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Press review: Putin stuns Japan with peace deal bid and will Russia exit Council of Europe

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, September 13


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Japan seeks Kurils rather than peace treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on Japan to sign a peace treaty with Russia by the end of this year without any preconditions. By doing so, he actually placed Tokyo in a difficult position where it is the one having to justify itself as to why it finds this offer unacceptable and why a peace deal should envisage, in one way or another, Russia’s potential abandonment of the southern Kuril Islands, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Valery Kistanov, Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, described Putin’s proposal as sensational. "So far, no one else has come up with such tight deadlines for signing a peace treaty with Japan. Whether or not this initiative is feasible is another story though. I believe it is unlikely to be put into effect not only before the end of this year but in the foreseeable future as well," he stressed.

Although Putin suggested signing a peace deal without any preconditions, Japan believes this can be done only after resolving the territorial dispute, the expert went on to say. "This implies that the four southern Kuril Islands, which Tokyo calls its northern territories, should be returned to Japan," he explained.

According to Kistanov, it is pointless to put forward any timeframes for signing that treaty. "Earlier at some point, then Russian President Boris Yeltsin suggested signing a peace accord by 2000. However, Japan needs the [disputed] islands rather than a peace agreement, that’s the bottom line. A peace treaty is the lever for resolving the territorial dispute on conditions that would suit Tokyo, and Putin’s unexpected initiative showed that," the expert concluded.


Izvestia: Envoy says Russia’s withdrawal from Council of Europe is ‘off the table’

Russia will not quit the Council of Europe, because this platform is essential for upholding its national interests, Russia’s CoE envoy Ivan Soltanovsky told Izvestia.

"Right now, Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe is off the table. Our work there has not been interrupted. On the contrary, we are actively promoting the position of building a united Europe without dividing lines. We are actively involved in the work of such bodies as the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers and the European Court of Human Rights. Efforts are underway along various lines, specifically, fighting drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering, and (supporting) legal cooperation, sports and cultural issues,” he explained.

"All crises end sooner or later. We all know perfectly well that it is easy to slam the door (and leave), but it’s far more difficult to return," Soltanovsky added.

According to the envoy, those forces, which seek to demonize Russia and use all available means for that objective, are currently working overtime in the West. "Unfortunately, the Council of Europe is not immune to this development. We believe that the Russian delegation to PACE was stripped of some of its rights precisely in this context. All that can have far-reaching consequences for the organization, and we have drawn our partners’ attention to that," he elaborated.

The diplomat added that, despite a crisis in relations between Russia and PACE, Moscow maintains contacts with it. "Dialogue between Russia’s Federal Assembly (parliament) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has been taking place. Our lawmakers took part in the work of a special committee, which was set up to tackle issues related to the efforts of national delegations at PACE. The Assembly will discuss a report on its reform at its October session. A lot will depend on the outcome of this discussion," he stressed.


Kommersant: Russia’s Far East, China unveil brand-new cooperation program

Russia and China have revised their shared approach to developing the Far Eastern Region. A new program signed by the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and China’s Ministry of Commerce, following the talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, focuses on attracting Chinese investment to Russia, Kommersant writes.

The current program for 2018-2024 differs fundamentally from the previous one adopted in 2009, which had prioritized the development of the Far East, Eastern Siberia and Northeast China as one macro-region. However, many of the projects enshrined in that plan have not been implemented.

According to Ivan Zuenko, a research fellow at the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences that was because the goals, which had been set, proved to be impossible to achieve.

"It was unclear how the program contributed to the development of Northeast China. Besides, it included an abundance of small-scale projects, which had to be implemented by businesses rather than the government, and which have never been carried out. The new project is far more modest, but much more comprehensible. Besides, it focuses on the purview of the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Chinese partners’ involvement."

With that in mind, 32 projects in all worth $4.2 bln have been announced. The architects of this program also hope to attract high-tech companies from China to Vladivostok’s Russky Island where their headquarters or R&D departments could be located.


Izvestia: Prospects for boosting tourism to Russia’s Arctic, Far East

The Russian government has suggested simplifying entry procedures for foreign tourist vessels to Russia’s Arctic and Far Eastern ports. They will no longer have to strictly register their cruise routes, besides it will be easier for foreign tourists to go ashore to these ports, Izvestia writes.

The proposed move will make it possible to adjust travel itineraries without creating security risks, according to Anatoly Vyborny, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) Security Committee. "We need to create more flexible legal mechanisms regulating that scope of activity, while preserving the security of our borders," he told the paper. "The experience, which our law enforcement agencies and special services have, makes it possible to maintain the necessary level of control. That’s why we can allow foreign vessels to change their routes along the path."

Meanwhile, travel market players are certain that comprehensive measures, primarily good transport accessibility and well-developed infrastructure, are required to attract tourists.

"People will not go to the Arctic, if there is no decent infrastructure and affordable flights there," the paper quotes Olga Anisko, Sales Director at the Level.Travel online booking service, as saying. "For Russian tourists, vacationing means primarily going to the sea and the beach. On the other hand, only a handful travel to the north, to Vladivostok or to Kamchatka, although many would like to go there. People will travel to see unique natural areas but only if the price-to-quality ratio is there."


Vedomosti: Russian-Chinese strategic drills to be held regularly

Joint Russian-Chinese military exercises will be conducted on a regular basis, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has said. Russia’s defense chief and his Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe inspected the Russian and Chinese command centers at the Tsugol proving ground. Later, the Chinese minister stressed the importance of bilateral military cooperation, adding that Beijing will be paying greater attention to the issue.

According to Vedomosti’s source close to the Russian Defense Ministry, China’s presence at the Vostok 2018 drills indicates that Russia could take part in similar exercises in China next year.

Russian-Chinese joint exercises have been held since the mid-2000s. These include, in particular, the Peace Mission exercises within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and various counter-terrorism drills.

According to Konstantin Makiyenko, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), this unprecedented military collaboration does not mean a formal military alliance between the two countries. The situation is comparable with large-scale exercises by the US and NATO member-countries in Sweden and Finland. The Scandinavian hosts are formally not members of the North Atlantic alliance, and have not announced plans to join it but are stepping up cooperation with it, the expert added.


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