Just a few hours are left until the full-fledged 5+2 meeting (where Moldova and Transnistria are the conflicting sides - Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE serve as mediators, while the US and EU act as observers) gets off the ground in Vienna for the first time in almost a year and a half, and experts are betting on whether the talks will be productive. Kommersant says that the meeting is bound to be a success as agreed upon by the Moldavian and Transnistrian tycoons, Vladimir Plahotniuc and Victor Gushan, which experts see as the virtual leaders of those entities. In fact, the two businessmen have created a new format of shadow negotiations in solving disputes between the parties, the paper writes citing sources.
The relations between Transnistria and Moldova heated up when Chisinau voiced its plans to establish control over the Transnistrian part of the border with Ukraine. Tiraspol believes that by controlling foreign trade operations, Moldova will have the means to tighten the screws on the unrecognized republic. Berlin hosted the previous 5+2 meeting in June 2016 and the agreements signed there, mostly related to technical issues, were never fulfilled. Throughout 2017, Moscow and Tiraspol have repeatedly urged for another 5+2 meeting. The parties also managed to reach agreements on a number of issues earlier this month, which analysts refer to as a breakthrough in a long-lasting standoff. However, Kommersant says, this progress would have been unlikely without the participation of Plahotniuc and Gushan, who prefer to avoid mentioning their involvement in the process. Describing himself as a pro-western politician, Plahotniuc has managed to create a system of personal power in Moldavia, which enables him to virtually run the country and make key decisions taking no state positions. The owner of the biggest holding in Transnistria, Gushan supported the republic’s President Vadim Krasnoselsky during last year’s presidential election, which provided him with similar priorities in the region.
Meanwhile, Transnistrian Foreign Minister Vitaly Ignatyev who among others has called for the resumption of the 5+2 talks previously, assumes that the republic has stepped up efforts to be acknowledged internationally. He said in an interview with Izvestia that many players have de facto acknowledged the republic. On his part, Krasnoselsky claimed that Transnistria would not hold talks on reintegration, but would fully focus on striving for international acknowledgement. According to the president, a recent attempt by the Moldavia ruling elite to force the Romanian language into use as the official language serves as an example that Chisinau is undermining any political settlement to the dispute. “We are the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, a territory where the Moldavian ethnos, culture and script are maintained,” he said, adding that Chisinau’s policy only “complicates resolving the Transnistrian issue.
Washington needs to nullify its decision on labelling Russian media outlets RT America and Sputnik as foreign agents in order to get out from under the current situation, Izvestia writes with reference to sources in both houses of the Russian parliament. Andrey Klimov, head of the Federation Council’s (upper house) Temporary Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty and Prevention of Interference in the Internal Affairs of Russia, stressed that Moscow had to take tit-for-tat measures. He also said that if Washington wants to return to the previous climate, US lawmakers should invalidate the decision on Russian media and abandon the policy of stirring up media tensions. “If the Americans want (the situation) to come round let them drop the claims against Russian media outlets and not expand the scope of the confrontation. Unfortunately, they have widened this sphere over the past three years, even surpassing their predecessors during the Cold War era,” the senator told the newspaper.
According to Klimov, it is necessary to find out why Moscow had to take such a step.
"The United States moved the confrontation from diplomacy and other traditional platforms to the media sector," he noted, adding though that he would have been surprised if Washington had responded differently.The senator also said that the US is “escalating tensions,” but warned that Russia won’t knuckle under to “violations of its sovereign rights and the rights of Russian journalists on the soil of other states." First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s (lower house) International Affairs Committee Dmitry Novikov also considers Moscow’s step to be a ‘tit-for-tat’ measure, saying that initially Russian lawmakers had no plans to amend any media legislation.
Earlier in November, Russia’s State Duma passed amendments that would make it possible to label media outlets as foreign agents, if they are bankrolled from abroad. After acquiring this status, these media outlets would be subject to the restrictions and liabilities, which are currently stipulated for NGOs designated as foreign agents. They will also be facing similar culpability that such NGOs confront when breaching this legislation. The move came in response to the demand by the US Department of Justice that the US branch of Russia’s RT television channel, RT America, should register as a foreign agent.
First Deputy Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko plans to hold talks with political strategists in the near future Kommersant says citing sources. One of the sources said that the meeting might be held later on Monday, and would be focused on outlining the main points of the presidential campaign to experts working in Russian regions. Another source said that the presidential administration planned to allocate ‘problematic’ regions among experts by the end of this month.
Some political strategists have already been employed for new projects in 2018, Kommersant writes. For example, Alexey Sitnikov, who had worked for Mikhail Saakashvili and Yulia Timoshenko, and was reportedly going to head Ksenia Sobchak’s team, will be organizing elections in Siberia, a source close to the presidential envoy in the region told the publication.
Russia’s presidential election is scheduled to take place on March 18, 2018. The election campaign will officially get underway on December 7-17. Until then, it is impossible to nominate candidates.
However, a number of politicians and public figures have already announced their plans to run for president. According to Russian presidential election law, both parliamentary and non-parliamentary parties are eligible to nominate candidates, but each non-parliamentary party needs to collect at least 100,000 voters’ signatures in support of its candidate. Besides, a Russian citizen has the right to register as an independent presidential candidate provided he or she collects at least 300,000 signatures.
Russia is among countries where global companies, such as IBM, register their patents in the area of blockchain technologies. Russian developers are also making patent applications abroad, according to research by Skolkovo’s Intellectual Property (IP) Center obtained by Izvestia. A total of 17 Russian firms have already applied worldwide, though the number of such companies is still low. Experts say that now is the best time to join the patent race, the newspaper says.
Blockchain is an innovative technology of distributed databases (ledgers) based on a continuously extended chain of records and resistant to forgery, review, hacking and information theft. The technology is best-known as a basis for cryptocurrencies operations, though it has potential to go far beyond that. Managing partner at Skolkovo’s Intellectual Property (IP) Center Anton Pushkov says that "Russian businessmen’s low patent activity does not mean there is a lack of developments in this area. Some researchers say that a large number of blockchain developments have Russian roots. This only demonstrates the low level of legal literacy of Russian businessmen, since they are not used to protecting intellectual property, and do not often know how to do it, assuming that this is a complicated and expensive process."
Attorneys interviewed by Izvestia say that patent registration is a priority among big technological companies, because there are not many respective IT solutions in the blockchain area on the market now, which is why the initial registration is usually made abroad, in the country where the developer is located, and only then - on priority markets.
The current 223-bln ruble ($3.8 bln) price tag for the Kerch Strait Bridge may face some hikes in cost, Vedomosti business daily writes with reference to a source in the republic’s economic development ministry. The bridge itself cannot ensure local transport infrastructure, while the republic needs railroads everywhere.
The cost of the Tavrida highway, which is being constructed now, is estimated at 166 bln rubles ($2.8 bln), may also be extended with a railway line worth at least 35 bln rubles, the source said, adding that this is part of a complex development of Crimean railroads agreed on by the local council of ministers. A source familiar with the proposal said that the development of Crimean railroad system is estimated at 100 bln rubles. A representative of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak who supervises regional matters, has also confirmed the plans to extend the infrastructure, which is being built now.
Russia launched the construction of the 19 km long Kerch Strait Bridge, a road and railway bridge intended to span the Kerch Strait between Crimea and the Taman Peninsula in the Krasnodar Region, in February 2016. The total length is expected to be 19 km. The project will include the construction of a two-lane railroad with a daily capacity of 47 trains and a four-lane highway with a 120-kph speed limit and a daily capacity of 40,000 vehicles. The builders have already installed arch spans, which are the largest structural elements of the bridge. The funding strategy for the construction of roads in Crimea plans to use non-budgetary funds via a concession or a project bond placement, Vedomosti writes.
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