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Press review: New details of Tu-154 crash probe and Russia's Arctic shelf development

December 27, 2016, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, December 27

1 pages in this article
© Alexei Shtokal/TASS


Kommersant: Witness’ testimony corroborates pilot error version for Tu-154 crash

A coast guard employee of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) happened to witness the Defense Ministry’s plane crash near Sochi on Sunday, Kommersant business daily writes citing sources close to the investigation of the fatal flight.

According to the witness, the flight that took off from Adler airport, started drifting down to the sea’s surface instead of gaining altitude as if it was intending to land. The aircraft’s position seemed strange to the onlooker with the nose strangely turned upwards. A moment later the plane barreled into the sea’s surface with its tail, which fell off as it collided with the water, and went to the bottom, the witness said.

The evidence substantiates the main version of the plane disaster that killed 92 people on board the aircraft, the newspaper writes. Experts say the scene reported by the witness could have been proceeded by several factors related to the actions by the crew one way or another. Another version pointing to a possible technical malfunction, such as the plane being overloaded, is still being considered, Kommersant says.

According to the FSB’s latest conclusions, no evidence has been found linking the crash to terrorism. However, a source told the newspaper that the investigation can only conclusively abandon this version after thoroughly studying the on-board recorders, as well as the passengers’ bodies and the wreckage.


Media: New Eurasian Economic Union customs code approved to keep costs down

The new Customs Code signed by representatives of three EAEU member-states to regulate trade within the Eurasian Economic Union starting July 1, 2017, will simplify customs procedures, introduce electronic control and make life for businesses easier, Vedomosti writes citing Goltsblat BLP’s Vladimir Chikin. The new code allows to forego all written documents, though the customs procedures facilitation will depend on customs officers themselves, the newspaper says.

The presidents of four countries - Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Armenia - signed the declaration on Monday. All the documents earlier agreed to in full scope will be sent to Minsk for approval by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, due to his absence from the summit, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The new code will replace the Union’s Customs Code approved in 2009.

The meeting of the four presidents also focused on plans to launch talks for creating free trade zones with Iran, Egypt, India and Singapore, Kommersant business daily says. At the meeting it was agreed on that working groups will be set up to initiate negotiations processes. According to the data provided by the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), the creation of a free trade zone between EAEU and Iran can ensure GDP growth for almost all members of the organization, from $12 mln for Kyrgyzstan to $3.1 bln for Russia.


Izvestia: Kiev sabotages prisoner swap process

The leadership of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) and Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) has no idea how Kiev plans to ‘unfreeze’ procedures for a prisoner swap announced by the aide to the Ukrainian Security Service chief Yuri Tandit. The process has reached a stalemate due to the Ukrainian side, and there is little hope any progress may be expected by January 1, 2017, Izvestia writes.

"It is rather weird to listen to statements about the hope to unfreeze the process of the prisoner exchange made by the person linked to its freezing," Vladislav Deinego, chief envoy of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), told the newspaper. "Unfortunately, Ukraine is categorically against acting properly on the issue. There is only one condition for this process to be resumed, which implies that Kiev starts doing something to solve the problem," he explained. According to Deinego, currently Ukraine rejects "to submit necessary lists, to agree any actions", "they just pretend a teeming activity, particularly via such announcements."

The envoy of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic to the Minsk talks, Denis Pushilin, agreed with this standpoint as he says Donbass also hopes the process will be unfrozen soon. "As for now, Ukraine is stalling the exchange. The Ukrainian side has still failed to submit the official lists of those it is ready to free. This has been agreed upon, there is a certain preliminary understanding, but the agreement’s points need to be been filled with those surnames, yet Kiev has not submitted them so far, and is even thwarting some earlier reached accords," Pushilin informed the newspaper.


RBC: Private oil producers may be allowed to develop Arctic shelf

Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak has proposed a new shelf development arrangement in a move to allow private companies to participate in offshore oil and gas projects in the Arctic, which is now only exclusively available for energy majors Rosneft and Gazprom, RBC writes on Tuesday with reference to Novak’s presentation at the talks on Russia’s Energy Strategy to 2035 headed by Prime Minister Medvedev last Thursday, December 22. The newspaper’s source in the Energy Minister and a federal official confirmed the initiative was discussed:

"The ministry submitted the offer on the liberalization of offshore access."

According to the presentation, "if a need emerges to speed up the process of the development of hydrocarbon resources on Russia’s continental shelf and to garner extra investments the expansion of Russian companies’ access to the list of potential applicants for using subsurface areas of federal significance located on the continental shelf of the Russian Federation will be considered." However, the document acknowledges that Rosneft, which is eligible for offshore projects, stands for "maintaining the current policy" of its development.

Members of the meeting with PM Medvedev agreed to approve the Energy Strategy, which has been up in the air since 2014, by the end of this year, two sources close to the participants told RBC. Alexey Belogoryev, Deputy Executive Director on Energy Studies at the Institute for Energy and Finances, told the newspaper it is profitable to develop offshore fields, particularly in the Arctic, if oil prices are hovering at $90 per barrel. This means that the offshore access may only be fully liberalized after 2020 as the market sees higher crude prices and a new environment, the expert said.


Izvestia: Emergency Ministry creates robot able to operate in power plant meltdowns

A robotic system has been created by the Russian center for special risk operations at the Emergency Ministry, which can fully replace a person during any accident aftermath operations at power stations and chemical plants. A source at the center told Izvestia that "all works have been completed and the tests fully confirmed the targeted characteristics." Also, the source said, "the simplified version of the robot has been supplied to the forces of radiation, chemical and biological protection and participated in training activities."

The system is a six-wheel off roader measuring 1.5 meters in length and around 1 meter in width, and weighing around 25 kilograms. It can work both in a fully automatic mode and via Wi-Fi or through a flexible cable within 50 meters, Izvestia writes.


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

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