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Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump may hold a meeting in Germany’s Hamburg during the G20 summit, but no exact date has been agreed on. The leaders are unlikely to make any press statements, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Izvestia on Wednesday.
"Yes, it may (take place) in Hamburg, but no date (has been set) so far," Peskov told the paper. "Only a meeting," he added.
During their phone conversation on May 2, Putin and Trump agreed to arrange a face-to-face meeting at the G20 summit scheduled for July 7-8, Izvestia writes. The two leaders have spoken over the phone three times and discussed bilateral relations, the war on terror, coordinating efforts on fighting against the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia), the Ukrainian and Syrian crises and tensions on the Korean Peninsula amid Pyongyang’s missile tests.
The paper writes that over the last several years of Barack Obama’s presidency, talks between Russian and US leaders were held during major international summits and the meetings were spontaneous and brief. The heads of state had a chance to speak on the sidelines of the events.
Kurdish military forces are expected to capture Raqqa, the so-called Syrian capital of the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia), soon, ushering in a potential new conflict between the Kurds and Damascus, Izvestia writes. The forces are backed by the United States, which provides them with special gear and equipment, and Washington will definitely oppose handing over the city to the Syrian authorities. Simultaneously with the beginning of the operation, the US again carried out airstrikes on Syrian government forces in the country’s south, the paper says
The Kurds may include Raqqa in their autonomous region, and plans on its creation were declared in March 2016, the paper learned from sources in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which mainly consists of Kurdish units. "The operation to liberate Raqqa formally began yesterday (on June 5). We expect fierce battles and that the terrorists will defend their so-called capital at any price," Talal Sillo, an SDF spokesman said.
An expert specializing in military gear Sergey Goncharov confirmed to Izvestia that the Kurdish forces received state-of-the-art equipment, including night-vision devices, from their “wealthy sponsors,” hinting at the US. "These systems could have been sent to Syria either via official channels or the black market at a sky-high price," he said.
Russia has voiced concerns over the latest US airstrikes on Syrian forces. Washington claimed that the government forces posed a threat to the armed units of the opposition active near the border with Jordan. Franz Klintsevich, First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) Defense Committee, called this "an act of aggression" by the US, urging to convene a UN Security Council meeting.
Amin Hteit, a Lebanese military affairs expert, told the paper that the defeat of terrorists and US aviation action in the country’s south signal a change in the global strategy of the foreign players involved. "What is going on with IS as an organization now shows a change in Washington’s approaches to solving previous tasks. Now, in my view, the Americans will choose one of two trajectories," he said. "The first is that in the foreseeable future their own, and also British and Jordanian special forces will occupy Syria’s southern areas controlled by the so-called armed opposition. The second is that the US is now placing a stake on the Kurds and will push them towards self-government at the very least and at best setting up an independent Kurdish government on the territories covering parts of Syria and Iraq," the expert said.
Judging by the developments, the terrorists will lose ground in the near future, but their ideology will remain, and another hotbed of tensions will emerge, now between the Syrians and the Kurds, the paper says.
A summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will kick off in Kazakhstan’s capital of Astana on Thursday, focusing on the induction of India and Pakistan into the organization, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Now, the SCO will include countries that have half of the world’s population and will become one of the largest regional organizations.However, experts fear that contention between New Delhi and Islamabad will cast doubt on its efficiency. It’s no coincidence that a meeting between the two countries’ prime ministers won’t be held on the sidelines of the summit, the paper writes.
Experts also say that the SCO’s expansion may improve its "geopolitical landscape" in South and Central Asia. Aziz Ahmed Khan, a career Pakistani statesman, said India and Pakistan could sort out their outstanding issues and establish mutually beneficial relations with the support of this organization.
Professor Phunchok Stobdan, India’s former ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, said the SCO may contribute to a gradual warming in Indian-Pakistani ties as Beijing seeks stability in South Asia, since a sound situation guarantees that the "One Belt and One Road" project may be fully implemented. The professor has not ruled out that New Delhi and Islamabad may share intelligence data on terrorists and even hold joint military drills.
However, Professor Sergey Lunev of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) noted that both countries’ membership in the SCO is unlikely to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, China, Pakistan’s strategic partner, is concerned about Islamist terrorist organizations that exist on its territory, namely in Xinjiang. Pakistan finds itself in a quagmire and China’s investments as part of the Silk Road project may save it. Beijing has pledged to pour $60 bln into this project, so the expert is not ruling out that China will put pressure on Pakistan and this may help normalize the situation.
Russia’s presidential administration has begun evaluating a project by the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) on reforming the state’s management system. The Center, led by ex-Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin, has suggested sacking around 30% of state officials by 2024 as part of a program to reform state management and also cut budget spending by a third, Kommersant business daily writes.
By 2024, the program’s specific goals are to boost digitalization in state management from 5-10% to 50% and to roll back spending on state administration from 2.5% to 1.74%. "Besides, the overall number of civil servants should shrink from the current 148,300 per 10,000 citizens to 103,600 by 30%," the paper writes, referring to the document.
According to the paper, the program stipulates reducing the costs of state management from 2,844 rubles ($50.3) per year for a citizen to 1,990 rubles ($35).
The ex-finance minister’s team suggests forming a digital 'ecosystem' of data for civil servants and a "strategic bloc" in the government to be led by a deputy prime minister as a permanent agency of the state’s project activities. The center says the state agency should provide fix-term contracts along with career-oriented positions.
The Center started hammering out the social and economic reforms package last year as part of the preparations for the 2018 presidential campaign, the paper writes. Until recently, the state management reform and foreign policy initiatives had remained a ‘highly-confidential plan’ by the Kudrin team.
The owner of Rambler & Co, a major Russian tech media group, Alexander Mamut is entering the bookmaker’s market, Kommersant writes. Digital Betting, belonging to Mamut’s A&NN Investments, will launch an online platform bwin.ru in partnership with the eponymous international gambling company, Kommersant writes.
This is the first time when a major foreign bookmaker is legally entering Russia’s market, Executive Director for Development at Rambler & Co Dmitry Sergeyev told the paper. The platform will operate in Russia with a license from bwin.party, one of the world’s major gambling companies, which was sold to GVC, a multinational sports betting and gaming group, last year. A GVC representative, Jay Dossetter, has confirmed the partnership with Digital Betting.
Bwin.ru and a mobile app will be launched in several months. The Russian party plans to invest 10 million euros per year to occupy a "significant" share on the market within three years. Currently, this market is worth more than 1 billion rubles (15.7 mln euros). Bwin.party will provide a technical platform and the brand, receiving a part of revenues.
President of the First self-regulated Organization of Bookmakers and co-owner of the League of Bets Yury Krasovsky said the launch of the platform "sets a precedent for the legal Russian bookmaker’s market." Russia’s legal market of online bets has existed for a bit more than a year, he said. Up to 10 online bookmakers are operating lawfully over Runet now, the paper says. Legitimate online bets in Russia are approaching 1 billion rubles ($17.7 mln) per year, President of Bingo Boom Konstantin Makarov said.
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