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Press review: Israel lauds ties with Russia and Moscow to punish ‘sanctions’ collaborators

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
© AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner


Kommersant: Israel praises frank ties with Russia, says defense minister

Israel reveres its relationship with Russia, which has flourished into efficient and transparent cooperation over the past couple of decades, even against the background of tough pressure from its closest partners, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with Kommersant.

"For example, as far as the anti-Russia sanctions go, we flatly refused to join them. Many states expelled Russian diplomats not long ago, all due to the standoff regarding the use or non-use of nerve gas and so on. Israel did not join this action. We have a normal relationship with Russia and we comprehend its interests," he said, adding that Tel Aviv also expects Moscow to "take into consideration our interests in the Middle East."

Asked why the positions of Russia and Israel vary widely on such issues as the Syrian crisis, he said that Tel Aviv does not seek to pursue tensions with Russia. "On the contrary, we have established a very clear and frank, transparent dialogue with Russia over the past years, whenever we share opinions and even when we do not share opinions," the minister said. "We do not interfere in Syria’s domestic affairs. In my viewpoint, Assad is a war criminal responsible for killing over half a million of his own citizens. Assad, the Islamic State, Al Qaeda (outlawed in Russia - TASS), all radicals, Hezbollah are no different in essence. Nevertheless, we do not intend to interfere in Syria’s domestic affairs. What we are not going to accept are any efforts taken by Iran to turn Syria into a foothold targeting us," he added.

Lieberman acknowledged that Russian and Israeli actions are coordinated in Syria. "There is a phone hotline between Israel’s Defense Forces and the Russian contingent deployed in Syria. We always take into account Russia’s interests in Syria and hope very much that Russia will take into account Israel’s interests related to its security" he stressed. According to the minister, Israel also bears no threat to Syria’s integrity. "There has been a murderous war for many years there, with at least half a million people dead, hundreds of thousands wounded, and I think the sooner it ends the sooner all of us could breathe easier," he noted.


Izvestia: Upper house greets proposal to criminalize enforcement of Western sanctions

The Federation Council (upper house of parliament) is ready to back the proposal to impose criminal liability on companies operating in Russia that enforce any of the US restrictions, the Council’s Vice-Speaker Yevgeny Bushmin told Izvestia. Earlier Speaker of the State Duma (the lower house of Russia’s parliament) Vyacheslav Volodin pressed for passing a separate bill to slap a ban on carrying out US sanctions on Russian soil and did not rule out criminal liability if it were breached. The first State Duma’s reading of the bill is scheduled for May 15, along with amendments to the Criminal Code.

Chairman of the Federation Council’s Committee for Constitutional Legislation and State Building Andrey Klishas endorses the initiative. "Sanctions by the US and other countries are aimed at restraining Russia’s development and violating the rights of Russian physical and legal entities. And those who execute those sanctions on our country’s soil should bear responsibility for this," he told Izvestia. His deputy Yelena Afanasyeva shares the view: "If Russian companies do not serve the interests of Russian citizens and the state, they should bear responsibility for that, including criminal (liability)." She added though that small and mid-sized companies need a special approach in this regard. "They are exposed to unprecedented pressure because of the sanctions. Revenues have dropped and they are forced to cut staff in order to maintain wages," Afanasyeva said.

Dmitry Fetisov, a political consultant expects the initiative to become a serious instrument to put pressure on US business representatives in case it is adopted. "Facing a threat of criminal prosecution, while simultaneously being reluctant to bear losses, they will be forced to ask the government to ease or lift the anti-Russia sanctions. Which is why Volodin’s proposal is not only efficient, but also well-though-out," he told the paper, adding that "the response on anti-Russia sanctions is meant to support local businesses in either situation."


Izvestia: Sanctions triggered Russia’s economic growth, says Italian banker

Further exacerbating sanctions-burdened relations will do no good for anyone, according to Antonio Fallico, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Banca Intesa, the Russian subsidiary of Italy’s biggest banking structure Intesa Sanpaolo. "We are living through a crisis period, and not just a political one, but one regarding commercial ties as well. Further aggravation of those relations promises nothing good for anyone. If new sanctions are introduced, they will have a more negative effect on the countries imposing them, than on those they are targeted at," he emphasized in an interview with Izvestia. He does not expect any major changes in the current situation any time soon.

"I don’t think any substantial changes are going to happen over the short-term. However, the global economic situation may worsen. A systemic crisis related to the problems of modern development has not been overcome. Once economic hardships hit everyone, the world will comprehend the negative consequences of those geopolitical decisions, though I am afraid it may be too late," Fallico warned.

Intesa’s chairman expects the Russian economy to ‘continue going along its own development path." "We expect GDP growth of around 1.5-1.8%. Russia may participate in quite a wide range of integrations and alliances. I do not think Europe may have a passive role in this case. It should make independent decisions, not depending on the United States. Currently, many European governments are not satisfied with the state of affairs. They could distance themselves from the policy of sanctions. But in any case we cannot expect any serious changes over the short-and even mid-term," he stressed.

However, the banker noted positive developments for Russia’s economy triggered by the West’s restrictions. "Sanctions and related countersanctions have already given a positive impetus for Russia’s agriculture development. Today one cannot say that the Russian economy and budget fully depend on oil and gas prices. The statistics say that export of Russian non-commodity goods has exceeded 40%," Fallico said. "Russia is a huge field for investment. The technological and innovative sector can become a driving force for the Russian economy," he told the newspaper.


Kommersant: Renova turns to government for incentives amid US sanctions

Russia’s Renova Group owned by Viktor Vekselberg, who has been slapped with the latest US restrictions, has submitted a broad list of measures to prop up its assets, Kommersant business daily writes. Particularly, the company is asking to refinance loans granted by western lenders worth a total of 820 mln euro in Russian state-owned banks with its 26.5% stake in Rusal as collateral, not pegged to the market cost of the aluminum company, which Renova assumes "does not indicate its fundamental cost," Kommersant says. It also requests assistance in refinancing loans and bonds regarding its subsidiaries worth up to 300 bln rubles ($4.7 bln), including subsidies on rates and state guarantees, in case those companies are not able to services debts, and facing "secondary sanctions."

Renova is also asking for preferences in obtaining state-guaranteed orders for its industrial and real estate assets, and various customs subsidies. A source familiar with the matter told the publication that the list of the company’s proposals is "as broad as possible, since the issues have been collected from the whole group." He added though that the state rescue package would be aimed at keeping jobs in companies under sanctions and those closely tied with them top priority. As an option, it may be done through providing floating capital and other liquidity, as well as procurements by state-controlled structures. M&A deals, and tariff and customs regulations are likely to be last of all, the source added.

On April 6, Washington imposed sanctions against a number of Russian officials, businessmen and companies, including Renova owner Viktor Vekselberg, Rusal co-owner Oleg Deripaska and more. The sanctions suggest that the assets of these companies be frozen. The affected companies have already requested "about 100 bln rubles ($1.6 bln)" worth of liquidity, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said earlier. The list of Renova’s proposals is currently under consideration in the relevant ministries, Kommersant said. If approved, the proposed exemptions may become a platform for a separate, alleviated economic environment for the group, the newspaper added.


Vedomosti: S7 airlines among first globally to use blockchain technology

Russia’s S7 is among a few air carriers in the world to start implementing blockchain technology, Vedomosti writes with reference to a manager in a big European aviation company and an employer of International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) Russian office. In July 2017, the S7 Group together with Alfa-Bank carried out the first ticket sale though a blockchain-based platform ever.

According to S7 Deputy CEO, Pavel Voronin, blockchain technology optimizes business processes and automates mutual settlement mechanisms.

"Blockchain is efficient for the optimization of interrelations in branched b2b-systems with a big number of contractors and buyers. The technology ties sales and mutual settlements with agents in real time, and ensures the movement of funds between banking accounts on a 24/7 basis," Alfa-Bank’s Denis Dodos explained. Other air carriers are only considering the option of using blockchain, Vedomosti says.

Aeroflot views it as a promising area, but has not given it the go-ahead for the sector, the company’s representative told the paper, adding that a well-established infrastructure is required for its practical use.


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