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Press review: Venezuela’s cryptocurrency plans and Russian language’s Balkan comeback

December 05, 2017, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, December 5

1 pages in this article
© Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS


Kommersant: Venezuela eyeing national cryptocurrency to bypass US sanctions

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced plans to launch a national cryptocurrency, El Petro, to skirt sanctions imposed by Washington and "strengthen the country’s monetary sovereignty." According to the president, this tool will ensure the country’s economic and social development and will make it possible for it to conduct financial transactions and overcome the financial blockade. The El Petro cryptocurrency is expected to be backed by oil, gas and Venezuela’s gold and diamond reserves, Kommersant writes.

The paper notes that inflation in Venezuela had soared 536% from January to September 2017, while next year it can reach 2,300%, according to IMF forecasts. The sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in August prohibited US financial institutions from doing business with bonds issued by Venezuela and its PDVSA oil and gas company. Some high-ranking Venezuelan officials were sanctioned too.

According to Artyom Tolkachyov from Deloitte CIS, the national cryptocurrency idea is quite popular today, even among Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members. However, in actual fact, the issue at hand is the government’s attempt to create a "buffer zone" between an uncontrolled crypto-economy and its own fiduciary system to monitor the movement of cryptomoney inside the country. This approach contradicts the logic and ideology of cryptocurrencies, the expert noted. In his view, the prospects for Venezuela’s El Petro will depend on exactly how this project will be implemented. "If this is just a technological tool for currency accounting, this move will have no effect whatsoever. However, if the issue at hand is creating a secured currency, which the holder can present and exchange for physical assets, such as oil or gold, this counterpart of the Bretton Woods system can be of interest to investors," Kommersant quotes Tolkachyov as saying.


Izvestia: Russia urges Moldova and Transnistria to ink guarantee deal

Moscow insists on a deal between Chisinau and Tiraspol on guarantees for the implementation of the agreements reached by the parties, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Izvestia.

He noted that Russia welcomes the results of the "5+2" negotiations (that involve Moldova and Transnistria as the parties to the conflict, Russia and Ukraine as guarantor nations and mediators, the OSCE as a mediator, and the US and the EU as observers) held in Vienna on November 27-28.

"Unfortunately this was only meeting for the entire time of Austria’s OSCE chairmanship. In addition to the approval of the decisions made by the parties, a protocol outlining further moves in accordance with the ‘small steps’ strategy was signed. It is important to keep a close eye on the implementation of these agreements and make sure there are no artificial obstacles. That said, work on Russian proposals to clinch a deal between Chisinau and Tiraspol on guarantees for the implementation of the agreements that have been reached is becoming current."

Karasin stressed that meetings between Moldovan President Igor Dodon and Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky held in January and March 2017 had given a fresh impetus to the negotiation process. He highlighted the need for systematic work to create an atmosphere of trust and warned that "excessive haste" could only bring about the opposite.

Meanwhile, Moldovan lawmaker from the Party of Socialists, Vladimir Tsurkan, stressed in an interview with the paper that an additional bilateral agreement on guarantees would be useful, adding that Moscow’s proposal came at the right time.

Representatives from both parties have assured that they are committed to the implementation of the agreements to achieve practical results in 2018.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: China diversifies gas imports to reduce reliance on Russia

Russia hopes to create its own gas liquefaction technology within the next few years, which will mark a step forward both on the way to import substitution and expansion of exports. Russia’s energy giant, Gazprom, will use national gas liquefaction at the Baltic LNG plant (due to be commissioned in 2022-2023), Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller earlier made it clear that Russia could satisfy China’s "gas appetite." However, Beijing apparently has no intention of relying entirely on Russia, and this applies to both pipeline and liquefied gas.

On Monday, media reports said that the first batch of Canadian LNG had been successfully delivered to China. Chinese officials explained that the use of tank containers makes it possible to import LNG without expensive regasification plants and without billions poured into in infrastructure.

Finam analyst Alexey Kalachev explained in an interview with the paper that these tank containers can be easily reloaded for highway, rail or sea transport and delivered to the consumer. "Naturally, such universal containers are becoming increasingly popular in logistics schemes, and, in this sense, they have a great future," he said.

He noted though that the use of tank containers will not replace gas pipelines altogether, because once they are built, supplies through them are cheaper.

According to Alexander Sobko, an analyst at the Skolkovo Business School Energy Center, China is currently facing increased demand for gas during the heating season, hence the need for additional LNG supplies, including the container and tanker transportation. "Of course, China has no plans to receive gas exclusively from Russia and is trying to diversify imports sources to the best of its ability," he noted, adding that "this does not reduce the importance of Russian supplies for China in the future."


Izvestia: Russian returns to the Balkans

The first Children’s Russian Language Center will be set up in the self-proclaimed republic of Kosovo soon, where kids will be taught the Russian language and will get to know Russian history and cultural traditions, head of the representative office of the Russian Humanitarian Mission in the Balkans, Branimir Nesic, informed Izvestia. According to Nesic, similar centers are expected to be opened in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in some Serbian cities with the aim of reviving interest in the Russian language across the region.

"This project is being implemented together with the Serbian government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija. Over the past 20 years, the study of the Russian language has ceased to be part of the educational system throughout the Balkans. In Serbia, it ranks fourth among foreign languages. The situation in Bosnia, Croatia and Slovenia is much worse. Schools in large Balkan cities stopped teaching Russian due to the lack of interest among young people. We want to reverse this trend and return its status as the second main language in the region," he noted.

Yuri Pichugin, the press attache of the Russian Embassy in Serbia, told Izvestia that the diplomatic mission "appreciates the Russian Humanitarian Mission’s work and its role in fostering friendly ties between our countries, … including cultural and educational projects that provide all those interested access to the Russian cultural heritage."

Irina Rudneva, Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Slavic Studies, pointed to the relevance of such projects, since more and more Serbs are coming to work in Russia under temporary or long-term contracts. These include artists, musicians and athletes.


Vedomosti: Drone sales in Russia nearly double

The popularity of drones in Russia is soaring. Nationwide consumers bought 57,000 unmanned aerial vehicles to the tune of 850 million rubles ($14.4 mln) from January to September 2017, which is an 84-percent increase compared to the same period last year, Vedomosti writes citing data provided by the M.Video retailer.

About 60% of all drones are purchased for personal entertainment, while 40% are for professional commercial purposes, says Mobile Research Group analyst Eldar Murtazin. Those who use UAVs professionally are switching to more expensive models, he said.

Meanwhile, basic models have become cheaper. The cheapest ones, which cost up to 7,000 rubles ($118), account for 77% of all such sales, an M.Video representative stressed.

A spokesman for the Svyaznoy electronics retail network said there are several reasons for the popularity of UAVs. Firstly, there are inexpensive models, which are easy to use. Secondly, these devices have become popular with photographers and bloggers. During the first 11 months of 2017, drones sales doubled, raking in 10 times more money than last year.

After drone flights began to be regulated by legislation, consumers’ enthusiasm has somewhat died down, the paper quotes Telecom Daily Director General Denis Kuskov as saying. Despite the fact that substantial growth has been observed in 2017, amateurs’ zeal will diminish quickly. That being the case, there are not that many professionals and they do not buy new drone models so often, so similar growth rates are not expected in 2018.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews

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