Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) has proposed bringing into line the amount of US media outlets in Russia to the number of their Russian peers operating in the United States in a move to respond to Washington’s media crackdown on the RT television channel and Sputnik news agency, sources in parliamentary and diplomatic circles familiar with the topic told Izvestia. "One of the proposed measures lies in the diplomatic arena and assumes a tit-for-tat principle. The legislative branch was offered to consider evening out the number of US media outlets in Russia with Russian outlets in the US," a parliamentary source told the newspaper, adding that "the latter are far fewer."
Andrey Klimov of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee confirmed to Izvestia that "such proposals are under consideration." "Various options are being discussed, though not officially as of now. I have signed a letter sent to the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry and the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media so that they would submit their proposals before October 20. It is necessary for understanding what we can do and how we can respond according to Russian legislation," he said, adding it may require amendments to the current legislation.
Moscow’s restrictions may fall on Radio Svoboda and Voice of America, CNN and several information agencies and newspapers, Izvestia’s sources in parliamentary circles said. A particular emphasis may be put on American media working in Russian regions, including numerous projects by the US State Department-funded Radio Svoboda, the regional offices of US papers such as The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Measures may also be taken against particular media outlets, one of the sources said. In particular, proposals were on the table that Russia’s Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media would oblige CNN to register itself as a foreign agent. Earlier, similar requirements were levied against Russia’s RT television channel operating in the US, with the deadline expiring on October 17.
French President Emmanuel Macron is ready to accept Moscow's invitation to participate in Russia’s biggest economic forum in the nation's second-biggest city next May, Kommersant business daily writes on Monday with reference to diplomatic sources in France. The decision on Macron’s visit has almost been made, though officially it will be announced later, the source said. "It is due to a pure formality, but quite reasonable. Russia’s presidential election will be held in March, and though we anticipate the outcome now it would be wrong to accept the invitation sent by Vladimir Putin who has not been re-elected yet," he explained, adding that the Russian president handed the invitation to his French counterpart on May 29 during their meeting in Versailles.
According to the source, several options were looked at regarding the timing of Macron’s visit to Russia, including end-2017 and early 2018. The option of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum was eventually chosen as Moscow traditionally puts a lot of focus on inviting prominent foreign guests there. "The French president’s visit in this guise and at this time would be a great idea," a source in Moscow familiar with the matter told the newspaper. He expects relations between Russia and the EU to "become favorable for breaking the ice" closer to May 2018. "First of all, we hope the situation surrounding Ukraine will be clarified. Either Vladimir Putin’s plan to deploy UN peacekeepers in Donbass will be implemented, or it will become clear that there is no progress not because of Moscow, but Kiev, which may compel the EU to realize that there is no reason to only pressure Russia," the source said.
As the 28 EU member-states are to discuss the issue of extending anti-Russia sanctions for another half a year at the end of 1H 2018, "those supporting measures to end the standoff will have a valid argument for maybe not calling off sanctions, but at least easing them," the Moscow-based source told Kommersant. "In this respect, the French leader's visit to St. Petersburg would demonstrate that being one of Europe’s heavyweights and member of the Normandy Four, Paris is gradually shifting towards advocating normalized relations with Russia. To some extent, Macron will be forging a window to Europe for it (Russia) in St. Petersburg," he said, adding that "it may become an important signal for the rest of the EU members, primarily, for Germany."
The S7 Group, which owns the Sea Launch project, plans to sign a cooperation agreement with Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos to jump-start space launch programs from the sea cosmodrome using Zenit carrier rockets, Izvestia says. Chief Executive Officer of the Energiya space rocket corporation Vladimir Solntsev told the publication that the paperwork for restarting cooperation between S7 and Roscosmos is almost done. The Russian side will restart the production of RD-101 rocket engines and other components for the Ukrainian-made Zenit rockets, which were massively produced at the Dnepropetrovsk-based Yuzhmash machine-building plant before 2013. "Roscosmos and S7 are to sign an agreement on the first cooperation stage, hopefully, on October 10," Solntsev told Izvestia.
Since it is impossible to deliver rocket engines and other components directly to Ukraine, Russian-made products will be supplied to the US lower-tier subsidiary of S7 - S7 Sea Launch Limited. According to Andrey Ionin, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics and member of the expert council affiliated to the Russian government, the production of Zenit foists high requirements on production and labor discipline, which not all plants can meet. "I can see a manufacturing challenge here. It is necessary to set up production taking into account the existing relationship between Russia and Ukraine, as well as the United States where the rockets will be assembled. This is a complicated political and economic puzzle, though if it is solved, the rocket will carry on and compete with Elon Musk for another decade," the expert pledged.
The Tatarstan-registered Kazan construction company has been selected for building the launching pad for the Angara carrier rocket at Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome, Kommersant writes citing market players. Head of Roscosmos Igor Komarov submitted this proposal to President Putin, who put his stamp of approval on the document, the paper writes. Previously, Russia’s Federal Agency for Special Construction (Spetsstroy) was the only company involved in construction of the first stage of the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
"The main criteria that Roscosmos required were acting capacities and qualified staff," the sources told Kommersant. "Given that Kazan implements several projects with the 2018 FIFA (World Cup), the Tatarstan’s company meets this requirement," he added. Another source said that the plan is to seal contracts on construction of several objects of the second stage of Vostochny, including the launching complex, in 2017, while major work is expected in 2018 there. According to the federal target program on developing cosmodromes for 2017-2025, the total cost of the Vostochny sites’ construction is estimated at around 75 bln rubles ($1.29 bln), the publication says.
Kazan, a company registered in March 2002 in the capital of Russia’s Tatarstan, is owned by a deputy of the local state council, Ravil Ziganshin. A source in the government’s office told Kommersant that the republic’s authorities are "quite meticulous about" the utilization of local companies’ capacities, while the construction of the launching pad at the Vostochny Cosmodrome will guarantee utilization for a couple of years, he said, adding that "the republic’s president has seriously banked on this order."
Newly-elected President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Sergeyev proposes using three-tiered financing as part of his program to revive the sector. "Given that the state can no longer support all research areas properly, I think that three-tiered financing should be introduced," he said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta. "The first would be the ‘level of understanding’, which should be as vast as possible, but will unfortunately be rather restricted due to the lack of funds, which means that in a number of scientific fields we won’t be able to compete with our foreign colleagues, but we should at least understand what is going on and should not miss out on new trends," he said.
"The second stage is the ‘level of competitiveness’, which does not imply many projects, for example among the projects implemented by the Education Ministry is to invite leading scientists, including foreign ones, to Russian universities and institutions. They come to Russia, buy state-of-the-art equipment, create strong labs here, and get world-level results," he said, adding that 100 projects like these would take around 10 bln rubles ($172 mln) per year. "Finally, there should be a ‘leadership level’, meaning 10-15 very big projects with investment of around 1 bln ($17 mln) rubles per year for creating unique research infrastructures in the areas where Russian leadership is acknowledged worldwide," Sergeyev said, adding that "the Germany-based project to develop a laser on unbound electrons" is a good example of this activity.
Dr. Sergeyev, 62, director of the Institute of Applied Physics located in Nizhny Novgorod, got the post of the Academy’s Director by winning the second round of elections. He won by a landslide over the other contender, Dr. Robert Nigmatulin.
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