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Press review: Russia, India ink milestone S-400 deal and NATO trains Kiev to battle Russia

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, October 8


Vedomosti: Russian arms exporter inks landmark S-400 deal with India

A contract between Russian state arms exporter Rosoboronexport and India’s Defense Ministry on the delivery of five S-400 Triumf missile systems was the major outcome of last week’s visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to India, Vedomosti writes on Monday. The contract was the biggest ever in Russian-Indian defense cooperation and the largest in Rosoboronexport’s history, the company's CEO Alexander Mikheyev said. Since the start of Soviet-Indian defense cooperation in 1960, the volume of Moscow's military supplies to the South Asian country has exceeded $65 bln, he noted.

The S-400 contract was signed to the tune of $5.4 bln and the supplies are expected to be fulfilled in 2020-2022, two sources in the defense industry told the paper. Earlier, Russia had concluded contracts on delivering S-400s - a system designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles - with China and Turkey.

Besides, during the visit a memorandum was signed between Roscosmos and the Indian Space Research Organization on cooperation as part of a manned space program and in the space navigation field. According to Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin, the program envisages training three Indian astronauts and providing assistance to creating support systems for India’s manned spacecraft.

According to Igor Afanasyev, editor-in-chief of the Cosmonautics News magazine, "India has proven that it can develop a normal national space program but possibly, its manned program has some bottlenecks, which Russia will help solve."

The S-400 deal may become Rosoboronexport’s milestone contract since the state agency’s creation in 2000, expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Konstantin Makiyenko told the paper. Its historical importance is that India inked the deal despite facing US sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), he stressed.

The delivery of these sensitive systems confirms the special political trust between Russia and India, and also that a new segment on the Indian armaments market is opening for Moscow, Makiyenko noted. Meanwhile, Russia and India failed to sign contracts on other types of armaments, although inter-governmental deals on their deliveries had been struck two years ago simultaneously with the S-400 deal. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that the talks on four frigates of Project 11356 to the tune of $2.2 bln are continuing. A source close to the Russian delegation said clinching this deal is highly likely in the near future, while the $1.13 bln contract on 48 Mi-17B-1 helicopters may be hammered out in 2019 according to optimistic assessments.


Izvestia: Russia to extend helping hand towards Korean reunification

South Korea seeks to expand economic cooperation with Russia and also continue cultivating trilateral projects between Moscow, Seoul and Pyongyang, Speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko said after a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Seoul agrees that sanctions against North Korea should be eased in response to Pyongyang’s denuclearization steps, Matviyenko said, according to Izvestia. If the two Koreas decide to unite, Russia will offer a helping hand in this endeavor, she pledged. Moscow is one of the mediators in the Korean settlement, experts interviewed by Izvestia pointed out.

South Korea hopes to expand its relations with Russia, namely in investment cooperation. It seeks to develop its ports and shipbuilding industry, using the Northern Sea Route and railways, as well as cooperation in the oil/gas and power sectors in addition to the agriculture and fishery industries.

"A blueprint for those projects, which the South Koreans consider to be priorities, has been laid out," Matviyenko stressed. "We are glad that inter-Korean dialogue has been launched. Not all are interested in this, even regional and non-regional players. There will be a lot of obstacles along this way if they make this decision," she noted.

Chairman of South Korea’s National Assembly Moon Hee-sang said the Russian delegation’s visit to Seoul is well-timed. "Signs of peace and stability are felt on the Korean Peninsula. This visit will encourage their further strengthening," he stressed.

Russia is becoming the driving force behind the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, Director of the International Institute of the Newly Established States Alexey Martynov said. Russian-Korean dialogue is vital for creating a solid security architecture in the Far East, he noted.

"The center of global politics is shifting to the Asia-Pacific Region by leaps and bounds, and Russia and China are confidently assuming the position of guarantors of regional security. The more the US role in the Pacific Region shrinks, the stronger the roles Russia and China play," the political scientist said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US, NATO train Ukraine to conduct military operations against Russia

International military drills Clear Sky 2018 are beginning in Ukraine on Monday. Besides the Ukrainian troops and aviation, the exercise will involve contingents from the United States, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and the United Kingdom, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. According to the US Embassy in Kiev, US F-15C Eagles and C-130J Super Hercules will take part in the maneuvers.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said the goal of these exercises, which will be held in the Khmelnitskaya and Vinnitskaya Regions in the coming two weeks, will be to enhance interaction between Ukraine and NATO and also to bolster regional security.

According to the paper, it’s highly likely that the maneuvers involving the US and other NATO members will be linked to other drills by the Ukrainian forces, which will be held near the Russian border in the Sea of Azov on October 9-12. Ukrainian media reports say artillery fire will be carried out with the aim of protecting the Ukrainian coast from a simulated enemy. Kiev is not hiding that this enemy is Russia.

It’s noteworthy that the Ukrainian military buildup comes amid anti-Russian hysteria churned out by the Western elite and its mass media, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview with Ukrainian magazine Novoye Vremya that the West, and namely the United States, should help the Ukrainian army contain Moscow. She backs the deployment of well-armed NATO battalions to Poland and the Baltic states.

The Sunday Times also reported that the United Kingdom was considering plans of conducting massive cyberattacks against Moscow aimed at cutting the Russian capital’s power off in case of Russia’s alleged attack on a Western country.

"I believe that a pretext for such attacks may be the Ukrainian conflict. Kiev and the West think that Russia carried out aggression in Donbass," military expert Col. Shamil Gareyev told the paper. He noted that NATO has invited Ukraine to join the largest military maneuvers since the 1980s, Trident Juncture 2018, in northern Norway scheduled for October 25-November 7. According to its scenario, NATO’s multinational coalition will conduct a massive military operation to liberate the "occupied northern area of Norway" from the fictional country Murinus. "This fictional country for the alliance and Ukraine is Russia, and the occupied area is in fact Donbass," the expert said.


RBC: Russian manufacturers demand stronger ruble

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of industrial enterprises need a stronger ruble to reduce expenses, and half of them (54%) believe that the growing ruble rate will help them attract investments, experts at the Gaidar Institute said in a study on Russia’s economic climate, obtained by RBC. The survey, which was carried out in September, involved 650 Russian enterprises, Head of Business Surveys Department Sergey Tsukhlo, told the paper.

The ruble’s devaluation mostly affected Russia’s consumer goods, food industry, and machine building, which focus on the domestic market, he noted.

The food industry seeks a stronger ruble to attract investment. Eighty-one percent of this sector’s companies want the national currency to strengthen, RBC writes. Consumer goods (67%) and the timber industry (61%) have also demonstrated a high demand for a strong ruble. Meanwhile, a weaker ruble is advantageous for Russia’s oil, gas and metal producers, which export a significant volume of goods while receiving revenues in foreign currency. At the macroeconomic level, the ruble’s devaluation has a positive effect. Experts at the Center for Development at the Higher School of Economics said that this has served as a key driver for the economy.

"Exporters benefit from devaluation as the export revenues are converted at a higher rate, raking in billions in profits, and some of them reach the budget and are distributed for the state’s needs, producing a ripple effect on the economy," Deputy Director of the Center for Development Valery Mironov told the paper.

Most processing enterprises depend on imported equipment, says Georgy Ostapkovich, Director of the Center for Business Tendencies Studies at the Higher School of Economics. The major objective of industry now is to modernize outdated equipment, which hinders the increase in labor efficiency and production growth.


Kommersant: Eco-activists warn Russia’s gas pipeline threatens world heritage site

Russian environmental organizations have protested against Gazprom’s plans to build a gas pipeline to China through the Ukok Plateau, part of the Golden Mountains of Altai, a UNESCO World Heritage site, Kommersant business daily writes. This comes after Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said the company had stepped up talks with the China National Petroleum Corporation on the so-called "western route" of gas supplies to China through Altai. Earlier, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said the countries planned to agree soon on supplies via the route, which is dubbed the Power of Siberia 2.

Environmentalists warn that the pipeline’s construction will destroy fragile alpine soil and affect the flora and fauna of the plateau. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has stated many times that the pipeline’s construction on this site was inadmissible. The international organization warned that any decision on building the pipeline through the plateau would become grounds for listing the Golden Mountains of Altai as an endangered world heritage site.

The Ukok Plateau is home to more than 150 archaeological monuments, and it gained worldwide fame after a mummy of the so-called Altai Princess was uncovered there. The Altai people consider the plateau as a sacred site.

Gazprom told Kommersant that if the decision on fulfilling the Power of Siberia 2 project was made, the company would implement it in full compliance with the wildlife protection law. It’s noteworthy that in 2012 the Altai administration amended the law on the Ukok national park, allowing the construction of linear-type facilities on its territory. However, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has repeatedly opposed the construction there, calling on Russia to consider alternative routes.

"Each intergovernmental project is justified and pursues national interests and goals, which observers in other countries may dislike," the Russian Natural Resources Ministry told the paper.


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