Russia has called on the United States to sign a deal on coordinating activities in Syria both in the air and on the ground, high-ranking Russian diplomatic sources told Izvestia on Friday. Washington has not accepted the offer so far as it apparently is not interested in sharing info with the Russian military. Experts note that one of the reasons is that the US cooperates with terrorists and supports a number of armed militant groups in Syria.
Russia and the US earlier signed a memorandum on preventing incidents in Syrian skies. Until recently, there has been no dire need to ink an agreement on coordinating steps on the ground. However, during the operation to liberate Deir ez-Zor, in eastern Syria, there were several incidents when Russian forces could have hit the Americans or their allies due to the lack of information, the paper says.
Last week, Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Washington of masterminding the attack by Jabhat al-Nusra (terror group, outlawed in Russia) near Idlib. "In this context, the US refusal to sign a document on coordination with Moscow on the ground is quite clear," said Boris Dolgov, Senior Researcher at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies.
"The US armed forces actively operate in Syria, they cooperate and maintain contact with terrorists from the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra. At the same time, they back the Syrian Democratic Forces, which may be gradually engaged in fighting against the government forces. That’s why, definitely, the Americans don’t want Russia to have a chance to know about their military’s location," the expert said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin held closed-door talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Thursday, focusing on the Syrian conflict, RBC writes.
The two presidents met urgently amid the sharp deterioration in the northwestern de-escalation zone in Syria’s Idlib, Kirill Semyonov, an expert with the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), told the paper. "The problem in Idlib is very serious. After the first observation posts were set up there, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) immediately staged a provocation that led to the conflict’s escalation in that zone," the expert said.
After the September 20 terrorist attack by the HTS against the Russian military police at an observation post on the border between Idlib and Hama, Moscow understood that it could not ensure security in that zone independently, he explained. Therefore, Russia sought a more active role by Turkey in solving the crisis. Russia expects that Ankara will consolidate various groups among the moderate opposition and iron out the problem, Semyonov said.
Both Russia and Turkey seek a truce in Idlib, said Anton Mardasov, head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Institute for Innovative Development. According to him, Ankara does not want a major military operation in the region and is not ready to accommodate new refugees, and also seeks to destroy the HTS, whose terrorists control oil smuggling routes along the Syrian-Turkish border in the Idlib province.
Russia’s Atomflot, a service base for nuclear icebreakers, is looking for a contractor to build a floating dock for the maintenance of LK-60 class nuclear-powered icebreakers, Kommersant writes citing sources in the sector. Russia has only several shipyards that have the capacity of building this sort of large-size facility. The company is holding talks with Baltzavod in St. Petersburg, Zvezda in Primorye and Zaliv in the Crimean city of Kerch. According to the sources, the order is not expected to generate much profit and its construction will take up to roughly two years. No exact parameters for the dock have been revealed, but given the size of the LK-60, the facility will be around 40 meters in width and up to 200 meters in length. The construction’s price tag will be around 8 bln rubles ($138 mln) and plus or minus 2 bln rubles depending on the location, a source familiar with the project said.
Vyacheslav Ruksha, CEO of Atomflot, which maintains the world’s only fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers, confirmed to Kommersant that work on the project is underway and talks are being held with the shipyards in China, Croatia and Germany. Atomflot also expects an answer from Zvezda. The floating dock is due to be commissioned in 2020-2022.
Sources told Kommersant that one of shipyards of southern China’s Guangzhou is among the bidders for the construction. However, the dock needs to be transported to Atomflot’s base in Murmansk and Baltzavod looks more expedient given the logistics. According to Kommersant, during the latest round of talks between Atomflot and Baltzavod a week ago, the sides failed to agree on the price.
General Director of Infoline-Analytics, Mikhail Burmistrov, said Europe would build the floating dock in half the time and for the same price as in Russia, but China looks better in both terms of time and cost. But Atomflot is unlikely to strike a deal with foreign shipyards, the expert said. This order is a "strategic commitment" and is not expected to be endorsed by the import replacement commission, he noted.
On Thursday, the demand for foreign currency at the depositary auction of the Russian treasury reached $1.8 bln with a limit of $1 bln, Vedomosti writes. Three banks took part in the auction, and their requests were satisfied, the treasury said. Two days earlier, financial institutions borrowed a record high of $1.5 bln from the Bank of Russia through foreign currency swap operations, according to its statistics.
Early this week, there was a surge in inter-bank foreign currency repos, several market sources said. Most likely, some participants needed foreign currency, head of currency and financial department at Citi group Denis Korshilov said. "Major Russian banks do not have a shortage of liquidity. Due to the lack of limits, not all banks may draw currency on the inter-bank market and therefore they have to borrow dollars from the Central Bank through swaps," he explained. "Of late, the ruble has been mirroring the dynamics of developing markets’ currencies," he said. There are many foreign participants on the Russian market and that’s why the ruble largely depends on their mood, he added.
"At times, it does occur that certain banks lack currency, usually on quarterly dates," Director of TKB’s Treasury Office Damir Shagiyev said. Sometimes, there is increased demand for currency from the subsidiaries of foreign banks, which close the financial year in autumn, he said.
Two state bankers said banks’ special interest in currency operations was seen in late August when Russia’s Rosneft oil giant closed a $12.9 bln deal on purchasing a 49% stake in the India-based Essar Oil. "Probably, they are now compensating for the losses through new operations," one of them said.
Russia’s automobile market has made a spectacular comeback after the crisis. According to the Association of European Businesses, in August, car sales swelled 16.7%, Izvestia writes. A month earlier, market growth reached a record high of 18.6%, year-on-year. Most likely, this surge in demand is expected to continue till the end of the year.
Auto sales have not seen such growth over the past five years, the paper says. The last time we heard such good news for market players was only back in February 2012, when sales rose 25%. This year, the car market has been expanding for the sixth month in a row. There are several reasons behind this trend, which include catch-up demand, the strengthening ruble, a revitalized banking sector and the government’s program to support the industry, the paper says.
Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade pledges that some 62.3 bln rubles ($1 bln) will be allocated this year for the industry and this will encourage roughly 737,000 car purchases.
The most popular cars in Russia are models of the so-called mass segment, including Lada, Kia, Hyundai, Renault, Volkswagen, Nissan, Skoda and Ford.
During the crisis, Russia’s automobile market became less diverse and there are grounds to believe that manufacturers will introduce more models in Russia amid the surge in sales, the paper writes.
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