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Russian President Vladimir Putin, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping are going to open the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) forum, which kicks off on May 14 in Beijing, according to Kommersant’s sources. President Putin, according to the newspaper, will assume the honorary role as leader of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) at the forum. The event will bring together representatives from more than 100 states and will sum up the first results of the Chinese Silk Road initiative, launched in 2013.
“For China, the forum will help demonstrate the country’s heightened status in the world under the new General Secretary,” the newspaper said. For Moscow, according to Kommersant’s sources in Russian state agencies, it will offer a chance to return "political debts" and a means to strengthen the positions of the EAEU in the face of growing Chinese power.
"A joint statement by Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin in May 2015 opened the discussion on how China and Russia can interact in Eurasia," Igor Denisov, senior research fellow at the Center for East Asian and SCO Studies at MGIMO told Kommersant. "Therefore, Moscow could not step back from participating in the upcoming forum, which takes the initiative to a new level," he added.
At the same time, according to Kommersant’s sources, Moscow needs to draw a clear dividing line between the zones of the EAEU and the One Belt, One Road policy. Russia’s Eurasian project is a friendly, but independant part of the continent that is not part of the Chinese initiative’s domain.
Despite the fact that Vladimir Putin will visit the summit practically as the EAEU’s leader, Kommersant’s source in the Eurasian Economic Commission said that although a list of 39 joint projects at the start of 2017 was drawn up, it was decided to leave the specifics "for later" and dedicate the forum to "discussing common development trajectories."
The final document, the newspaper’s sources in Moscow said, is likely to be largely “emasculated” due to the need to coordinate the positions of 110 countries and a dozen international organizations
The Russian Ministry of Economic Development has proposed adjusting the draft state program for developing the Arctic in 2017- 2025, with 75% budget cuts, a participant in the meeting on the Arctic zone’s socio-economic development told RBC. This information was confirmed by an official from the Economic Development Ministry and a source close to the State Commission for Arctic Development.
According to two RBC sources present at an April meeting with Prime Minister Medvedev, the construction of the nuclear-powered icebreaker Leader will not be included in the budget plan. Rosatomflot planned to build the icebreaker by 2023 for the passage of large-tonnage LNG tankers along the Northern Sea Route with a price tag of roughly 80 bln rubles ($1.4 bln).
However, according to RBC’s source in the Industry and Trade Ministry, the proposed cuts are still provisional, which was confirmed by an official from the Economic Development Ministry. The official representative of the Ministry of Economic Development, Elena Lashkina, declined to comment on the proposed cuts to the state program for the developing the Arctic, but elaborated that in coordinating the state program with all the relevant agencies, replies were only received from the Finance Ministry. However, the Ministry of Finance did not respond to RBC’s request.
The United States is not going to join the Normandy Quartet, sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry told Izvestia. Ukraine’s aspirations to expand the format to five members does not fully correlate with the US President Donald Trump’s signals, who is more inclined to distance himself from the conflict in the east of Ukraine, though under the previous administration, Washington was in favor of such a decision.
Izvestia’s sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry also noted that Germany and France are primarily opposed to the idea of widening the "quartet" to five states, since they do not want to fade into the background against the transatlantic ally. “Moreover, they also understand that Kiev does not act independently on the settlement issues and agrees on each step with the point man in the State Department,” the newspaper said.
Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs Leonid Kalashnikov told to Izvestia that Washington does not need to officially be a party to any particular process, since the US "influences the situation without any format."
“Under the previous administration, American approaches to the Ukrainian question were not constructive. Now there is a pause in Washington's relations with other players, but pressure on President Trump both in Russia and Ukraine has not let up, as his views differ from those of his predecessors. And it is not up to Ukraine to decide on bringing the US into the Quartet, but all the participants. Russia, by the way, has invited the United States to join many times,” Kalashnikov said.
“This is impossible. It is hard to imagine Donald Trump sitting next to Emmanuel Macron in this format and wondering what he thinks. I believe, in parallel with the Quartet, a bilateral Russian-American format will be set up to operate. There are great hopes that it is in this case that there will be progress in resolving the crisis. Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, the problem of Iran and North Korea - these topics are much more important for the Americans. A compromise should be found where there are fewer interests, that is, in Ukraine," Mikhail Pogrebinsky, Director of the Kiev Center for Political and Conflict Studies told the newspaper.
Back in the spring of 2014, Russian state-owned telecom giant Rostelecom launched the search engine Sputnik, which has failed to gain any popularity so far. Now, the project could either be closed, or redirected towards other ventures, several people close to Rostelecom and familiar with the company’s staff told Vedomosti.
Sputnik was successful as a technical project, but failed as a popular search engine in the Russian Internet segment, one of the sources told Vedomosti. According to LiveInternet, Internet statistics website, sputnik.ru failed to even gain 1% of the Russian Internet segment’s search market. Meanwhile, Yandex’s share in April totaled 54%, while Google took 40.8%, and Mail.ru recorded 4.4% of market share.
One of the options is to repurpose Sputnik towards big data analytics, a source familiar with Rostelecom’s management told the newspaper. Although, there is no clear understanding of Sputnik’s future, the source said, the company will make a decision before June 1 and it is very likely that Rostelecom will not shut down the service completely. "Sputnik was originally positioned as a national search engine, it would not be right to disrupt the whole project,” the source told Vedomosti.
The new President of Rostelecom, Mikhail Oseevsky, will decide on Sputnik’s fate. According to a source close to the company, he currently manages all assets so any solution can be expected for controversial projects.
Rostelecom representative Andrey Polyakov confirmed that Sputnik’s development plans are currently under discussion. "It will be necessary to make adjustments that are on par with reality," he said adding that the company wants to increase efficiency and cut costs.
Large search engines profit off selling advertising in search results, Sputnik does not sell such advertising. Sputnik’s revenues in 2015 amounted to 136.6 mln rubles ($2.39 mln), while losses came to 150.5 mln rubles ($2.63 mln). The initial investment in the project totaled $20 mln.
A warning system for dangerous goods that can harm public health will be created within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The draft of the relevant agreement has passed the stage of internal harmonization in the EAEU participant countries, according to Izvestia. If dangerous goods are found in a country, they can be quickly withdrawn from the shelves, and neighboring countries will be warned about the risks. Agencies in the field of consumer protection will operate the system.
The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) told Izvestia that the draft agreement between the EAEU member countries on a unified information system for dangerous products, has already been written. The draft includes products that do not comply with technical safety regulations adopted within the union, as well as products dangerous to the public’s life and health. The system will ensure operative interaction of the EAEU consumer protection authorities and will help reduce the risks of dispensing dangerous goods.
The commission noted that a single database will be formed by consumer protection authorities that will also organize the exchange of timely information on identified low-quality, dangerous goods, services and unscrupulous producers. The system, available to all market participants, will be created using the example of the current European platforms for consumers, for example Global Recalls, RAPEX, RASSF and others.
"A unified warning system is necessary to remove dangerous goods from the store shelves in EAEU countries in a short period of time," Chairman of the Board of the Union of Public Associations the International Confederation of Consumer Societies Dmitry Yanin told Izvestia. "Business will also benefit from the system, obtaining information about unscrupulous suppliers from other EAEU member countries given the common market," he added.
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