US troops have evacuated the Zakf base close to the Iraqi border, Izvestia says referring to sources in the Syrian army and in the armed opposition. A source in Russian diplomatic circles explained to the newspaper that the move is the result of trilateral talks in Jordan between the representatives of Russia, the US and Amman. "This was part of the agreements on the formation of the first de-escalation zone," one of the sources said. Now the US has only one base on the border with Jordan, which makes it more difficult to support the opposition, the publication says. The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) did not deny the information that the base had been closed.
"The (US) coalition in Syria and Iraq is setting up and closing a number of bases depending on the combat situation and in order to effectively support our partners. The decision to set up or close temporary bases is made due to operative requirements and the course of the campaign. The forces of the coalition and their partners are still active in Tanf. The coalition proceeds with its mission to train partners in the area of three borders’ crossing (meaning Syria, Jordan and Iraq) as part of the campaign aimed at tackling the Islamic State," CENTCOM told Izvestia.
Vladimir Yevseev, a military expert, told the newspaper that the US is likely to refocus on another region in Syria. "By creating strong points in the country’s south, the US wanted to establish something like a buffer zone there to fill it with militants, which they train in Jordan. However, they failed to do this due to the Syrian army and pro-Iranian forces. Then, America looked for alternatives to keep its presence in the region, which was implemented as a de-escalation zone, since sustaining Washington’s presence on the scale that it had earlier was no longer feasible,” the expert said.
Following a suspension of humanitarian aid deliveries from Europe at the end of this past May due to claims by Estonia’s tax and customs regulator, the country’s NGOs will resume supplies of food, medications and equipment from Tallinn to Donbass, Izvestia says. Civic leader and head of the NGO, Dobrosvet, which has been providing assistance to citizens of the self-proclaimed republics over the past couple of years, Alexey Yesakov told the publication that the next convoy with humanitarian supplies will head for Donbass in October. "We deliver everything, except drugs and perishable foods. The aid was sent to Tallinn from different European countries, such as the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Norway, Slovakia, and Finland. France often delivers advanced medical supplies, like IV lines and surgical instruments. The humanitarian aid crossed the border through Pskov and the Rostov Region," he said.
According to the civic leader, Dobrosvet’s operations were temporarily suspended at the end of May after the Estonian tax and customs service blocked its accounts and fined the organization for incorrect bookkeeping. "It took us time to sort out the issue with the Estonian authorities. We proposed paying in installments in order to be able to proceed with our activities. As a result the account was unblocked literally several days ago," Yesakov said, adding that the Estonian customs officials have no claims against the organization. A lawmaker in the DPR people’s council Miroslav Rudenko told the newspaper that humanitarian aid is "crucial from the viewpoint of moral support." However, he added, there have been cases when under the guise of European NGO aid, intelligence activities were carried out for Ukraine’s benefit. "Particularly, one of the funds from the Czech Republic was involved in it," the MP noted.
High-ranking German officials have expressed concerns about the criminal prosecution of top managers from the Russian subsidiary of Hochtief AG, Kommersant business daily writes on Tuesday. When getting in touch with Russian partners via diplomatic channels and at corresponding agencies, top-level German officials have been voicing concerns over the Hochtief Development Russland verdict, two sources familiar with the talks told the newspaper. Another source in the government’s executive office confirmed that Russian authorities, including First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and business ombudsman Boris Titov, are aware of the situation regarding the Russian subsidiary of Hochtief.
The German development firm participated in the construction and renovation of the terminals at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, the central office of Sberbank and the Russian embassy’s premises in Germany. In June, former employees of Hochtief Development Russland were found guilty of embezzling 4 mln euros from the Investment Company Pulkovskaya owned by Yevgeny Voitenkov, and sentenced to two years in prison. However, in April 2013, the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce penalized Pulkovskaya for around 4 mln euros to be paid to Hochtief Development Russland, the decision was acknowledged by all Russian arbitration courts.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Russian-German Foreign Trade Chamber Matthias Schepp is convinced that the long-standing dispute around Hochtief may negatively affect Russia’s investment climate. Speaking with Kommersant, he said that the company’s operations in Russia served as "an ideal example of carrying out successful cooperation between Russia and Germany." "The company has built many buildings in Russia, using cutting-edge construction technologies and its own know-how," he said, adding that "criminal proceedings may negatively affect the investment attractiveness of the Russian economy on the whole," as the company’s technologies were not used in good faith and its legal interests were not protected. "Such problematic cases may thwart the outcome of many years of efforts to attract investors and create a comfortable business climate," he added. Double Bridge Law Sergey Usoskin agrees that "the situation around Hochtief and Pulkovskaya does not help Russia’s image of a country that takes international arbitration positively," he told Kommersant.
China’s Vanke Group is in talks with O1 Properties owned by businessman Boris Mints on the acquisition of a large stake in one of Russia’s largest commercial proprietors, Vedomosti writes citing four sources close to various sides of the potential deal. The Chinese investor is currently conducting a due diligence of O1 Properties, following which it will decide on the stake. In any case, the deal may involve acquiring 30-51% of shares, sources told Vedomosti.
O1 Properties (Boris Mints’ O1 Group owns 71% in it, while Alexander Nesis’ IST holds a 12.8% stake) owns 15 business centers worth an estimated $4.23 bln (as of June 30, 2017). Colliers International’s Stanislav Bibik assumes that the investor will pay a substantial premium taking into account its assets’ exclusivity. According to an O1 Properties representative, many companies, including foreign firms, are eyeing investments in one of the biggest owners of commercial real estate, though no particular deals are on the agenda now.
Knight Frank’s Alan Baloyev feels that now the time is ripe for foreign investors to buy high-quality assets on the falling market. The initial strategy implied that the company would enter global financial markets, which is why it focused on class A offices, the expert explained. JLL’s Yevgeny Semenov adds that O1 Properties is interesting for foreign investors due to a portfolio of office sites that are attractive for investment, the presence of the biggest foreign and local tenants and global-quality corporate management. The expert also said that if such a major player like Vanke Group taps Russia’s real estate market, the move will be a positive signal for the whole sector that could attract more global investors.
The upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, is ready to back all proposed measures to generate economic growth and prosperity as it plans to consider the draft budget legislation for 2018 and the planned period of 2019 and 2020, Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. "The bill is expected to arrive in the State Duma within days, which is why it is too early to go into it in detail. But we have already specified the criteria that we are planning to use for its consideration," she said. According to the speaker, the budget should "ensure technological and structural modernization of the local economy and its development along the line of sustainable and dynamic growth." "We will define whether the document has all necessary financial resources and mechanisms for this," she added.
Also, Matviyenko said, the budget should be socially-oriented. "Russian citizens need to find out that the economy is on the rise not only from the data provided by Rosstat. It is necessary to make sure that they experience it in their daily lives, that they feel its improvement. "Expanding wealth is an important factor to spur labor motivation and strengthen political stability, and we welcome all efforts in this direction," she said. Speaking about lawmaking efforts, the speaker also stressed that the key focus will be put on the formation of a legal basis for the development of the digital economy. "The main tasks are to uncover and lift legal restrictions for its development, the introduction of new realities emerging in this field, the creation of competent regulators and so on. Such important areas of legislative activities as the protection of rights and the interests of citizens regarding risks related to the development of the digital economy are emerging," Matviyenko told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
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