A platform for Russian-US dialogue has been set up in Latvia, where experts and lawmakers from Russia and the United States will be able to discuss bilateral ties and look for ways out of dilemmas, the authors of the initiative, Chairman of the Social Democratic Party "Harmony" Janis Urbanovich and President of the Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR) Igor Jurgens told Izvestia.
"We are going to cultivate and try ideas that can be used by the Russian and US executive branches," Jurgens told the newspaper.
According to Urbanovich, the new transatlantic platform will facilitate contacts between Russian and American senators, as well as experts. "The site was approved on May 27. It is important that Russian and American senators supported this idea. There is a good chance that Russia and the United States will come to an agreement," he told Izvestia.
Head of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev told the newspaper that he supports the initiative, but the willingness of the American partners to open discussions still raises questions. "I am grateful to those who come forward with such initiatives, and I am ready to do my part in the dialogue. However, I am very skeptical that the other side is also ready. It is important that the participants in such meetings are open to each other's arguments and are actually motivated to seek common ground," the Russian senator told Izvestia.
Jurgens told the newspaper that the first meeting within the framework of the Latvian dialogue will be held in late September.
Three years after the bloody conflict in Donbass erupted, and on the eve of Pyotr Poroshenko’s planned visit to the United States, Kiev is eyeing a tectonic shift in their strategy for the uncontrolled territories of DPR and LPR. Sources told Kommersant that a bill is currently being hammered out in the presidential administration, which includes the cessation of the "anti-terrorist operation" and the "peaceful reintegration" of Donbass.
Declaring their readiness to launch rapprochement with the separatist regions, the authors of the document are even ready to change the legal status of the "occupied territories". Kiev intends to set up contacts with the region, demonstrating the advantages of being part of Ukraine. According to the newspaper’s source in the Ukrainian parliament, the bill offers "a number of benefits and indulgences" for the population of "certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions".
However, a fierce struggle has already unfolded around the provisions of the bill, Kommersant wrote. The proposal to declare martial law along the front-line regions of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions threatens to disrupt Kiev’s new integration initiative.
"Martial law was conceived to ensure that localities where the (Ukrainian) authorities enjoy the least popularity could not influence the outcome of the elections," former Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonid Kozhara told Kommersant. However, the newspaper’s source close to the Presidential administration said that Kiev’s goal is not to "cut off problem towns from voting," but "to show the West how critical the situation has become in the front-line zone."
According to Kommersant sources in Kiev, a new surge in the authorities' interest in Donbass is primarily due to foreign policy factors. Given that soon after the meeting with Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko in Washington, US President Donald Trump will meet in July with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Hamburg, so Kiev wants to demonstrate their interest in an early resolution to the problem to key external players. Nevertheless, former Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonid Kozhara remains doubtful, saying "these are not real attempts at a peaceful reintegration of Donbass, but artificial (ones)."
The Russian national payment system, Mir, has undertaken steps to boost customer loyalty by streamlining its technology, making it easier to use the card abroad, especially at popular tourist destinations for Russians. Thus, in the near future, the payment card will be accepted in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, Head of the Russian national payment system Vladimir Komlev told Izvestia.
"The Mir payment system is rapidly developing - more than 8 mln cards are currently being used by Russian citizens and 380 banks have already joined the Russian national payment system, including 100 banks that are already issuing the cards. According to my personal experience, it is hard to find an ATM or a business that would not accept Mir card," he explained.
According to Komlev, "85% of the population noted in our surveys that the card’s recognition abroad must be an important feature." "We are paying great attention to this issue and it has been basically resolved. Banks issue co-badged cards Mir-Maestro, Mir-JCB. A single card virtually holds two cards - Mir and the partner payment system, which has a far-reaching network abroad," he added.
"We are fostering cooperation with a number of payment systems in countries often visited by Russians. We are working with Turkey, Thailand, Vietnam, and the United Arab Emirates. We hope to ensure the direct usage of Mir cards in the foreseeable future, so that people don’t have to worry about co-badging," Komlev told Izvestia.
Donbass' blocked coal has found a loophole to bypass radical nationalists’ obstacles, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. Kiev suspects that the unrecognized republics of eastern Ukraine are selling their coal through Russia to Turkey. In addition, according to the results of the first four months of 2017, Russian-Ukrainian trade jumped by 30% in annual terms. Experts explain the unusual growth by last year’s low base and the inability to replace sales markets. However, there are also those who attribute the explosive growth to the resale of Donbass coal.
According to the newspaper, despite this growth in mutual trade, Ukrainian officials believe that the country still suffers significant losses in export potential due to losing Crimea and blockading Donbass - the total loss of Ukrainian exports in recent years amounted to $25.2 bln.
Coal is the largest loss for Kiev, as Ukraine’s Military Prosecutor's Office believes that coal is exported to Russia, where it is later resold abroad. The proponents of the trade blockade of Donbass agree with this, proposing to completely cut off coal supplies to the country from Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.
Even if the restriction takes effect, it is unlikely to block the supply, according to experts. "It is unlikely to block coal supplies from Russia or Donbass. Perhaps, their logistics will become more complicated," Deputy Director of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarusian Studies at the Moscow State University Bogdan Bezpalko said.
"It will be very difficult to carry out the threats of the new blockade. It is not possible to stop the transportation of certain types of cargo by rail, since various goods are being transported on railway lines between Ukraine and Russia and it is simply impossible to block trains with certain types of cargo from a technical point of view," Head of the Ukrainian Center for Political and Economic Analysis Alexander Kava noted.
At the same time, experts attributed the growth of the foreign trade turnover between Russia and Ukraine to the inability to substitute the sales markets. "Russia has not been able to find a suitable supplier for the engineering industry. Another reason for the increase is the failure to sell its engineering products to the EU," Analyst Kirill Yakovenko of the Moscow-based Alor Brokerage told the newspaper.
"For some groups of goods Russia is almost the only major buyer available to Ukraine. For example, the European Union engineering market has long been occupied by and divvyed up between European producers. Therefore, Europeans are ready to buy only raw materials in Ukraine, but not finished products," Forum CEO Roman Parshin pointed out.
The Russian operator of the commercial launch services for satellites, GK Launch Services, created by Glavkosmos and Kosmotras, plans to develop new ways of sending satellites into orbit, General Director of Glavkosmos Denis Lyskov told Kommersant.
"Due to the flexibility offered by Soyuz with the dispersed orbital blocks, we can select the most optimal solution for the customer, plus we have three Russian spaceports that we can use for start-ups and thus gain additional flexibility. Our goal is to gain more than 50% of the launch market for light spacecraft. In addition, the company plans to develop current and new means of launching space vehicles to meet market demands and reduce the total cost of launches," the CEO explained.
Lyskov noted that according to the 10-year plan for the company, its revenue will reach at least $1 bln. "For Russian enterprises in the rocket and space industry, this means additional funding for contracts that go through Arianespace," he added, noting that work on international tenders has already begun.
According to Lyskov, GK Launch Services plans to focus on the light vehicles market with launches into low orbits. "By 2025, according to various estimates, more than 1,000 spacecraft of more than 50 kg will have been launched. More than 50% of them will require launching into low orbit, and most of them will be commercial," Lyskov told Kommersant.
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