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Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to meet with France’s President Emmanuel Macron for the first time on May 29. According to Izvestia, Moscow hopes that the talks will open a new page in bilateral relations, which hit the skids during Francois Hollande’s term as president. French experts told the newspaper that Macron is also interested in contacting the Russian leader, since this will allow him to demonstrate that his foreign policy is independent.
Macron severely criticized Russia and its leader during his presidential campaign. Despite all that sharp rhetoric, the new French president invariably stressed that dialogue with Moscow is essential. Macron’s headquarters refrained from commenting on the upcoming talks to Izvestia, preferring "to wait for the results."
According to French experts, the meeting with Putin will help Macron prove himself as an independent head of state. "The upcoming meeting is more important for Macron than for Putin. The new French leader has a crucial aim - to show that he is a strong president, and he really has the opportunity to demonstrate that he is not a puppet of Angela Merkel," French analyst, one of the founders of Stratpol analytical portal Xavier Moreau told Izvestia.
An expert of the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) told Izvestia "The anti-Russian and pro-NATO lobby is extremely strong in the French establishment," noting that by welcoming Putin, Macron will be displaying political willpower and courage.
The Russian Ambassador to France Alexander Orlov was optimistic about the possibility of a warming in the countries’ bilateral relations. He noted that with the rise of a bright and competent president to power in France, Moscow and Paris have hopes for friendlier ties. In addition, expectations are in the air that the new leader of France will show more independence than former President Hollande.
Russia’s top diplomat and defense chief are heading to Egypt to meet their counterparts in a 2+2 format meeting set to be held in Cairo. The event will focus on bilateral issues, such as new weapons deals and the restoration of air travel, as well as the numerous regional problems, namely terrorist attacks against Christians in Egypt, chaos plaguing neighboring Libya, the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kommersant wrote.
This is the third meeting between the ministers in the 2+2 format. According to Kommersant’s diplomatic source in Moscow, the parties will discuss "the possibility of prolonging or re-signing the agreement for a strategic partnership between Russia and Egypt, which was signed in 2009 (for 10 years) by then-presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Hosni Mubarak."
According to a source from the Russian Ministry of Defense, another topic on the agenda is implementing a package of contracts for around $3.5 bln, signed in 2014, which include deliveries of Russian air defense systems to Cairo, as well as artillery, small arms, and aviation. The issue can be considered settled, the newspaper’s source in the military-technical cooperation project said, adding that all that is left is to "agree on the price."
According to Kommersant's diplomatic source in Moscow, during the talks "the ministers will certainly discuss the deadlocked topic of resuming air travel between the two countries, although this is not an essential matter for Lavrov and Shoigu."
The situation in Libya will also be a major topic for discussion. "In the international arena, Moscow and Cairo are increasingly acting as partners, and in some cases as situational allies," the newspaper wrote, so talks on the conflict in Yemen, the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and the war in Syria are also to be expected.
According to a Kommersant source in the Russian Defense Ministry, Sergey Shoigu is going to talk in detail about the four zones of de-escalation created in Syria with the help of Russia, Iran and Turkey. Earlier, Moscow believed that the Egyptian military could participate in protecting these zones. The Russian diplomatic source told Kommersant that this issue is still relevant.
Russia’s MC-21-300 aircraft completed a successful maiden flight on May 28, after the event had been postponed several times. According to Vedomosti, the MC-21 will have to compete not only with Airbus and Boeing, but also with China’s C919 aircraft.
The MC-21 is an airliner in the most popular segment of narrow-body civilian aircraft, dominated by Airbus and Boeing. According to its developer, Irkut (part of United Aircraft Corporation), deliveries of the MC-21 will begin once it receives its certificate in 2019. A federal official told the newspaper, it was planned to roll out 900-1,000 aircraft in total, with up to two-thirds earmarked for export.
Overall, the price tag for developing the MC-21 will come to about 245 bln rubles ($4.31 bln), two federal officials told Vedomosti. Orders for 312 aircraft have already been received.
"The first flight is a beginning for flight tests, which will demonstrate whether the announced characteristics live up to expectations. If it fails, then the program will have problems. However, a composite wing and good aerodynamics offer reasons to expect success,” Infomost Consulting CEO Boris Rybak told Vedomosti.
According to the newspaper, the MC-21 will have to compete not only with Airbus and Boeing, but also with Chinese C919. Both countries are targeting roughly the same export markets, vying for third after Airbus and Boeing in developing countries due to state support of sales and political arrangements, a source close to United Aircraft Corporation told the newspaper, adding that China might have more political weight and money.
Fyodor Borisov from Institute for Transport Economics at the Higher School of Economics told Vedomosti, that China still lags significantly behind Russia in the aircraft industry, although the gap is rapidly narrowing. According to the expert, the C919 will be widely popular outside of China and its satellite countries.
The latest concern topping President Putin’s economic agenda is the country’s labor shortage. The team of Alexey Kudrin, Head of the Center for Strategic Research, and ex-Finance Minister, will present his economic strategy to the president before the end of May. While the supporters of raising the retirement age are currently in the majority, in reality the labor shortage problem can transpire only if labor policy does not boost productivity, upgrade production or improve economic efficiency, the newspaper wrote.
According to a new forecast by the Economic Development Ministry, from 2016 to 2020, the number of the working-age Russians (men aged 16-59, women - 16-54) will diminish by about 3 mln people. According to the newspaper, this is not the first time the ministry has warned about a negative demographic trend. However, right now “this topic is becoming crucial to the country’s strategy that faces the task of modernizing production, introducing new technologies, and increasing efficiency.”
“Demographic ‘fearmongering’ help justify unpopular economic decisions. The population in Russia is aging, the number of employees is decreasing, so people need to tighten their belts, and pension payouts to the older generation need to be put off - this logic can be found in a new strategy put together by Alexey Kudrin’s team. The Ministry of Finance tends to agree with it,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
The experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that the impending labor shortage is overblown. Official unemployment in Russia is slowly declining. And given the current pace, the number of jobless in Russia will drop from 4.2 mln people (on average per month) in 2016, to 3.7 mln people by 2020, Professor of Labor and Social Policy Department of the Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Alexander Shcherbakov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
"Unemployment is the classic, foremost reserve of manpower," he told the newspaper. "I think that as far as Russia's labor market is concerned, with proper regulation, the shortage of workers will not be a significant threat by 2020," the expert added.
Talks about a dearth in the working-age population is another ploy to justify raising the retirement age, Solid Management analyst Sergei Zvenigorodsky told the newspaper, adding that raising the retirement age might be dangerous as it could lead to a decrease in the overall level of wages, and in unemployment.
Russia’s Internet watchdog is laying out a set of rules for thwarting viewers for online theaters. Those who have more than 100,000 visitors from Russia per day will have to introduce additional restrictions on video content and ensure age-related rating of the content, Izvestia wrote citing the draft law.
The law on online cinemas will come into force in Russia on July 1. It will concern audiovisual services, visited by more than 100,000 users per day in Russia and prohibits screening videos that justify extremism, contain pornography, obscene language, and the like, without the age-restricting ratings.
Until recently, the watchdog did not set out any guidelines to count website traffic - now, a user would have to watch a video for at least 15 seconds or just stay on a webpage to be considered a “visitor”.
According to Tvzavr CEO, Marina Surigina, online cinemas have many different ‘counters’ that enable it to analyze users’ behavior and to tally them up. “We do not care what counter we will be asked to use, it only needs to be free and easy to install,” she added. “Of course, I would like the watchdog to choose one that has already been installed by almost everybody (for example, Mediascope) or some kind of free analogue. We do not want to pay for additional counters, which we do not really need,” she told the newspaper.
According to J'son & Partners Consulting, in 2016 the volume of the Russian market for legitimate video services reached 11.18 bln rubles ($196.76 mln), which is 32% more than in 2015. According to the company's estimates, by 2020 the revenues of legal video services in Russia will increase to about 20 bln rubles ($352.01 mln).
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