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For the first time since the new President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, has been elected, an EP committee on relations with Russia will gather to discuss formidable issues on cooperation with Moscow, the parliamentary institution’s press service told Izvestia. All 67 members of the committee will take part in the April 11 meeting, which is set to focus on finding solutions to relaunching dialogue with Moscow and reaching a compromise on sensitive issues, including on Ukraine.
The meeting’s participants say that there is a growing realization among all the EU member-states about the need for closer ties with Russia. Moreover, the EP hopes that the talks will be held on a regular basis and finally lead to the resumption of dialogue with Russian representatives.
Jiri Mastalka, deputy chairman of the committee, told the paper that the upcoming meeting may launch a series of similar discussions designed at alleviating differences between Russia and the EU. "Despite the chill in relations, we continue holding talks with Russian colleagues via TV link-ups, but it would be better to arrange a bilateral meeting on neutral territory," the lawmaker said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s permanent representative to the EU noted that dialogue with Brussels have been put on hold and the meeting is just the EP’s internal event.
The committee’s extraordinary meeting may be a signal that after Tajani’s appointment some members of the European Parliament calling to relaunch dialogue with Russia got the unofficial green light to go ahead with their policies, the paper says. Still, there are plenty of 'anti-Russian rhetoric' supporters. The question is whether 67 members of the committee will be able to make an agreement and bring the agenda to a higher level, Izvestia writes.
The United States is investigating a report about a "secret meeting" between Erik Prince, the founder of a private US military contractor, Blackwater, and a Russian representative in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
According to the Washington Post, the United Arab Emirates “agreed to broker the meeting,” which allegedly was part of efforts by the new US administration to establish contacts with the Kremlin. The report neither gives details on the Russian representative who allegedly held talks with Prince, nor does it cover the meeting’s agenda, but notes that the UAE agreed to become a mediator to clarify if Russia planned to give up its partnership with Iran, the Russian daily says.
A spokesman for Erik Prince indirectly confirmed that the meeting had taken place. Moreover, the representative said that "the meeting had nothing to do with President Trump." Western analysts believe that there is an allegedly close connection between Trump and Prince.
Anton Mardasov, head of the Research Department of Middle East Conflicts at the Institute for Innovative Development, told the paper: "It is possible that the UAE could have organized the meeting between Prince and a Russian representative as the UAE had worked with him constructively and for a long time. They have got the channels."
The expert doubts the veracity of the report on the meeting between Prince and a Putin proxy, but explained that if it indeed took place, it most likely focused on Libya where the UAE has its own interests. "In Libya, the UAE supports Khalifa Haftar and therefore Prince is working against his opponents, the Islamists," Mardasov elaborated. "Russia and the United States have a chance to hold dialogue, moreover the position of the Americans towards the Government of National Accord in Libya is ambiguous," he noted.
Russian investors will have a chance to foster closer commercial ties in Uzbekistan where Moscow’s presence has been very weak so far, Kommersant writes. Ahead of the visit by Uzbekistan’s new President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Moscow on April 4-5, Tashkent made a surprise announcement about striking multi-billion dollar deals in mining and metallurgy. The finer points of these transactions have not been revealed yet, while major projects by other foreign investors in Uzbekistan have failed to produce any positive results, according to the paper.
Uzbekistan’s Embassy in Russia announced that a memorandum has been signed with the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company and partners on developing the titanium-magnetite ore Tebinbulak field (with resources of 3.5 bln tonnes of ore) and on setting up steelmaking production worth $1.5 bln. No details on the memorandum have been divulged. One of the sources told Kommersant that the project had been discussed "behind closed doors between the shareholders of the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company and the republic’s leadership." Another source said the initiative came from the Uzbek side.
Sources in the sector told Kommersant that following the death of Uzbek President Islam Karimov in 2016 a window of opportunity opened for businesses.
Representatives of major Russian steelmakers and sources there say that they have not received any proposals regarding the Tebinbulak field. Most sources told Kommersant that they are skeptical about the project, pointing to the global surplus of ore and high production costs.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has confirmed that the terror attack in St. Petersburg’s metro on Monday was carried out by a suicide bomber, who is a Kyrgyzstan native, RBC daily writes.
Akabrzhon Dzhalilov, named as the suspected terrorist, was born in Osh, Kyrgyzstan’s second largest city, in 1995 and had lived in St. Petersburg for several years, a source close to Russia’s Federal Security Service told the paper. The man, who worked in a car workshop with his father, was tied to radical Islamists sympathetic to the Islamic State, law enforcement officials said. Dzhalilov came under the influence of radicals in St. Petersburg in 2015, a law enforcement source told the paper.
Alexander Knyazev, a Central Asia and Middle East expert, commented that lately a significant number of young Uzbek nationals have joined radical groups, even in the Middle East.
"This is linked to the ongoing inter-ethnic conflict, grievances against the Kyrgyz state, a lack of better opportunities and dissatisfaction with life," he said. Many Tajik, Uzbek and Kyrgyz nationals come to Russia as migrant workers, and they are then recruited to fight in Syria or Iraq, they get Kyrgyz passports and later fly to Turkey taking advantage of the visa-free regime, and then go to the Middle East countries, the expert said.
Time is running out on the one-year immunity of Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groysman’s government, as it is due to expire next week on April 14, Kommersant writes. Many politicians forecast a deeper downturn in the country, which can lead to the cabinet’s resignation and early elections.
"Today we can definitely say that a rather calm time in our life is over. The president’s adversaries have managed to rock the boat and now Ukraine is again returning to uncertainty and instability as usual," an MP of the ruling Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc told the paper. Another lawmaker Alexander Chernenko admitted that some serious forces "in the parliament and outside it" are working against Prime Minister Groysman’s cabinet. However, the government has a chance to repel the attack, continue its work and disrupt the plans of Poroshenko’s opponents who dream about snap parliamentary and presidential elections, he said.
Viktor Ukolov, a political scientist close to the presidential administration, told Kommersant that Poroshenko’s key rival is the prominent oligarch and former head of the Dnepropetrovsk regional administration, Igor Kolomoisky. Among those who also seek to ‘stir the pot’ is also former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party, sources close to the Ukrainian president said.
Sources in Kiev told Kommersant that the deteriorating economic crisis in the country after the blockade of Donbass and other destabilizing factors have forced Poroshenko’s team to seek early elections. Ukraine’s Western partners find themselves in a corner now. They continue voicing support for Ukraine’s leadership but find it hard to do it with their previous enthusiasm, according to the paper.
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