Last weekend was marked by the annual Munich Security Conference, a high-profile international event, which was preceded by the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Bonn. The meetings, where Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov represented Russia, did not clarify the changes the world should be expecting with the new US administration and whether there will be any at all, Izvestia wrote.
The first meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister and his US counterpart Rex Tillerson was also held in Bonn, and although experts had high hopes, the session was held behind the closed doors, with no details on the future of the countries’ relations having been divulged.
Sources in the Russian delegation told Izvestia that Tillerson has still not put together his team and the reshuffling, according to expectations, will affect more than half of all American diplomats. Thus, it is too early to talk about comprehensive cooperation between Moscow and Washington.
Accordingly, Chairman of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia that the new US administration so far lacks full perception on a comprehensive foreign policy strategy for the country. "This not only regards foreign policy towards Russia. I could feel it in (US Vice President) Michael Pence’s speech. He strikes me as a man who works with prepared documents and does not dare assert his own position. This is evidenced by the fact that he moved on from the second part of his speech, which suggests answers to questions from the meeting participants. That is, so far the US administration operates under extreme uncertainty," the senator noted.
In turn, a source in the Russian delegation told Izvestia, that EU states are "laying low" and are taking a "wait and see" position on the new government in Washington. "The EU countries are ready to solve small problems, but as for the global issues they expect to see what line the United States will take first," the source said.
In general, according to State Duma’s Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs Leonid Slutsky, the Munich Security Conference failed to provide any high-profile breakthroughs.
"Overall, I consider this to be a useful platform for developing, at the moment the unattainable common position creating a stable world. Unfortunately, because of the sanctions, I could not participate in the conference for the third year in a row. However, participation of Russian representatives in the conference had been very useful," Slutsky told Izvestia.
According to data from the Russian Federal Customs Service, in 2016 Ukraine was ranked among the largest buyers of many Russian products - from vodka to confectionery products, and even milk. Surprisingly, beer exports in 2016 increased 1.5 times to 38.46 mln dal, while meat exports reached 47,893 tonnes, a record-setting figure in 3 years. Thus, according to the Customs Service, Ukraine accounts for nearly 30% of all Russian beer and meat exports. According to Vedomosti, the results are amazing, considering the fact that at the end of 2015 the Ukrainian authorities in response to the Russian food embargo imposed a ban on the supply of most products from Russia, including beer and meat.
Meanwhile, according to Vedomosti, "dozens" of its sources in the Russian manufacturing and trading companies know that Russian products are exported to the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk People's Republic (LPR and DPR).
According to the newspaper’s analysis of the detailed customs statistics, indeed, almost all the recipients of the exported beef and pork in Ukraine over the past two years, resided in Lugansk and Donetsk regions. According to General Director of the National Pig Breeders Union Yuri Kovalev, "as LPR and DPR lacks its own production facilities and faces substantially cut in supplies from Ukraine, in 2016 Russian companies managed to establish trade relations with buyers in the republics."
According to Vedomosti, products from Russia’s largest manufacturers are imported to the Lugansk and Donetsk republics. However, Russian manufacturers either deny the fact or refuse to discuss the issue.
The reluctance by the leading companies to identify the exports with the self-proclaimed republics is understandable, a Russian attorney and his counterpart in Kiev told the newspaper. Formally, there are no sanctions for supplying goods from Russia to the republics. However, the US sanctions list includes many individuals from Donetsk, which means that cooperation not only with them but also with their companies puts Russian suppliers at jeopardy of falling under the sanctions.
The State Duma Committee on Transport has developed amendments to the Russian Air Code, allowing airlines to draw up blacklists for in-flight trouble-makers. According to Kommersant, the Presidential Council for Codification and Enhancement of Civil Legislation will review the bill on Monday.
The amendments might grant air carriers the right to unilaterally refuse to transport to passengers who in the last 5 years had violated the rules of conduct on board an aircraft, jeopardizing the safety of the flight or threatening the lives of passengers, by not complying with the orders of the aircraft’s commander and crew. In addition, the bill would give airlines the right to officially publish the lists of in-flight rabble-rousers.
According to Kommersant, protocols drawn up by the crew members within three days will be sent to the Federal Air Transport Agency, which, in turn, will have five days to publish it in a single register on its website.
If published, airlines would have to slap a mandatory three-year ban on selling tickets to the offenders, regardless of whether they fly only over the territory of the Russian Federation or abroad. Exceptions will be provided only in cases of necessary medical treatments, funerals of close relatives, if the transgressors accompany disabled people aboard or return to Russia from countries only reachable via air travel.
The majority of Russian citizens - 84% - believe that the Russian army is able to defend the country from a genuine military threat, 61% of respondents want their relatives of draft age to fulfil their civic duty and serve in the army, according to the new public opinion poll by the Levada Center. At the same time, experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that the army's reputation has gotten a considerable boost.
Meanwhile, 58% of Russians are in favor of preserving general universal military service. The majority of respondents - 61% - want their relatives of appropriate age to serve. According to the poll, Russians do not support commercial troops consisting of contract fighters, only 25% support it.
First Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee Franz Klintsevich believes that the survey’s results are in line with the fundamental changes in society’s and the government’s perception of the army. "Everything has changed: quality of service, quality of combat training, weapons, social and domestic conditions, and all this has led to the fact that the number of people who want to be associated with the army has grown," he told Izvestia, noting that society also respects effective fight against terrorism with the help of the armed forces.
Igor Korotchenko, Editor-in-Chief of the Natsionalnaya Oborona (National Defense) magazine also believes that over the past few years society’s view of the military has changed. "The army is currently one of the most important public institutions. Any service - conscription or contract - is equally prestigious. That is, the army has regained society's trust, and so, people are ready to serve and the army provides various avenues for this,” the expert told the newspaper.
Korotchenko added that even foreign partners, including NATO, recognize that the Russian army is one of the best in the world, not only because of its image, but also in terms of technical equipment and combat readiness.
The Russian Government is ready to allow the development of the "home" power industry in Russia - people might be able to install up to 15 kW from renewable energy sources on their roofs and in the courtyards of private houses. Consumers will be able to sell excess energy to power supply companies at wholesale market prices and personal income from these transactions will not be taxed, Kommersant writes.
In 2017, Russia finally decided to embark on the path of integrating "home microgeneration" through renewable sources of electricity in the national grid. This model has been used abroad for quite some time and so far the initiative has faced both advantages and disadvantages.
The Economic Development Ministry told the newspaper they will hammer out proposals and send them to the Energy Ministry in the near future. Meanwhile, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) has not yet commented on the issue.
However, according to some experts, interviewed by the newspaper, the initiative might be controversial. The rapid development of renewable energy sources might create problems with traditional generation and grids. The proposed scheme blurs the line between power consumers and power companies, and is close to the model used abroad for the development of renewable energy, particularly in Europe.
According to Tatiana Lanshina, a researcher at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration the proposed system might bring additional charges for power grids, while supervisory control could become more complicated.
Other energy experts still do not see any significant risks, as the total volume of power generation would be minor, but its profitability for the consumer is questionable. Plus, the similar experience in Europe proved that microgeneration and renewable energy development provide more jobs.
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