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Press Review: Gazprom's concern over gas transit to Europe and Russia-Egypt air service

January 31, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press

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Izvestia: Russia’s air service with Egypt poised to resume in Feb

Flights to new terminals of three Egyptian airports may be launched following final inspections by the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) in Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada on February 8-9, Izvestia daily writes on Tuesday with reference to a Russian diplomatic source. The Cairo airport is ready to receive Russian tourists, according to the Transport Ministry. After the inspections, both regular and charter flights between the two countries may be fully resumed, the source said.

"February 23 has been mentioned. However, this will only happen in case the Egyptian side meets all safety requirements," he told the newspaper. "At the moment nothing hinders the air service between the countries to be restored. Russia’s Transport Ministry is expected to make an official announcement right after the inspection. It’s worth pointing out that the Egyptian side has taken all necessary measures, and the country’s three biggest airports - in Cairo, Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada - are ready to receive Russian citizens as separate terminals have been provided," the diplomat added.

A source in the Transport Ministry confirmed to Izvestia that Cairo is ready to receive flights from Russia, adding that the date will be set by the government. "The Ministry has submitted its proposals on flights to Cairo. The airport is ready to receive Russian flights. Airports in Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada are still being inspected. The dates of flights launch will be set by the government," the source said.

Negotiations on resuming flights between Russia and Egypt have been underway since late 2015. Moscow suspended air service with Egypt in November 2015 after a terrorist attack on board an A321 jet from Russia’s air carrier Kogalymavia that was en route from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to Russia’s St. Petersburg. The passenger airliner crashed over the Sinai Peninsula early on October 31. All 224 people onboard, including 217 passengers and the seven-member crew, were killed.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Gazprom head concerned about gas transit to Europe via Ukraine

If the weather remains cold Russia’s gas transit through Europe via Ukraine will be at risk, Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Aleksei Miller said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. The country’s gas reserves in its storage facilities for this winter season are "abnormally low", and it "started gas withdrawal earlier than it usually does," he said, adding that "if the latest cold spell lasts for a long time the storage capacity may not be sufficient for Ukraine to cover its local demands." "Whether our Ukrainian colleagues will be able to fulfill their commitments on reliable transit of Russian gas aimed for European consumers, remains to be seen," Miller said.

According to the CEO, "Russian gas is in high demand on the European market judging by last year’s results and January results as well." "The demand for [Russian] gas is growing dramatically, as its share in the total volume of gas consumption in Europe has reached an all-time high of 34%," he said.

Over the past weekend, Russia’s gas giant reported yet another record of daily gas supplies to non-CIS countries totaling 636.4 mln cubic meters. The whole past week was record-setting for the company in this regard, as it hit all-time highs of daily supplies to the region for four days in a row. Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria demonstrated the strongest dynamics in terms of growth of gas purchases from Russia, Gazprom said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Railroad tracks blasted in Ukraine, making Donbass war beneficial

As participants of the railway service blockade in the section between Ukraine and the breakaway territories - the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics - are threatening Kiev with a guerilla war, official Kiev troops have been cutting through railroad tracks, Nezavisimaya writes on Tuesday. The police are seeking plotters, and no official exposures have been made. The announcement about the partisan war was posted on social networks in response to unconfirmed reports that Kiev plans to use force in order to unblock the railway service in the region.

The situation has aggravated the issue of Ukraine’s acknowledgement of Donbass, the newspaper says. Vitaly Bala, the director of the Situation Modelling Agency, thinks the issue resulted from a doube-talk. "If the situation in Donbass is the result of the external aggression as the Ukrainian authorities put it, if part of our territories is occupied, it is necessary to acknowledge the war officially and put the responsibility on the invader," he said. Since Kiev announced an anti-terrorist operation in the region, de jure it is tackling terrorists, which should not affect civil citizens, including in the trade issues, the newspaper writes.

In December, those who introduced themselves as militants of paramilitary troops and former participants of the anti-terror operation said the war in Donbass would not end as long as people involved in trade in the region are interested in it. According to Bala, in case of a conflict between the authorities and the blockade participants the society is likely to support the latter, "which would be a very dangerous scenario." "I don’t think any side is interested in an armed confrontation," he added.


Izvestia: Rosneft, Statoil team up for oil prospecting in central Russia

Russian and Norwegian energy majors have started a joint project to develop low-permeable rocks with hydrocarbon reserves in Russia’s Samara Region. The drilling of the first prospect well is already underway, sources in Rosneft and Statoil told Izvestia. The drilling is carried out by a joint venture company Domanik Oil, owned by Rosneft - 51%, and Statoil - 49%.

In 2013, the two companies announced an intention to set up a joint venture within a long-term cooperation plan to consider the feasibility of commercial development of bituminous shale rocks on 12 Rosneft’s fields in the Samara Region. Statoil obliged to invest up to $60 mln in the project, Izvestia writes. Following the signing ceremony, Statoil CEO Helge Lund said the company would participate in the development of world-class hard-to-reach oil if the project proved to be successful. A source in Rosneft told the newspaper that its Norwegian partner plans to drill up to three horizontal prospect wells until 2019.

Experts polled by Izvestia say that the growth of global oil prices may push Russia’s viable reserves of hard-to-reach oil up. This type of oil is particularly attractive for both Rosneft and Statoil as the majority of light oil fields in the Samara Region are already depleted, investment company Alpari’s Natalya Milchakova told the newspaper. "The Norwegian company needs new markets as its oil and and gas reserves are gradually being exhausted while the Russian market of hydrocarbon exploration and production is really lucrative. Statoil holds itself as a global corporation with the necessary technology to carry out efficient exploration of untapped fields. Sanctions will not last forever, while Russian producers will be looking for cutting-edge foreign technologies of oil and gas production for a long time ahead, though most likely import substitution will enter this sphere as well within five years or so," the analyst said. According to Milchakova, Rosneft has been increasingly active internationally, developing projects with its Chinese, Japanese and Egyptian partners despite western sanctions.


RBC: Government refuses to lift ban on entry to country for HIV-positive foreigners

The Inferior Ministry and Economic Development Ministry did not welcome the proposal made by the Health Ministry to remove restrictions on HIV-positive foreigners to enter Russia and stay in the country. The proposal, which is part of the state strategy on resisting HIV virus until 2020, is aimed at tackling discrimination. According to RBC business daily, the initiative was rejected.

Deputy Economic Development Minister Oleg Fomichev said this kind of struggle against discrimination could threaten the state’s national security "regarding the health protection of citizens." He added that Russia on the contrary needs to introduce a thorough HIV-testing for those entering the country. Currently, only those HIV-positive foreigners can enter Russia, whose spouses, children or parents are the country’s citizens or are permanently staying here. They were given this right as of the beginning of last year.


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

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