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Press review: EU delays policing Nord Stream 2 and ‘lies’ pillar of US justice says pilot

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

Vedomosti: Talks on amending EU gas directive regulating Nord Stream 2 postponed

The Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union on June 20 decided to postpone the discussion of amendments to the EU gas directive before the tripartite talks between Russia, Ukraine and the EU on extending the Ukrainian gas transit contract, two sources close to its participants told Vedomosti.

The gas directive is one of the basic documents of Europe's energy legislation aimed at fostering competition in this sphere. In November 2017, the European Commission proposed amending the document, which could affect the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. According to the current version of the directive, EU countries can determine for themselves what standards a gas supplier must meet for sea pipelines.

Representatives from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and other states recommended postponing further discussion of the amendments to the gas directive in order to avoid "any negative influence" on the forthcoming trilateral gas transit negotiations. Thus, the discussion was put off for a later date, a source told Vedomosti.

According to another source, the agenda has changed - German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with both Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Merkel shared Poroshenko's position that there should be transit through Ukraine, but Putin noted that gas transit through Ukraine is possible provided that it is economically feasible. So if these changes to the directive will be further discussed, this could damage the negotiation process that has already started," the source said. Therefore, the committee has decided to discuss the amendments to the gas directive after the tripartite talks, two sources told Vedomosti.

"Amendments to the EU gas directive do not comply with the principles of international law and discredit the legal system of the (European) Union," Deputy Director of Russia’s National Energy Security Fund Alexey Grivach told the newspaper. "The fact that its adoption has been postponed is good for both Nord Stream 2 and the energy security of the European Union, as well as its reputation," he stressed.


Izvestia: Imprisoned Russian pilot says US authorities resort to ‘torture, abduction, lies and fabricated cases’

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, serving a 20-year sentence in the United States, told Izvestia that he is not getting any medical assistance at the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution in Connecticut, to where he was relocated. According to Yaroshenko, the institution employs mostly low-qualified medical staff. His wife told the newspaper that his family is hoping for the possibility of bringing Yaroshenko back to Russia by exchanging him for a US citizen serving time in a Russian prison.

"After my first visit to the doctor, I realized that things here are even worse than at Fort Dix. In that prison, there were many former military doctors, so the institution did not experience a shortage of personnel. Over the years, I have fought to ensure that I receive at least some minimal help," Yaroshenko told the newspaper. According to him, Danbury has a fairly well-off population, and professionals do not want to work in prison, that is why "only low-skilled personnel work there", Yaroshenko added.

A week ago, the incarcerated pilot once again wrote to Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia Tatyana Moskalkova about the illegal actions of the US authorities, poor conditions and health problems.

"Based solely on the facts of my case, I can see that the US authorities deliberately violate fundamental human rights, international law and the international obligations they have undertaken," Yaroshenko said in his letter. "Torture, abductions, lies by state services and prosecutors, fabrication and falsification of cases, and pressure are legalized in the United States. All this is the norm in the judicial and law enforcement systems of the United States," Yaroshenko emphasized.

He added that for many American prisons, the norm includes "terrible conditions of detention, poor nutrition (all parcels and transfers are prohibited), collective punishment, pressure and so on."

The pilot's family still believes that he can be returned home in exchange for an American prisoner in one of Russia’s prisons. After all, now the main reason for his transfer is his constantly deteriorating health, and no prospects of assistance in any US prison, Izvestia wrote.


Kommersant: American senator hopes US does not have to impose drastic measures against Russia

For the first time in many years, a group of US senators and members of Congress visited Russia. A delegation member, Senator John Neely Kennedy from Louisiana said in an interview with Kommersant that he hoped that the Unites States wouldn’t have to introduce ever harsher sanctions against Russia. However, according to the politician, that would depend entirely on Russia’s future actions.

The senator stated that meetings went well, but it was still too early to judge whether they would be followed by any results. Russia’s alleged interference in the US presidential election, the situation in Crimea and Ukraine, as well as Syria were the key topics of discussion.

According to the American legislator, continuing dialogue and a possible visit by Russia lawmakers to Washington depends on Moscow’s further actions, like ceasing its alleged meddling in international matters and elections.

Kennedy claimed he was certain of Russia’s interference in the US elections. According to the politician, Russian sources allegedly told him about it. He informed Kommersant that if Russia would cooperate and deliver these alleged individuals to the United States, so that they could appear before an American court, the Russian authorities would "see" that there is evidence that these people are guilty.

The politician told Kommersant he hopes that the US does not have to resort to "draconian measures" against Russia, but if there is any sort of "meddling" in November, there would be no other way. He did not elaborate on the nature of these possible measures.


Izvestia: Kiev threatens Slovak politicians over their pending Crimea visit

Following Izvestia’s article about an upcoming trip by a Slovak delegation to Crimea, Kiev presented official complaints to Slovakia’s Foreign Ministry. Moreover, the Ukrainian authorities threatened politicians and businessmen from the group with a an entry ban to Ukraine, Slovak MP Peter Marcek, who heads the mission, told the newspaper.

The delegation will include 10 prominent businessmen and active politicians from Slovakia that intend to visit Crimea this summer. According to Marcek, after the piece was published, Kiev raised serious concerns about the trip. Ukraine threatened to ban the group from travelling to Ukraine if they visit the peninsula. According to the politician, Kiev often talks about alleged violations of human rights on the peninsula, although the Ukrainian authorities themselves infringe upon the rights of the Russian-speaking population, he told Izvestia.

Nevertheless, the politician noted that Kiev's statements did not have any effect on the delegation members. The current Ukrainian leadership will not remain in power forever, and the ban on visiting Ukraine will end eventually, he told the newspaper.

Marcek said he regrets seeing Kiev react to the initiative this way, but he stressed that blackmail never works. According to him, in response to the Ukrainian statements, the group from Slovakia has decided to bring along a professional cameraman with them to prepare several reports about life on the peninsula.


Kommersant: UAC-Rostec merger postponed because of Russian Helicopters

The plan approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin for United Aircraft Corporation’s (UAC) takeover of Rostec has run into difficulties, sources close to the government and the presidential administration told Kommersant. According to the newspaper, the first version of the presidential decree envisioned creating a single company based on UAC and Russian Helicopters (Rostec holding). The plan was not agreed on with UAC’s and Russian Helicopters’ private shareholders, and those from the United Arab Emirates.

According to one of the sources, the merger was not in the plans initially, the companies’ production facilities could be combined under the management of a single management company, but there were no talks about merging them into one legal entity. However, a source in the government's office told Kommersant that the recent report by Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov was written in a very "complicated way," and "a resolution on the merger of the two assets could occur because of this."

According to Kommersant, the resolution was a complete surprise for the parties involved, and the presidential administration preferred to focus on Putin's instructions, and not on explanations from third parties. The situation became extremely unpleasant, a source in the government told Kommersant. Investors from the United Arab Emirates (the Mubadala Investment Company has a 12.5% stake in Russian Helicopters) learned about what was happening and "began to worry" because "nobody asked their opinion."

The situation needs to be corrected immediately, a source in the defense industry told Kommersant, so it was decided to address Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Thus, the discussions will continue, Kommersant wrote.


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