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Quite a few countries have called for Pyongyang and Washington to avoid ‘provocative steps’ potentially resulting in what can unfold as the most serious crisis on the Korean peninsula since 1950, Kommersant writes. Andrei Lankov, a respected North Korean scholar at South Korea’s Kookmin University, told the newspaper that the US can attack North Korea’s missile and nuclear sites on the territory of that country. "The United States is not aware of the location of all North Korean nuclear objects, but even a strike on those that are known will hinder the development of the nuclear program for up to ten years," he noted, adding that this scenario may result in a full-fledged war in the region. However, one of Kommersant’s sources familiar with the discussions on the North Korean problem within US departments, said a military response is not the priority at the moment. "In early February, the issue of attacking North Korea was very seriously discussed though by March the prospect of a massive military attack subsided," he said, pointing to the recent attack on the Syrian airbase, which showed that it is really tough to analyze the actions of Donald Trump’s administration beforehand.
Meanwhile, Izvestia writes citing sources in Russian diplomatic circles that Moscow plans to bring North Korea back to the table. Following US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Moscow last week when he said that Washington considered Russia capable of persuading Pyongyang to return to negotiations, two sources told the newspaper that Moscow is really interested in restoring international contacts and is doing its best to bring North Korea to multilateral talks. "Moscow has always advocated a diplomatic solution to the North Korean issue. We share the concerns of the international community regarding Pyongyang’s recent moves, though we do not think aggression against North Korea is a wise way out," one of the sources said.
Regional cooperation is the best way to bring the long-lasting war in Afghanistan to an end, ex-president Hamid Karzai said in an interview with Izvestia daily. According to the politician, the recent international consultations held in Moscow on April 14 that brought together representatives of more than ten countries, without the United States, is a good example of such cooperation. Such meetings are important for maintaining peace and stability both in the country and in the whole region, he said, adding that the US as a key actor with military forces in Afghanistan should have also bolstered cooperation with regional players, such as Russia, China, India and Iran.
As neighbors and long-standing partners, Russia and Afghanistan are inclined to cooperate with each other, Karzai told the newspaper, adding that any patriotic Afghan would welcome Russian investment given that from the Soviet era up to now it has had a very productive effect on Afghanistan’s economy. The former president noted that western countries have to see positive aspects in Russia’s economic involvement and welcome it, since peace and stability should be Afghanistan’s key goals.
When asked whether more foreign military forces are needed for combating extremists, Karzai stressed that this will not help as radicals have been occupying the country for 15 years already. What Afghanistan needs is not foreign militaries, but friendly ones tied with neighboring states and its own military forces to ensure safety in the region. Also, neighboring Pakistan has to realize that using extremists in its own interest will not do any good, he said, adding that another serious threat is the recent spillover of militants from the Islamic State (outlawed in Russia) into Afghanistan, another sign of a foreign presence in the country.
Anatoly Bibilov, the winner of the presidential election in South Ossetia, will be facing the challenge of living up to voters’ expectations, particularly taking into consideration the fact that he had no set program to improve the nation’s social and economic barometers during his presidential campaign, the Kommersant-Vlast magazine writes. Dina Alborova, a professor of political science at the University of South Ossetia, told the publication that the country’s authorities have dragged their feet on efforts to win international recognition and establish ties. In addition, the republic has become even more closed off from the wider world. “We’re isolated, and it is even difficult to travel somewhere outside (the republic),” she explained.
Bibilov’s win is mainly tied to the aim of joining the Russian Federation, which he has long been advocating for. Since voters believes that Bibilov will make the accession quicker, he expects any social and economic difficulties related to the region’s isolation to be solved soon. However, Moscow realizes the risk of fragmented relations with Georgia and fueling tensions with the global community on the topic of integration with South Ossetia, which doubts whether at all Russia will make this move, the magazine writes.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia were recognized by the Russian Federation on August 26, 2008 after Georgia had attacked South Ossetia in early August 2008. Earlier Bibilov said in an interview with TASS that the accession to Russia is his republic’s strategic goal and the people’s long-cherished dream since the 1920s. Russia defended local civilians and its peacekeepers who had been in the region since 1992.
Given the deepening rift between Moscow and Kiev, Russia’s oil and petroleum products supplies to Ukraine have plummeted by more than 75%, Izvestia writes citing statistics provided by both Russian and Ukrainian customs services. According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, this is not the result of politics alone, as economic turmoil has become one of the main factors driving energy consumption down.
Vasily Tanurkov of the Russian Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA) told Izvestia that “the cost of commodities is playing a role in the substantial drop in (Ukraine’s – TASS) exports since the price of oil and petroleum products have decreased in this period of time as well.” He acknowledges that the decline in Ukraine’s consumption of petroleum products owing to a rocky political climate has been another factor putting pressure on exports. “The demand for petroleum products has plunged because of the crisis, with petrol consumption sinking 40% in 2016 compared with 2014,” Tanurkov noted. For Russia, the Ukrainian market plays a minor role, ACRA points out, with Belarus being Ukraine’s main supplier of petroleum products, while Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have been the chief exporters of crude oil there.
According to calculations by Finam with data provided by Ukraine’s customs service, the country’s hydrocarbons imports amounted to $4 bln (225 bln rubles) in 2014, $844.6 mln (47.5 bln rubles) in 2015, $543 mln (30.5 bln rubles) in 2016, and $211.5 mln (11.8 bln rubles) in the first two months of this year. Finam’s Alexei Kalachev told Izvestia that “a change in oil and petroleum products prices, as well as the the Ukrainian currency’s exchange rate to the dollar have influenced the dynamics.”
A Russian bill on limiting foreign ownership in online cinemas may seriously change by its second reading in the State Duma (lower house of parliament) since a proposal has been put forward to not regulate services if more than half of its viewer base is from Russia, RBC business daily reports with reference to the text of the amendment. Chairman of State Duma’s Information Policy Committee Leonid Levin told the newspaper that the change may cover service with foreign founders or investors provided that they have no such business in other countries.
The bill regarding online cinemas was adopted in its first reading in January. Its current version bans foreigners from owning more than 20% of service with a viewer base exceeding 100,000 users in Russia within one month, or 20,000 in one region of the country. The State Duma’s committee said that during consultations with the sector, the biggest challenge was “the need to create background to guarantee space for companies using foreign investment in the Russian segment of the Internet.”
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