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Russia intends to draw Saudi Arabia’s attention to the importance of cooperation in ensuring regional security in the Middle East and North Africa, Chairman of the Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko said in an interview with Izvestia on the eve of her visit to Riyadh.
"We would like to point out to our Saudi partners the need to combine efforts to fight terrorism, in matters of regional stability and conflict resolution. Our positions do not always coincide on a number of issues, however, it does not make this dialogue any less valuable. This is an opportunity to express one's point of view and exchange opinions," she stated.
According to Matviyenko, bilateral cooperation in economic, humanitarian and cultural spheres will also be discussed during the visit. The official visit of the Chairman of the Federation Council to Saudi Arabia will be held from April 15 to 17.
In early April, Russian President Vladimir Putin and King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud discussed the importance of bolstering international efforts in the war on terror.
Earlier, Head of the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations Vladimir Puchkov and Saudi Ambassador to Russia Abdurrahman Ibrahim ar-Rassi agreed on cooperation between the two countries in protecting the population and territories from emergencies.
The repercussions of the US attack on the Shayrat airbase will be one of the main topics of the April 14 meeting between the top diplomats of Russia, Iran and Syria in Moscow. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the countries share the same views on the situation. However, Turkey, acting earlier as a guarantor of the truce, has expressed a different position - the exchange of tough talk by Moscow and Ankara against the backdrop of a “chemical attack" scandal might cast doubt on the fate of the “Russia-Turkey-Iran” troika.
According to the experts, interviewed by the newspaper, the main question is how can Ankara conceptually combine two approaches: the goal of resolving the Syrian crisis through the Astana talks and support for US military operations in Shayrat. “On the one hand, the Turkish leadership wants to continue dialogue with Russia, and on the other hand, it hopes that Washington can understand Turkey's future actions in Syria. However, after the referendum on April 16, the position of the Turkish leadership will be clearer - if Erdogan consolidates his power, he can continue pursuing his policy towards Syria,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta said, adding that , if Turkey wants to conduct a second operation in Syria or strengthen its influence in the region it needs to maintain contacts with Russia.
"After the American strike, a group was clearly formed by Russia, Iran, possibly Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, which categorically opposed Trump's decision," Senior Lecturer at the Department for Political Science of the National Research University Higher School of Economics Leonid Isaev told the newspaper. “I think they want to discuss the rules of the game that will exist within this alliance. Turkey has nothing to do with it. The tripartite format was initially questionable. It is evident that now it is on the verge of disintegration, not because there is a conflict between Russia and Turkey, but because Ankara can’t handle the responsibilities it has shouldered. Turkey tends to play it by ear. Now they are pursuing a strategy of offsetting any negative effects in Ankara’s foreign policy, because the April 16 referendum is a key event for them," Isaev emphasized.
However, the expert believes that if amendments to the Turkish constitution that extend Erdogan's powers are adopted on April 16, then his foreign policy line will be more indicative. "At present, he is trying to keep a foot in both camps. Our expectations from Turkey are too high. It is naive of them to demand that they take a pro-Russian position in the Syrian crisis. This is a problem of our diplomacy, the failure to understand that there is no longer any overall unipolarity or bipolarity," Isaev stressed.
The Russian Foreign Minister has drawn up a draft United Nations convention dubbed “On Cooperation in the Sphere of Counteracting Information Crime”, which was already discussed this week in Vienna during a closed meeting of the UN expert group "for conducting a comprehensive study of cybercrime," According to Kommersant which obtained a copy of the draft.
According to Moscow, this document should replace the 2001 Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, which Russian authorities saw as a threat to the country’s sovereignty. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs calls the new draft "innovative" and "universal", emphasizing that it takes into account the numerous changes that have taken place since 2001 in the sphere of IT crime and would be suitable for all UN member states, not only for the West.
Group-IB CEO Ilya Sachkov, who heads the internet security company, noted the Russian convention "takes into account the interests of all countries, meets new challenges and threats, including technological ones, such as Advanced Persistent Threats, the Internet of things (IoT), botnets, and viruses that change attribution."
According to the newspaper, so far it is unclear how the Russian initiative will be taken at the United Nations. A recent UN Convention on a related topic, submitted by Russia earlier, has not yet received broad support.
“As for the prospects of a new Russian convention, a lot will depend on the United States,” Kommersant explained. The US State Department has still not commented on the chances of adopting this document in place of the Budapest Convention.
The Russian Ministry of Economic Development noted the tightening of monetary conditions and considers it a danger to economic growth. According to Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin, this is due to a combination of rising real interest rates and the ruble’s sharp strengthening. According to the experts interviewed by RBC, the Minister’s statement might indicate a "conflict of interests" between the Ministry of Economic Development and the Central Bank.
"Maintaining the current conditions, according to our estimates, could lead to a slowdown in economic growth by the middle of the year and the rate of inflation will fall below 3% by the end of the year,” the Minister said.
According to Senior Expert at the Center for Development of the Higher School of Economics Nikolai Kondrashov, the statement is "a definite hint" - it is beneficial for the Ministry if the Central Bank lowers the key rate faster. At the same time, the decline in oil prices might impact both economic growth and the level of inflation, the expert said. The Central Bank is in a "very tight spot." If the regulator decreases the rate quicker, and the economic situation worsens (low oil prices, poor harvest, tightening of the US Federal Reserve policy), then the risks of accelerated inflation will rise. “This is a very important year for the Central Bank, it needs to keep inflation within 4%, given that its reputation is at stake and everyone is just beginning to trust it. It would not be wise to do the Ministry’s bidding,” Kondrashov noted.
Renaissance Capital's economist for Russia and CIS countries Oleg Kouzmin believes that the Minister’s comments should not be perceived as a signal for the Central Bank, it only links the ruble's exchange rate to the level of inflation. If the Central Bank sees inflation approaching 3%, it can start lowering rates faster, which would lead to a weakening of the national currency. "I do not think this is a direct message to the Central Bank. As far as I understand, now they have a fairly well established interaction. Insofar as one or the other is concerned, they can discuss it directly," Kuzmin said.
Chief Economist at the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) Yaroslav Lissovolik told RBC, that in order to interpret Oreshkin's statement as a call for weakening monetary policy, there are no "clear grounds". "It is necessary to remember the fact that the regulator’s actions and the interest policy are very important factors in stabilizing the economy. Most likely, Oreshkin was talking about the need for a balanced approach to the strategy of further lowering the key rate," Lisovolik said.
The Russian Communications Ministry has hammered out a draft law entitled “On integrated communications network for defense, state security and law enforcement", Kommersant wrote after reading the document, which is already being discussed in the relevant departments.
According to the document, trusted equipment, special hardware and software, and resources from commercial operators will be used in order to build an integrated communications network. The system is designed to "ensure law and order" and will represent a separate structure for state agencies and special services not connected with public access networks - "including foreign states’ networks."
The newspaper noted that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) has already talked about the need to create a special network for defense purposes in 2013. According to Kommersant, the budget for the project can reach 900 bln rubles ($16 bln), and the law itself is expected to enter into force in July 2018. Telecom provider Rostelecom and telecommunication holding company, Voentelecom are being looked at as possible project operators.
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