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German Chancellor Angela Merkel is arriving in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi on Tuesday for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Experts told Izvestia that Merkel has apparently decided to stop waiting for signals from Washington and will try to soften sharp edges in dialogue with Moscow herself. Andrei Klimov, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee, said the German leader is heading to Russia to get a clear picture on the possible outcome of the G20 summit in Hamburg set for July 7-8 and choose the right policy strategy towards Russia ahead of German elections.
“After Brexit and a cooler US policy towards the EU, the German leader has become the key ‘conductor’ of the European Union and wants to remain Chancellor. She needs to develop the right approach to relations with Russia. Her visit may influence cooperation between Moscow and Brussels. Russia is ready for constructive dialogue,” Klimov told Izvestia. The meeting in Sochi, rather than Moscow, will provide a more informal and trust-based dialogue, he noted.
German political scientist and Director of the German-Russian Forum, Alexander Rahr said Merkel could take a harsher stance on relations with Putin, but in strategic terms, this scenario will inevitably lead to a deterioration in bilateral relations. “I believe she will choose another approach. Merkel should take up this chance given that the French, who are preoccupied by the elections, won’t disturb her and the Americans have not so far entered the big “Ukrainian game.” This is a chance to agree on progress in the Minsk agreements,” Rahr said. “Merkel and Putin will try to decide on further steps…It is still unclear how the Americans are building their European vector of foreign policy, which includes Russia,” Vladislav Belov, Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Europe Institute, said.
Kommersant writes that the German government has come to the conclusion that the Russian leadership is not reacting to a ‘stick,’ namely the sanctions, and now wants to offer it a 'carrot' - lifting restrictions and normalizing ties. Sources in Russia’s state structures told the paper that Merkel will use the trip to Sochi to underline her importance in the foreign policy arena and this is very important for her due to domestic political reasons now.
The Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which should provide additional Russian gas to Germany via the Baltic Sea, will probably become the only constructive issue of discussion related to the bilateral agenda, the paper writes. “But in general, no breakthroughs on the bilateral track should be expected,” Head of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev said.
“In general, the visit may be seen as an event aimed at synchronizing watches and exploring positions rather than mutual readiness to take a decisive step forward,” he said.
In a week, representatives of five major Italian construction companies will arrive in Crimea to start implementing a business project hammered out at the 3rd Yalta International Economic Forum held on April 20-22, Izvestia writes. One of the major projects will be the construction of an “Italian village” on the western coast of Crimea, Stefano Valdegamberi, an Italian lawmaker and member of the delegation, told the paper.
The press service of a Russian construction holding, which is taking part in implementing the project, has confirmed the agreements. The Italian politician also said that despite the ban on Crimeans’ entry to the EU, Verona will also host talks with Crimean businessmen on joint wine production.
The “Italian village” project, due to be completed by 2020, envisages 17 stages of construction, each of which will be named in honor of an Italian city, among them Florence, Sorrento, Milan and Palermo.
“Crimea is very interesting for foreign businessmen who come here with a purpose. This means that they are satisfied by the conditions here despite all the sanctions and are ready to develop business here,” Andrey Nazarov, co-chairman of the Business Russia organization, said.
Now talks are underway on joint ventures in Crimea with Cypriot, Czech and British businessmen, according to the paper.
Ankara is still holding talks with Russia on all matters related to the S-400 missile system, including joint production and the price tag, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has not ruled out that this issue may be discussed at the upcoming meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi on May 3. Vedomosti writes that officials of the two countries first started talking about Turkey’s plans to buy Russia’s S-400 in autumn last year.
Another Russian anti-ballistic missile system, the S-300V, engaged in Turkey’s tender competing against the Patriot system. That said, earlier in 2014, China’s HQ-9 (a lower-quality version of Russia’s S-300) had clinched a surprising victory.
However, later Washington became concerned about the deal, and pressured Turkey using threats of freezing some military and technical projects as part of NATO, into dropping that decision, the paper says.
The current move by Russia and Turkey to agree on supplies of long-range missile systems seems to have more chances of being fulfilled, Mikhail Barabanov, a researcher at the Center for Analysis of Strategic and Technologies (CAST), told the paper. This is some sort of gesture by Turkey to the West after the failed coup in July 2016, during which NATO did not offer due support to Erdogan, according to Ankara.
If Turkey buys Russia’s missile system, this will be the first such deal in the history of relations between Russia and NATO members, a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry said, stressing that political factors play a key role in this decision.
It is early now to speak about the number of S-400 systems that Turkey may buy. The deal is unlikely to cost less than $2 bln, the source said.
Russia has sold S-400 systems to China under the 2014 contract, and during Putin’s visit to New Delhi in 2016, plans were announced to sell five more these systems to India, although the contract has still not been signed, the paper says.
As of late 2016, Russia’s foreign agents registry included 154 non-profit organizations, with six others joining the list in 2017. Last year, 43 new NGOs were added to the registry, including the Levada independent pollster, while in 2015 a record-setting 81 non-profit organizations were named as foreign agents, according to the Justice Ministry’s annual report obtained by Vedomosti.
A source close to the Russian presidential administration told the paper earlier that 33 more organizations would be withdrawn from the registry, but there were no plans to change the law on foreign agents. Another source close to the administration links the improving situation with foreign agents to a change in the leadership of the Kremlin’s domestic political bloc: if earlier the authorities tried to amend the law, now they carry out law enforcement procedures which seem to be more efficient.
Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights and Civil Society, noted that the number of foreign agents had dropped over the past year. “The Justice Ministry removed organizations from the list, which had been excluded from it, but continued being on there. Besides, we examined around 100 NGOs remaining on the registry and came to the conclusion that one-third of them may be expunged, and they need to apply for removal. This is good headway, yet we need to take further steps so that only those organizations, which applied themselves for being included, could remain on the list,” he said.
Russian human rights activist Pavel Chikov told the paper that the decision on possibly including more NGOs on the registry depends on the political will of the presidential administration. “The law on foreign agents is among dozens of the adopted laws that are an issue of foreign policy and domestic political bargaining.” Now the administration uses a policy of containment, where only certain organizations like Open Russia come under pressure, while others feel no such heat, the expert said.
China’s Solar Systems, owned by the Amur Sirius Power Equipment Company, may become one of the major players on the market of constructing solar energy production plants in Russia. Kommersant business daily writes that the power producer plans to announce an upcoming selection of projects with capacity of up to 280MW. This amount is larger than the current portfolio of projects (255 MW), which Solar Systems is due to fulfill in 2016-2019. The new selection of projects will be held on May 29-June 9 and the plants are scheduled to be built in 2018-2022.
The solar power plants of Silicon Technologies, controlled by Solar Systems, may be built in Bashkorostan, Kalmykia, the Stavropol, Astrakhan and Volgograd Regions. According to Natalya Porokhovaya from the Analytical Credit Rating Agency (ACRA), the project’s construction may cost Solar Systems some 30 billion rubles ($526 mln). So far, the company has not implemented any projects in Russia, she noted. This year, it plans to launch a facility for localizing the production of solar panels in Podolsk, near Moscow.
According to Kommersant, Solar Systems may face some problems as it is still waiting for a letter of credit, which is necessary under the guidelines of competition.
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