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Press review: Russia’s defense gets sanctioned and what’s behind Pompeo’s Pyongyang visit

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, May 10
Pantsir-S1 antiaircraft missile system Artur Lebedev/ТАSS
Pantsir-S1 antiaircraft missile system
© Artur Lebedev/ТАSS


Kommersant: US sanctions Russian defense firms for contacts with Iran, Syria and North Korea

On May 9, the United States imposed sanctions against Russian entities and companies that, according to Washington, violated US legislation on non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. According to Kommersant, the list includes 28 structures from Iran, Syria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and North Korea. All of them, according to the US government, to some extent helped Iran, Syria or North Korea to develop cruise or ballistic missiles, thereby violating the law on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. The Russian Foreign Ministry considered these measures an attempt by the United States to get even for "the fiasco of the last missile strike against Syria."

Companies from Russia that have been included in the list include the 183rd anti-aircraft missile regiment and the 11th training center of anti-aircraft missile forces that primed Syrian and Iranian air defense calculations and the Instrument Design Bureau (KBP) for executing a supply contract of Pantsir-S1 air defense complexes to Syria. In addition, the Russian Research and Production Concern (BARL) is also on the list for allegedly delivering components for North Korean reconnaissance satellites, along with the Russian Defense Ministry’s 18th Central Scientific Research Institute and the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. The US State Department did not give any additional explanations, but emphasized that any US citizens and employees would be prohibited from conducting any deals and contacts with the companies on the list.

A high-ranking military and diplomatic source told Kommersant, that the sanctions announced on Wednesday are "inherently insignificant" and "will not have the desired effect". "A bombastic statement with nothing to back it up, (as) American law has no power on Russian soil. However, the accusations are loud, like everything in the style of the current US administration," the source said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, in turn, regards the new US restrictive measures as a way to get even for the missile attack fiasco against Syria that was in violation of international law, Kommersant wrote. According to diplomats, this is evidenced by the fact that some structures might have been included in the US list for the fact that they trained the Syrian air defense troops who shot down most of the US-led coalition’s missiles. According to the newspaper, the Ministry believes that Washington cannot get rid of the illusion that Russia can be forced to give up defending its own interests and supporting its partners under economic and military pressure.


Kommersant: Arrangements for US-North Korean summit go into home stretch

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang on Wednesday, where he finally agreed on the time and place of the upcoming summit between the leaders of the United States and North Korea, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. It is expected that the details will be made public in the coming days. Washington and Pyongyang may view the forthcoming historic meeting with optimism. However, experts interviewed by Kommersant doubt that the negotiations would lead to any significant concessions for one side or the other.

According to expectations, the meeting will be held in late May or early June. In the meanwhile, the parties want to try to bolster mutual trust. "So far each side does things that cost nothing," leading Research Fellow at the Korean Studies Center at the RAS Institute for Far Eastern Studies Konstantin Asmolov told the newspaper. "The summit can and will happen. However, it is one thing to talk, and another - to agree. Trump said that if something goes wrong, he would get up and leave," the expert told the Kommersant. At the same time, the expert believes that Kim Jong-un is not at all ready to "surrender without conditions", and Washington is not in a hurry to carry out the main condition for the North Korean leader - pulling out US troops from the peninsula.

According to Kommersant, there is not a lot of information about the visit of Kim Jong-un in Dalian, China and his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to Roman Lobov, researcher at the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies RAS, "North Korean leadership intends to get the support of China before the negotiations with Trump." At the same time, the expert told Kommersant that other possible topics for discussion could include economics and sanctions. "At the end of April, the North Korean leadership has set a course towards developing a socialist economy. They might look for ways to ease the sanctions pressure from China, which intensified last year," the expert added.


Izvestia: Not all players in Astana process ready to warm up to China’s participation

Beijing plans to become a full-fledged participant of the Astana process to resolve the situation in Syria and has already discussed this issue with Moscow, a high-ranking Chinese diplomat curating the Middle East region told Izvestia. However, for the time being, the participants, which besides Russia include Iran and Turkey have not agreed on China's participation.

"Today, China is taking an increasingly active role in international affairs. If we were invited to participate in the Astana/Sochi format as the fourth participant, we would be extremely positive about that proposal. We discussed this topic with our Russian friends - Russia is not against our participation. However, this process includes not only Russia - there are other participants, and obviously there is no consensus on the participation of China among them," a high-ranking Chinese diplomat told Izvestia.

The source did not specify which country opposes brining China into the format - be it Iran or Turkey. However, at the same time, Syrian Ambassador to China Imad Mustafa told Izvestia, that Turkey resists including Beijing in the Astana process. According to him, Ankara fears that should China get on board, pressure on Turkey would intensify due to suspicions that Turkey is supporting cross-border terrorist groups, including those operating in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Adviser to the Iranian Foreign Minister Seyed Rasul Mousavi told the newspaper, that Iran not only does not oppose China's participation in the Astana process on Syria, but was the first country to invite China to Astana as an observer.


Vedomosti: Telegram plans to offer users personal data storage

Telegram has created the first service for its future TON (Telegram Open Network) platform and tested it in closed mode, two people close to the messenger told Vedomosti. The company’s innovation - Telegram Passport will make it possible to identify Telegram users - all necessary documents and data will need to be uploaded to the messenger once, then Telegram could instantly transfer it to their partner services, a source close to Telegram technical team told the newspaper. According to one of Vedomosti sources, Telegram Passport might start operating by the beginning of the summer.

According to Vedomosti, TON will handle cryptocurrency called Gram, which will become the main currency of Telegram’s internal economy. Telegram Passport will help avoid the anonymity of crypto-currency payments, which worries regulators all over the world, Alexander Filatov, a partner at SP Capital, told the newspaper. Telegram Passport will be able to amass passports, international passports, driver's licenses, utility bills, bank account certificates and other documents, and request to take a picture of the user.

It is expected that by the time the new service is launched users will be able to take advantage of the services of several partners, a source told Vedomosti, without specifying the partner companies. However, Qiwi payment system has already received access to the technology.

A source close to Telegram told Vedomosti, that all access to any personal data and copies of documents sent to Telegram would remain only with users. They will encrypt the documents using two-factor authentication passwords and the messenger will not have access to them.


Izvestia: Yalta forum organizers plan to invite Ukrainian delegation to Crimea next year

In a groundbreaking move, the coordinators of the Yalta International Economic Forum (YIEF) in 2019 will set aside a quota of over 10 seats to a Ukrainian delegation, Co-chairman of the forum’s organizing committee Andrey Nazarov told Izvestia.

"Realizing the current difficulties in Russian-Ukrainian relations, we intend to inform the Ukrainian authorities about the quotas allocated to their country’s representatives, we are hoping for a constructive dialogue and the onset of new opportunities for cooperation," he explained.

Nazarov told the newspaper, he hoped that the initiative would help reduce tensions in bilateral relations, as well as "eliminate Kiev’s unfriendly rhetoric about the forum." "Moscow and Kiev are destined for cooperation, given how close our people are culturally and historically, so the arrival of the Ukrainian delegation to Russian Crimea can be a starting point for establishing dialogue," he said.

The number of YIEF participants this year compared to 2017 increased by 30% to 3,100 people, coming to 612 forum participants from 71 countries. Foreign guests including well-known businessmen and politicians, along with members of the European Parliament, national parliamentarians, mayors, representatives of authorities of different levels, public organizations, and members of the expert and scientific community and mass media.


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