuss two key issues: the opening of the Russian market for producers from Moldova and the situation of Moldovan labor migrants in Russia.

However, according to the newspaper, it is still too early to talk about warming relations between the countries. The Parliament and the Government of Moldova are controlled by the Democratic Party, whose leaders are not sympathetic towards Russia. Under these conditions, Dodon will have to work as a buffer between Moscow, which he considers a strategic partner for Moldova, and the institutions beyond his control.

Experts from Chisinau interviewed by Kommersant believe that a confrontation between the government is inevitable. Deputy Director of the Institute for Legal and Political Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Moldova Victor Zhuk said that after taking the oath of office, Dodon will not immediately talk about the need to denounce the association agreement with the EU. According to Zhuk, if the new president is to be able to reach an agreement with Russia on trade, he will find support not only in the traditionally pro-Russian north and south of Moldova, but also throughout the country.


Izvestia: Fraudulent bank loan applications surge 50% in 2016

The number of sham loan applications in January-September of 2016 rose more than 50% compared with the same period last year, Izvestia wrote citing the information provided by United Credit Bureau (UCB).

According to UCB, during the first nine months of 2016, Russian banks have ferreted out more than 372,000 loan applications suspected of fraud, which is 53% more than the year before. The main method of obtaining such loans was providing misleading or exaggerated information about income level and employment. The number of such loan applications jumped 56% compared to the same period last year. The total number of attempts to secure loans increased by only around 30%.

According to Izvestia, Moscow, the Krasnodar region and the Moscow region account for the highest levels of sham loan applications.

Head of Product Management at United Credit Bureau Alexander Akhlomov told Izvestia, commenting on the situation, "the surge in efforts to deceitfully obtain bank loans is connected with the Central Bank cutting the key rate and easing loan conditions." At the same time, accounting to him, most banks continue to lend only to its existing customer base, which makes it impossible for people with low income or lack of official employment to get loans.


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

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