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Press review: Soyuz launch aborted and Constantinople crosses Orthodox world’s red line

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, October 12


Vedomosti: Botched Soyuz launch sensitive topic for public, expert says

Thursday’s aborted launch of a Soyuz manned spacecraft ended with the successful rescue of the crew consisting of Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague. Roscosmos space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine were watching the launch and later met the crew after the successful search and rescue operation. Although the crew had to endure significant overloads, as far as their health is concerned, they are reported to be in good condition.

Ovchinin and Hague were to replace three members of the ISS international crew who had returned from space on October 4 and form part of the station’s new crew, together with Russian cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev, NASA astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst who are already there.

According to Vedomosti’s source in Roscosmos, the three crewmembers remaining in orbit have enough supplies for about six months. Although the launch of Russia’s Progress cargo spacecraft set for late October can be delayed, cargo spaceships from other countries participating in the ISS are sent to it as well, so there should be no critical situations, the source said. The representative added that the decision on the Progress launch would be made after an investigation into the causes of the Soyuz’s launch failure.

This is the first serious manned spacecraft launch failure since 1983. The Soyuz-FG carrier rocket performed 64 successful launches since it went into use in 2001, the last occurred on June 8, 2018.

In 2018, all nine Russian launches that had preceded Thursday’s botched liftoff, were successful. This figure is better than in the first half of the 2010s, when there were up to three failures per year, the paper quotes an engineer of a space industry enterprise as saying. However, that is not enough to repair the image of Russia’s space industry, he noted.

Emergencies related to manned space flights are a particularly sensitive issue for the public, according to Konstantin Makienko, an expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategic and Technologies. Therefore, top Roscosmos officials need to investigate the causes thoroughly and take measures to prevent them, the expert emphasized.


Media: Constantinople creating new church in Ukraine

Constantinople is crossing the red line by its actions and violating the unity of Orthodox Christianity, the Russian Orthodox Church said in response to an official statement by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which said it had launched the process of granting independence (autocephaly) to the Ukrainian Church.

Vladimir Legoida, Chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s Synodal Department for Relations between the Church, Society and the Media, has described Constantinople’s move as "an unprecedented non-canonical act, which is an attempt to destroy the foundation of the Orthodox canonical system."

"The Russian Orthodox Church’s Holy Synod will come up with a proper assessment of this act at its upcoming meeting on October 15 in Minsk," he told Izvestia.

According to Roman Lunkin, Director of the Institute for Religion and Law, "by its decision, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is preparing a meeting of the council, which will ask (Patriarch) Bartholomew to provide the Tomos of Autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church," Kommersant quotes him as saying.

The expert pointed out that the opinion of the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and other churches, which supported Patriarch Kirill’s stance, had been ignored. "Constantinople deemed it possible to unilaterally revise church borders," he stressed.

"Bartholomew may face enmity and rivalry from the Russian Orthodox Church and other churches on its canonical territory, namely, in Turkey, Western Europe, the Middle East and the US," Lunkin went on to say. "Constantinople’s actions can also provoke an Orthodox parade of sovereignties. South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Montenegro, Macedonia and African countries can demand autocephaly for themselves. The collapse, which will shake the whole Christian Orthodox world, will begin."


Izvestia: Russia plays pivotal role in global politics, notes French envoy

Russia's experience of hosting the most recent FIFA World Cup can help France during the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, French Ambassador to Russia Sylvie Bermann told Izvestia.

"The FIFA World Cup was a good reason for French people to come to Russia in 2018," she said, adding that the tourist exchanges between the two countries have huge potential. According to the ambassador, prolonging the validity of FAN IDs is an excellent idea that has been working out very well. "France is currently getting ready for the 2024 Olympic Games and is cooperating with Russia on organizational issues, including the introduction of a similar system," she said.

The French envoy also noted that Paris expects Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit France in November. When asked why that visit is so important, she explained, "During WWI, France and Russia fought side by side until the 1917 revolution. That’s why it is very important to make sure that the Russian president attends events to mark its culmination. What’s more, today Russia plays a pivotal role in global politics and setting the global balance of powers," she said.

Commenting on French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposal concerning Moscow’s involvement in efforts to build a pan-European security architecture, the ambassador stressed that it is impossible to rely on the US on all issues. "The European Union should act independently on some issues, such as defense. It is becoming apparent that Russia cannot be ignored. It is essential to work with Russia, stepping up cooperation in various security areas, including cybersecurity," the envoy emphasized.

Referring to international cooperation on resolving the Syrian conflict, the French envoy pointed to the need to work on a joint project for the country’s political transition with the appropriate constitutional committee. "We appreciate the fact that Moscow is using its influence on Damascus so that such a body is created. Another key recent objective was the prevention of hostilities in Idlib. That was why France welcomed the Russian-Turkish agreements in Sochi," she concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow reluctant to return to PACE

Strasbourg will host an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on Friday to discuss actions by its members in response to Russia’s refusal to take part in the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) next year and resume payments to the organization’s budget. When answering questions by parliamentarians, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland earlier said that he was ready to present its budget taking into account Russia’s potential withdrawal from it, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The Council of Europe’s chief stressed that Russia would not return to the organization in January, adding that he disagrees with Moscow’s stance.

Earlier Jagland ruled out that this is how the four-year standoff between Russia and the Council of Europe would end, even though Russia had suspended its payments in June 2017.

Russian Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe Ivan Soltanovsky refuted reports alleging that Moscow initiated the debate about the powers of PACE member-states. "The issue is systemic, and it is inappropriate to pin the blame on Russia. As for the issue of whether or not Russia will return to PACE, the decision on this matter depends, above all, on how much the assembly itself will be able or willing to fully restore the legitimate rights of Russian lawmakers, which have been infringed upon since the notorious discriminatory PACE decisions made in 2014," he told the paper.


Kommersant: Russia mulls building two ice-breakers for Far Eastern ports

Moscow plans to build two more 18 MW diesel electric ice-breakers for Russia’s Far Eastern and northwestern ports worth over 14 bln rubles ($209.6 mln), Kommersant writes citing its sources. The keels for the new vessels are expected to be laid next year. However, the Russian Economic Development Ministry said the project did not fit into the national transport development program, and there are no funds in the budget.

Meanwhile, a source in the United Shipbuilding Corporation told the paper it was ready to build the icebreakers, "but no specific negotiations are in progress yet."

According to Kommersant’s sources, Vyborg Shipyard, which built three icebreakers in 2012-2016, is the main contender. At that time, the contract was worth 12.3 bln rubles ($184.2 mln), with one of the icebreakers built with the assistance of Finland’s Archtech Helsinki Shipyard. However, because of the sanctions, the ruble’s devaluation and growing equipment costs, the vessels’ commissioning had been delayed.

According to Mikhail Grigoryev, Head of the GECON consulting center, with the transfer of the Admiral Makarov icebreaker to Murmansk, there are only two icebreakers in the Far East - Krasin (built in 1976) and Magadan (1982). On the other hand, commodity turnover and port capacities in the Far East are growing, the expert noted, adding that plans are in store to create a year-round LNG transshipment complex in Kamchatka.


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