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Press review: Moscow nixes ECHR rulings across Russia and SCO unites to fight US sanctions

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

Izvestia: ECHR decisions no longer valid on Russian soil

Moscow will not return to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). This move was taken after a decision on restoring Russia's voting rights in the organization had been postponed, Vice-Speaker of the Russian State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy told Izvestia. He also noted that the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is no longer valid on the territory of the Russian Federation due to the fact that Moscow was denied the right to participate in the election of their judges. However, members of foreign delegations interviewed by Izvestia hoped that a compromise would be possible, and that Russia would be fully reinstated.

"Yesterday’s decision to postpone considering the resolution on the amendment essentially means refusing to change PACE’s non-legal and discriminatory attitude towards national delegations, which compromises it," Tolstoy told Izvestia. "We do not want to work under conditions created in the assembly through the efforts of Ukrainian and British Russophobes and those who joined them by falling for (their) anti-Russian propaganda," he emphasized.

Moreover, according to Tolstoy, the governing bodies of the Council of Europe, including the ECHR judges, are already elected without the participation of Russia. "Thus, their decisions will not have legitimacy on the territory of the Russian Federation," he told the newspaper.

In contrast, the German delegation was one of those ready to vote for reforming PACE and those who favored Russia's return to the assembly.

"Let’s not forget that this is a European forum of dialogue. For its decisions to be legitimate and balanced, they must be made with the participation of all delegations … I regret that the document was removed from the agenda," Armenian politician Armen Rustamyan told Izvestia.

The Council of Europe's autumn parliamentary session will run until Friday, October 12. According to PACE President Lilian Mori-Pasquier, the reform draft sent for revision will be studied again at the January 2019 plenary session.


Izvestia: SCO unites to fight US sanctions

Russia and China will raise the topic of opposing Washington’s sanctions policy for discussion during the Dushanbe summit of SCO heads of state, a source in the Russian delegation told Izvestia. Officially, the conference will be mainly devoted to the development of trade and economic cooperation and humanitarian issues, Kremlin envoy to the SCO Bakhtier Khakimov told the newspaper.

At the same time, despite the fact that all political aspects are the prerogative of the heads of state, lower-level politicians will not be able to avoid discussing the most crucial political topics, although they will do it behind the scenes, the newspaper wrote.

"In this closed-door meeting between the top leaders, of course, there will be a discussion of the geopolitical situation, and the global economy. Our Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and China’s Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang will certainly cover the subject of actions that the US employs against other states, and how SCO members must build their interaction under these circumstances," a high-ranking source in the Russian delegation at the summit told Izvestia.

According to Khakimov, as usual the heads of government will discuss implementation of agreements reached several months ago. In particular, according to the results of the current summit, plans are in store to sign agreements on food security, cooperation in science and countering the threats of epidemics in the SCO space. "The Council of Heads of State is, in fact, an opportunity for the heads of executive bodies to discuss the decisions of the heads of state in terms of the economy, trade, humanitarian relations and to accept agreements concerning their implementation. The heads of government do not discuss political issues," he said.


Kommersant: Heavy military equipment removed from demilitarized zone in Syria

The implementation of the first stage of the Russian-Turkish agreement on Idlib, the last of the four de-escalation zones that is still not under Assad’s control, was completed on Wednesday, Kommersant wrote. Terrorists and the Syrian opposition withdrew heavy weapons from the demilitarized zone, the creation of which was agreed upon by the Russian and Turkish leaders, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at their mid-September meeting in Sochi.

The accord made it possible to avoid a large-scale military operation to return the province of Idlib to Damascus’ control. According to the newspaper, the next step is to withdraw terrorists from the demilitarized zone.

According to Kommersant’s sources in the Syrian opposition, withdrawing heavy weapons up to 15-20 km did not pose any particular problem, since, if necessary, it can be quickly returned to its original positions. That being said, the next key date is October 15, by that time all radical terrorist groups must leave the demilitarized zone, which will be more difficult to achieve than the withdrawal of weapons. "Implementing this part of the agreement is a headache for Turkey. It is well-known that the process is not easy, and the pro-Turkish forces suffer losses," a source in Damascus familiar with the situation told the newspaper.

However, according to sources close to the opposition, the main thing are fears that extremists who have nowhere to retreat from Idlib may provide the grounds for Damascus and Moscow to strike the de-escalation zone contrary to the Sochi agreements. Therefore, the opposition has not lost hope that the Russian and Turkish military will find an alternative where the terrorists - primarily those who do not have Syrian citizenship - can leave Idlib, Kommersant wrote.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia to restart gas purchases from Turkmenistan

Gazprom has started negotiations with Ashgabat to resume purchasing Turkmen gas. A delegation of Russian energy companies led by Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller visited the capital of Turkmenistan. The price and volume of purchases have not been announced yet. However, sources told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the volume reached around 3 bln cubic meters of gas per year. Russia is interested in gas from Turkmenistan only as a political tool - in exchange for Turkmenistan’s foreign economic and foreign policy concessions, the newspaper wrote.

According to Miller, by the end of 2018, specific and essential negotiations will begin on resuming purchases of Turkmen gas. At the same time, the newspaper reported that Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow was in negotiations with the United States.

Turkmen expert Serdar Aytakov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, that the US was considering creating a consortium with acquisition of Turkmen gas on the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea and transporting it to Europe. Thus, US business would enter the European market with pipeline gas from the East.

"The Kremlin learned about Ashgabat’s plans and Moscow made the first public move. This was discussed with President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov at a closed meeting in Sochi," the expert noted. He believes that "through the decision to purchase Turkmen gas, Putin simply nixes the intention to build the Trans-Caspian pipeline and prevents the appearance of players from third countries and regions in the Caspian region." "At the same time, Moscow takes or can take control of the very transit of American goods to Afghanistan. This will give (him) an additional bargaining chip in talks with the US and creates a precedent for bargaining in other regions," the expert noted.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Excluding sanctions, IMF overly optimistic on Russia

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts a decline of Russia's share in the global economy over the next six years, which makes it impossible to expect Russia's entry into the top five largest economies, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. However, there are more positives in the latest IMF review for Russia. According to the IMF experts’ forecast, Russia’s economic growth will accelerate in the absence of new anti-Russian sanctions.

The IMF report notes that tensions in global trade policies and the introduction of import duties are damaging trade, while emerging markets face stricter financial conditions and capital outflows. At the same time, Russia has just entered the organization's list of countries with an improved forecast for GDP growth due to rising oil prices. The IMF also expects the country's economy to grow by 1.8% next year.

Surprisingly, the IMF, noting progress in ensuring financial stability and improving expectations for Russia's GDP growth, said nothing about the sanctions pressure and its impact on the country's economy, the newspaper wrote. "Meanwhile, we are on the verge of a possible ban on dollar operations for Russian state-owned banks, which can turn the entire financial system upside down," Managing Partner at Veta expert group Ilya Zharsky told the newspaper.

"This is one of two things - either the IMF is well aware that there is no need to wait for even tougher sanctions, or … their previous forecast for Russia was underestimated," analyst at TeleTrade Pyotr Pushkarev said.

The IMF forecast for the Russian economy does look overly optimistic, however the organization is a specific arbiter, Chief analyst at the Center for Analytics and Financial Technologies Anton Bykov told the newspaper. "And if a country behaves ‘correctly’ in an economic and financial sense, that is, in accordance with the recommendations of the IMF, it receives positive feedback. The recent actions of the Russian authorities ideally correspond to the wishes of the IMF," the expert said.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review