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The recent escalation of the conflict along the contact line in Donbass tops headlines of the Russian press on Wednesday. Tensions focused around the settlement of Avdeyevka, home to nearly 35,000 people, where a state of emergency was declared earlier this week following what has been acknowledged as the most hard-fought battles in the region since 2014, according to an RBC source close to Ukrainian command headquarters.
The leadership of the breakaway areas - the Donetsk and Lugansk people's republics - have been forced to strengthen measures against regular attacks, DPR’s envoy Denis Pushilin told Izvestia, adding that it is rather challenging to differentiate between a commando and a civil resident. "Our opponents speak Russian just like us", which makes it easy for them to enter our territory. It is impossible to identify whether a spy or a civilian is crossing the border," he said. "Nevertheless, the state security ministry is working hard, regularly revealing raiders and preventing terror acts," Pushilin added.
According to DPR’s envoy, Kiev is using any chance to quit the Minsk accords, simultaneously accusing the two republics of "initiating military actions." However, the DPR is not going to abandon the Minsk format, Pushilin told Izvestia. "We’ll definitely raise all those issues at the meeting in Minsk on February 1. Judging by the fact that the Ukrainian side used heavy artillery and tanks, it was personally Pyotr Poroshenko who ordered shelling. Meanwhile, he’s demonstrating concern over the escalation of the situation by interrupting his visit to Germany," he said, adding that the change in Kiev’s reaction may be related to the change in the political landscape.
Political scientist Konstantin Bondarenko told RBC that the reason behind the recent escalation of tensions in the region is tied with the fact that "both sides have forces not controlled either by official Kiev or by DPR leaders." Amid this background "mutual provocations are inevitable as long as the two sides are reluctant to fully implement the Minsk accords," though "military actions are not of advantage for both sides," he said. "However, the situation may only be settled if external peacekeeping prescriptive is established, which can take at least half a year," the expert added.
The final decision to raise the retirement age has already been made by the government, which is currently considering specific parameters of the hike, Izvestia daily writes with reference to two sources close to the government. One of the sources told the newspaper that in the pipeline now is working out details of the future reform and the announcement date. "I assume that the process will be divided into two parts. The first will be made public already this year, while the second one related to the hike of the retirement age, will be postponed to the period after 2018 elections," he said.
One of the options under consideration is a gradual increase of the pension age by six months every year, to go from the current 55 to 63 years for women and from 60 to 65 years for men, Izvestia writes. The second option implies a hike to 63 years equally for men and women.
The issue of the pension age increase in Russia has long been discussed in the socio-economic bloc of the government as well as in the expert community. Last year the Pension Fund denied reports that a gradual increase of the retirement age was planned starting 2019. A source in Russia’s Labor Ministry told Izvestia that the final decision has not been taken yet, which has also been confirmed by the representative of Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets, who is in charge of the social bloc.
Representatives of the Syrian opposition support Moscow’s proposal on the new country name, RBC writes. Orientalists involved in the work on the draft of Syria’s constitution, suggested that the word ‘Arab’ should be excluded from the name of the country, a source familiar with the matter told the newspaper. Their proposal is to name the country as Syrian Republic. Another option is to abandon the current norm, which obliges the president to be a Muslim as it contradicts the constitutional provision on equality before the law. The word ‘Islam’ is barely used in the Russian draft. According to Vasily Kuznetsov, director of the Center for Arab Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies, "certain Islamic political forces will most likely be objecting to this." "How to state this without thwarting the rights of non-Muslim population is another legal point," he added.
According to Khaled Issa, a leader of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, though the creation of the Kurdish cultural autonomy is a step forward, "there is a great variety of other nationalities living in Syria, whose rights have not been protected". Issa is a supporter of the need to establish a new legislative body - the Assembly of Territories. In the Russian draft the Assembly comprises representatives of administrative unities to ensure a wider participation of representatives of various population groups in the country’s management, the politician told the newspaper.
The draft constitution is a very positive step, Issa says, though it needs to be completed as it insufficiently takes into account national and religious peculiarities of the Syrian society and protects the rights of all of its representatives. However, the document under consideration for the first time in a long period, represents particular proposals on peaceful settlement of the Syrian conflict, he says. "Unfortunately, the majority of our opposition are first of all concerned about how to get rid of the current regime and take the place of Bashar Assad, though they do not have a clear idea and suggestions regarding how to reform the existing institutional system ," he added.
The government considers it necessary to simplify the procedure of inviting lawyers "for ensuring the interests of the Russian Federation in foreign and international courts and arbitration courts," Kommersant business daily reports. The plan is to repeal the existing regulation on hiring lawyers on a competition basis. The bill submitted to the State Duma by the government suggests that the lawyers involved in international processes and capable of protecting Russia’s interests on the international arena should be hired without competition procedures in order to enhance efficiency.
Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee for State Development and Legislation Pavel Krasheninnikov welcomes the initiative. "I’m against competition," he told the newspaper. "There are a few professionals who can protect the interests (of the country) in international and arbitration courts," he added. According to lawyer Karina Moskalenko, "competitions were introduced as an anticorruption measure as it implies transparency, particularly regarding requirements to the potential provider of services." Moskalenko considers the move as a "refusal to tackle corruption." Parter at BGP Litigation Alexander Vaneyev told Kommersant that though this market is very competitive, "there are really not so many firms ready to take specific complicated cases."
Staring February 1, a one hectare land plot in the Far East may be granted to all Russian citizens on a pro bono basis. Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev who initiated the legislation that is taking force on Wednesday, as he is also the President’s envoy to Russia’s Far East, told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that around 36,000 people have already applied. The move to make it available for all Russians, instead of previous restriction to residents of Russia’s Far East, can bring the number of applications to 100,000 in 2017, the Deputy PM added.
The initiative will help promote the region for foreign visitors, Trutnev said, though there are quite a few issues to be resolved in order to make the area comfortable for travelers. "Hotels should be constructed. Much should be done in order to make the region attractive for tourists, and we have already started working on this with the use of budget funds," he said.
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