Russian foreign policy interests seem to be shifting its focus towards Libya, which is considered to be one of the main exporters of oil from North Africa. Despite deep discontent by the West, Russia continues active contacts with key political and military players in Libya. Sources from the military-diplomatic arena told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, that Chairman of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Khalifa Haftar have recently secured Russia’s support in resolving the "protracted domestic political crisis."
Russian-Libyan talks in Moscow took place against the backdrop of media reports about alleged plans for a deployment of Russian special operations forces to Libya from Egypt to fight the Islamic State (terrorist organization, banned in Russia). Later, several officials refuted these reports. However, military specialists hired by Russian business structures are present in the country, the newspaper wrote. For example, CEO of military consulting company RSB-Group Oleg Krinitsyn admitted that his company's representatives had demined a Benghazi oil refinery.
Whether or not RSB-Group participates in combat operations in Libya remains unknown, since Krinitsyn denies this. However, according to the newspaper, "Libya may need help" given that the intense activities of the Islamic State in the country are actively hampering the Russian-Libyan oil business. "Of course, the country's authorities want to improve the situation and regain control of the oil trade. This could be the reason for the recent trip of the House of Representatives Chairman and LNA Commander to Moscow. However, there is no unity among the country’s leadership," Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
Russia's oil interest in Libya is obvious - at the end of February in London, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin and Head of Libya’s National Oil Corporation Mustafa Sanalla inked a deal to search for new resources and oil production.
Citizens illegally deported from the Crimean ASSR in 1944, as well as their close relatives, will be eligible to obtain Russian legal permanent residency status through a simplified procedure, Izvestia wrote. The appropriate committee within the Russian State Duma is planning to discuss the bill on March 16. The changes would affect not only Crimean Tatars, but also other nationalities who lived on Crimean territory including Germans, Armenians, Bulgarians, and Greeks.
According to the bill, deportees from the Crimean ASSR will be able to obtain Russia’s residence permit based on a certificate of rehabilitation issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the prosecutor's office or a court. The same right will be granted to their relatives - spouses, children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, parents and adoptive parents.
Chairman of the Committee for Interethnic Relations in the State Council of Crimea Edip Gafarov considers the project relevant - according to him, "a large number of people in the republic currently do not have citizenship or a residence permit."
According to Gafarov, over the past three years, the Ministry of Internal Affairs received 54,000 applications for registration of certificates of rehabilitation. However, only 24,000 applicants have received documents thus far due to paperwork. Adopting the bill will help mitigate the circumstances Crimean Tatars face, Gafarov said. According to him, "there are up to 80,000-100,000 deportees and their relatives abroad and many of them would like to return to their homeland."
The economic rebound seen in early 2017 has stirred up some euphoria among Russian officials, and now they hope to see this ‘miracle’ carry on throughout the year, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. Experts interviewed by the newspaper explain the January-February economic revival was fueled by oil prices rising nearly 75% higher than last year's levels. A sharp drop in oil prices now could cause the Russian economy to suddenly hit the skids.
Some experts believe that at the moment, the recession of late 2015-2016 was bound to come to an end. However, this does not mean that the Russian economy is facing a period of rapid recovery. In February 2017, the greatest positive impetus came from oil prices, when the average Urals price was just over $53 per barrel (year-on-year growth of 75%). "It would have been very strange, given such a significant rise in oil prices, if the overall economic situation had worsened," the newspaper wrote.
At the same time, the majority of analysts do not rule out a new slowdown in the economy. "If oil prices decline to $40 per barrel, the country will face an economic downturn. In general, the new Russian economy, which has been lagging in recent years, does not yet have enough solid ground to deal with such a challenge confidently," audit company 2K Managing Partner Tamara Kasyanova told the newspaper.
"Using conservative scenarios, GDP growth by the end of the year will be about 0.8-1%," according to Finam analyst, Bogdan Zvarich. "If oil prices fall again to $40 per barrel, the budget deficit will increase first, which threatens to reduce social programs and increase the level of poverty," Sergey Suverov, Head of the analytical department at BC-Savings told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
"The economic revival is rather paper-based right now. The Finance Ministry promises to cut the budget deficit by 2%, but this is unlikely to affect the everyday life of ordinary Russians. The growth of optimism that experts talks about, is rather making peace with the current economic situation. People have adapted to the situation, they realized that they are able continue to live in this regime and have gotten calmer. However, this does not mean that their lives have improved," the State Duma deputy from the Irkutsk region Mikhail Shchapov told the newspaper.
Alibaba Group and its partners have invested $18 mln in the Russian-Swiss start-up WayRay, the founder and CEO of the Swiss-based innovator, Vitaly Ponomarev, told Kommersant. The project, co-owned by Sistema, develops holographic displays and participates in the creation of an automotive navigation system based on augmented reality (AR) technology.
Recently, WayRay had also announced a pilot project with Banma Technologies, a joint venture of Alibaba Group and the Chinese automaker, SAIC Motor. The partners plan to develop an AR-system that will be put into mass production as part of one of SAIC’s vehicles in 2018, making it the world's first mass produced car with a holographic AR-display, according to WayRay.
The focus on relatively inexpensive Russian technologies can help Chinese car manufacturers reach more marginal segments, experts told Kommersant.
Alibaba has no prior history of investing in Russian start-ups. "In Alibaba and Banma, WayRay has found strong partners in the world’s largest automotive market," Investment Director at Runa Capital Dmitry Galperin told the newspaper. According to him, Alibaba generally invests "pretty aggressively" in VR/AR.
"In WayRay’s case, here is the situation - the product is not yet mass-produced or sold, but the use of holographic display technology in navigation systems is really interesting," Galperin added.
According to the Digi-Capital agency, for the 12-month period ending in April 2016, global investment in virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) projects amounted to $1.7 bln.
The Russian Ministry of Education and Science has issued a three-year grant to create a data center management system using quantum technology for protecting communication lines. JSC SMARTS (former telecom operator currently engaged in telecommunications infrastructure) will receive 160 mln rubles ($2.7 mln) to develop the solution by 2020, Izvestia wrote.
According to the developers, there are no analogues of this project in Russia. Independent experts interviewed by Izvestia said that there are several similar projects in the world, which can be found in Switzerland, China and the United States.
"We will develop a distribution data processing center in three locations, united by optical communication lines," Deputy Technical Director of SMARTS Alexei Nikolaev told the newspaper. Geographical distribution increases reliability, resistance to man-caused and natural disasters and other emergency situations.
Artur Gleim, General Director of Quantum Technologies, told the newspaper that quantum technologies will provide protection against unauthorized access.
"The laws of physics are at the heart of quantum protection - the state of the photon cannot be read twice: after the first impact, its state will change and a second attempt will give another result. This will immediately detect any interference. The information transmitted by single-photon laser pulses over fiber-optic communication channels is secure. Hacking such a system, in fact, contradicts the laws of physics," Gleim said.
Research Fellow at the Quantum Communications Group of the Russian Quantum Center Alexey Fedorov told Izvestia that currently it is difficult to use quantum technologies to protect large amounts of data, as the generation rate of encrypted signals is still low. However, Swiss company IDQ already provides such services and quantum communications are developing very actively in Russia.
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