Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow later in the day will be the first visit since the change in the US administration and the ceasefire announced in Syria, and the fourth visit to Russia over the past year and a half. The dramatic changes in global politics make the meeting between the Russian and Israeli leaders particularly significant. Kommersant daily writes with reference to Israeli diplomatic sources that Netanyahu, who already won the support of the new American President Donald Trump, will try to convince Russian President Vladimir Putin to join a new alliance currently being hammered out to contain Iran’s influence. The Israeli prime minister plans to focus on what he believes is Tehran’s destructive role in Syria that can affect Russia’s interests as well, the newspaper writes.
Israeli opposition leader and member of the Knesset, Isaac Herzog, who came to Moscow prior to Netanyahu’s visit, said in an interview with Kommersant that the country is "deeply worried about Iran’s increasing presence in Syria." "We read Israeli intelligence files, listen to announcements made by top Iranian brass, see the continuing efforts to supply Hezbollah with arms, and we have no illusions regarding Tehran’s destructive role. On this matter, the opposition fully supports Netanyahu’s attempts to restrain Iran," he said. According to Herzog, the talks between the Israeli prime minister and the Russian president will focus on the cooperation between the countries’ military forces to "assume required efforts to ensure Israel’s security due to the changing environment in Syria."
Grigory Kosach, a professor of history at the Russian State University of the Humanities Institute views the upcoming visit of Israeli PM to Moscow as part of wider efforts to engage Russia in the new anti-Iran collation with participation of the United States, Israel, the Persian Gulf monarchies and Turkey. "Current Israeli statements about Iran’s destructive actions in Syria threatening the security in the Middle East are surprisingly reminiscent of the announcements by the leadership of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies. Thus, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between Israel and those countries, we see them being forced to get closer in order to face the Iranian threat," the expert told the newspaper. He added that "Netanyahu will be representing the interests of a wider range of countries during the visit and trying to convince the Russian leadership that the almost friendly relations between Moscow and Tehran affect the interests of several key players in the Middle East and can backfire on Russia itself."
The President of South Ossetia, Leonid Tibilov, plans to visit Russia next week, less than a month before the republic’s presidential elections, a source in presidential press office told Izvestia. According to the source, Tibilov, who has been presiding over South Ossetia since April 2012, plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 14 for talks on issues regarding socio-economic cooperation and bilateral relations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the talks to the newspaper.
South Ossetia’s presidential elections will be held on April 9, 2017. The head of state is elected for a five-year term and is limited to two consecutive terms. Experts see Tibilov’s upcoming meeting with Putin as a demonstration of Russia’s support of the present head of the republic. Moscow is interested in predictable authorities and a stable republic, the newspaper writes. According to Sergey Markedonov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), "Russia props up the republic and is interested in making this aid reach the addressee." "The recovery issue is also a key point for the Russian side," he added.
In 2015, Russia and South Ossetia inked an alliance and integration agreement. Despite obvious wishes by certain representatives of the elite and the population, the republic refrained from joining the Russian Federation, though cooperation is very close. There is a united defense area, there is a Russian military base in the republic, and its borders are partially protected by Russian forces.
The En+ Group plans to raise up to $1.5 bln in listings on stock markets in London and Hong Kong, four sources close to the participants of En+ managers’ meetings, told Vedomosti business daily. One of the sources said the Hong Kong listing is still an open question. The price of the initial offering still remains a mystery, the newspaper writes. Two sources told Vedomosti that the company plans a valuation of $6-8 bln, so with this price as a basis, En+ may offer from 18.75% to 25% of shares to investors in order to raise $1.5 bln. Another source says the company’s expectations may even top $10 bln.
VTB Capital will be the organizer of the listing, two sources told Vedomosti, though in contrast a potential investor of the company and a source close to one of the participants of the meeting said Sberbank is the organizer. The listing may be held in April or May, another option is October or November, the newspaper says. En+ owns assets held by Russian magnate Oleg Deripaska in iron and steel, as well as in the energy and mining sectors.
The Russian government plans to consider amendments to consumer protection legislation regarding e-commerce aggregators. Among local players, Yandex.Market is the most famous aggregator, while eBay is the top international competitor. A market source told Kommersant that the current version of the document was approved by the government’s legislative activities commission on March 6, as well as the Industry and Trade Ministry, the Economic Development Ministry, and the Finance and the Communications Ministries. However, several sources familiar with the matter told the newspaper that the version of the bill to be considered later in the day, has been changed since 2016 when it was approved by the business community.
Particularly, the provisions about aggregators’ responsibility only for providing inherently unreliable information have been omitted. Simultaneously, new parts describing the order and time limits to fulfill requirements on prepayment repaid by the aggregator were added. A representative of Yandex.Market told the newspaper that if the bill is adopted in its current form e-commerce aggregators may cease to exist.
Russia’s Internet ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev is less pessimistic, though he admits that the amendments may leave small businesses without the opportunity of finding buyers through ‘intermediates’ "for minimum cost." "The bill does not take into consideration the essence of e-commerce aggregators and imposes inadequate responsibility compared with sellers," he noted. However, "Goods" CEO Solomon Kunin says the amendments would be beneficial. "As a mediator between a client and a product we assume responsibility for the quality of goods, certification, potential exchange and return," he said, adding that such measures will raise the transparency of Russia’s retail market and protect consumers.
With only one week left, Russia will have to decide on its representative to the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest 2017 in Kiev. However, more insiders are saying it is highly likely the country will refuse to participate, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on Thursday. Officially, the reason for such a decision may be related to Kiev’s inability to ensure safety of Russian singers, Mikhail Kesarev, a journalist covering Eurovision for Esckaz.com, told the newspaper.
Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee for Culture, People’s Artist of the USSR, Iosif Kobzon, has joined appeals to boycott the European song contest. Earlier Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia has grounds to worry about the safety of Russia’s representative to the Eurovision Song Contest in Kiev. The Kremlin has no stance on the issue of a possible boycott, he added.
The Eurovision Song Contest has been held annually since 1956, and each country member of the European Broadcasting Union sends its representative to the event. According to custom, the country whose singer had won the previous contest, hosts the next contest. Representatives of 43 states will take part in the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 set to take place in Kiev on May 11-13.
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