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Press review: Moscow makes offer on arms control deals and envoy says EU tired of Ukraine

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

Kommersant: Moscow suggests that Washington reconfirm adherence to four agreements

During the Putin-Trump summit in Helsinki, Russia suggested that the US should reconfirm both countries’ adherence to four key agreements in the field of arms control: the New Start Treaty, the INF Treaty, the 2011 Vienna document on confidence-and security-building measures, and the Treaty on Open Skies, Kommersant writes with reference to one American and two Russian sources familiar with the talks. The first two agreements are bilateral, while the last two are multilateral. However, this and other proposals regarding arms control were not discussed in detail in the Finnish capital, the sources said. A US State Department representative told the newspaper that "all issues raised at the Helsinki talks will be further discussed by the relevant departments of the two countries."

A few contacts are already in the works. Apart from the meeting between Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and US National Security Adviser John Bolton scheduled for August, a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is under consideration, a source in Russia’s Foreign Ministry told Kommersant. He added though that "there are no details as of yet." Another source in the ministry said that Moscow backs the resumption of contacts at the level of deputy foreign ministers, which have not occurred since September 2017, as soon as possible.

Previously, US President Donald Trump had criticized the New Start Treaty, signed during Obama’s term. Moscow, on the other hand, has claims against the way Washington fulfills the agreement. In February, the two countries reported reaching performance benchmarks on the treaty, though Russian authorities took the US report with a pinch of salt. According to Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov, Moscow has not yet "certified compliance with the obligations by the US." However, he also made it clear that despite the ongoing problems, the Russian side does not intend to abandon the agreement.


Kommersant: EU fed up with Ukraine, Russian envoy says

The European Union (EU) is utterly "tired of Ukraine," Russian Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said in an interview with Kommersant. "I haven’t been directly informed about it, but unambiguous signals are being sent," he said when speaking about the anti-Russian sanctions that were imposed over the Ukrainian conflict, and the prospects of their removal. According to Chizhov, "the Europeans got backed into a big Ukrainian corner back in 2014."

"When imposing the first sanctions against Russia, they said that they would be lifted if the talks between all the sides involved began. In fact, they were supposed to remove them when the Minsk Accords were drafted after a 17-hour diplomatic marathon in the Belarusian capital in February 2015. However, their position changed once it was decided to pursue their implementation,” the diplomat said.

Chizhov believes that Kiev has been derailing the agreements reached in Minsk. "They are even open about it. What is left is a stalemate," he stressed. Further, the envoy explained the process of extending the sanctions. He noted that usually "a few countries start rebelling" pointing out the futility and failure of the sanctions, and suggest that they be eased or removed. On the other hand, the diplomat noted "other representatives start saying that, true, the sanctions do not work only because they are not tough enough," and then suggest tightening them. As a result, the diplomat notes, the EU chair says due to the rift in opinions, "let’s leave things as they are and get back to the issue in six months."

According to the diplomat, forces opposing the sanctions have recently emerged not only in Italy, which some had expected to veto the adoption of EU restrictions during the latest summit. "Moreover, it is necessary to point out businesses’ influence on the political position of EU member-states. In spite of the sanctions, virtually no big European company has pulled out of Russia. They could have changed their plans, made some cuts, but the absolute majority stayed, and they are convincing their governments to drop the policy that damages business," he stressed.


Izvestia: Georgia’s diplomatic break with Russia was a mistake, says opposition leader

Tbilisi has to restore relations with Moscow, the country’s ex-Parliament Chairperson and head of the party "Democratic Movement - United Georgia" Nino Burjanadze told Izvestia, adding that this corresponds to the country’s interests. "The termination of diplomatic relations was a mistake. We see that relations between Russia and Ukraine are rather complicated now, yet diplomatic ties still remain. Lacking them complicates the negotiations process and improving relations," she explained in an interview with the paper. The politician is still confident that there is a way out "through negotiations." "The main obstacle is that the Georgian authorities are not ready to hold a direct dialogue with Moscow due to fears of being labelled pro-Russia," she explained, adding that they also fear that this might raise some eyebrows among their western partners.

According to Burjanadze, the current Georgian establishment in the government and the parliament "cannot be considered an independent power." "They cannot pronounce a word without looking back at the US embassy," she said. "Now Georgia is not governed by the powers considering the interests of their own country as a top priority. These are people with handlers in the US, and they only act for the sake of their interests to hold on to power for as long as possible. Today if you are a pro-western, pro-American politician, you will surely be given a place in the parliament in a sense, a free hand and serious support. If you say, that it is necessary to normalize ties with Russia you are called pro-Russian, and removed from all power structures.

The politician is not committed to picking sides between East or West. "“Georgia needs to choose an absolutely different way. I have never said that cooperation should be established only with Russia, while relations with western countries and other states should be ignored. Obviously, it is necessary to make efforts to establish ties with all players, while maintaining (our) own national interests. Now it is crucial for Georgia to restore top-level dialogue with Russia. It is clear that even if the President or Prime Minister of Georgia met Vladimir Putin, not all problems would vanish right away. However, such a meeting would give a serious impetus to start coping with all challenges that have accumulated over the past years in our relations," she told Izvestia.


Vedomosti: Agriculture Ministry to draft food security doctrine

The Moscow School of Management Skolkovo, the Agrofood policy center at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), as well as retailers and industry associations have submitted proposals on changes to be made in Russia’s food security doctrine to the government, the presidential administration, the Agriculture Ministry and Security Council, the authors told Vedomosti. The acting doctrine approved in 2010 expires in 2020. Its main criterion for gauging food security is the share of locally-made food in total national consumption. The targets have been reached and outshine in all sectors, excluding dairy and salt, the authors of proposals told the paper, adding that they believe the tasks related to import substitution are obviously insufficient.

The doctrine drafted by the Agriculture Ministry jointly with other departments, unions and associations, takes into account "external and internal conditions that have changed," Vedomosti says. It points to sanctions and counter-sanctions, international economic ties that have refocused on the east, accelerated agriculture growth, and rising exports of agriculture products. Moreover, Russia has joined the WTO, the ruble exchange rate has dropped, similar to real incomes, the authors of proposals say. Currently the doctrine assumes that food supplies to Russia may be suspended based on political motives, though it rarely happens in times of peace, they note. The ban on trade with certain countries can be offset through trade with others. Nevertheless, the Agriculture Ministry has included vegetables, fruits and seeds of basic crops in the list of products required for self-dependence, Vedomosti says.


RBC: US Justice Department unveils plan of En+’s removal from sanctions

The plan aiming at removing En+ and Rusal from US sanctions implies that their owner Oleg Deripaska will pass their shares to structures and managers approved by the US Treasury Department’s OFAC division, RBC writes. En+ Board Chairman Lord Gregory Barker has proposed excluding the holding from the US list of sanctions until Deripaska’s share in his capital is formally reduced, according to the files of the Mercury company submitted to the US Department of Justice. Lobbyists from Mercury, as well as the Rothschild investment bank and consultants from Russell Reynolds are providing support for Barker, according to the files.

Barker’s plan will take time as a substantial number of deals and decisions by regulators included in it are expected in August and September, lobbyists from Mercury write, suggesting that OFAC should exclude the company from the sanctions list until the final outcome, RBC says. However, the remaining question is how the plan will consider the interests of the Russian state that have pledged to support Rusal’s plants if the company gets foreign managers, ACRA’s Maksim Khudalov said. He also noted that the implementation of this plan does not show Deripaska’s profit - even if the two companies are removed from sanctions, he wouldn’t be able to receive dividends as they would be blocked in a special escrow account.

On April 6, the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on Oleg Deripaska, as well as Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller, VTB head Andrei Kostin, owner of Renova Viktor Vekselberg, Surgutneftegaz CEO Vladimir Bogdanov, Sibur board member Kirill Shamalov, businessmen Igor Rotenberg, and Suleiman Kerimov. Among the companies slapped with the latest sanctions are several enterprises belonging to Oleg Deripaska, including Agroholding Kuban, Eurosibenergo, Rusal, Russian Machines Holding and GAZ Group, the B-Finance investment company, Basic Element, and En+. Later, US authorities said that sanctions relief could be provided for Rusal if its co-owner Oleg Deripaska divested and relinquished control over the company.


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