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Press Review: Joint Russia-Japan activities on Kurils and coalition’s Raqqa attack plans

December 16, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press

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© Sergey Fadeichev/TASS


Vedomosti: Joint Russia-Japan activities on Kurils favorable for both, but end to dispute not on horizon

The outcome of the first meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe fell short of expectations and produced no bombshells. According to Presidential Aide Ushakov, the two leaders discussed the details of the bilateral document concerning consultations on joint economic activities on the four South Kuril Islands based on Russia’s legislation. This seems beneficial for both sides, though it is still not enough to end the long-lasting dispute, Vedomosti business daily writes with reference to experts.

Russia’s former ambassador to Japan and former Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Panov says the Japanese had been weighing economic activity in the area since it was only possible based on of Russian laws. "This would have meant recognition of Russia’s sovereignty, which Japan is flatly denying," he told the newspaper, adding that he considers the recent announcement "a huge, so to say, historic concession on their part."

According to head of ‘Russia in the Asia-Pacific region’ program of the Moscow Carnegie Centre Alexander Gabuyev, the agreement is simply about "joint economic projects, Japan’s investment in the Kuril Islands with a tax system similar to priority development areas." The expert calls it "a very obscure thing, which means nothing in particular and in no way brings Japan closer to its key goal." Moscow and Tokyo are likely to dish out different alternatives to the public, he added. "Abe will present a formula - we’ve agreed not to agree on sovereignty but we have started to develop the islands, which are actually ours as you, Japanese voters, understand," Gabuyev explained. Moscow will lay it out simply "as Japanese investors’ tapping the Russian territory, nothing more," he concluded.


Izvestia: US-led coalition’s Raqqa attack plans put on hold until spring

The transition period in Washington as well as military and political issues have forced the US-led collation to put off the attack on Raqqa in northern Syria, which is now considered the capital of the IS (terrorist group, banned in Russia), until next spring, a source in Russia’s diplomatic circles told Izvestia. "The operation will be postponed until the spring since the American coalition and Kurdish groups have neither the forces, nor the funds to capture the city. Right now, everything boils down to military actions aimed at blocking the city," the source said.

Frants Klintsevich, First Deputy Head of the Federation Council Committee for Defense and Security, shares the view. "I have no doubts that the situation will unfold this way. The outgoing US administration is not going to get involved in massive military actions, while President-elect Donald Trump will need time to prepare for the Raqqa attack and regrouping of forces," he said, adding that the fact that "a major part of Raqqa’s population supports the IS terrorists should not be ignored," though this piece of vital information is swept under the rug.

The start of the Raqqa operation codenamed ‘Euphrates Rage’ was announced on November 6. The Syrian Democratic Forces incorporate armed groups, with Kurdish militias as its backbone. That being said, US aviation is providing air support for the operation.


Izvestia: Spring may bring snap elections to Verkhovna Rada

Ukraine’s parliament may face an early election next year if the parliament is dissolved next spring. According to a source in the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament), it may be necessary to dissolve the country’s lawmakers due to the reluctance of parliamentary parties to cooperate. "The majority of factions in the parliament are for Rada’s dissolution, which is mostly likely to happen in the spring of 2017," the source said.

The Batkivshchina (Fatherland) party headed by Yulia Timoshenko, who is the most active supporter of disbanding the Rada, Oleg Lyashko’s Radical Party faction, the Opposition Bloc and the Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc will enter the parliament in the event of snap elections, he said. "As of today a strong opposition party has not yet been put together, though a crucial rift has emerged in the parliament, and those who get there will have to agree to serious compromises, including items on the Minsk agreements," he stressed.

Nina Yuzhanina, an MP from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Taxation and Customs Policy confirmed to the newspaper that the discussion is in progress. "There are various views and wishes. We’re working so far. If snap parliamentary elections take place, we will participate," she said.


Kommersant: Russia mulling gas and oil discount gift to Belarus

The dispute between Minsk and Moscow on Belarus’ debt for gas and oil supplies may be settled as early as next week, Friday’s Kommersant business daily writes. Minsk is ready to repay $425 mln in debts for gas in case it receives new loan tranches (third and fourth) from the EAEU anti-crisis fund, the newspaper says, citing a source familiar with the matter. What’s more, the country wants $300 mln in annual compensation for high gas prices. In addition, Belarus is requesting an increase in oil supplies to 26 mln tonnes, sources say.

Head of Small Letters Vitaly Kryukov told Kommersant that the oil and gas dispute between Minsk and Moscow, where Belarus demands favorable conditions while Russia make concessions taking into account geopolitical factors, has already become a permanent element of the cooperation between the two countries. However, the expert says, Russia is not ready to grant discounts and is searching for "milder compensation schemes," and adds that since oil prices are recovering, it is easier for Moscow to take the middle path.


RBC: Gazprombank to finance Rosneft’s privatization

Russia’s third-biggest lender in terms of assets will participate in the Rosneft deal to finance buyers - Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign fund QIA, RBC daily writes, citing a federal official and another source close to Rosneft’s board of directors. Representatives of Russia’s two top banks - Sberbank and VTB - told the newspaper earlier that they are not involved in the transaction.

Last week, Rosneft and Glencore reported that the 19.5% stake in Rosneft is estimated at €10.2 bln. The consortium will only invest €2.8 bln worth of its own funds while the remaining €7.4 bln will be provided as a loan by Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo with unnamed Russian banks.

Rosneft and a consortium of the Qatar Investment Authority and Glencore signed an agreement for the sale of 19.5% of Rosneft shares for 692 bln rubles ($11.3 bln). A total of 710.8 bln rubles, including 18 bln rubles worth of extra dividends from Rosneftgaz will be transferred to the Russian budget.


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

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