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Press review: Xi Jinping's visit opens new doors and Kiev’s ‘coal’ politics burns Ukraine

July 05, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, July 5

1 pages in this article
Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping

© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

Kommersant: Chinese leader's visit to Moscow opens new doors

Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow to discuss foreign policy issues and in particular, potential ways to de-escalate the situation on the Korean peninsula. According to Kommersant, the parties did not leave out economic commitments. Several investment funds were formed during the negotiations and both presidents discussed the initiative to streamline trade procedures in Eurasia.

The meeting’s political tone was set by the North Korean ballistic missile test. Moscow and Beijing urged Pyongyang to comply with the UN Security Council’s resolutions and put forward a proposal for a "double freeze" on both North Korean nuclear missile tests and the US-South Korean military exercises.

The parties approved an action plan to implement the provisions of the Treaty on Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation between both countries for 2017-2020. The visit of the Chinese delegation to Moscow was also marked by several contracts being inked. In particular, Putin said, "decisions have been made to increase the supply of Russian wheat, and the approval of the document on admitting other grain crops to China’s market is in the final stage."

New funds for bankrolling various projects will be created by Vnesheconombank (VEB) and the China Development Bank (CDB), and the previously established joint fund of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and China Investment Corporation will be infused with $1 bln in capital. According to the newspaper’s sources in Moscow, its capital infusion had been in the works for a long time, and both organizations insisted on additional capitalization, referring to a large number of applications. The memorandum on creating a joint fund was also signed by Gazprombank and the China Chengtun Group.

Kommersant’s source familiar with the course of the bilateral talks also noted that the Chinese party's enthusiasm was encouraged by Vladimir Putin’s proposal during a visit to Beijing on May 14-15: the Eurasian agreement on trade facilitation. It involves cutting back red tape in customs procedures for shipping goods along land routes from China to Europe and Eurasia. "The Chinese even suggested engaging the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in this process," the source told the newspaper.


Izvestia: Geneva talks take back seat to Astana peace conference

The Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs of Syria Ali Haidar highlighted the shortcomings of the Syrian peace process in Geneva when compared to the Astana peace talks in an interview with Izvestia.

"It seems to us that Moscow is promoting any format that contributes to the settlement of the crisis in Syria, that is, both in Astana and in Geneva. At the same time, if we talk about the first venue, it has already managed to achieve real results which contribute to the political process. At the same time, the Geneva format pales in comparison in terms of its effectiveness," the minister told the newspaper.

According to him, Damascus is concerned about possible interference by Turkey and Qatar in the country’s domestic policy through the de-escalation zones.

"In general, we have no fears about the idea of ·· creating de-escalation zones, but we are concerned about what will happen after they are finally set up, in particular, we ask ourselves: will these zones become a place of implicit intervention in Syrian affairs from the outside, in particular from Turkey and Qatar? Naturally, we cannot accept this scenario," the Syrian official explained.

The politician talked about the difficulties of disengaging the armed opposition and terrorist groups. In particular, according to the Minister, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are trying to include or exclude certain areas from de-escalation zones, guided by their political interests.

On July 5, the final stage of the fifth round of the Syria peace negotiations will kick off in Astana. After a series of bilateral gatherings, the participants will meet for a plenary meeting. The parties plan to adopt a document on the final coordination of borders and control of the de-escalation zones. The difficulties in defining the boundaries of the de-escalation zones still remain, as well as in the issue of control by the nation-guarantors of the truce - Russia, Turkey and Iran.


Vedomosti: Russia’s Finance Ministry proposes overhauling $34 bln in tax relief

The Russian Finance Ministry has forwarded proposals to the State Duma on replacing some tax breaks with payments from the budget, and cancelling others, two federal officials told Vedomosti. The ministry’s proposals might lead to a radical overhaul of the entire system of benefits, which the Finance Ministry estimates at approximately 2.5 trillion rubles ($33.69 bln) this year.

Some tax breaks should be completely abolished or replaced with direct subsidies, if just a small number of taxpayers enjoy the benefit, a representative of the Ministry of Finance told Vedomosti.
The Ministry of Finance has been focusing on straightening out the tax relief system for several years. The most expensive budget subsidies are the ones for the supporting the economy - 2 trillion rubles ($33.69 bln), or 85% of the losses in 2017, according to the Ministry.

The shortfall in revenue due to these tax breaks is practically similar to general expenses, but it is currently not accounted for in shaping the budget. A representative of the Ministry of Finance told Vedomosti, it is necessary to distribute benefits along state programs, regularly evaluate their amount and efficiency.

According to the newspaper, “Business does not support the Finance Ministry’s proposal.” According to a source, the effect of tax incentives is not always obvious, and companies do not always spend their savings on its own development, sometimes they are paid to the parent structure in the form of dividends.

There are many examples of the ineffectiveness of tax relief, Director at Deloitte Vasily Markov told the newspaper, and special concessions do not work well. According to Deloitte estimates, in 2015 only 11 applications were submitted for the status of regional investment projects, 127 - for residency in the territories of advanced development. However, the problem is not so much in the effectiveness of the benefits themselves, but in the mechanisms of their application, Markov said. There are examples of tax breaks that are useful for business, but they are almost never used because of restrictions.


Izvestia: Kiev’s ‘coal’ politics burns Ukrainian economy twice

The Ukrainian government’s policy on coal purchases has struck a double whammy to the nation’s economy, since Kiev not only purchases expensive fuel from abroad, but also shells out more money for resources from Donbass because of intermediaries, Chairman of the People’s Soviet of the Donetsk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin told Izvestia.

"Ukraine is still the largest buyer of coal mined in Donbass. However, it is very difficult to carry out direct deliveries because of the blockade," he explained. Pushilin added that because of transport and economic restrictions, Ukraine gets coal through intermediaries at inflated prices and in a far smaller amount than possible.

"Donbass can fully cover Ukraine's coal needs. We are the most convenient option in terms of logistics and prices for Ukraine from all coal suppliers for power plants. However, given the political component, we often see Kiev's unsuccessful attempts to switch to deliveries from other countries - South Africa, Australia, and now the United States," he stated, noting that Donbass is taking advantage of the current situation to diversify its sales markets, but it is still interested in supplying Ukraine.

On June 29, US President Donald Trump said that Kiev had told Washington about the need to supply "millions of tonnes of coal" directly and without delay. According to the adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Maxim Bilyavsky, the first shipment of 120,000 tonnes of coal is expected from the US in August. The amount of supplies might be beefed up after the visit of American representatives to Ukrain e. A bilateral meeting on this issue is planned for August.


Kommersant: Crypto-currency cardholders sought to cash out funds in 1H 2017 against surge in bitcoin rate

Special debit cardholders whose accounts allow operations in both regular currencies (US dollars, euros, British pounds) and cryptocurrencies, preferred to withdraw cash from these cards at ATMs in January-June, Wirex, the producer of the cards told Kommersant. Although their share in the total number of transactions is only 25%, the amount of funds withdrawn reached 65% of the total turnover.

Thus, the volume of such transactions exceeded purchases in offline and online stores, which are also gradually gaining momentum. These cryptocurrency cards hit a peak in cash withdrawals from ATMs during the May-June period. According to the founder and General Director of Waves blockchain platform Alexander Ivanov, at the end of May - beginning of June, the bitcoin rate soared to almost $3,000, although at the beginning of the year it failed to go above $1,000.

According to Wirex, the total number of purchases with cryptocurrencies has reached almost half of all possible transactions. In general, 10-15 purchases a day were made in Russian offline stores using crypto-currency cards. At the same time, the average receipt reached $200-500, though in some cases it reached $4,500 - $5,800.

"Paying directly with cryptocurrency is currently difficult. A very limited number of legal entities around the world agreed to it because of the lack of regulation. However, as we can see in Japan’s case, there is a shifting trend in the situation," Dmitry Lazarichev, co-founder of Wirex told Kommersant.

In April 2017, bitcoin in Japan received the status of a payment instrument on par with the Japanese yen. This led to an explosion in the number of users of crypto-currency services around the world, Lazarichev noted.


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

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