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With the so-called ‘Russian threat’ topping Kiev’s political agenda, according to Izvestia, the country’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, put forward bills on religion that may put the activity of religious communities under state control and tear away the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate. MP Yevgeny Balitsky, a member of the Opposition Bloc, told Izvestia that this is yet another step to divert attention from domestic economic issues. “The government cannot solve economic problems, though they can manipulate the society and are constantly whipping up smear campaigns, dividing it into ‘patriots’ and ‘separatists’, those who love Ukraine and those who as they see it don’t love it,” the lawmaker explained. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate is one of the country’s most influential confessions, Izvestia writes.
The Ukrainian opposition has come out against these bills that may result in overt discrimination of the Russian Orthodox Church. Based on reports, the bills were registered in the Rada back in February and April 2016, though MPs have shied away from their consideration over concerns of sectarian division. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, one bill proposes granting a specific status to churches located in Ukraine, “whose headquarters are located in a country seen by Verkhovna Rada as an aggressor state,” the paper writes.
Further on, the publication states that such churches would be obliged to coordinate the issues related to the appointment of its central and regional heads in Ukraine, as well as those related to invitations of foreign religious figures to the country with authorized state bodies. The paper states that they will also be restricted from “cooperating with illegal armed groups” (meaning the forces of DPR and LPR), and will be subject to sanctions, including “a suspension of operations of the religious organization in Ukraine” if it fails to fulfill instructions and violates requirements, the newspaper says.
More than 300,000 Ukrainians have signed an appeal to prevent adoption of these bills by the Rada. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, if the bills are adopted a rise in the number of seizures of churches belonging to Moscow Patriarchate in western Ukraine may follow, the paper says with reference to political analyst Ruslan Bortnik, while in eastern and southern regions there may be more attacks on churches belonging to the Kiev Patriarchate.
Viewpoints on the Ukrainian and Syrian issues will continue to differ and the removal of Switzerland’s restrictive measures is still not on the agenda, Speaker of the National Council of the Swiss Federal Assembly (lower parliament house) Jurg Stahl said during his visit to Moscow, the second one since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis. However, in an interview with Kommersant he explained that Switzerland has had to fight preconceptions that the country had imposed similar sanctions as the European Union. "Many businessmen admit in conversations with me that they face opinions that Switzerland’s sanctions are similar to those of the EU, which is not the case. We are proud that we safeguarded neutrality and independence on the sanctions issue, because we’re in the heart of Europe, yet we are not an EU member," he told the newspaper, adding that his recent visit to Russia prompted the need to explain the essence of the country’s restrictive measures.
Switzerland imposed its own restrictions against Russia instead of joining the European sanctions. The restrictions included financial and visa limitations against individuals on the EU sanctions list in the spring of 2014, and expanded the list by adding companies in August 2014. In 2015, the country restricted investment and trade operations with Crimea and Sevastopol, and added more individuals and companies to its sanctions list. Russia’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that "relations between Russia and Switzerland have not been held hostage to the unfavorable global political environment as Bern maintained dialogue with Moscow even under heavy pressure from Washington and Brussels."
Russia’s Agriculture Ministry is hammering out a game plan for building up sub-brands of locally-made food products, like ham and tequila, and promoting them on international markets, RBC business daily writes. The plan is to pick up global experience, snap up promising markets for exports, and specify criteria for selecting sub-brands, which usually enjoy more confidence because of the popularity of a country of origin and are more expensive. The world’s market of products with the so-called brand origin is now estimated at $50 bln per year, the newspaper says, citing data provided by the Ministry. In developed economies, such produce generate extra revenues, a source in the Ministry’s press service told the publication. “In
Russian practice, national umbrella brands are created and promoted, as food products and beverage are grouped into niches with national identity, such as ‘Russian fish’, ‘Russian apples’,” the source said.
Experts and market players admit the ministry’s initiative is lucrative but is likely to take years and tens of millions of dollars to carry out. Depot WPF’s managing partner Alexey Andreev estimates annual expenses on promoting Russian sub-brands globally at $50 mln and higher, adding that the challenge is that many markets are “closed to us” due to economic and political sanctions. The initiative may also consolidate local producers and make the country “not just look like a hydrocarbons supplier, but as a supplier of any goods and services,” he told RBC. Currently, global awareness around Russia is “rather biased” and a whole range of measures is needed to familiarize the world with the unique products Russia can export, CEO of
Arena advertising agency Ruslam Samayev told the newspaper. He assumes that such traditional delicacies as king crab, black and red caviar, vodka and “even wine in case of sufficient investment”, have potential for global demand.
The Agriculture Ministry’s latest initiative chimes with the Industry and Trade Ministry’s ‘Made in Russia’ project, which was launched in 2014 and is planned for implementation until 2025. This year the Ministry plans to provide a subsidy amounting to 370 million rubles($6.4 mln) for the creation and promotion of an export-oriented brand program to the Russian Export Center, or REC (part of VEB development bank), which is in charge of the project. The creation of Russia’s export brand seeks to raise brand awareness of Russia-made products and form brand loyalty for Russian products among foreign buyers. The ‘Made in Russia’ tabel may also be followed by other parallel projects such as ‘Grown in Russia’, ‘Designed in Russia’, and ‘Hand-made in Russia’ in the future.
As part of the import substitution program, Russia’s largest corporations, among them Transneft, Russian Railways, Rusnano, Alrosa, Rostec, are sharply cutting back their share of foreign software, Izvestia says. Last year, the share of locally-made software purchased by state-owned companies reached 94%.
Representatives from several of these companies told the newspaper that they are satisfied with Russian products and plan to opt out of buying foreign programs. A source in Russian Railways said up to 80% of the company’s software in the key technological processes has been replaced.
“All those developments are unique, and few international companies could offer similar solutions,” the source said.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Telecommunications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov has proposed imposing fines amounting to 5% of the software price for state-owned firms unsubstantiated purchases of foreign software. This new measure would serve to prop up the local IT sector. Analysts say fines are not the best way to solve the issue of supervising this requirement’s implementation. Russian state-run companies have been obliged to buy locally-made analogues of required software starting January 1, 2016.
Russia’s state corporation Roscosmos has spearheaded work on the first pre-production prototype of a Russian-made robot for extravehicular activity in 2019, Izvestia reports. After some tests and technical fine-tuning, the first model will be sent to the International Space Station two years later, a source in the Russian State Scientific Center for Robotics and Technical Cybernetics (RTC) involved in creating the new model, told the newspaper.
Unlike Russia’s FEDOR robotic system, which is now being developed for assisting astronauts in their everyday routine inside the satellite station, the new robot will operate in the wide open cosmos outside any spacecraft.
A source in Roscosmos told Izvestia that the project is mainly aimed at the development and testing of a predictable prototype on the outer surface of the ISS. “Once the project is implemented, a chain of cooperation ties with other manufacturing organizations – the developers of separate units, components and electronic parts – will be formed. Also new scientific data is expected to be acquired during testing,” the source said.
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