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Moldova’s Foreign Ministry has recalled the country’s Ambassador to Moscow Dmitry Braghis without explaining the particular reasons for the move, Kommersant writes, noting that the decision shocked both the Russian Foreign Ministry and the diplomat himself.
Sources in Chisinau told the paper that this comes due to confrontation between President Igor Dodon, who has said his priority is to better relations with Russia, and the pro-European government. Dodon earlier rejected several candidates for ambassador posts in other countries proposed by the cabinet. A high-ranking source in the Moldovan presidential administration said the decision to recall Braghis was a response to Dodon’s move. Braghis, who was appointed to the post in late November 2015, refused to comment on the situation saying it was premature. He also said that this came as a complete surprise to him.
One Moldovan diplomat told Kommersant that Braghis "had been on the list of those to be recalled for a long time." "He got too carried away by business interests in Moscow," the diplomat said, without giving any further details.
Experts in Chisinau believe the decision to recall the ambassador is a result of some intrigue. "There were no complaints about Braghis’ performance, and therefore no objective reasons for such a radical decision either. I believe his candidacy was a good choice for Moscow," President of the Institute for Strategic Initiatives and former Moldova’s ambassador to Austria Andrei Popov said. He did not rule out that the decision could have been made as a result of the behind-the-scenes struggle.
It is noteworthy that the ambassador was recalled after Dodon had told reporters at a briefing about the initial outcome of his efforts to improve relations with Moscow, Kommesant writes.
A group of Ukrainian lawmakers will once again try to protect the Russian language in Ukraine on an official level. A bill on ensuring state support of events for developing, protecting and promoting the Russian language will be submitted to the parliament in mid-March, Yevgeny Balitsky, an MP from the Opposition Bloc told Izvestia. The bill was already put forward for the parliament’s consideration in late 2016.
The bill’s author says the Russian language needs real state support and Ukraine should become a country that is "comfortable for all nationalities." "Today more than half of the country’s population speaks Russian, that’s why funds from the state budget should be allocated for the language’s support," Balitsky stated. "I will submit this bill and I’m sure that common sense will prevail and there will be several state languages in the country, not just one. The country will respect all people living on Ukraine’s territory," he elaborated.
Several non-faction MPs are ready to back their ally in the parliament, the paper says. The Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc and the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party understand the need for this initiative.
Balitsky says ordinary citizens cannot be blamed for differences between Kiev and Moscow and all problems should be solved at a diplomatic level "without playing people off against each other."
Experts say this initiative coincides with the beginning of a new political cycle in Ukraine. The prospect of early parliamentary and presidential elections is becoming more real, the paper says. Several Ukrainian factions, including Batkivshchyna, have already called for dissolving the Rada.
The Russian Justice Ministry may again propose resuming talks on the government’s bill that softens punishment for holding rallies and demonstrations and reduces responsibility for damage inflicted by participants of mass events. The bill, carrying out the 2013 decision by Russia’s Constitutional Court, has been included in the ministry’s work plan this year, two sources in the State Duma (lower house of parliament) told Izvestia. The ministry is also ready to amend the article on criminal responsibility for repeated violations at rallies, but is awaiting the corresponding instruction from the government.
The government had earlier proposed removing the penalty of mandatory community service for those found guilty of formally violating rules on organizing rallies, provided that the event did not cause any damage or injuries. There were also plans to specify demands for so-called Hyde Park-style open-air public speakers’ corners, where citizens could gather for public events in any locality.
One of authors of the 2012 law toughening the rules for holding rallies, Alexander Sidiyakin of the United Russia party, said it is important for the bill to specify criteria for special sites (the so-called Hyde Parks open-air speaking venues) for collective public discussions about significant issues and expressing opinions. "Here there is indeed the uncertainty that the law that may be rectified by adoption of amendments to the law on rallies already this year," he said.
Chairman of the Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Mikhail Fedotov has backed the bill and called to hash over softening penalties.
On Wednesday, speaking at a meeting of the organizing committee for the 2019 Winter Universiade in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for stamping out doping from the country’s sport. Vedomosti writes that during his speech Putin again rejected allegations that Russia has a supposed state doping program but acknowledged cases of its use and the failure of an outmoded Russian system of control, urging the country’s sports community to heed the demands of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Amid harsh statements by officials and MPs, Putin looks like a "peacekeeper seeking to ease conflict with international sports organizations and ready to make some concessions," the paper says. The president’s words may be viewed as a call to restore mutual relations and as a signal to the international sports community and domestic officials, coaches and athletes, Alexey Makarkin, a political scientist, said adding that the Kremlin doesn’t need any new surprises or scandals. The relocation of bobsleigh and skeleton world championships and a biathlon event from Russia confirmed the threat of isolating Russian sports was especially a sensitive matter ahead of the FIFA Confederations Cup and World Cup, which Putin considers his personal projects, Makarkin noted.
Russia is demonstrating that at the upcoming Winter Olympics 2018 in South Korea’s Pyeongchang, it is ready to abandon its attitude of "victory at any price" and in the future it plans to punish those who are caught using doping, the paper writes.
Putin also noted on Wednesday that Russia’s anti-doping laboratory is being handed over to Moscow State University and will get special funding from the state budget, and the Sports Ministry won’t be its founder. This should make the laboratory more independent and formally this game plan is in line with WADA’s rules, according to Vedomosti.
The decision to transfer the anti-doping effort to the country’s leading university is a wide-spread global practice, said Georgy Rusanov a legal expert. This practice has proved to be very efficient in Italy, he noted. Now officials will find it more difficult to influence its work. However, comments on getting tough with doping will remain just words until Russia makes serious progress in reaching goals without doping, sports doctor Sergey Ilyukov said. Some four or five years are needed for a serious breakthrough here, he said.
Russians’ increased travel demands ahead of the summer season have given hope to the tourist market, Kommersant business daily writes. Its participants say that the demand for some countries by the end of the year may reach 2014 figures and the overall flow of tourists going abroad could grow by 20 or 30%. At the same time, some companies fear that this may be a temporary event inspired by a strengthening ruble. Russia’s domestic tourist market has already been affected by the current trend and the demand for travel offers has dropped 5%.
Executive Director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) Maya Lomidze said requests for such destinations as Turkey, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Greece and Spain have nearly doubled and even quadrupled when compared with last year. The demand for trips to Turkey, which now accounts for up to 50% of organized tours for the summer, has already exceeded 2014 levels.
If this trend continues, by the end of 2017 the sales of other popular destinations may reach levels seen during the pre-crisis period, she said.
Chief analyst at Promsvyazbank Igor Nuzhdin expects that in 2017 the number of Russian tourists traveling abroad may grow only by 20 or 30% compared with 2016. "The current rush may be linked to the strengthening ruble and uncertainty of Russians that the ruble rate will be as favorable in the spring and summer," he said. Nuzhdin doubts if the number of Russians traveling abroad could reach the level of 2014 in the coming five years. “At that time, the average salary in the country reached $841, in 2016 it was $548, whereas in 2017 it may grow to $650, but to reach the level of 2014 there is the need for another 30% growth,” he said.
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