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Press review: The Hague draws line on Crimea and Kiev creates Islamist battalion

April 20, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, April 20

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View of the United Nations' International Court of Justice

View of the United Nations' International Court of Justice

© AP Photo/Peter Dejong

 

Media: The Hague draws line on Crimea and Donbass

The first battle between Ukraine and Russia in the International Court of Justice, which is the UN’s principal judicial body, ended in a draw on Wednesday, Kommersant writes. The judges granted Ukraine’s demand to set provisional measures against Moscow in line with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ordering Russian authorities to observe the rights of Crimean Tatars, allow the activity of the mejlis (ethnic Crimean Tatar legislative assembly) and guarantee education in the Ukrainian language in Crimea. At the same time, the court rejected Ukraine’s demand for provisional measures against Russia under the Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism Financing, imposing no commitments on Moscow in regard to Donbass, the paper says. Now the sides await lengthy proceedings on the merits.

Vasvi Abduraimov, chairman of a Crimean Tatar non-government organization Milliy Firqa (Peoples Party), told Kommersant that the UN court’s ruling concerning the mejlis is a way of meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs. “If any problems exist in any community on the territory of any state, it is reasonable to pose a question on guarantees of protecting this community’s rights. But pressing for protecting any particular organization is interfering in a state’s domestic affairs. There is a certain procedure for the organizations’ creation, activity and closure, this is the internal affair of a country, and not an issue that should be considered at the level of the UN court,” he emphasized.

Shevket Mametov, co-chairman of the Crimean Tatars-Crimea-Russia organization, is also against restoring the activity of the mejlis in Russia. “They (mejlis leaders) initiated this court process to get grants from the West,” he told the paper, insisting that the rights of ethnic Tatars in Crimea have been fully ensured. According to Mametov, the mejlis whipped up tensions on the peninsula, driving a wedge between Crimean Tatars and Slavs and supporting terrorist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir. “We, Crimean Tatars, are against those leeches, who were sucking us dry,” he maintained.

Despite the ambiguous ruling, both sides insisted that they had emerged victorious, the paper says. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko said the court’s ruling was “promising.” The Kremlin and the Russian Foreign Ministry did not comment on the ruling, but head of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, said Kiev “missed the target” when seeking to hold Russia accountable for allegedly “supporting terrorism.”

First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee, Vladimir Dzhabarov, told RBC daily that the rule of law on Russia’s territory is not a subject for discussion. “Russia respects this international institute (the International Court of Justice), but still the mejlis carried out blatant extremist activity and called for violent protests. Any state has a right to defend itself, that’s why it is up to us to decide on national security.”

The UN court’s ruling came as a surprise for the Crimean Tatars, said Zair Smedlya, who chairs a local election authority. Now, the mejlis is classified as an extremist organization, but the authorities could revoke this decision amid the political climate and the new circumstances, he said. Alexander Skovorodko, an attorney specializing in international law, said there is an extraordinary situation here: the UN court revokes a ruling of a Russian court that recognized the mejlis as an extremist organization.

 

Izvestia: Moscow vows never to join US-led ‘anti-terror’ coalition in Syria

Russia will never join the US-led international anti-terrorism coalition in Syria despite proposals from Western politicians as the coalition’s steps are illegitimate, two Russian diplomatic sources told Izvestia.

“Moscow will never accede to the coalition under US auspices. We explained this to our partners during a series of closed-door meetings. We contend that their actions in Syria are illegitimate. We indeed received proposals to join them, but the main condition was Washington’s chairmanship in the anti-terror fight. We are not ready to accept this,” a diplomatic source said. “If at some time the coalition gets the Security Council’s resolution for activity in Syria, we will consider the issue, but by that time it will be a completely different group,” he said.

Head of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, said both Russia and the West need an efficient international coalition as unified efforts will enable the goals of the anti-terrorist forces to be attained more efficiently. However, certain conditions should be met here.

“One condition that is needed for this is the coalition should have a clear goal – suppressing terrorism in Syria. There should be no second, third or even tenth hidden objective. The Western coalition does not conceal that as far as it is concerned suppressing terrorism in Syria is just one of its goals, the second is regime change in the country. Russia cannot and won’t take part in this coalition,” Kosachev stressed.

If Western colleagues said that they would no longer seek to meddle in Syria’s domestic affairs and start cooperating with Damascus on combating terrorism, then all obstacles to cooperate with Moscow would be removed, the senator said.

The lawmaker noted that the West had earlier declared the goal of toppling Bashar Assad before the country’s territory was partly seized by terrorists. This sparked internal conflict in Syria and extremist groups took advantage of this civil breakdown. Therefore, the West bears primary responsibility for the current turmoil in Syria, Kosachev stressed. In any case, the proposed coalition should have a legal mandate for its activity, he noted.

 

Izvestia: Kiev’s military creates Islamist battalion, Donetsk army brass says

Kiev’s armed forces are creating an Islamist battalion near Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, Official Spokesman for the Armed Forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Eduard Basurin said in an interview with Izvestia on Thursday.

“Near Mariupol, they (Ukraine’s forces) are setting up a whole battalion that is controlled by an officer of Ukraine’s National Guard,” Basurin stated. The division consists of nearly 500 Wahhabis (members of a strictly conservative Muslim sect), most of whom came from gangs in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya. The battalion also includes militants from Central Asia, the Middle East and Crimean Tatars.

“Chechen gunmen have experience in mountain warfare and carrying out acts of sabotage. There were cases when they buried landmines, improvised mortars, and civilians and military were killed. Possibly, they are training young members and then sending them off to Syria,” he explained.

Basurin noted that he could not confirm that the battalion was linked to the Islamic State (terrorist group, outlawed in Russia). “We cannot maintain that a third party ordered to train these fighters. But we know that back in 2014 IS terrorists from Syria and Iraq came to Ukraine for medical treatment,” the spokesman noted.

What’s shocking is not that Islamist mercenaries are being harbored in Ukraine but that Kiev hires them, Basurin noted. “This means cooperation with terrorist organizations from the Middle East. Ukraine recognizes them and maintains cooperation with them,” he said.

 

Kommersant: US President Trump fails to keep campaign promises as investors bail to Europe

US President Donald Trump’s inability to fulfill his campaign promises has led to a gloomy mood among investors, Kommersant business daily writes. Investments in US companies shrank at a record pace since 2008, as capital moved into shares of European and developing countries. The Russian market, however, is an exception since it is also suffering from the US president’s unfulfilled promises, the paper says.

Four weeks ago, the US Congress failed to pass a law on a new health insurance system that would have replaced Obamacare, casting doubt on the possibility of carrying out tax reform. “Investors are disappointed by the inability to enact the promised measures through Congress, and they were the key factors of growth for US shares in the beginning of the year,” said Farit Zakirov, portfolio manager of Trinfico investment group.

Investors also lost their nerves after Trump’s latest foreign policy escapades, namely the missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat airbase and the deployment of a US naval strike group to the Korean Peninsula. According to Emerging Portfolio Fund Research (EPFR), over the past four weeks the US stock market had hemorrhaged with an outflow of $24 billion. Investors started swapping US stocks for European assets.

Vladimir Vedeneyev, who heads Raiffeisenbank’s investment department, said investments into the assets of developing countries are surging thanks to mild monetary policy by key global central banks, and upbeat prospects on the global economy and developing economies.

The Russian market’s stagnation is also linked to the letdown by Trump’s unfulfilled campaign promises. “After an impressive growth streak in November-December last year amid optimism after Trump’s victory and the OPEC deal, the valuation of most Russian shares soared, and to continue the rally some solid reasons were needed, but in the end none were seen,” Vedeneyev said.

The latest US foreign policy steps also caused a negative reaction in Russia and this lowered the chances that bilateral relations could improve. Still, in the coming months the Russian market may find support in domestic factors, the paper says.

“Dividend policy of companies, the course towards lowering the cost of borrowing, moderate inflation expectations and also a recovery in Russia’s economy may contribute to the growth in attractiveness of the Russian market,” said managing director of Region Asset Management company, Konstantin Zaytsev.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China to have world’s most powerful army by 2020

Chinese President Xi Jinping has announced plans to restructure the nation’s military into a more efficient fighting force, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. China will reshuffle its military with 84 newly adjusted or established corps-level units. The Chinese army will still keep the traditions built during the civil and Korean wars, the paper says. By eliminating bureaucracy, the Chinese leadership seeks to turn the army into a force capable of protecting its national interests in Asia and other parts of the world. Its ground forces will be cut back, and the role of Navy and Air Force, missile units and cyber forces will be expanded.

Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies, said “the goal of the Chinese leadership is to try to repeat the reform of Russia’s army that was carried out in 2008-2009.” “Thanks to the reform, an archaic organization, entrenched in the mid-20th century and resistant to change, turned into a force capable of carrying out an operation in Syria. The Chinese look at this as an example for themselves. They analyze what was done right and what was done wrong.”

By 2020, China’s army should turn into a mobile force with a modern system of management, capable of ensuring cooperation between various types of forces, the expert said.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

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