Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud arrived in Moscow for the first time in the history of bilateral relations between Moscow and Riyadh to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Expectations from the visit are extremely high, especially regarding military-technical cooperation. According to Kommersant, the prospects for sealing a package of arms contracts worth over $3 bln, which would include exports of the S-400 missile systems to Riyadh, depend on the outcome of the negotiations.
According to Kommersant’s source in diplomatic circles, the visit has been in the works for several years. The negotiation agenda was carefully chosen and geopolitical factors were taken into account. Now, according to the source, everything will depend on the heads of state personally. The agenda includes several topics. According to Kommersant, undoubtedly, the oil market situation will be discussed. Putin and Al Saud will discuss not just conditions on fulfilling the OPEC+ deal, but also any possible conditions for prolonging it beyond 2018.
International issues will not be ignored. According to Kommersant, Russian negotiators expect an active exchange of views on the situation in Yemen, Egypt and Syria. "Most likely, the parties will raise the issue of the main geopolitical opponent of Saudi Arabia - Iran," one of Kommersant sources said.
Military-technical cooperation is one of the most anticipated topics of the talks. According to Kommersant’s sources working in the industry, the Russian side has prepared a package of around $3 bln for the visit, which includes, among other things, exports of several divisions of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. Kommersant's sources say there are no plans to sign the contracts, but if the necessary agreements are reached at the meeting, pre-contract negotiations might begin. Moscow has been trying to enter the Saudi arms market for 10 years. The parties discussed contract packages of up to $20 bln, but it never panned out.
At the same time, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) plans to sign three agreements on creating new funds with the sovereign fund of Saudi Arabia - the Public Investment Fund (PIF). Together with PIF and Saudi oil producer Aramco, an energy investment fund worth $1 bln is planned, which will pour money into companies engaged in oilfield services and related facilities.
Donbass anticipates that the ongoing confrontation with Kiev will ramp up, after the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada approves its impending reintegration bill. Representatives in the leadership of the self-proclaimed republics told Izvestia that "Kiev’s reintegration activity" is nothing more than an attempt to stir up trouble and begin a new phase of the war. According to them, Ukraine is trying to get out of implementing the Minsk agreements and is creating conditions for another wave of hostilities by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko submitted two bills to the parliament - on reintegration of Donbass and on extending the law, "On the peculiarities of local self-government in certain areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions."
Envoys from the Lugansk People's Republic in the contact group, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladislav Deinego called the reintegration bill an attempt to avoid the fulfillment of the obligations and "withdraw from the context of the Minsk Agreements". In addition, according to the politician, how far the conflict will go in many respects depends on the West’s military support for Kiev.
"Ukraine is accumulating forces and trying to exacerbate the situation. Since political commitments and security issues on the demarcation line are interrelated, this means that the political process and a peaceful settlement to the armed conflict will come to a halt. Most likely, this will lead to an escalation on the line of demarcation. Whether Ukraine will receive lethal weapons from the US and support from the rest of the West is a serious issue. This determines the willingness of Ukraine to escalate," Deinego told Izvestia.
According to Denis Pushilin, Chairman of the People’s Soviet of the Donetsk People's Republic, the Ukrainian bill "simulates the implementation of the Minsk agreements", but in fact breaches them. "Kiev creates the most favorable conditions for itself to confront the republics, but also to react to the domestic situation, which can morph into an unforeseen scenario," Pushilin warned.
The bill on the reintegration of Donbass is expected to be adopted before October 18.
On Sunday, October 7, a second meeting between Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov and US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker might take place in Serbia, sources told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. At their first meeting, Surkov and Volker exchanged views on the situation in Donbass. Now, they are expected to submit alternate plans to resolve the conflict.
The Minsk agreements can become a common denominator. As Volker said earlier, they were not implemented, and the order of carrying out the security-related and political items led to a vicious cycle of disputes. A Ukrainian expert told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Volker’s remarks mean that Kiev will have to abandon its previous hardline stance. Firstly, to implement all points of the Minsk agreements related to security, and after that solve all political issues.
The expert believes that deployment of UN peacekeepers based on the conditions that President Vladimir Putin proposed on September 5, could provide certain guarantees for the unrecognized republics.
The peacekeeping mission, according to the newspaper’s sources in Kiev, will be at the heart of the talks between Surkov and Volker. "A full-fledged peacekeeping mission can guarantee security and respect for the rights of Donbass’ inhabitants - and Russia will not have to worry about anything," the source told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. As Volker said earlier, Washington’s position is not anti-Russian, unless Moscow chooses to become an antagonist of the United States.
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, what the meeting will attempt to do is find common ground. At the moment, Kiev remains mum on the situation, but it is gearing up for it, the newspaper wrote.
VIM-Avia’s owners and managers could have solved the company’s problems, if Russia had airline bankruptcy laws similar to the US, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. However, at its Wednesday session, the State Duma did not see any reasons for amending Russian laws. During the parliamentary discussions on the crisis, it was announced that there are no more problem airlines in the country. Experts interviewed by the newspaper, however, do not agree with the statement - the industry is facing a systemic crisis.
"Airline activities are strictly regulated, the Federal Air Transport Agency and the Federal Transport Supervision Service have very wide legal possibilities for effective control, including licensing and accreditation," partner at the international legal group KDS Legal Lev Glukhov told the newspaper. However, according to the expert, the situation with VIM-Avia demonstrated the inability of state institutions to effectively regulate air transportation.
"Yakutia airlines has a plethora of problems - it has over 2.5 bln rubles ($43.3 mln) in state guarantees, Ural Airlines has shown Q1 losses of 1.2 bln rubles ($20.79 mln)," First Vice President of the Russian Club of Financial Directors Tamara Kasyanova told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The State Duma does not want to aggravate the situation. If it says that the industry has long been on the verge of a systemic crisis, that bankruptcies of other air carriers are possible, this would mean that it cannot deal with the situation. To talk about a systemic problem in the market of passenger air travel amid the background of crumbling banks, means creating a very unattractive picture before the elections," she stressed.
"VIM-Avia has been dealing with financial problems for a long time, but no measures were taken - in the end, the situation reached the point where passengers suffered. It was necessary to either help the company sooner rather than later, or limit its activities," Head of Alekhin and Partners Roman Alekhin told the newspaper.
"Amendments to the law on financial insolvency could solve the problem, which, following the example of US legislation, would protect the owners of the airline from creditors during bankruptcy procedures. This would not stop any flights. Since 2001, many companies went through bankruptcy in the US under this mechanism, and some even more than once," Alexey Sinitsky, Editor-in-Chief of Air Transport Observer told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Russian aerospace company NPO Lavochkin has nearly finished the construction of the Spektr-RG/SRG (Spectrum Roentgen Gamma) astrophysical observatory. The observatory’s ambitious goal is to create a large-scale map of the Universe. According to Izvestia, its launch is scheduled for next year.
According to the scientific leader of the project, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Rashid Sunyaev, Spektr-RG is expected to observe around 3 million supermassive black holes that devour matter at a rate of three Earth masses per second, and most importantly, it will record about 100,000 clusters of galaxies. The data will allow astrophysicists to compile the most grandiose map of the Universe.
Spektr-RG’s launch was planned a few years ago, back in 2014-2015, then it was rescheduled for 2016, and then for 2017. The project’s current launch date is October 2018. According to the newspaper, the main reason for the delay was the problems with its German partners in manufacturing the x-ray telescope eROSITA, which was expected in Moscow back in 2010.
General Director of NPO Lavochkin Sergey Lemeshevsky confirmed the information about the difficulties with another component - an on-board radio complex - to Izvestia.
"There are questions regarding making a flight model of the complex. We are considering solutions to this problem. From a technical point of view, all problems have been identified, and the issue is the need to agree on a schedule. I think that this matter will not affect the timing of the launch," he said.
Roscosmos’ press service told the newspaper that sanctions could hamper the progress. "Sanctions, of course, affect projects that require international cooperation. However, since all participants are interested in the program’s implementation, a system has been developed that enables one to solve those scientific tasks. Basically, the current situation did not influence the change in the terms of the project," the press service said.
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