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Press review: Idlib could open old Russia-Turkey wound and fourth EEF kicks off

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday September 11


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Idlib discord may spark renewed friction between Russia, Turkey

Turkey is beefing up its positions in the Idlib Governorate while Damascus hopes to bring it back under its control, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Al-Jazeera TV reports of a growing Turkish contingent in the enclave, where the moderate opposition’s forces loyal to Ankara are working hand in glove with radical groups. This gesture is likely to draw a "red line" for the Syrian regime and its allies. Experts warn that a new confrontation between Russia and Turkey may flare up to levels seen back in 2015.

Last week’s summit in Tehran between Russia, Turkey and Iran failed to iron out all the differences within the Syrian troika, the paper writes. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that Idlib hosts moderate opposition members and any operations there under the pretext of fighting Al-Nusra (terror group outlawed in Russia) are unacceptable. Meanwhile, Moscow is calling for separating militants from radicals.

"The risk of confrontation between Russia and Turkey is growing in general should Moscow, Damascus and Tehran embark on launching harsher steps against Idlib," Director of the Center of Islamic Research at the Institute of Innovative Development Kirill Semenov told the paper. Turkey’s move is aimed at preventing a potential offensive by Assad's forces and their allies, he said. "If Turkey uses its aviation, it will have the upper hand in Syrian skies."

In this context, the analyst did not rule out that the friction that had erupted in 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian Su-24 bomber, may be repeated. "But it is noteworthy that Moscow is not seeking any escalation with Turkey and we can say that Russia will try to contain Damascus," Semenov said.


Izvestia: Russia to ink contracts worth $50 bln at Eastern Economic Forum

The fourth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) is opening in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Tuesday. Record deals worth 3.5 trillion rubles ($50 bln) will be signed during the three-day event, which will bring together more than 6,000 participants from 59 countries, nearly tripling the figure seen three years ago, Izvestia writes.

Delegations from China, South Korea, Mongolia, Japan, the United Kingdom, India, the United States and France will attend the forum. Some 200 representatives from South Korea’s central and regional governments, as well as 12 major and 20 mid-to-small-sized businesses are heading to the event.

As tradition has it, top officials from Asian countries have shown up to visit the forum. The key guest of this year’s EEF will be Chinese President Xi Jinping. In addition, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga will be attending the forum in Vladivostok.

Up until the very last moment, it was not known whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would take part in the forum. On September 8, Russia’s Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, who met with the North Korean leader, said he would not be able to attend the event due to "a busy schedule." However, Pyongyang’s delegation, including Minister of External Economic Relations Kim Yong-jae, has arrived. According to sources, the North Korean delegates are expected to discuss the prospects of developing the Rajin port with Russia, while political issues will be left aside.

The EEF is designed to help Russian regions, primarily the Far East, establish cooperation with Asian countries. China is Russia’s key partner in the Far East, and its investments into the region account for 7% of the overall figures, according to Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev.


Kommersant: Former French diplomat eyes Georgian presidency

The ruling Georgian Dream party, controlled by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, will back independent candidate Salome Zurabishvili at the October 28 presidential election, Kommersant writes. The French-born politician had worked as a diplomat in the French foreign service. In addition, she formerly served as Georgia’s Foreign Minister, but left the post after a falling-out with then-President Mikhail Saakashvili and his allies.

The Georgian opposition has branded Zurabishvili a traitor and a Kremlin puppet. Meanwhile, opinion polls indicate that the politician may clinch a victory at the election given that billionaire Ivanishvili will sponsor her campaign. Most recently, Zurabishvili renounced her French citizenship, paving the way for her nomination as a candidate in Georgia’s presidential race.

Zurabishvili’s key rival will be Saakashvili ally Grigol Vashadze, also a former Georgian Foreign Minister. A second round in the presidential election is almost inevitable, the paper says. August opinion polls carried out by and Internet portals show that Zurabishvili is bound to get 19% of the votes while Vashadze would secure the support of 18%.

According to Georgian sociologist Ramaz Sakvarelidze, although Zurabishvili’s rating is insignificantly higher than that of Vashadze, she is likely to outperform her rival.

Upon announcing her plans to run for president, Zurabishvili accused Saakashvili of unleashing the August 2008 war with Russia. "Of course, Russia has been waging a war against Georgia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia for 100 years, but in 2008, the war was started by Georgia," she said.


Izvestia: New warships with Kalibr missiles to beef up Russian Black Sea Fleet’s capability

Next year two small missile ships - the Ingushetia of Project 21631 Buyan-M and the Cyclone of Project 22800 Karakurt - will join the 41st brigade of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Defense Ministry told Izvestia. These warships are armed with Kalibr-NK high-precision cruise missiles and Oniks hypersonic anti-ship cruise missiles.

According to Russian naval expert Dmitry Boltenkov, these ships will significantly bolster the Black Sea Fleet’s capability.

"This is a serious and qualitative reinforcement in the southwestern strategic direction," he told the paper. "The small missile ships of the Buyan-M and Krarakurt projects are good combat platforms. They will be able to operate both in the Black and the Mediterranean Seas."

Right now it is essential to enhance the Black Sea Fleet’s strike force, and small missile ships armed with Kalibrs will make it possible to create a powerful grouping for the short term, without excessive spending, ex-Commander of the Northern Fleet’s brigade of antisubmarine warfare ships Vladimir Ambartsumyan said.

The Kalibr missiles will allow Russia to control the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea, the expert said. The world’s major hot spots are located in these regions, he noted. Most likely, these ships won’t be enough to attain full parity with NATO in the region, but if needed, they can deal a serious blow to the enemy, he said.


Kommersant: Russia-US ‘hybrid’ war dons religious face in Ukraine

The current confrontation between the churches in the Dnieper is moving into a new phase threatening to split the entire Orthodox Church, Dmitry Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, wrote in an article published by Kommersant.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople’s decision to change its stance on the church situation in Ukraine comes amid a growing confrontation between Moscow and Washington and the widening rift between Russia and the European Union, according to Trenin. The decision by Patriarch Bartholomew to send two envoys to Kiev to lay the groundwork for furnishing autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has major geopolitical significance: he explicitly backed one of the sides in a wider conflict. This "hybrid war," which is being waged by Russia and the US for the fifth year, took on a religious dimension in Ukraine.

The decision to send envoys - one from the United States and another from Canada - indicates a well-known fact that the majority of the Constantinople clergymen live in North America.

The upcoming step by Constantinople to recognize the Kiev Patriarchate during the election campaign in Ukraine, which has already started, may significantly strengthen President Pyotr Poroshenko’s candidacy. The Ukrainian leader has been actively promoting the recognition issue during diplomatic talks with Patriarch Bartholomew.

Despite the recent visit to the Bosporus by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church failed to keep Constantinople from making a decision, which may result in serious consequences, the paper writes.

The long-term rift in relations between the two churches may not only disrupt contacts between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchate of Constantinople, but also create difficulties in its relations with other local churches.


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