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Press review: Moscow’s response may ricochet and Russian embassy in Kiev braces for unrest

August 24, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, August 24

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Russian Foreign Ministry

Russian Foreign Ministry

© Artyom Korotayev/TASS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia mulls retaliation against new US sanctions

Russia’s Foreign Ministry is considering a response to the newly-imposed US sanctions, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on Thursday. In addition, Moscow noted that it has no doubt that Washington tried to meddle in Russia’s presidential elections. Experts say the Foreign Ministry’s statements demonstrate helplessness as the authorities understand that any outbursts against Washington could backfire on Russians.

Travel companies say Russians will have to wait for an American visa for nearly six months. There is no doubt that after September 1, when applicants from Russian regions come to Moscow, visa issuing procedures will take more time, the paper says.

Alexey Makarkin, Vice President of the Center for Political Technologies, stressed that Moscow’s "symmetrical response" would pull diplomats out of Russia thus dealing a heavy blow to the Russian Foreign Ministry. This means that Russia’s retaliation will be limited to another ban on adopting children or prohibiting purchases of US medicines.

However, this would trigger a negative response from Russian society and the Kremlin will have to find a solution that would not spark discontent among the public. "The only thing left is to broaden the number of organizations labeled as foreign agents. The practice of enforcing this law in Russia is inexhaustible," the political scientist told the paper.

Nikolay Mironov, who heads the Center for Economic and Political Reforms, believes that economic sanctions are limited to banning the supplies of Russian RD-180 rocket engines to the US and curbing any cooperation on the International Space Station, but this would result in it backfiring on Russia itself. Moscow is unlikely to take these steps, he noted.

Other options on the table are cutting trade and limiting the work of US companies in Russia. However, given the current difficult economic situation this response would boomerang on ordinary Russians, said Head of the Center for International Security at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations of Russia’s Academy of Sciences Alexey Arbatov.

 

Izvestia: Transnistrian leader slams plans for withdrawing Russian peacekeepers

President of Transnistria Vadim Krasnoselsky has condemned plans by Chisinau to pull out Russian peacekeepers from the breakaway Moldovan region saying that this move would spark a war. Krasnoselsky told Izvestia that the Russian military are the only guarantors of peace in the region.

"Peace in our land is ensured by the peacekeeping forces, first and foremost by the Russian Federation. If peacekeepers are pulled out, there will be a war. Under the decision of Moldova’s Constitutional Court, these lands are recognized as occupied. This means that military force may be used. Tiraspol calls for maintaining the peacekeepers - so any discussion on this matter is out of the question. Such decisions cannot be made without taking into account the opinion of the Transnistrian people," Krasnoselsky told the paper.

Moldova’s government has been trying to withdraw the Russian peacekeeping forces from Transnistria for many years, the paper writes. Moldova has asked the UN General Assembly to discuss the "complete withdrawal" of Russian peacekeeping forces from the region.

However, not everyone in Moldova backs the plan to withdraw Russian peacekeepers, the paper says. Vladimir Turkan, an MP from the Party of Socialists and a former ambassador to Russia, told Izvestia that this initiative is a provocation. "The situation in our region, unfortunately, is very unstable. All these attempts are apparently initiated by those forces that try to stir up problems for Russia by pulling the strings of the current Moldovan leadership. But they fail to understand that this will be a problem for the Moldovan people, not for Russia. Such proposals are simply inappropriate and untimely, and are absolutely counterproductive," the politician said.

 

Vedomosti: Qatar eyes purchasing Russian air defense systems

At the Army-2017 military and technical forum near Moscow on Wednesday, Qatar’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah expressed willingness to buy Russian technologies to manufacture air defense systems. His Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu hoped that the Qatari delegation’s visit will be an impetus for closer cooperation in the war on terror.

Until recently, military and technical cooperation between Moscow and Doha has been limited to the supplies of a small batch of Kamaz trucks some 10 years ago, a source close to the leadership of Rosoboronexport, the state intermediary agency for Russia’s exports and imports of defense-related goods, told the paper.

Given the recent spat between Qatar and a group of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia, Russia has a window of opportunity open, expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Konstantin Makiyenko said. Russia should support Qatar’s aspirations to develop its own high-tech defense industry, but due to the low level of cooperation this will be costly, the expert warns.

Qatar’s interest in Russian air defense systems comes as Turkey, its closest military ally, is about to buy Russia’s S-400 missile systems, Makiyenko pointed out. Rosoboronexport’s Director General Alexander Mikheyev said earlier this week that a contract with Turkey on S-400 purchases had been already signed, but had not come into force and the parties still have to hammer out some of the deal’s details.

 

Izvestia: Russian embassy in Kiev braces for new wave of unrest

Russia’s Embassy in Kiev expects that the number of provocations carried out by Ukrainian nationalists is bound to surge this autumn, Russian diplomatic sources told Izvestia. Pickets outside the Embassy are being held regularly now, but they are peaceful. Diplomats fear that tensions will mount with the beginning of a new political season in Ukraine, according to the daily.

The paper states that local radicals are also planning to pull off ‘something big’ at the Kiev branch of Rossotrudnichestvo, Russia’s Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation. Some lawmakers say the organization is involved in allegedly anti-Ukrainian activity, which needs to be restrained. Sources in Rossotrudnichestvo stressed that they have never engaged in any illegal activity in Kiev and dismissed statements by Ukrainian politicians as mere propaganda and populism.

Deputy Chairman of the Association of Russian Diplomats and former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Andrey Baklanov told Izvestia that the pickets and other inimical moves are being staged by certain structures, which seek to whip up anti-Russian sentiment.

Aggression against diplomatic missions is a direct violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, under which envoys and diplomatic property are deemed sacrosanct and the host country must ensure security for all staff members, said Veniamin Popov, who heads the Center for Partnership of Civilizations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

 

Kommersant: Russia looking into new reforms for diamond-cutting industry

Russia’s Finance Ministry has drawn up a roadmap for cultivating the diamond industry, which may turn out to be one of its most unprecedented reforms in its history, two market sources and a federal official told Kommersant business daily. The measures are aimed at "boosting the competitiveness of Russia’s diamond-cutting industry and attracting new investors," one of the sources said. "This may be one of the most important steps in liberalizing the domestic gemstone market," a source said, adding that the plan has some 30 points and is due to be implemented by February 2018.

The roadmap stipulates a serious relaxation of state regulations and lowering taxes for Russian diamond producers as well as expanding their access to raw materials. One of the plan’s key points is allotting additional raw materials for the domestic market (at least 10% of diamonds) under obligation to cut them in Russia.

For Russia's top diamond producer Alrosa, this may result in the revision of its sales and investment policy, and an additional financial burden, the paper says.

Experts warn that this is not the right time for reforms given the expected drop in Alrosa’s revenues following the flooding accident at its underground mine Mir earlier this month.

Sergey Goryainov at Rough & Polished information agency doubts that the roadmap will be fully implemented. Apparently, the Russian government plans to support diamond producers at the expense of Alrosa, which may lose one-tenth of its production, he said.

 

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

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