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Press review: Syrian militants rebranding 'Aleppo Army' and impact of Italian referendum

December 06, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on December, 6

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Media: Rosneft’s privatization put on hold

The limitation term set by the government for privatizing the 19.5% shares of Russia’s top oil producer, which was set to become this year’s biggest privatization deal and bring around $11 bln into the budget, expired on Monday, but no reports on the sale or the sale’s structure surfaced. Instead, Rosneft which is regarded as the only bidder for its own shares, unexpectedly issued 600 bln rubles ($9.44 bln) worth of bonds within its termless bond program worth 1.071 trillion rubles ($16.5 bln). Kommersant writes on Tuesday that the move was taken by investors as a signal that the company would use the buyback scheme for privatizing the 19.5% stake.

According to Nataliya Shilova of B&N Bank says the situation reflects the events in 2014 when "one or several state-owned banks buy the whole amount and later make repo transactions with the Central Bank, which means that the bonds were issued for financing Rosneft’s new debt through the emission of new rubles." Aricapital CEO Alexey Tretyakov told Kommersant that unlike the situation two years ago when Rosneft’s issuance was followed by the ruble’s exchange rate plunge and the company "needed the funds to repay external borrowings," "this time around the funds are aimed at buying its own shares, so the effect on the forex market will be minimal."

Rosneft also had to hold a board meeting for participating in the deal before December 5, which is a condition for transactions worth $1.5 bln and above. According to RBC’s sources, no such meeting has been held, nor has one been announced to be held this week. Vedomosti writes that the company said a board meeting to focus on the sale of a share in the Egyptian project, is scheduled for December 7, and the regulation on Rosneft’s board allows issues not included in the planned list beforehand to be considered for review. In addition, by way of exception Rosneft has the right to hold the board meeting on the deal’s approval after the transaction, RBC writes, though large public companies avoid this scheme.

 

Izvestia: Terrorists mount last-ditch attempt to hold off Damascus victory under rebranded "Aleppo Army"

Armed opposition groups trapped in eastern Aleppo have announced that they are going to voluntarily dissolve their units, while simultaneous regrouping and forming "The Aleppo Army" in order to hold off the Syrian army’s imminent victory and reverse the terrorists’ tide of losses in the city, Izvestia writes. However, Damascus says the move is not going to produce any changes to the measures taken by the authorities against the militant groups. That said, Damascus is determined to fight on to the bitter end in order to liberate the city. Alan Bakr, a Syrian lawmaker, told the newspaper he considers it impossible for Bashar Assad’s opponents to affect the structure of power.

"The Syrian leadership made a principal decision to fully free Aleppo from the terrorists, that’s why the armed forces will continue the operation till final victory and no Aleppo Army will be able to stop them," Bakr said, adding that "the military forces have managed to regain the control over large areas previously taken by terrorists in recent days." "Meanwhile, I still have to say that the members of the groups always have a choice. The amnesty law is still in effect in Syria, and according to it, they can surrender and they will not be prosecuted under the law. Also, they can leave eastern Aleppo through specially organized corridors. Otherwise, they will be liquidated," he said.

Oleg Glazunov, an expert of the Association of Military Political Scientists, shares the opinion that the newly-formed Aleppo Army is unlikely to stop the Syrian forces. "Probably the formation of a new structure will postpone Damascus’ final victory for some time but there will be no turning point," he stressed. "Also, it cannot be ruled out that the Aleppo Army may splinter as it contains competing groups that do not trust each other. In this respect, it is unlikely that they will really manage to create a full-fledged common commanding center," he added.

 

Media: Italian referendum unlikely to have an impact on ties with Moscow

The upcoming resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stirred up a wave of heated discussions on the future of the European Union. However, experts interviewed by Kommersant say Renzi’s resignation will not necessarily strengthen the positions of eurosceptics, or stonewall European integration. They also do not expect any crucial changes in relations between Italy and Russia as Renzi’s successor will continue his policy of rejecting the sanctions and move along the path towards building better working relations with Moscow, regardless of his political affiliation, the newspaper writes.

However, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov speaking with RBC business daily, said that "the change in the government will weaken Italy’s positions in the European Union and the country’s ability to influence Brussels’ decision will slightly diminish."

Renzi announced his resignation Monday following the defeat of his proposal for a constitutional reform in Sunday’s national referendum where about 60% of respondents said they had voted against reforming the national parliament, whereas only 40% said they had voted for it. The opposition came out against Renzi’s initiative to reform the upper house of parliament (the Senate) and has been insisting on the prime minister’s resignation given that the public voted against it.

 

RBC: Russia not planning to reintroduce Turkish vegetable imports on grand scale

Moscow’s plan to lift the ban on Turkish vegetable imports does not mean that the Russian market will reopen on a massive scale for it, Head of Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) Sergey Dankvert said in an interview with RBC newspaper. "Currently the Turkish side is doing its best to comply with our requests. But the reopening of vegetables supplies to Russia will not be massive, we won’t say - tomorrow we’re reopening Turkey. We will be opening particular production sites, particular greenhouse facilities," he said, adding that this approach is less severe for businesses and it will be used in a few industries within the sector, such as meat and crop products.

The same approach will be used for expanding cooperation with Belarus in this respect. "The number of (Belarusian) manufacturers applying for Russian imports rise each year. But we need those who can bear responsibility for their products," he explained, adding that this system is used within the Customs Union. According to Dankvert, "Belarus is (Russia’s) closest partner that wants to take advantage of the situation, when the Russian market was closed for supplies from the European Union and Ukraine; it has not been honest very often." "In three years, the supplies of vegetables and fruits from Belarus have skyrocketed by 2.8 times," he said, and "in two and a half years since the introduction of the food embargo more than 570 cases of supplies with bogus phytosanitary certifications were revealed." "As a result Ukrainian products are supplied, or Brazilian, which in reality is German of Polish production," he added.

 

Vedomosti: Russia’s Coffee House cafe chain to expand to Baku

The company seeks to start implementing its franchise development plan by next year as it will open its first cafe abroad, in Baku, Maksim Trubnikov, Director for Regional Development and Granchising of the Shokoladnitsa chain, which acquired its competitor in 2014, told Vedomosti. According to Trubnikov, the new owner of the coffee shops has already made a decision on Coffee House’s expansion under the franchise.

The plan is to open eight Coffee Houses in Baku within five years, though if the undertaking turns out to be successful the number of newly-opened cafes may increase, the newspaper writes. Analysts say the choice of the country is reasonable as Russian chains may be successful in post-Soviet countries due to similar mindsets and tastes. Additionally, the countries of Eastern Europe may be the next level for expansion.

 

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

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