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Press review: Syrian de-escalation zones and EU's anti-trust case against Gazprom

May 04, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, May 4

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© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

 

Kommersant: Foreign military contingents may be deployed to Syrian de-escalation zones

Foreign military contingents might be deployed along the lines of demarcation in the proposed security zones in Syria, Kommersant wrote citing a draft memorandum on the establishment of de-escalation zones, which Moscow submitted for consideration to the participants of the Astana peace talks.

According to the newspaper, the document said that Russia, Turkey and Iran are the guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire "confirming their commitment to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria." Under the proposal, the de-escalation zones will be established in the province of Idlib, north of Homs, in East Ghout and in southern Syria, and, a demarcation line is planned along the perimeters of the security zones "to prevent exchanges of gunfire between conflicting parties."

The newspaper said that according to the document, foreign military contingents could be deployed on the line of demarcation. According to Kommersant, it is not entirely clear from the memorandum’s Arabic and English versions, which states are being discussed, since Russia, Turkey and Iran are called ‘guarantors’ yet here they are referred to as ‘observers’. According to the premises, within the four security zones, the use of any kind of weapons will be prohibited, humanitarian organizations will be provided with all conditions to operate, while measures will be taken to restore basic social infrastructure, water supply, and other vital utilities and services.

Chairman of the Council of the Federation Committee on Defense and Security Victor Ozerov told Kommersant, he does not rule out that Russian military police units could be deployed in the proposed zones. "I think that Russia and the United States will agree, they will designate the security zones, so that no one enters from the country’s airspace and will control them, UN resolutions are not required for this. Military operations against terrorists will continue in the rest of Syria," Ozerov vowed.

The Presidents of Russia and Turkey Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke about the proposals for creating zones of de-escalation in Syria at a press conference on Wednesday. According to them, the specific parameters of these zones will be worked out between defense ministries and special services.

 

Kommersant: With nod from Bulgaria, EC might close antitrust case against Gazprom amid resistance

The deadline for East European market players to submit their feedback on Gazprom’s proposals to the European Commission on its antimonopoly case expires on May 4. Though only Bulgaria supports closing the investigation, Poland and Estonia still remain on the fence, while Lithuania opposes a diplomatic solution to the dispute. However, experts and analysts interviewed by Kommersant believe that the European Commission might give the go-ahead to a compromise.

In order to settle the antitrust case, Gazprom is ready to drop a ban on cross-border gas reselling from the contracts, to set prices for Poland, Bulgaria and the Baltic countries within the framework of Western European benchmarks, and to transfer the points of gas delivery so that customers in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia receive their intended volumes at the borders of Lithuania and Bulgaria.

So far, Bulgaria, despite all its objections, is the only country that supported Gazprom’s proposals. Estonia suggested that European Commission fine Gazprom, because of the "abuse of its monopolistic position, it inflicts direct economic damage." According to Kommersant’s sources in the market, a negative response to Gazprom's proposals came from Poland, which initiated the antitrust investigation in 2012 and already blocked another decision by the European Commission that had granted Gazprom full access to Opal - a branch of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

Kommersant sources in Brussels admit that Lithuania’s position will also be negative. However, according to them, the Directorate of Competition of the European Commission wants to keep politics out of the case’s review and close it as soon as possible. "Most likely, only reasonable proposals will be considered," a source told Kommersant. Another source admitted that the European Commission could make changes to Gazprom's obligations, laying out a number of specifications.

VTB Capital’s Oil and Gas Analyst, Ekaterina Rodina, told the newspaper that she believes that the European Commission itself is interested in closing the case against Gazprom, and there is no point in delaying it. She noted, “each country participating in the proceedings has its own interests, and a compromise with everybody is impossible.” According to the analyst, the European Commission, is most likely to make a decision at its own discretion based on common market principles.

 

Izvestia: Russian Communications Ministry seeks to tighten personal data storage law

The Russian Ministry of Communications is seeking to plug the gaps in the wording of the law "On Personal Data" and tighten it further, equating the transfer of personal data to Russian companies' foreign servers to the transfer of data to the territory of a foreign state, Izvestia wrote, citing the explanatory note to the amendments.

According to the newspaper, currently the transfer of personal data to Russian companies’ foreign servers does not fall under the restrictions that exist for cross-border operations (for example, the need for special permission from people whose data is being transmitted abroad). At the same time, "the cross-border transfer of personal data" is defined by the law as "the transfer of personal data to the territory of a foreign state, to the authority of a foreign state, to a foreign individual or to a foreign legal entity". The newspaper explains that if the information is received abroad by a Russian company or citizen, then according to the current law, that personal data is legally in Russia.

According to the explanatory note to the amendments, the Ministry plans to define the cross-border transfer of personal data as "the transfer of personal data to the territory of a foreign state." Thus, according to the newspaper, in the future, Russian companies' foreign servers will become "foreign".

Representatives from the Ministry of Communications and Russia’s official IT watchdog have not yet commented on the amendments.

 

Vedomosti: Natural Resources Ministry eyeing ban on landfills by 2021

The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources is seeking to ban various types of landfills and waste burial schemes by 2021 in order to stimulate alternative waste processing technologies, Vedomosti wrote citing a draft resolution prepared by the Ministry.

According to the newspaper, the document proposes prohibiting the burial of scrap metal, thermometers, mercury light bulbs by 2018, paper and tires by 2019, cash registers, electrical appliances and batteries by 2021.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Donskoy told Vedomosti that the ban should stimulate alternative waste processing, since the amount of waste is rising and recycling still remains at very low levels. These problems, the minister notes, are presently the chief environmental threats. According to him, measures such as these are usually introduced in stages, so that supply can be shaped on the processing market.

The Minister noted that the ban "would complement the mechanism of expanded responsibility for producers to dispose of goods," as well as regional schemes for collection, transportation and disposal of waste. "Currently, we are preparing proposals on economic incentives for the public to sort waste and for businesses to collect it," he said.
According to the newspaper, about 4 bln tonnes of waste are generated annually in Russia, with roughly 15,000 authorized dumps occupying about 4 mln hectares.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Poll shows social capital key to helping Russians weather economic crises

Economic difficulties compel people to rely mainly on themselves and their "social capital" relationships with relatives, friends and acquaintances. At the same time, the more social capital a person has, the more often he or she would be ready to engage in business activity, and participate in shadowy schemes. The most socially active citizens have very little confidence in formal institutions, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote citing the survey of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA).

According to the poll and the accompanying study, during economic crises, Russians strengthen their ties with relatives, friends, and acquaintances. "Since the end of 2013, the volume of the population’s social capital rose 20%," specialists from the Center for Sociological Research of the RANEPA said, noting that social capital in the study translates to social networking. Thus, in a crisis, Russians tend to solve acute financial problems with the help of their acquaintances, as well as look for work and additional earnings with their assistance.

According to RANEPA, social capital encourages citizens to do business, however according to the study, such entrepreneurial activity is often carried out under the table, meaning out of reach from state control. Moreover, Viktor Vakhshain, Director of the Center for Sociological Research, told the newspaper that “socially and economically active citizens not only face corruption, but are also more often ready to participate in it.” According to him, people also “start trusting each other more and trust formal institutions less - from courts and the police to banks and clinics.”

However, Russia's growing interest in informal economic relations is a long-term trend, not a phenomenon of the last few years, RANEPA concluded.

 

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

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