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Press review: Pitfalls snag Moscow’s peace plan on Syria and hackers eye core banking

May 16, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, May 16

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© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

 

Kommersant: Syrian opposition unwilling to back ‘de-escalation zone’ plan

The UN Security Council is gearing up to consider a draft resolution proposed by Moscow in support of the memorandum on establishing de-escalation zones in Syria signed in Astana by Russia, Turkey and Iran. In a bid to work out an effective ceasefire formula, Moscow seeks to ensure that the peace process passes the Rubicon and is approved by the international community, Kommersant writes.

Another round of UN-backed intra-Syrian consultations opening in Geneva on Tuesday is expected to focus on this issue.
 
However, there are many pitfalls towards implementing the memorandum signed in Astana, the key one being the reluctance to join it by part of the opposition, which fears any future partition of the country into zones of influence between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran.  
 
According to Alexander Ignatenko, head of the Institute for Religion and Politics, expanding the circle of countries acting as guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire could make the Astana memorandum more viable.  
 
In addition to Russia, Iran and Turkey, those could be Saudi Arabia, the United States and other countries. “The de-escalation zones could be controlled, for example, by Jordanian, Egyptian or Pakistani troops. These countries would suit both the Arab monarchies, Russia and Turkey as a counterbalance to Iran,” Ignatenko explained in an interview with Kommersant.
 
Disagreements over the memorandum’s implementation between Turkey and the US, which have different approaches towards the Kurdish issue, are inevitable as well, the paper notes. For Washington, the Kurds are a proven, extremely effective tool in the fight against the Islamists, whereas Turkey sees them as terrorists. 
 

Izvestia: Kiev searching for Normandy format alternative

Officials in Kiev are trying to hammer out a new negotiation format that would work simultaneously with the Normandy Four, which could involve the United States and EU representatives instead of Russia. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin has discussed the proposed move with US President Donald Trump. After that he travelled to Brussels where he may attempt to talk European partners into supporting this initiative, Izvestia writes.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian MP from the Opposition Bloc, Tatyana Bakhteyeva, told the paper that far from everyone backs the policy pursued by Kiev’s top officials.

“He (Klimkin) makes inappropriate statements. America and Russia have relations of their own, and Klimkin can neither change, nor influence them. Ukraine needs peace to end the killing of children and civilians, to make sure that there are no displaced individuals. The political and economic chaos can only be stopped through talks with Russia, the US and Europe,” she stated.

According to Rostislav Ishchenko, President of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting, the United States will try to exert pressure on Russia, but not on the Ukrainian issue. That means that Washington has no intention of taking part in either the Normandy format or other frameworks on Ukraine.

“For them (officials in Washington), Ukraine is a minor piece on the global chessboard. They have already tried to shift responsibility for Ukraine on to Germany. Washington can carry on direct negotiations with Moscow, while in multilateral formats it will have to take into account their allies’ wishes. The US was interested in multilateral frameworks in 2014-2015 to put pressure on Russia together, but now everything has changed,” the political scientist explained in an interview with Izvestia.

 

Izvestia: Experts warn hackers may set sights on core banking systems

In 2018, hackers will focus on siphoning off money from core banking systems, Izvestia writes citing some well-informed sources. In the past, hackers’ targets were bank clients and their data, which were stolen from their personal computers or smartphones, now cyber thieves are changing their tactics. According to Digital Security Director General, Ilya Medvedovsky, attacks on core banking systems can lead to grave consequences, since they store information on all accounts and transactions.

"While attacking core banking systems, cyber criminals first penetrate into a bank’s internal network with the help of Trojans," the paper quotes Medvedovsky as saying. "By penetrating into the system, cyber criminals gain access to all accounts at a banking institution and their transactions. As a result, hackers can change bank transfer orders, withdraw any amount of money from any bank account or completely empty the banking institution’s accounts, which would lead to the collapse of that bank."

He added that Russia’s Central Bank is already set to take countermeasures calling on banks to boost the protection of their systems.

Alexey Sizov, fraud prevention manager at Jet Infosystems, likewise warned that attacks on core banking systems will be a frequent and large-scale phenomenon in 2018.

Core banking systems are the most sought after targets for cyber criminals, said Vladimir Ulyanov, head of the Zecurion analytical center. "Control over automated banking systems makes it possible to manage the finances of a bank and its clients. Cyber fraudsters are improving their schemes all the time. On the other hand, many banks continue to use outdated systems, which have numerous flaws," he emphasized.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump-Erdogan talks may come up empty

US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan are scheduled to hold intense talks in Washington on Tuesday. They are expected to focus on Syrian Kurdistan whose units the White House decided to support once again by supplying weapons to them. Ankara hopes to persuade officials in Washington that any alliance with the Kurds is unreliable, but experts note that Washington has already made up its mind, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Shortly before his departure to Washington, Erdogan made a number of statements on the sidelines of the One Belt, One Road forum virtually blaming the Trump administration for adhering to the Syria policy conducted by the Obama team.

Abd Salam Ali, envoy of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, told the paper that Kurds’ cooperation with the US is presently maintained only on a military level. As for arms supplies, the Americans say this is due to their determination to defeat the Islamic State (IS, terror group, outlawed in Russia), he said.

Leonid Isayev, Senior Lecturer at the Higher School of Economics, said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta that a compromise on the Kurdish issue between Ankara and Washington is feasible. As soon as the Kurds’ role in the Democratic Union Party diminishes, that will make them more flexible and willing to negotiate, the expert noted. "There is every indication that it will be on the decline. However, that will take time. Whether or not Erdogan has time is a big question. He needs victories ahead of the presidential election (in 2019). He is to take the final step on the road to unchallenged political power by winning the election in a country with a 50/50 split," the expert said.

 

Izvestia: Kiev searching for Normandy format alternative

Officials in Kiev are trying to hammer out a new framework that would work simultaneously with the Normandy format, which could involve the United States and EU representatives instead of Russia. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin has discussed the proposed move with US President Donald Trump. After that he travelled to Brussels where he may attempt to talk European partners into supporting this initiative, Izvestia writes.

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian MP from the Opposition Bloc, Tatyana Bakhteyeva, told the paper that far from everyone backs the policy pursued by Kiev’s top officials.

"He (Klimkin) makes inappropriate statements. America and Russia have relations of their own, and Klimkin can neither change, nor influence them. Ukraine needs peace to end the killing of children and civilians, to make sure that there are no displaced individuals. The political and economic chaos can only be stopped through talks with Russia, the US and Europe," she stated.

According to Rostislav Ishchenko, President of the Center for System Analysis and Forecasting, the United States will try to exert pressure on Russia, but not on the Ukrainian issue. That means that Washington has no intention of taking part in either the Normandy format or other frameworks on Ukraine.

"For them (officials in Washington), Ukraine is a minor piece on the global chessboard. They have already tried to shift responsibility for Ukraine on to Germany. Washington can carry on direct negotiations with Moscow, while in multilateral formats it will have to take into account their allies’ wishes. The US was interested in multilateral frameworks in 2014-2015 to put pressure on Russia together, but now everything has changed," the political scientist explained in an interview with Izvestia.

 

 

Vedomosti: No alternative to Angela Merkel

Germany’s Social Democratic Party suffered a crushing defeat at Sunday’s regional elections. It had the worst result over the past 60 years during the vote in North Rhine-Westphalia. The elections were described as a decisive test for the party’s candidate, Martin Schulz, the chief rival of incumbent Chancellor and leader of the Christian Democrats, Angela Merkel. The crucial elections in Germany’s most populous state were the last in the run-up to German Bundestag elections scheduled for September 24, Vedomosti writes.

When Schulz announced he would run for German chancellor in late January, support for his party topped the 10-year record. However, the Social Democratic Party was unable to take advantage of the "Schulz effect" losing the regional elections three times since the beginning of this year.

However, it would be premature to disregard Schulz, said Vladislav Belov, Head of the Center for German Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe.

"The elections were lost by Hannelore Kraft, the party’s leader in North Rhine-Westphalia and former head of the local administration rather than Schulz himself. True, she is his deputy, and one of the reasons for the party’s defeat is that Schulz did not support her as much as Merkel supported her protege."

The defeat at the local elections will be a good lesson for the Social Democratic Party, Belov went on to say. "The party’s major problem is Schulz’s populism. No one even knows his election program well. His campaign consists of slogans and sometimes ill-conceived social promises. Merkel is winning, but one should not disregard Schultz, since the elections are still four and half months away," the expert said.

 

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

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