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So far, Thursday’s killing of former Russian lawmaker Denis Voronenkov who had testified in the case of ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, still remains an unsolved mystery. However, the incumbent Ukrainian leader, Pyotr Poroshenko, predictably dubbed his murder "an act of terrorism on the part of Russia," Izvestia writes. Yet, some experts and politicians believe Kiev could have orchestrated the murder, subsequently laying the blame on Moscow, others say that “criminal showdowns” were the true motive.
Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov told the paper that Voronenkov was in no way linked to Yanukovich and dismissed Poroshenko’s theory as "idle talk." Verkhovna Rada member Yevgeny Murayev said in an interview with Izvestia that the killing could have both the political and "commercial" implications.
"Voronenkov had fallen out with some senior officials in Russia’s special services and moved to Kiev, where he began to give testimony hinting that he has a large amount of information, which means that he was a threat to some security officials in Russia," Ukrainian political analyst Vadim Karasyov told Vedomosti.
His Russian counterpart, Nikolay Petrov, told the paper that, while a number of people in Russia may have been dissatisfied with the former MP, those were not necessarily Moscow and the Kremlin. "I believe the first version is connected with Voronenkov’s business and the reasons that prompted him to flee Russia and seek Ukrainian citizenship, while his political statements were a means of acquiring Ukrainian citizenship," he said.
Meanwhile, Professor Oleg Matveichev from the Higher School of Economics, emphasized in an interview with Izvestia that "everything is going on according to the same plan," Kiev seeking to vilify Russia at every turn. "Kiev needed Voronenkov not because of some secrets or testimony. The only benefit he held for Kiev was his elimination, and consequently blaming Moscow for everything, while launching into a tirade about it," the expert explained.
Envoys from more than 100 countries will gather in New York on Monday to hammer out an agreement on the total prohibition of nuclear weapons under the UN’s auspices. However, Russian delegates along with the representatives of other countries possessing nuclear weapons will not attend the meeting, Kommersant writes.
Mikhail Ulyanov, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department, informed the paper that Moscow considers the proposed move "poorly calculated and even pernicious." "Russia fully shares the goal of building a nuclear-free world, but it is necessary to move towards it meaningfully, step by step and with due account for all circumstances. This is not the case now," the official stressed. According to the diplomat, given the current political climate, "nuclear weapons ensure deterrence and, as a consequence, are one of the pillars of global strategic stability."
Meanwhile, Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, described Moscow’s decision to boycott the talks as disappointing. In her view, Russia could act as a world leader and take part in the negotiations.
On the other hand, Alexander Dynkin, Director of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations at the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chair of the Russian Pugwash Committee, noted talking to Kommersant that the time for prohibiting nuclear weapons altogether has not come yet. "The countries that legally or illegally possess nuclear weapons will not abandon them, since they invested so much into producing them. From a humanitarian point of view, the idea of eliminating weapons may seem attractive, but from a point of view of political pragmatism, the idea is not viable."
Moscow and Yerevan have been able to build a solid strategic partnership since the two countries established diplomatic relations a quarter of a century ago, newly-appointed Armenian Ambassador to Russia, Vartan Toganyan, stated in an interview with Izvestia. "We have a strategic vision of bilateral relations, and we adhere to this policy. Our ties are also based on an impressive legal framework. Within this period of time, agreements and treaties have been signed between virtually all government agencies in our countries," the diplomat stressed.
The new envoy noted that Yerevan had been in talks with the EU, but made a conscious choice in favor of Eurasian integration. "If we look at statistics, we have a noticeable increase in trade turnover after joining the Eurasian Economic Union. There are still many years of work ahead to forge a new union, especially for Armenia, which has no common borders with Russia and is facing an illegal, long-term blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan. After all, many powers of the EAEU member-countries, for example, technical and customs ones, have been transferred to a supranational body, that is, the Eurasian Union Board. In a word, Armenia is satisfied with its choice," he said.
When asked about the possibility of hammering out a political settlement on the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, Toganyan noted that the impasse could only be resolved through political and diplomatic means. "Everything else is fraught with grave and dangerous consequences," he warned. "Apparently, our partners are not quite ready for a political settlement. For its part, Yerevan is grateful to Russia for acting as a mediator and taking firm stance on the need to strike a political and diplomatic settlement," the ambassador said.
Petroleum of Venezuela, or PDVSA, the state-owned oil and natural gas company has warned its foreign partners in the Orinoco Belt (in the eastern Orinoco River Basin), including Russia’s Rosneft, about the need to substantially roll back production. According to some sources interviewed by Kommersant, this move comes from the need to comply with the OPEC production cut deal. According to analysts, PDVSA has apparently decided to sacrifice its Orinoco Belt projects with their cheap heavy oil for the sake of maintaining its reputation in the oil cartel.
One of the sources explained in an interview with the paper that Venezuela was the most active proponent of the production cut agreement among OPEC members, but now lags behind others in terms of implementing this plan. A source in the Russian Energy Ministry informed the paper that the issue of limiting production on Venezuelan assets may be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the Monitoring Committee in Kuwait scheduled for late March.
Caracas’ failure to honor its commitments to slash output "deals a serious blow to its image," especially in the run-up to new talks within OPEC to prolong the production cut for the second half of the year, said Valery Nesterov of Sberbank Investment Research. He noted that the choice of the Orinoco Belt for the oil output reduction was not accidental, since it produces cheap heavy oil, which is sold under spot contracts rather than under long-term ones.
The Fourth Arctic - Territory of Dialogue international forum will kick off in Arkhangelsk on March 29. The event will bring together representatives of Russia, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, the US, Canada, China, Japan and Singapore. Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part in the forum for the first time. The participants will discuss economic issues, infrastructure development, investment and efforts aimed at improving the region’s living standards, Izvestia writes.
Arkhangelsk Regional Governor, Igor Orlov, told the paper that more than 1,500 guests are expected to join the forum, while the president’s participation will give a fresh impetus to the development of the Arctic region. ""I have no doubt that we will be able to revive the prestige of working in Russia’s northern areas," he said.
According to Oleg Matveichev, Professor at the Higher School of Economics, today it is important to tackle the social aspect and revive the Soviet tradition of making it prestigious again to work in that region. "The Arctic is a strategically important project, and the government has wrestled with this issue for a long time. We need to inform the population about its rights, to specify which social projects they need," he stated.
On the other hand, political scientist Gleb Kuznetsov believes that, with the development of high-tech solutions, Russia will get another chance to develop the region. "The area is ripe for the economic expansion, all the more so given that it is not a hot spot," the expert said.
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