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Press Review: Tillerson nomination as US top diplomat and Sochi’s bobsleigh, skeleton ban

December 14, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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© EPA/CJ GUNTHER

 

Media: Trump’s new top diplomat pick may signal shift in US policy priorities

News of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s nomination by US President-elect Donald Trump as the new US Secretary of State hit the headlines on Tuesday. Kommersant writes that the interests of US businesses in strategic regions and restoring relations with Russia will now become a priority. However, experts briefed by the paper warn that despite the predictions that a new detente is on the horizon, the image of a pro-Russian politician may create hurdles for Tillerson’s course towards rapprochement with Moscow.

Experts interviewed by Kommersant confirm that Tillerson has very good relations with Russian oil giant Rosneft’s CEO Igor Sechin and thanks to this an unprecedented deal on joint exploration of Russia’s Arctic shelf was signed in 2013. Besides, Exxon tried to soften US sanctions against Russia, but this effort turned out to be futile.

Meanwhile, some experts believe it would be wrong to consider Tillerson as "Russia’s friend." The Arctic deal was very beneficial for Exxon as the oil producer had to deal with replenishing reserves. "Exxon placed a big stake on Russia as it extremely needed a new massive region for extraction, and not because of great adoration," one of the sources told the paper.

A source close to Rosneft told RBC that Tillerson has always had a business approach and it is possible to strike a meaningful deal with him. "That’s why huge changes for the better are in store for relations between Russia and the US, and the two oil giants, even amid sanctions."

Ariel Cohen, a leading expert of the Atlantic Council, warned that Moscow may be underestimating the "tough and consistent policy" of the US President-elect. He also noted that the US Senate may not approve Tillerson since he has good relations with the Kremlin.

 

Kommersant: Sochi’s bobsleigh and skeleton ban may set precedent for others to follow

Russia’s sport is once again bearing the brunt of this year’s anti-doping crusade, Kommersant business daily writes. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) announced a decision Tuesday to relocate the February 2017 world championship from Russia’s Sochi. The IBSF has not named any new dates or venues for the competition, but apparently it will take place in Germany.

The decision creates a precedent that may prompt other international sports federations to take similar steps, the paper writes. In particular, the International Biathlon Union (IBU), the International Ski Federation (FIS) and the International Skating Union (ISU) could follow suit.

Chairman of Russia’s Independent Public Anti-Doping Commission Vitaly Smirnov said it is highly likely that other international competitions scheduled to be held in Russia may be cancelled. There are no guarantees so far that Russia’s team will take part in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, he said.

The question is whether the recent and possible further cancellations will affect the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) position, which refused to suspend the entire Russian team from the Rio Olympics this summer, the paper writes.

 

Izvestia: Russia to supply e-government solutions to war-torn Syria

Rosinformexport, a subsidiary of Russia’s state technologies corporation Rostec, has struck a deal on supplying IT technology for setting up a digital government system for war-ravaged Syria. In the future, such contracts are expected to be signed with Cuba, Iran, the Latin American countries, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, the company told Izvestia.

The possibility of sealing the contract had been discussed since March 2016 and the document was signed in December. Under the agreement, the infrastructure and facilities for setting up centers that issue identification and electronic signatures will be created in Syria by 2020.

"What we are doing is exporting IT-solutions that have worked well in practice in Russia and we are now positioning ourselves as a country that supplies not only hydrocarbons but also advanced technologies to its partners. We expect that this will become a new profitable item of Russian export," Rosinformexport’s CEO Pavel Basin told the paper.

The key goal of e-government is to simplify communications while providing services of state institutions to citizens within the shortest timeframe, while preventing corruption, Rosinformexport’s press service told Izvestia. Citizens will be able to apply for a school place, get a driver’s license and pay taxes through this system.

Syria needs this system since citizens returning home after the war could feel that they will have a new quality of life. The system should also help investors rebuild the country, according to the paper.

 

RBC: Russian exports to Iran double thanks to ‘secret code’ goods

Russia’s exports of non-raw material goods to Iran grew 97.7% to $1.42 bln over the past nine months of 2016, year-on-year, a representative of Russia’s Export Center in Iran Nikolai Mashkov told RBC.

The lifting of international sanctions against Tehran allowed Moscow to complete the deal on the supplies of the S-300 missile system and increase the sales of non-raw materials to the country. This year, the "secret code" goods, and in particular armaments, were again included in Russia’s exports after a long pause. The amount of these supplies to Iran exceeded $316 mln, the paper writes.

Last year, Russia mainly exported agricultural goods to Iran (barley, wheat, corn and oil), but now vehicles and equipment top the list. "As of today, machinery goods account for 61% and foodstuffs for 18% in Russia’s overall structure of exports to Iran," Mashkov said.

Russian-Iranian cooperation is expected to expand in the coming years, the paper writes. The Russian Export Center is opening an office in Tehran. This is linked to a "high potential of economic relations between our countries," Mashkov said.

 

RBC: Crimea boosts Russia’s shellfish production

The volume of Russia’s mussels and oyster production grew to almost 500 tonnes over the past nine months of 2016, twice as much as last year, RBC writes, citing the Federal Agency for Fishery (Rosrybolovstvo).

The record-high figures were attained thanks to the Crimean Peninsula reuniting with Russia, a spokesperson for the agency, Kseniya Timakova, told the paper. Over the past three quarters of 2016, the production of mussels and oysters by Crimean farmers more than doubled, reaching around 100 tonnes: 70.5 tonnes of mussels and 29 tonnes of oysters.

Besides, bivalved mollusks are also cultivated in southern Russia’s Krasnodar Territory and in the Far East.

Despite the growth, the market still largely relies on imports, the paper writes. According to the Federal Customs Service, some 1,390 tonnes of mussels and 580 tonnes of oysters were imported to Russia over the past nine months of 2016.

 

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

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