As intensive talks are underway in Ukraine on a bill to introduce a visa system with Russia prior to its consideration by the national parliament, the country’s politicians and experts are split on whether the bill will get any support among lawmakers. Former Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonid Kozhara told Kommersant that a visa policy with Russia is an important ideological issue at the moment. “Part of the Ukrainian establishment thinks that once a visa-free regime with the EU has been obtained it will be bound to conclude its pivot away from Russia. Sometimes I have a feeling that the task of those people is to tie bundles as tight as possible, still in any case their successors will have to untie them,” he said.
According to Dmitry Kasyanov, Ukrainian political scientist and political adviser, the policy of keeping aloof from Russia is reasonable in the long-term. “This is what we have not been doing for 20 years, and this is what hindered Ukraine from establishing itself as a country. The initiators of the draft law presume that cooperating with an aggressor during wartime shouldn’t be allowed, and neither should going to (enemy) territory and earning money there,” he told Kommersant, adding that “the authorities are carrying out an assault on the views of people who are not ready to think in patriotic terms.”
There are around 2-3 mln Ukrainian nationals employed in Russia now, the newspaper says. Kiev expects Moscow to respond tit-for-tat, introducing a reciprocal visa policy, in which case those people will be the first to face the problem of crossing the border, Kommersant writes. Leonid Kozhara says that “neither Russia, nor Ukraine are technically ready to provide entry documents to all those willing to arrive should a visa regime be introduced.”
Experts interviewed by the newspaper in Kiev admit that the measure will hurt the interests of thousands of families living off the money their relatives send them from Russia. Alexander Chernenko, a representative to Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, from the party of Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko, does not expect the party to provide a required number of votes for adopting the bill. “One of the reasons is that I don’t see that the president is determined on the issue, and I don’t expect his team to turn up the heat in favor of an obligatory adoption of the document,” he told Kommersant.
Russia’s Radio Frequency Service headed by Communications and Mass Media Minister Nikolay Nikiforov has permitted Russian companies to lease capacities of foreign satellite that "have been agreed on with Russia’s communications administration" earlier this week, RBC business daily writes on Thursday. Intelsat, Eutelsat, ABS, and Horizons are not among those providers. The ministry explained that the decision is related to "the priority of using Russia’s orbital frequency resource." Two market players told the newspaper that the new rules may virtually block Russian companies’ access to foreign satellites.
Previously, if a company had received no reply from Russian satellite operators within 10 days it had the right to apply to a foreign operator for the resource. "No one even demanded such permission from companies when Russian satellite used to fall," a source told RBC. "Now the situation is different," he added. Igor Kot, a representative of Gazprom Space Systems, does not expect the new decision to have any effect on Russian or foreign satellite operators. Meanwhile, he said, it has made the procedure "more transparent and better controlled, with less triggers for controversial handlings." "The competitive factors of satellite operators on the Russian market will be mainly economic, not regulatory in the future as well," Kot said.
A source in Russia’s Central Bank told RBC that the regulator plans to shift to Russian satellites starting July 1, 2018. "The Bank of Russia considers the project to be crucial from the standpoint of both ensuring independence, safety of communication links, and cost." A newspaper’s source in the Central Bank also said that the shift is possible due to the fact that its need in capacity has dropped, while local satellite operators have expanded their potential.
In a move to advertise traditional Russian products with an emphasis on their origin of locality, such as Vologoda butter, Bashkir honey, Altai cheese and Krasnodar wines internationally, the Agriculture Ministry is drafting a plan to promote domestic agriculture products, delicacies and beverages, Izvestia reports. "The plan is to have selection criteria for products with a specific place of origin and high export potential when registered and promoted as a specific-locality ‘brand’," a source in the ministry told the newspaper, adding that “it will provide the groundwork for a long-term strategy of developing and promoting regional sub-brands and laying out a range of implementation tools.” The plan is to submit the draft for consideration after July 10.
Director General of the Institute for Agricultural Market Studies Dmitry Rylko considers the Ministry’s initiative to be timely and promising, though Russian products are not very popular abroad. He also thinks that promoting exports will not only help raise awareness of the marketed goods on international markets but also improve their quality. "The issue is about promoting premium-segment products, which will also foster tourism internationally," he said.
Russia’s exports of foodstuffs and agricultural products amounted to $5.8 bln in January-April 2017, a 12.9% increase year-on-year, Izvestia writes with reference to the data provided by the Federal Customs Service. Exports of wheat and vodka were among biggest gainers in the reporting period, with a 17% and 4.5% increase, respectively. However, in the first quarter of this year, the share of food accounts for only 4.7% of Russia’s total exports structure, according to Russian Export Center (REC), with almost 60% taken by exports of oil, petroleum products and natural gas, the newspaper reports.
Russia’s Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Gleb Nikitin said that he is currently pushing forward with an intensive policy of exporting production, according to his interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta released on Thursday. "We have to be active and tap markets. This is fully in line with the country’s most important strategic area of increasing the volumes of Russian non-commodity exports," he said. According to Nikitin, the plan is "to boost incentives for potential importers of Russian products and help promote them on targeted markets." "One of those incentives is the initiative to localize production chains on the territory of importer-countries," he added.
The deputy minister said that the formation of a Russian industrial zone in Egypt is currently "the most promising and well-developed project in the field." "This is the first Russian project of its kind, which is bound to demonstrate the reasonability of this approach and become a core project of industrial cooperation between Russia and Egypt," Nikitin asserted. The Industry Ministry sets the target of annual export growth at up to 17% in ‘key’ sectors and up to 7% in non-commodity exports, he added. When asked about his expectation of Russia’s industrial growth for 2017, he said that "it stands to reason that industrial growth will top 102% this year."
Speaking about Innoprom, the upcoming industrial exhibition in Russia’s Yekaterinburg scheduled for July 10-13, the official said that industry ministers from Japan, the Middle East and other countries will be attending the event for the first time ever. "Businesses from countries of Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia traditionally take much interest in Innoprom. This year expositions from Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, India, Denmark, Turkey, Japan, the Czech Republic, the UAE, Iran, South Africa, Belarus, China, South Korea, France, Lichtenstein, Britain, Finland and other countries will be showcased," Nikitin said.
Russia’s State Duma MPs have proposed banning the open handling of coal in populated areas starting from this November in a move to protect the environment and the public’s health, Kommersant writes. However, the initiative that is going to affect 23 terminals handling up to half of all coal in Russia. Moreover, it may require hundreds of billions of rubles to be carried out, and is likely to block coal supplies from Russia to the markets of Europe and the Asia-Pacific Region.
A market source told the newspaper that the price for coal handling will rise 70-80% in case of a shift to closed handling, which will make Russian coal less competitive. Another source agreed, saying that "the proposed measures are populist." "If we want to halt ports this will work, though the consequences will be adverse as coal is the main cargo for Far Eastern ports and Russia will lose a substantial share of the Asian-Pacific market," he stressed.
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