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Press review: Turkey's IS standoff and Russian payment system

December 23, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, December 23

1 pages in this article
© Ismail Coskun, IHA via AP


Kommersant: Turkey drawn into standoff with Islamic State in northern Syria

The Turkish army has sustained major losses since the beginning of its involvement into the conflict in northern Syria four months ago, Kommersant writes. According to the command, 16 servicemen have been killed and 33 others wounded over the past 24 hours during the fighting near the city of Al-Bab. The Syrian campaign designed to be a short victorious war that was initially successful is now turning into a serious headache for the Turkish government, the paper notes.

Initially, Turkish troops were able to drive Islamic State forces deep into Syrian territory, Alexander Vasilyev, co-author of the book titled "The Turkish War Machine: Strength and Weakness," explained in an interview with Kommersant.

He noted though that, despite the heavy losses, the Turkish contingent will maintain its combat capability. "Moreover, it will be fighting with even greater tenacity," the expert said. "Turkish soldiers have one quality, which distinguishes them from their European counterparts, that is, low sensitivity to casualties. They are ready to fight in a very uncomfortable environment."

Other experts interviewed by the paper noted that Ankara’s main objective was initially to prevent the formation of a Kurdish territorial entity along the border with Turkey rather than the fight the Islamic State (terrorist group, outlawed in Russia). At the first stage of the operation, the Kurds, not IS, were the main enemy of the Turkish military in northern Syria. Clashes with the Kurds, no matter how intensive they were, had never led to such heavy losses as the recent conflict with the IS.


Izvestia: Russian Railways to have its own mobile operator

Russian Railways is about to get its own mobile operator, Izvestia writes. TransTelekom, a subsidiary of Russia’s national railway operator, is in talks with Tele2 on deploying a virtual mobile network operator throughout its infrastructure.

TransTelekom views the launching of a virtual mobile operator as one of its strategic trajectories, Natalia Tashkeyeva, head of the company’s Public Relations and Communications Department, informed Izvestia. The issue at hand is the provision of such services, for example, to Russian Railways, a holding that we are part of. In this direction, we are open to negotiations with all operators."

Tele2’s press service has confirmed that talks on creating a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) are in progress. "Tele2 is in talks on a MVNO with all interested companies," it said.

Denis Kuskov, Telecom Daily Director General, noted that a proposal on a MVNO for corporate needs may turn out lucrative for Russian Railways. "There are about 1 million employees in Russian Railways," he said. "If the company transfers all its employees to its own mobile operator and offers their family members to use it for cheaper calls, the total number will be a few million. Russian Railways will thus be much closer to (Russia’s) Yota (mobile services provider and cell phone operator) in terms of the number of subscribers."


Vedomosti: Russian banks to issue 40 mln national payment system cards in 2017

The National Payment Card System expects that Russian banks will issue dozens of millions of its Mir cards in 2017, Vedomosti writes quoting Vladimir Komlev, CEO of the National Payment Card System. Other experts interviewed by the paper have verified the accuracy of these calculations.

"Relying on our clients’ projections, we are planning to issue about 15 million Mir cards in 2017," said a representative of Aliot, one of the largest producers of plastic cards. The company has already issued more than 2 million Mir cards, he added. The same number has been issued by NovaCard this year, according to the company’s business development director, Vadim Ustinov. He noted that the company expects a ten-fold jump in production of Mir cards in 2017. The company has signed contracts with ten banks to issue the Mir cards.

According to the Central Bank of Russia, as of October 1, Russia’s banks issued 251 million cards, nearly 95% of them are Visa and MasterCard. Almost half of all cards in this country were issued by Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank (about 120 million as of the end of 2015). Officials said that Sberbank was getting ready to issue up to 40 million national cards in the next two years. However, the bank’s representative declined to reveal its plans concerning the Mir cards for 2017 and 2018.


Kommersant: State corporations go head to head for Russia’s largest gold deposit

Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Corporation has become a partner of the GV Gold company in competing for Sukhoi Log, Russia’s largest gold deposit in Siberia’s Irkutsk region, Kommersant writes. The parties have set up a joint venture, in which Rosatom received a 25% stake.

GV Gold, one of the top ten gold producers in Russia controlled by shareholders of Lahta Bank, is going to take part in an auction for Sukhoi Log and has already found an indispensable partner, some sources familiar with the situation told the paper without disclosing details. GV Gold, which operates in the Irkutsk region and Yakutia, was ranked eighth in gold production in 2015.

The main contender for Sukhoi Log is SL Gold, a joint venture by Rostec and Russia’s largest gold producer Polyus, the paper notes.

GV Gold is a major regional player in the Irkutsk region, but Polyus is a nationwide player, says Sergei Kashuba, head of the Russian Union of Gold Producers. In his view, the battle for Sukhoi Log may be really tough, even though the project is expensive ($4-5 bln). However, BKS analyst Oleg Petropavlovsky believes that SL Gold’s financial and administrative leverage is so far superior to those of all other contenders.


Izvestia: International flights from Zhukovsky airfield to start next spring

International flights from Moscow’s fourth international airport in Zhukovsky will commence in spring 2017, with Tel Aviv, Istanbul and Antalya becoming the first destinations, Izvestia writes.

Yevgeny Solodilin, First Deputy Director General of the Ramport company, founder of Zhukovsky International Airport, informed the paper that there will be flights not only to the CIS member-countries, but also to Europe and Asia. "In January and February, we will collect all information and in March we will reach a more serious level. Meanwhile, we will be gradually adding new destinations - Baku, Tel Aviv, Istanbul. I believe we will launch flights to Antalya in April or May," he said.

According to Solodilin, talks are currently underway on cooperating with Wizz Air international airlines and some other air carriers. However, a lot will depend on the Zhukovsky airport infrastructure. It is planned to develop it intensively in 2017. "We are planning to begin designing the second terminal and to build additional parking lots," he added.


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

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