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Press review: Kremlin seeks to defuse Il-20 tragedy and Trump does U-turn on Nord Stream 2

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, September 20


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Response to Il-20 tragedy unlikely, Kremlin needs Israel to contain Iran in Syria

The Kremlin will thoroughly review the Israeli data on the incident with Russia's Il-20 plane that was shot down over Syria earlier this week, Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow isn't likely to take action against Israel, which was blamed for the tragedy, despite the fact that Syrian missiles hit the plane. The Kremlin needs Israel in Syria, the newspaper wrote.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, starting from the moment when the Russian military launched its operation against terrorist groups in Syria, Moscow and Jerusalem have demonstrated a high level of partnership. However, despite earlier describing the incident as "a chain of tragic accidental consequences", Putin promised retaliatory steps. These actions are expected to be directed primarily at additional security for Russian servicemen and facilities in Syria. However, experts interviewed by the newspaper question the possibility of real measures against Israel.

"As far as I know, the air defense of Russian sites has not been beefed up lately, rather the opposite. I think that now Russia and Israel will agree on more timely notifications and flights by Israeli aviation, so that this does not happen so close to Russian facilities. At best, the biggest response could be reinforcing Syrian air defenses," Expert at the Russian Council for International Affairs Anton Mardasov told the newspaper.

The expert noted that if access to Syrian airspace is hindered for Israel, Iran would immediately use it to step up arms supplies. "This will provoke the Israelis to an even more violent reaction, which will increase a confrontation in Syria," he added.

Head of the Center for Analysis of Middle East Conflicts at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies at the RAS Alexander Shumilin told the newspaper that the Russian side is likely to give Israel 'a guilt trip' in any negotiations. "The Israelis will seem understanding and deny everything," the expert said. "Of course, Israel will never stop shelling Syrian territory, even if 50 planes are shot down. This is too serious a question for the existence of Israel," he told the newspaper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump does about-face on Nord Stream 2 sanctions

After China announced that it would slap 10% duties on liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States, Washington found itself in a vulnerable position. Chinese tariffs undermine Trump's game plan to turn the US into a global energy leader. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, in this context Trump's statement that he does not intend to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2, despite the recent statements by US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, has turned out to be an odd surprise.

Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta admit that Beijing has dealt a painful blow to Washington's ambitions, but they specify that in any case, the United States is still far from being a global energy leader. "If we are talking about exports of US LNG, then this is simply wishful thinking. The US has customers for very limited volumes of LNG. In fact, 28 bln cubic meters of exports per year are mere crumbs against the backdrop of the volume of several hundred billion cubic meters a year that are required by China and Europe," Deputy Director of Alpari analytical department Natalia Milchakova told the newspaper. "When Russian gas comes to China through the Power of Siberia, China will not need US LNG," the expert added.

"In my opinion, the main reason for backing off sanctions against the participants of Nord Stream 2 at this stage demonstrates an unwillingness to utterly lose influence in Europe," leading expert at FinExpertiza Igor Shestakov told the newspaper.

According to Milchakova, either Trump and his Secretary "are playing ‘good cop bad cop’, which is quite possible, or the president and his subordinates lack consistency in actions, which is also possible," Milchakova added.

"Russia will most likely benefit from the deterioration in trade relations between the US and China, since our country as the largest producer of energy resources may well get additional export opportunities in the Chinese market," Alexey Antonov, an analyst at Alor, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Earlier China became the second largest buyer of oil from the United States and Canada.


Izvestia: ‘Unwillingness to hear South Ossetia proof of double standards’ says republic's leader

On the eve of Georgia’s presidential elections, Tsinkhval expects increased incitement by Tbilisi, President of South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov said in an interview with Izvestia. According to him, since early 2018 around 400 detentions have been carried out on the border with Georgia. Despite this, Bibilov noted that Tsinkhval under certain conditions would be ready to hold direct negotiations with Tbilisi. The republic’s president told Izvestia that he intends to visit Crimea in 2019 and emphasized the importance of Russian support.

According to Bibilov, dialogue on recognizing South Ossetia is carrying on and "success in this direction is expected." "As for plans to speak at international venues, this possibility is blocked by Georgia. At the same time, the republic's representatives are always ready to convey South Ossetia's position to the global community. Furthermore, I believe that the international community should be interested in this if it wants to have objective and diverse information about the processes taking place in the region. Reluctance to hear South Ossetia is proof of double standards," he told the newspaper.

Despite the fact that Georgia still refuses to sign an agreement on the non-use of force in the framework of the Geneva discussions, South Ossetia would be ready for dialogue, and even has conditions for it. “First, signing an agreement on the non-use of force, which Georgia has not signed and, apparently, is not going to sign," Bibilov said. "I would like to emphasize that South Ossetia is ready for discussions with the political leadership of Georgia - provided that they sign a memorandum on the non-use of force and, of course, recognize the Republic of South Ossetia," he added.

Bibilov noted that he plans to visit the Yalta International Economic Forum in 2019. "We plan on not only going, but also opening our pavilion at the forum and to present goods produced in the Republic of South Ossetia. The forum brings together all Russian manufacturers so this is an excellent and essential platform for our entrepreneurs. And this provides a very good opportunity for the development of economic ties with the peninsula," he added.


Izvestia: Leaders of two Koreas agree to move towards nuclear-free future

The third inter-Korean summit was held in Pyongyang, where the parties agreed to link both Koreas by building a railway across the peninsula, to fix the mechanism for preventing incidents at the border and to dismantle the North Korean test sites. The fact that both Koreas struck specific agreements without turning to third parties has become a significant step forward, Chairman of the Council of the Federation Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia. The summit produced some concrete results. Seoul and Pyongyang agreed on practical measures to increase military confidence, implement a number of bilateral projects and even about Kim’s visit to Seoul.

The outcome of the Pyongyang summit became a shared victory by both states over the "divide and conquer" logic, which hampered the process of the Korean settlement, Kosachev said.

"The current direct inter-Korean dialogue, when the results are achieved without regard for the views of third powers, seems to me to be a serious step forward, as long as these agreements correspond to the common collective interests of defusing tensions and denuclearizing the Korean peninsula," the senator told Izvestia.

According to the newspaper, whether these promises will suit Washington is a big question. Nevertheless, on Wednesday, the US president, who said he wanted to hold a second meeting with Kim Jong-un, positively assessed the results of the current inter-Korean summit. What he is ready to offer in response will become clear after the talks between the White House occupant and Moon Jae-in. On Sunday, the South Korean president will fly to New York for the UN General Assembly session, where he will meet with US President Donald Trump on the sidelines.


Kommersant: Russia mulls pre-installing domestic-made software on all imported computers

The Russian Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media suggested imposing mandatory installation of domestic antivirus software on all computers imported to Russia. In order not to contradict the principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the norm should be justified by ensuring national security, according to the Ministry of Economic Development. According to Kommersant, foreign market participants fear that the initiative will damage competition.

"The WTO rules allow such measures to be introduced in order to ensure national security. Moreover, they are introduced regardless of the country of origin of the personal computer and set similar requirements for Russian manufacturers. Given the active development of information technologies, such measures seem reasonable," the press service of the Ministry of Economic Development told Kommersant. In contrast, the Ministry of Communications did not respond to the request.

Pre-installation of Russian antivirus software is a logical requirement, President of InfoWatch Natalya Kaspersky told the newspaper. "An antivirus can gather information and then analyze it somewhere. How will this look from the standpoint of the country's security if we install Symantec - a US antivirus made by Norton - everywhere? Symantec will see everything," Kaspersky said.

Some experts do not agree with the initiative. "The situation when people cannot choose a product that meets their needs, is not very healthy and can lead to a drop in product quality and reduce the level of security for end users," Head of the Slovak antivirus manufacturer ESET in Russia and the CIS Denis Mateev told Kommersant. The initiative will not radically change the market. In the end, users will choose what they like best, regardless of whether the product is pre-installed or not, he added.


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