The review of the controversial bill on reintegrating the Donbass ‘occupied territories’ passed by the Ukrainian parliament in the first reading, with amendments tagged on, has been postponed until Verkhovna Rada’s next meeting on December 4. “Not a single document passing through the Rada over the past months, has been so difficult for us,” an MP from the ruling Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc told Kommersant, adding that “anxiety around the bill that emerged on the very first day still lingers.”
Another Rada deputy from the ruling coalition faction told the newspaper that the bill seeks to “draw red lines in the legislative ‘sand’, which Ukraine would never be able to cross regardless of the climate or western pressure.” He added that the essence of the draft law might change if numerous amendments were altered.
According to Kiev-based political analyst Dmitry Dzhangirov, "the key position that the MPs are going to maintain in any case is that the law should state that all government bodies located in Donetsk and Lugansk should be considered Russian-occupied powers, which means they will not acknowledge any single act they pass, apart from those certifying births and deaths." "Besides, the item on Russia’s occupation of Donbass means that the occupation issue will not be lifted even if the sides manage to deploy UN peacekeepers in the region. Meanwhile, the ‘occupation’ envisions no possibility to hold local elections stipulated by the Minsk accords," he told Kommersant.
Washington made a surprising move concerning the bill’s fate this time, the newspaper writes about the latest visit by the US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker to Kiev. “In August, Volker only listened to the meeting’s participants and practically did not voice his own thoughts. This time it was just the opposite,” a Ukrainian parliamentarian responsible for the country’s international affairs told the publication.
“When speaking with the heads of factions, he virtually delivered an ultimatum: we all in the west are sick and tired of your unpredictability and whims, that’s why (you should) be so kind and pass the laws that you have committed yourself to within the Minsk accords, and don’t mess up our life,” the source said.
In addition, media reports said last week an amendment to Ukraine’s reintegration law envisioning a breakoff of diplomatic relations with Russia had been made to the reintegration bill. According to Kommersant’s sources, representatives of western embassies made Ukrainian officials understand that by mentioning a break in diplomatic relations, the Ukrainian side would create a negative background for settling the Donbass issue, which the Americans and Europeans are willing to solve.
With top-level negotiations between Moscow, Ankara and Tehran in Sochi approaching, the Turkish leadership has clarified what its main goal is. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the Afrin district, which is still controlled by the Syrian Kurds, will top the agenda. Ankara has repeatedly hinted at a full-fledged military operation in the area, the newspaper writes. However, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya warn that Afrin’s capture may touch off a new conflict in Syria.
"Turkey has had carte-blanche in Afrin for a long time," Head of the Islamic Research Center of the Institute of Innovative Development Kirill Semenov told the publication. "It has been able to get involved there for a while now. It has also held similar operations close to Tell Rifaat. The problem is that they failed. The Tell Rifaat operation involved the forces of the Free Syria Army, while Turkey provided fire support for them. The question is whether the Turks are ready for their own operation now and whether they will put up with potential losses in Afrin. It is known that there are up to 10,000 militants over there," he said.
Semenov also feels that it erroneous to say that Moscow will guarantee the security of Afrin.
"It is easy for Erdogan to say that he would be glad to take Afrin but Russia hinders him from accomplishing this," he said, adding that the Turkish President "has had opportunities to do this earlier, whereas now he realizes the cost." According to the expert, Erdogan emphasizes the Afrin issue more on the local Turkish public, giving an impression that "he is steadily tackling the Kurdish issue." "The topic is once again relevant, and he will fan the flames even further,” he said.
Russia may organize the first round of cyber training with the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) member-states in March-June 2018, according to the draft ‘roadmap’, or plan of action, in the digital economy field obtained by Kommersant. Russia’s Ministry of Communication and the Federal Security Service (FSB) are in charge of all training stipulated by the ‘Digital Economy’ program approved by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in end-July. The program also says that the second quarter of next year should see the prospects of regular EAEU cyber trainings.
The center of competence headed by Russia’s top lender Sberbank has been assigned responsible for development of the ‘roadmap’. According to the bank’s official Stanislav Kuznetsov, the ‘roadmap is being drafted and going through agreement procedures now." He added that regarding training with EAEU member-states the issue is about "restoration of single information infrastructure in case of potential cyber attacks."
Meanwhile, the press service of the EAEU told Kommersant there are no plans to hold cyber training exercises as of now since no official proposals from its members have been put forward yet. "Nevertheless, the IT security issues relates to creation of an area of trust and development of the EAEU integrated information system are being monitored by the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC)," a source in the Commission told the newspaper. Russia has also promoted initiatives connected with information security on other post-Soviet platforms, including the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Russian entrepreneurs will have to pay more than 100 bln rubles ($1.6 bln) worth of additional taxes and fees in 2018 based on the draft federal budget for the upcoming three years. This violates the agreement on the rigidity of the fiscal burden imposed by President Putin in 2014 to be maintained until end-2018, as stated in a letter written by the heads of the country’s business community to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite the moratorium, many new payments and levies, which are not considered taxes officially, have appeared since 2014.
In early 2017, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev asked the ministries to "refrain from adopting and submitting to the government" projects envisioning new fees and charges. However, it seems the government is not going to follow this request, the newspaper. The draft budget passed by the State Duma (lower house of parliament) in the second reading last week, imposes three new payments: a tax on imported machines and equipment, a utilization fee (7%) on the means of production of heavy and energy machine building, and an investment fee (25%) in sea ports. The draft law also proposes adjusting current charges, for example, the scrappage fees on automobiles, which may be increased by 15%, Vedomosti says. Businessmen have warned President Putin that this all will inevitably drive down investment, and push up prices on means of production and end-products in almost all sectors.
Most market participants and experts interviewed by the newspaper are skeptical about any chances on the bill being amended, saying that the second reading of the budget is the final one in practice and means that the parameters are unlikely to be altered. Businessmen also note that predictability, rather than the level of tax burden, is the key thing for them.
The R&D area has become the leader in terms of salary growth during January-August 2017, Izvestia says with reference to the press service of the Labor Ministry. The 11.4% increase is double the growth rates of nominal salaries nationwide (5%). The financial and insurance fields (9.3%), the processing industry, agriculture and forestry sector (8.8%), and finally the mining industry (8.1%) trail the scientific industry.
“The pay scales for research staff differ depending on the company and functions, but this level has indeed gone up. The wage gap may be considerable in the innovative sector or robotics, which is very popular now, as there were no such experts previously,” Director General of Penny Lane Personnel Tatyana Dolyakova told the publication. She added that many companies lay off fellows from research institutions as they create innovative departments. Those divisions need researchers, analysts, and people involved in future technological developments, putting those candidates in demand. “This year innovations have become more popular, while the state actively supports robotics, and future trends,” Dolyakova noted.
According to Marketing Director of Kelly Services CIS Zhanna Volkova, “import substitution has added many new companies to the agriculture sector, with new positions and growing salaries as the country lacks such specialists.” The growth is most prominent in the life science area, including pharmaceuticals, and biotechnologies and in medical equipment production and, traditionally, IT.
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