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Moscow and Paris have agreed on a new format for dialogue between the two countries’ parliaments, Izvestia writes. Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee and the French Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces Committee will hold a joint meeting in Moscow on Monday to agree on a memorandum of cooperation. The document envisages regular meetings between Russian and French senators as part of "strategic parliamentary dialogue."
Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Federation Council International Affairs Committee, told the paper that the two sides may strike an agreement on a joint report on the current status of and prospects for ties between the two countries. "A report on Russia drafted by the French Senate in 2015 was the impetus for such a dialogue," he explained. "In that document, we saw an aspiration to seek common ground, despite all disagreements. We thought it was important, and we suggested that our French counterparts discuss this document with us. As a result, we took a step that was off the beaten path in preparing the report on relations with France, which is a first in the history of the upper house."
Member of the French delegation, Senator Yves Pozzo di Borgo, said talking to Izvestia that the memorandum due to be signed by Russian and French parliamentarians will considerably expand the scope of cooperation between the two countries.
He noted that France, just like Europe and Russia, is pursuing its own interests in the global arena, namely, forging a major alliance that would be able to counter the challenges of the modern world.
Japanese experts are set to begin assessing the quality of manufacturing at some Russian plants, writes Kommersant, which has obtained the list of such enterprises. An agreement on such inspections is part of an eight-point cooperation plan put forward by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his meeting last year with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The list includes 12 companies, which are all private, and most of them deal with the production of automotive components. By helping boost productivity, Japan hopes to create a more favorable atmosphere for tackling the most complex issue in bilateral relations - the status of the Kuril Islands, the paper notes. Tokyo will invite Russian specialists to Japan to upgrade their skills, while Japanese experts will visit Russian plants to size up the level of production and make recommendations for introducing the Japanese system of quality control.
Kunio Okada, Regional Director of the Japanese Association for Trade with Russia and Newly Independent States (ROTOBO) told Kommersant that the Japanese delegation is currently inspecting the Russian plants on this list to evaluate the potential for cooperation. He noted that Japanese experts are presently at a plant in Ulyanovsk, and recently they inspected two plants in the Moscow region. Okada added that by the time of Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Russia scheduled in April-May, the group will have visited at least seven more factories. He emphasized that Russian specialists react to their visits positively hoping that the two countries will deepen cooperation.
A Ukrainian lawmaker has submitted a bill to parliament on scrapping cooperation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Kiev had hoped to get another installment from the IMF in January, but at the moment the prospects for assistance from the IMF are grim, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. The rift between Kiev and the IMF may forestall Ukraine in repaying $3-bln loan to Russia issued in late 2013.
The bill on a moratorium on signing memorandums and agreements with the International Monetary Fund was registered in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on Friday by member of the Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc faction, Sergey Kaplin, and head of the Ukrainian Banking Association, Alexander Sugonyako.
Ukrainian Finance Minister, Alexander Danilyuk, may travel to Washington to iron out these pressing issues regarding the IMF.
Meanwhile, Vladimir Zharikhin, Deputy Director of the Institute of CIS Countries, told the paper that Kiev’s plans stem from the approaching deadlines for repaying loans. "Kiev seems to realize that there will be no more easy money, while opportunities for repaying loans are scarce. So, discontinuing ties with the IMF is one of the most convenient solutions," he said. However, "instructions" from Washington will hardly make it possible for Kiev to neglect its IMF obligations so easily, the expert noted, adding that the chances of repaying Ukraine’s bill to Russia are pretty slim.
Russian oil major, Rosneft, has handed over an evaluation of its assets in Chechnya to the Russian Economic Development Ministry to be subsequently sold to the Caucasian republic, Kommersant writes. The state-run oil producer wants to sell Chechnya a 51% stake in Grozneftegaz, an oil and gas production enterprise operating in the North Caucasus, and the rest of its assets in the region for 12.5 bln rubles ($218.5 mln).
So far, the plan has not been approved by the Russian Cabinet, but sources familiar with the situation told the paper that it is just a question of time. It was discussed at a Russian Economic Development Ministry meeting in early February. At that time, the region’s representatives asked the parties involved in the proposed deal along with the Energy Ministry, Finance Ministry and the Federal Agency for State Property Management to analyze the assessment’s results. Following these procedures, in addition to obtaining consent from the Chechen authorities, the Russian government will hammer out instructions for the deal, the sources interviewed by Kommersant said.
Vitaly Kryukov, asset manager with Small Letters, noted that Rosneft’s complete departure from Chechnya should suit both sides. The company is not ready to invest in the development of assets in the region, while it was essential for the local authorities to obtain them. The expert said that Chechnya could attract Arab investors for this work, adding that the republic will be able to build an oil refinery through an influx of foreign investment sooner or later. However, to make its operation efficient, Grozny will have to invest heavily in production recovery.
The number of Crimean Tatars facing various difficulties due to their ethnic identity has dropped from 38 to 27% over the past year, Igor Barinov, head of the Russian Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, told Izvestia.
He noted that Crimea is one of Russia’s regions that has been under the agency’s scrutiny. "While on the average only 5% of Russians encounter problems due to their ethnicity, in Crimea this number is 9%. Among Crimean Tatars this figure amounted to 38% as early as at the beginning of 2016. This number has decreased over the past year to 27%," he explained.
According to Barinov, the results of a recent poll show that conditions for Crimean Tatars are looking up. "When asked whether they would like to move to another district in Crimea, to other Russian regions, Ukraine or some other countries, zero percent of those polled said they wanted to move to Ukraine, 82% said they wanted to stay in Crimea and 10% stated they were ready to move to another locality in Crimea. Another 2% said they were ready to move to a city in Russia," he said.
The Russian official added that, although problems are still plentiful, the Russian government is focusing on repressed ethnicities, including the Crimean Tatars, this is evidenced by the socio-economic advances in Crimea over the past two years. Crimean Tatar became a state language on a par with Russian and Ukrainian. Cultural heritage sites are being restored, a Cathedral Mosque is under construction, Tatar festivals have become state holidays, while schools, day-care centers and housing are being built, Barinov said.
He noted that a competent nationality policy makes it possible to avoid fallout, like the type seen in the North Caucasus in the 1990s, adding that Russia has been able to reverse this negative trend.
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