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Press review: Jailed pilot mother's plea to Trump and Russia's plan for de-offshorization

February 22, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, 22

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Lyubov Yaroshenko, the mother of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko,with a photograph of her son

Lyubov Yaroshenko, the mother of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko,with a photograph of her son

© Artiom Geodakyan/TASS


Izvestia: Jailed Russian pilot’s mother sends plea to President Trump to free son

The US has received a letter from Lyubov Yaroshenko, the mother of Kostantin Yaroshenko, who is currently serving his lengthy jail term in the United States, addressed to President Donald Trump, a source in Russia’s diplomatic sources told Izvestia. The letter is a plea to return the jailed pilot home to Russia and was sent on February 13 via the international express mail service, DHL, and diplomatic routes. Yaroshenko has already signed a consent form to be brought back to Russia in case the US gives a positive reply. Previously, Lyubov Yaroshenko sent a similar plea to ex-President Barack Obama, who left it unanswered however.

The pilot’s lawyer, Aleksey Tarasov, told the newspaper that he expects Trump’s decision will be a positive one. This may turn out to be a serious contribution to harmonizing relations between Moscow and Washington, Izvestia writes. Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law, told the publication that Moscow has not changed its stance on the issue. "We are still continuing to cooperate with the new US administration on the Yaroshenko case. The Obama administration was absolutely unable to make any decisions on permitting him to return back home. No steps were taken to fulfill their international obligations on prisoner welfare either. Unfortunately, those issues were passed on to the new administration," he said, adding that "regarding Yaroshenko’s letter to Trump we only need to have plenty of patience and wait for a response."

Meanwhile, there is still hope that the pilot will return to Russia in accordance with the 1983 Strasbourg Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to their native countries. The Russian side has not yet received any reply on a related request submitted at the end of 2016. Peter Carr, a US Department of Justice spokesman told Izvestia that that program on transferring convicted individuals to their country of citizenship is aimed at prisoners who undergo difficulties when serving out their jail terms far from home. According to the spokesman, Konstantin Yaroshenko is eligible for the program due to his serious health problems.


Kommersant: Swedish top diplomat denies ties with Moscow are frozen

Sweden is committed to a multilateral partnership and cooperation, and is eyeing all potential meeting arrangements with Russia, the country’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in an interview with Kommersant following a meeting with her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov. Wallstrom said she would not call the current relations between the countries ‘frozen’. "We’ve met with Minister Lavrov on various occasions, and I think the fact of a meeting I just had itself is positive," she said.

According to Stockholm’s chief envoy, much has occurred since the European Union imposed the policy of no top-level contacts, on top of that the situation in the EU itself has changed since then. "For example, now we cooperate within the UN Security Council, on a slew of disputed issues and situations, which require our joints efforts," she said, highlighting the Ukrainian crisis, the Crimean issue, the work of the Arctic council, cooperation in the Barents Sea region as examples. When asked whether she would accept an invitation by Russia’s Foreign Minister to visit Crimea, Wallstrom said she would not.


Izvestia: Russian premier moves to loosen de-offshorization legislation

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has requested the government to find ways to relax the law on de-offshorization in response to a letter by Business Ombudsman Boris Titov, who asked the premier to stop the business exodus from the country that came about as a result of this legislation, according to Izvestia, which obtained both Titov’s letter and Medvedev’s resolution. Earlier this month Russia’s business ombudsman put forward a change to the notion of the so-called controlled foreign corporation, "so that only those foreign companies with 50% and more of their core earnings originating from Russian sources will qualify, and provided that they are controlled by Russian beneficiaries." In his resolution, Medvedev requested First Deputy Prime Minister Shuvalov to "work on the idea and present proposals."

At present, the law on controlled foreign corporations, which is aimed at de-offshorization of the economy, pertains to all businessman owning foreign structures, regardless of their scale of business. The legislation has already forced some businessmen to give up their tax resident status in Russia. In particular, this was done by Mikhail Fridman and Alexei Kuzmichev, who are stakeholders in Alfa-Group, a prominent private investment group in Russia. Alisher Usmanov, the founder of USM Holdings followed suit last October. "The law united both companies set up solely for tax avoidance, and ‘right-minded’ companies that not only receive dividends in Russia but also earn money via other overseas sources," Elena Luzanova, a Moscow-based attorney, told Izvestia.

However, experts interviewed by the newspaper do not rule out that businesses may return to Russia if the government agrees to make concessions, since the taxation system is much easier here than in many other countries. If Russia wins the tax tug-of-war, it could seriously enhance the transparency of its business environment, Izvestia says.


RBC: Russia’s Central Bank to scrutinize dubious and honest lenders

Revoking a license from a bank, which has common shareholders along with other existing players, may severely undermine its stability, RBC business daily writes. The Central bank’s new tough approach to gain control over bank owners’ goodwill exposes minority investment in Russia’s banking sector to risk, with foreigners being most vulnerable, the newspaper says. According to bankers polled by RBC, the recent adjustments may affect the interests of not only those with a tarnished image, who still retain shares in operating lenders, but plenty of owners of quite healthy credit organizations who used to have small shares in various banks.

According to the newspaper, foreign owners may be hit the hardest, as the time period for collecting documents to prove goodwill is extremely short for those based overseas. Also, a source in the banking sector considers that "the path the regulator is taking is risky in terms of corruption and unconscientious pressure on shareholders." However, some bankers are not so skeptical, pointing out that the Bank of Russia is "closing all loopholes for bank shareholders involved in money laundering and asset stripping schemes.


Kommersant: Roscosmos CEO seeking ways to attract private money into sector

The CEO of the state-run space corporation, Igor Komarov, held talks with representatives of Russia’s biggest business structure focusing on public and private partnership, Kommersant writes with reference to several sources close to Roscosmos. Representatives from Rosneft, AFK Sistema, Russian Raiways, Onexim Group, S7 Group, as well as VEB development bank, Skolkovo, Rostelecom and other companies attended the meeting. "The discussion of public and private partnership and potential participation by the companies invited in joint projects was the meeting’s main focus," one of the sources said. The corporation’s official spokesman, Igor Burenkov, confirmed the meeting to Kommersant, though he refused to provide details.

Komarov explained the rules and principles of the game to businessmen who earlier were reluctant to invest in such projects due to their closed nature. He also acknowledged the trend of declining budget financing, and said that private structures are quicker to respond to market changes and can turn out new products. According to Kommersant, five areas have been set for commercialization - ground equipment, launch services, space vehicles production, service on man-related interplanetary navigation and application services in the sector. The CEO said the capacity of those segments exceed $40 bln, which makes it very attractive for investments.


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

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