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Press review: Can France mend ties with Russia amid Syria crisis and US hikes oil output

April 13, 13:00 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday

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© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

 

Izvestia: French Senator believes tensions in Russian-French relations can be overcome

US President Donald Trump’s bombastic statements about ordering strikes on Syria have ramped up the degree of international tension. Meanwhile, as the US-led coalition in Syria is still waiting for a decision, French President Emmanuel Macron said that he allegedly had irrefutable evidence of the use of chemical weapons by Damascus. Robert del Picchia, French Senator, Vice Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces Committee told Izvestia about the mandatory conditions for a possible strike, and talked about France cooperating with Russia despite international contradictions.

"First of all, the decision for any sort of military intervention must be taken in a balanced way. It is necessary to weigh all the arguments, to assess the situation, and to figure out the consequences in advance. Secondly, we need real evidence of a chemical attack in Douma. Finally, any intervention should be carried out with the approval of the United Nations. I believe that this should not happen harshly and hastily," the Senator commented on a possible strike by the United States.

By the same token, del Picchia noted that in case a strike is ordered it would be hard to predict what the French leader would do "until the Security Council meeting takes place". "It is very important that the allies decide amongst themselves - the British and the Americans," he specified.

"I am sure that Emmanuel Macron also communicates with Russian President Vladimir Putin, as a dangerous situation has evolved and everyone knows this perfectly well. I think if the Americans start the operation, France will support them. However, this would be a surgical strike aimed solely at combating the use of chemical weapons. Whatever it is, I hope that it would be an informed decision," del Picchia stressed.

"I really do hope that all the contradictions between Russia and the West are temporary. History has repeatedly shown us that the stage of confrontation and mutual rejection is replaced by reconciliation and detente. I think that in many areas we have a mutual understanding," the Senator said talking about the tensions between France and Russia due to the situation in Syria.

"Regarding Russian-French relations, the French Senate closely cooperates with the Russian Parliament. We recently submitted a report on the state of bilateral relations. French and Russian lawmakers talk openly with each other. We honestly express our claims and reproaches, and share our ideas. At the same time, we hash over a positive agenda, which strengthens interaction between not only the two parliaments, but also the states. I think other countries are also interested in cooperation with Russia. I hope that the example of the French Senate, which works with Russia, despite international tensions, will play a certain role here," he added.

 

Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US increases oil output against rising prices from Middle East conflicts

After a jump above $73 per barrel, the Brent oil price backtracked, holding at the current three-year maximum. Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, that the "war premium" in the current price of a barrel is $2-4. This price climate is fueled both by the activity of the Yemeni rebels, who are trying to bomb the Saudi oil infrastructure, and the Syrian conflict, the newspaper wrote. While OPEC and Russia are cutting oil production, the United States is increasing it to record highs.

With oil prices increasing, OPEC and Russia are trying to cut oil production, but the United States is increasing it, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. Thus, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), US oil production over the past week surged by 65,000 barrels per day and hit a new record - 10.525 mln barrels per day. Thus, the United States is setting one record after another, raising the bar and approaching the level of Russia.

Senior analyst at Freedom Finance Bogdan Zvarych told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the ‘war premium’ could now amount to around $4 per barrel in the price of oil". "According to our estimates, such a premium reaches about $2 per barrel," leading analyst at AMarkets Artem Deev told the newspaper. Alexey Antonov, an analyst at Alor Broker estimated the contribution from the Saudi -Yemeni rebel conflict to the current oil prices at 3-5%, which is also around $2-4.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "It turns out that if it were not for the military conflicts in the Middle East, oil would have hardly risen to $71-73 per barrel right now." Similarly, Antonov believes that the current price of oil is rising not to a much greater extent due to the situation in Syria. According to the analyst, a further escalation of the conflict might further destabilize the oil-bearing Middle East region.

Deev told the newspaper that now it would be more appropriate to talk about market expectations, and not the literal "war premium", as "large-scale military actions in Syria have not yet begun."

 

Kommersant: Russian energy sector’s modernization put off for new government

Organizing a planned modernization program for power generation facilities until 2035, which holds a price tag of 3.5 trillion rubles ($56.62 bln), could be delayed, and its final version will have to be taken up by the next government. In particular, the Ministry of Energy's proposal was criticized by the Presidential expert department, suggesting that it needs to be finalized, sources in the sphere told Kommersant. The project allegedly lacks mechanisms required for attracting investments. The ministry however is certain that they will still present the final version to the government by May 1.

Thus, the expert department "found it difficult to draw conclusions" on specific proposals for upgrading thermal power plants, sources familiar with the content of the document told Kommersant. In addition to lacking the mechanisms for attracting investments in remote generation and nuclear power plants, restrictions for "innovative projects" in green energy drew criticism from lawmakers.

According to the newspaper’s source in the green energy sector, 100 bln rubles ($1.61 bln) for solar and wind generation and small hydropower plants will suffice only for the construction of 1GW, while initially the industry called for 20GW. Another source told Kommersant that the Kremlin does not have a unified position on the Energy Ministry’s concept, but Andrei Belousov, Putin’s economic aide, does not support it.

According to the Ministry of Energy, the modernization concept is still being hammered out, and the document will be submitted to the government before May 1. However, Kommersant’s sources believe that the criticism by the expert department essentially "destroyed" the ministry’s model and the next team would probably finalize it after the change in the Russian government in May.

 

Izvestia: Russian government supports controls on specified cryptocurrency deals

The ‘On Digital Financial Assets’ bill has gotten support from the Russian government, one of the authors of the bill - Head of the State Duma’s (lower house) Financial Market Committee Anatoly Aksakov told Izvestia. According to the newspaper, the government recommended introducing mandatory exchange controls on exchanging cryptocurrency for Russian or foreign currency in transactions over 600,000 rubles ($9.708).

At the same time, the document still needs additional work, the newspaper wrote referring to the review of the bill prepared by the Finance Ministry, the Economic Development Ministry, the Communications Ministry, the Justice Ministry, and the Central Bank. The review emphasizes the fact that taxation of digital financial assets and their related transactions are not regulated in Russia, therefore, the government deems it necessary to make the appropriate changes to the legislation on taxes and fees. According to Izvestia, the review did not specify what kind of tax should be levied on profits from mining and whether it will be necessary to register as a self-employed entrepreneur for those who wish to obtain cryptocurrency.

According to the newspaper, the Ministry of Economic Development also asked lawmakers to specify how the mining tax will be carried out, and what are the rules for accounting transactions with digital financial assets, and others. The Finance Ministry promised to work on the issue of amendments to the Tax Code.

Now, the bill "On Digital Financial Assets" includes only one type of transaction that owners of digital financial assets (cryptocurrencies and tokens) can perform, which is a transaction for the exchange of tokens into rubles or foreign currency.

 

Vedomosti: Telegram might be blocked by the end of the week

During the preliminary hearing of a lawsuit against the Telegram messenger service, a representative from Russia’s telecom watchdog - the Federal Service for Supervision for Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications - announced the petition for immediate execution of the court's decision if the claim is satisfied. The court’s decision will be available on Friday, when the case will be examined on the merits. Another petition by the watchdog has already been satisfied. The court has brought in the Federal Security Service (FSB) as a third party to the case. Alexander Zharov, head of the watchdog, confirmed to Vedomosti that the service had requested that the court immediately enact the decision to block Telegram, if it is accepted.

The court has all the powers to demand the immediate execution of its decision on the potential blocking of Telegram, it all depends on whether the court accepts the petition and whether the watchdog lays out sufficient arguments, lawyers interviewed by Vedomosti said. The watchdog must provide the court with information that delaying the ban would lead to irreversible consequences, including significant damage or would make executing the court's decision impossible, Herbert Smith Freehills lawyer Evgeny Uporov told the newspaper.

Applications for the immediate enforcement of a court decision are not submitted frequently and very rarely satisfied, partner at Rustam Kurmaev & Partners Dmitry Gorbunov told the newspaper. Thus, Agora lawyer Pavel Chikov, who represents Telegram in court, predicted that if the court decides to block the messenger, it will not happen instantly. A real ban would be possible only in mid-summer 2018.

A Telecom operator employee told Vedomosti there are two theoretical ways of blocking Internet and mobile services. The first is to block the specific IP-addresses of services, which can be difficult if the service has a lot of them or can quickly change it. The second one is using DPI (deep packet inspection) equipment, which is able to isolate individual services in the entire traffic array and reduce the channel bandwidth for these services. However, it is unknown what it would look like in real life, since there have been no such tests.

 

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

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