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Press Review: NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe and Rosneft-RBC compromise

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

Top stories in the Russian press

1 pages in this article
© AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis


Izvestia: NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe tops agenda of CSTO’s summit

On December 26, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member-states’ leaders will discuss possible responses to NATO’s growing activity along the borders of the post-Soviet military bloc, CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha told Izvestia.

"We must clearly grasp what is happening around our borders, why NATO is building up arms and infrastructure. It deploys four additional battalions to alliance member states in Eastern Europe. Why are they doing it? We cannot remain silent and do nothing, looking at how countries around us are being crammed with weapons, and troops being moved," Bordyuzha informed the newspaper.

According to the CSTO Secretary General, it is important to understand changes in the overall security situation and how to respond to these changes, "so we're not too late."

According to Bordyuzha, a military build-up is so far out of the question, adding "we have enough power." He also said that at the upcoming meeting, the organization’s members are going to discuss various aspects of the international agenda, including Eurasian integration issues.

According to Izvestia, Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that CSTO summit is currently in the works at the level of Heads of State, which will be held in St. Petersburg on December 26. The CSTO consists of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow looking to tighten screws on remittances from Russia

An initiative is on the table that may put an end to transferring money overseas by Western Union and Money Gram. Should the initiative materialize, remittances would only be made via Visa, MasterCard or Russia’s Mir. Money transfers to Ukraine could face even tougher conditions, which might not be able to use even foreign payment systems, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote citing a source close to the draft law submitted to the State Duma.

According to the explanatory note to the draft law, currently "cross-border money transfers without opening a bank account are made ... in the framework of payment systems that are not physically present on the territory of Russia." For the first half of 2016, cross-border transfers without opening bank accounts totaled more than 100 bln rubles ($1.63 bln).

According to the newspaper, additional restrictions for Ukraine are not accidental. Back in October, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko imposed a ban on money transfers through Russian systems Colibri, Zolotaya Korona, Unistream, International money transfers Leader, Anelik, Blizko.

Some analysts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that the law could make the system of cross-border transfers more transparent, including transfers to Ukraine. "That way, the government is combatting questionable transactions. According to them, transfers should be made through Russian companies and actual accounts. This provides personal data to understand where the move is going and for what purposes," leading analyst at Alpari Anna Kokoreva told the newspaper.

Other experts are skeptical, saying that, on the contrary, the number of shady money transfer services could grow. "Banning direct transfers of funds from one country to another would complicate the transaction chain, and would lead to using a third country, or even a number of countries as middlemen. Finally, it will create a strong demand for the services for informal money transfers. Private capital will begin to look for shortcuts, and they will find a great selection," Mani Fanny CEO Alexander Shustov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.


Vedomosti: State might lose majority on Rosneft’s Board of Directors

The Russian Ministry of Economic Development has submitted a draft order to the government to change the status of the Managing Director of Nord Stream AG, Matthias Warnig on the Board of Directors of Rosneft from attorney-in-fact (a fiduciary of the state) to an independent director, which will change the ratio of votes in the Board of Directors, Vedomosti wrote referring to the government's draft order.

As a fiduciary of the state, Warnig currently votes according to the guidelines. According to the newspaper, earlier Rosneft and the Central Bank also proposed to make Warnig independent director. He owns 92,633 shares (0.0009%) of Rosneft, heads Rusal’s Board of Directors and is a member of Transneft’s Board of Directors.

"So far the document has not been signed," a representative of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Vedomosti. Representatives of the Federal Property Agency, Rosneft and the Central Bank have not answered the newspaper’s requests.

The daily noted that Rosneft’s Board of Directors has nine seats, five of which represent the state, whereas BP and independent directors have two seats each. According to a memorandum to the decree, there shall be at least three people that do not represent the state, as the company’s shares are included in the first quotation level of the Moscow Exchange.

"If this requirement is not fulfilled before the end of the year, the Moscow Exchange is obliged to exclude Rosneft’s shares from the listing, or to transfer them to the second quotation level," the newspaper writes.


RBC: Rosneft and RBC settle on compromise

The court has partly satisfied a defamation lawsuit filed by Russia’s state-owned oil giant Rosneft against RBC, ordering the media holding to pay 390,000 rubles ($6,300), to remove the disputed article and to refute the report. According to experts, interviewed by RBC, following the court’s decision, the case finally shifted from the political to the legal plane since earlier the compensation demands had presented a threat to "one of the few independent media."

The lawsuit was triggered by an article posted on the RBC’s website in April. The story said that Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin was requesting that the government limit the rights of the buyers of the company’s shares slated for sale, fearing that BP might gain a blocking stake during the privatization of Rosneft’s 19.5% share package.

The partial satisfaction of the claim of Rosneft, "no longer resembles a settling of accounts with the independent media," lawyer Alexei Melnikov, who represent the interests of two RBC journalists said. He added that the case "now has serious political undertones", noting "it is because of unprecedented enormous compensation the lawsuit demanded which posed a real threat one of the few independent media."

Rosneft’s initial demands were much bigger - the company planned to recover 3.179 bln rubles ($51.98 mln) from RBC journalists, calculating the sum based on the assessment of the company's reputation.

"A compromise is rather a positive sign. On the one hand, now the amount claimed does not mean death of the newspaper. On the other hand, the court nonetheless recognized that Rosneft was partially right," political analyst Nikolai Mironov told RBC.

Political analyst Alexei Makarkin agreed saying that the decision will not destroy RBC. However, according to the expert, 390,000 rubles ($6,300) in compensation would have driven regional newspapers into bankruptcy in a similar case. "It seems that the court’s current decision was the best for RBC out of all scenarios," Makarkin told RBC.


Kommersant: Government experts urge not to restrict video services

The draft law on limiting foreign capital in audiovisual services to a 20% share received a negative report by government experts. They believe that telecom operators and television channels that developed the amendments will try to monopolize the online video market, where they currently occupy only 12%, Kommersant wrote citing the text of the report.

According to the report, the requirement to reduce foreign capital share to 20% by June 1, 2017, will inevitably lead to the majority of companies leaving Russia. According to market participants, not only will GooglePlay, iTunes and the AppStore fall under the definition of audiovisual services, but so will Mail.Ru Cinema, Mail.Ru Games, Yandex.Music, Yandex.Video and Twitch.

The report noted that the Russian Media-Communication Union (MCU) protects TV operators that occupy only 12% of the online video market. At the same time, online movie theaters control 70% of the market, while digital distribution platforms hold 7%. Communications providers’ services on the Internet use the same advertising model as online movie theaters do and sell advertising through the same media sellers, according to experts. As the same time, communications providers are exempt from the draft law amendments as they are "strategically important for national defense and security." The experts regard the draft law as "a step towards monopolization of the market by players that currently occupy a lesser share."

An MCU representative told the newspaper that the draft law is aimed at protecting Russian online video services. According to the representative, the amendments provide "protection not only for information, but also for the economy, establishing equal rights for Russian and foreign companies that do not have registered offices in the country, but make a profit at the expense of Russian users." Thus, in terms of capital structure changes, the bill currently affects only services like Ivi and Megogo, because their user traffic reaches more than 100,000 per day.



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

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