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Press review: Presidential nominees’ lineup and Montenegro’s charges against Chechen head

November 29, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday

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Russian presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak, second right, attends a meeting in Moscow

Russian presidential hopeful Ksenia Sobchak, second right, attends a meeting in Moscow

© AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Twenty-five contenders lined up to bid for Russian presidency

With the beginning of the Russian presidential campaign still about two weeks away, there are at least 25 potential candidates ‘of various aptitudes’ - from parliamentary parties and non-systemic opposition leaders such as Grigory Yavlinsky and Ksenia Sobchak to virtually unknown businesspeople like Alexander Chukhlebov and Oleg Sidorov - who would like to enter the presidential race, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has stated once again that there are neither major nor minor presidential candidates in the country yet.

The paper recalls that three potential candidates have run a more or less real campaign. Prominent economist and politician Grigory Yavlinsky has begun his regional political trips stumping for future votes and is expected to visit Yekaterinburg soon. Sobchak is likewise beginning her pre-campaign tours these days. However, opposition figure Alexey Navalny, who is not eligible to be registered as a presidential candidate because of his criminal record, but who visits three or four Russian regions every weekend, is way of ahead of both of them.

Firebrand politician and Russian Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR) leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky recently announced plans to throw his hat into the ring for the 2018 presidential race. In contrast, leaders of the Russian Communist Party and A Just Russia party Gennady Zyuganov and Sergey Mironov are just hinting at their presidential bid. According to the paper’s sources, all that is just an attempt to emulate the behavior of the imminent chief candidate, President Vladimir Putin, while, in actual fact, their election campaigns have already begun.

Nikolay Mironov, Head of the Center for Economic and Political Reforms, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Sobchak who is a showbiz personality, whose activities have nothing to do with politics, sparked a string of announcements by contenders seeking to run.

"Everyone realized he or she can do that too. People just want to make a name for themselves, and the Kremlin has nothing to do with that. On the one hand, this heightens interest in the election. However, on the other, turning the campaign into a farce is undesirable," he explained, adding that most of the potential candidates will fall out of the race even before the official presidential campaign kicks off.

 

Izvestia: War on terror priority objective, church official says

Terrorism is a problem, which cannot be solved by just wiping out terrorists, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Church Relations Department, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, told Izvestia ahead of the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church opening in Moscow on Wednesday. The bishops will discuss the authenticity of the remains of Nicholas II, the last Russian Tsar, and his family and other issues that are vital for both the Church and society. Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the event set to be held in the Cathedral of Christ Our Savior for the first time.

"There are terrorists with whom dialogue is impossible, and the only way of minimizing the damage caused by them is destroying them. That’s what is happening in Syria. However, a priority task now is the prevention of terrorism. It is important to work with young people, overcome illiteracy in religious matters, which, unfortunately, exists in both the Russian and European societies."

According to Metropolitan Hilarion, the Russian Orthodox Church will only recognize the authenticity of the "Yekaterinburg remains," if there is "exhaustive evidence" confirming that. "The examinations that have been held, in my opinion, bring us closer to that day. I believe that will happen in the foreseeable future, but we should not try to predict the outcome," he said.

Touching on the plight of Christians in the Middle East, specifically, in Syria, he stressed that the Church is concerned not only about Christians. "We want all Syrians to be able to return to their homes, which means that assistance should be inter-religious. That’s why we initiated a special inter-religious working group to provide humanitarian assistance to Syria under the auspices of the Presidential Council for Coordination with Religious Associations. The money is collected from all denominations, and assistance is provided to all Syrians, regardless of their religious affiliation," Metropolitan Hilarion stressed.

 

Kommersant: Rosneft seeking access to Barents Sea

Russian oil major Rosneft is trying to revive its project to build the Indiga port on the Barents Sea it had abandoned 10 years ago because of its unprofitability, Kommersant writes. The company wants to redirect its oil there from the Trebs and Titov fields due to disagreements with Lukoil about the cost of transshipment through its Varandey Terminal. In addition to that, Rosneft was mulling the construction of a gas liquefaction plant (Pechora LNG).

The paper quotes two sources in the energy sector as saying that a meeting on the issue in the Russian Energy Ministry scheduled for December 1 was put off, and a new date is still unknown.

Proposals to build a gas pipeline to Indiga Bay were first put forward in the early 2000s. Its length was to amount to about 470 km and capacity to about 20 mln tonnes.

The Indiga port can also be used for transshipment of oil from other Timan-Pechora Basin fields, but this would require expanding the railway infrastructure, said Yekaterina Grushevenko, an expert at the Skolkovo Energy Center. As for the pipeline, a similar project was turned down back in 2007 due to its low profitability and difficult weather conditions, while now the situation has become even more complicated. According to Kommersant’s source in the energy sector, the Indiga pipeline project is unlikely to be implemented, because it relies on the demands of only one company to transship relatively small volumes, which cannot recoup the cost of the pipeline construction.

 

Izvestia: Chechen leader named in Montenegro coup case

Montenegrin opposition leaders, Milan Knezevic and Andrija Mandic, accused of staging a 2016 coup in the Balkan state, allegedly with Moscow’s assistance, have handed over a letter to the Russian Embassy addressed to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. In this letter obtained by Izvestia, the politicians asked for Moscow’s support and informed the Russian minister that the indictments at the trial include the name of Chechnya head, Ramzan Kadyrov. According to prosecutors, the Chechen leader allegedly conducted propaganda among the Montenegrin Muslim community in favor of cooperation with the Democratic Front opposition alliance to seek regime change in Montenegro.

In an interview with the paper, Knezevic described this as an attempt to discredit the Democratic Front, which is trying to establish economic and cultural ties with Chechnya. That’s an attempt to whip up conspiracy theories involving "the Russian connection" in the Montenegro elections, he noted, adding that the trial’s objective is to justify the current regime’s policy, which meets the interests of Western countries. It is Washington that needs military bases and anti-Russian sanctions rather than the Montenegrin people, he stressed.

The current trial against the alleged organizers of the election-day coup in Montenegro began on July 29, 2017. There are 13 defendants in the case, including two Russian nationals. The prosecution’s evidence is based on testimony of a key witness Sasa Sindjelic who is wanted in Croatia for murder. He claimed that he was in Moscow on September 26-27 where he received money from Russian special agents, along with instructions on carrying out a coup.

Moscow has repeatedly rejected all allegations about its involvement in Montenegrin developments. According to Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov, "the results of the work by the Montenegrin investigators presented at the court hearings show that the charges are absurd and groundless."

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Eastern Europe becoming Beijing’s sphere of influence

Budapest has hosted the "16+1" conference, which brought together European countries and China. Prime Minister Li Keqiang who led the Chinese delegation at the meeting said that closer cooperation between China and Eastern European countries would help raise their living standards. He predicted that Eastern European states would import Chinese goods worth $8 trillion in five years’ time.

According to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the countries represented at the forum need an inflow of technological and financial resources, including from China.

On the other hand, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel warned that "if Europe fails to shape a unified policy towards China, Beijing will succeed in splitting Europe."

When asked how Beijing’s efforts to bolster ties with Central and Eastern Europe will affect Russia’s interests, Andrey Ostrovsky, Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies told the paper that "China’s objective is to persuade Eastern Europe to join the One Belt, One Road project." "If we look at the trade pattern in Eastern Europe, we will see that, in terms of trade volume, the list is topped by the United States, Western European countries, Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan rather than by China. Beijing wants to increase its share of trade and holds various events to achieve that goal," he said.

 

TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review

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