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Press review: Calling it quits with Constantinople and EU takes aim at chemical ‘attacks’

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday

Media: Russian Church breaks ties with Constantinople over Ukraine crisis

The Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has responded to the actions by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, which decided to proceed with granting autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church. The Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate also revoked a legally binding status of the 1686 letter, which empowered the Patriarch of Moscow to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev and decided to reinstate the heads of two non-canonical churches in Ukraine to their hierarchical and priestly ranks. In light of that, The Russian Church said it was severing full communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and called on the primates of other Orthodox churches to evaluate its actions.

"The severing of full communion between the Russian Orthodox Church and Constantinople was a logical outcome of these decisions," Kommersant quotes Roman Lunkin, Head of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, as saying. "The Holy Synod’s statement is an example of a balanced and reasoned approach towards evaluating Bartholomew’s actions. The Russian Orthodox Church has shown him that he decided to trespass on something, which does not belong to him." The expert stressed that the Synod refrained from "unnecessary emotions, direct accusations of heresies or calls for an anathema." According to Lunkin, so far "not a single church publicly approved the actions by (Ecumenical Patriarch) Bartholomew who may be in the minority."

"After the rupture of full communion with Constantinople, local churches will not be able to keep mum, they will have to put their stance forward," Alexei Osipov, Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy, told Izvestia. "If two churches break ties, you need to choose one of the parties or stop communicating with both of them. Actually, each Local Orthodox Church will have to sever full communion with either Constantinople or the Russian Orthodox Church. That’s a very difficult situation."

The decision by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will affect, first and foremost, Russian monks on Mount Athos, according to Alexei Svetozarsky, Professor of the Moscow Theological Academy. "They will find themselves in a very difficult situation, because Mount Athos is under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Constantinople," he explained to Izvestia, adding that pilgrims could have some problems as well, because quotas for them are allocated by Constantinople.


Kommersant: EU widens sanctions net to include punitive measures for chemical weapons

The Council of the European Union has agreed on a sanctions mechanism for the development and use of chemical weapons. This new instrument would ease the procedure of imposing restrictive measures on individuals and entities linked to chemical weapons attacks. Plans are in store to hammer out similar measures to punish cyberattacks. The document initiated by UK and France is, in actual fact, a compromise between the proponents and opponents of the EU's policy to get tough on Russia, Kommersant writes. Those in favor are satisfied with the fact that it makes it possible to slap sanctions on Russia over Crimea and Ukraine, and over other issues. On the other hand, those opposed welcome the fact that the issue of imposing fresh sanctions on Moscow has been removed from the agenda for at least some time.

According to Kommersant’s source in the EU, the sanctions legislation implies no immediate restrictions against Russia. Nevertheless, it was made, above all, because of Russia’s actions and marks a transition to a new stage in the EU's sanctions policy. "Earlier, all of the sanctions by European Union against Moscow were related to the situation in Ukraine. Now they can be imposed for other actions as well, which are unrelated to the Ukrainian conflict, for example, cyber attacks or the use of chemical weapons."

"The new mechanism is a kind of compromise between those who urge the EU to impose sanctions on Russia over ‘the Skripal case’ and Syria, and those who oppose such moves," Ivan Timofeev, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC), told the paper. He noted "there are quite a few countries in the EU, which believe there are no sufficient grounds for imposing sanctions over the Skripal case."

According to the expert, these moves are similar to the document signed by US President Donald Trump a month ago. His executive order envisages the automatic sanctioning of individuals or entities abroad, which attempted to meddle in the November 6 midterm elections. "That is, Trump did not slap any sanctions on Russia, but the legislation states that, if meddling is registered, the president can impose them. This is likewise a compromise document, which shows Trump’s opponents that work is in progress," Timofeev concluded.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Assad’s potential mop-up operation in Idlib looms over terrorists

The deadline for creating a buffer zone in Syria’s Idlib Governorate agreed on by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan a month ago has expired. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem described the situation in Idlib as unsatisfactory, because militants who refuse to comply with the reconciliation agreement continue to operate there.

According to the Syrian Arabic daily, Al-Watan, militants are demanding additional guarantees from Turkey for foreign mercenaries, and this is a precondition for weapons withdrawal from the demilitarized zone.

The agreement on setting up a demilitarized zone has been implemented partially, with some opposition groups leaving the buffer zone, Nezavisimaya Gazeta quotes Alexander Shumilin, Chief Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, as saying.

"The militants have recognized the Russian-Turkish agreements. However, they emphasize that these are the agreements between Moscow and Ankara rather than with Damascus. They are hashing over options for evacuating the less than plentiful foreign mercenaries among their ranks with Turkish representatives. While the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) is made of mostly of foreigners, Al-Nusra consists predominantly of Syrians."

He recalled that the Russian-Turkish deal made it possible to prevent a large-scale military operation in Idlib by Assad’s forces backed by Russia’s Aerospace Forces. "In the event of hostilities, the situation there would have been far more serious than in Aleppo. While corridors were provided for evacuation to Idlib, there will be no corridors from Idlib. The possible battle for Idlib, which is home to about 3 million people, would have resulted in a record humanitarian disaster for the 21st century, according to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres," Shumilin emphasized.


Izvestia: North Korean leader gears up for visit to Russia

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to arrive in Russia in late October or early November, three well-informed South Korean diplomatic sources informed Izvestia.

"That will happen in late October or in early November, before the US Congressional elections, which are scheduled to be held on November 6," one source said, adding that Moscow and Vladivostok are being looked at as possible venues for the upcoming Russian-North Korean summit.

During her official visit to North Korea, Speaker of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Valentina Matviyenko invited Kim Jong Un to visit Russia and received a positive response. A week ago, South Korean President Moon Jae-in who had met his North Korean counterpart three times over the past year said that Kim Jong Un would visit Russia soon, while Chinese leader Xi Jinping would pay a visit to Pyongyang.

The North Korean leader’s trip to Russia is being planned amid preparations for the second US-North Korean summit, which is likely to be held after the American midterm elections.

According to Kim Yong-woon, an expert at the Center for Korean Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies, it would be not bad for the North Korean leader, if Xi Jinping’s visit to Beijing took place first, then his meeting with Vladimir Putin. After that, he could fly to the expected meeting with US President Donald Trump.

By and large, Moscow and Beijing have expressed their support to Pyongyang on denuclearization and sanctions, the expert added.

In the future, any agreements Pyongyang will sign with the US will require international guarantees, particularly in light of Washington’s withdrawal from a number of agreements, including the Iran nuclear deal. According to the expert, North Korea’s two neighbors along with the Security Council could provide such guarantees. That’s why Pyongyang is pursuing political and diplomatic contacts with Russia and China, the specialist stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: World Bank promises Russia radiant digital future

Russia can become one of the world’s leaders in the digital economy if it uses the right strategy for the development of its key industries, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes citing a report by the World Bank titled "Competition in the Digital Era: Strategic Challenges for the Russian Federation".

Meanwhile, the Russian businesses as a whole are lagging behind in the use of digital technologies. For example, Russia’s industrial sector accounts for nearly 40% of the GDP and the employment of one-third of the workforce, but there are no significant accomplishments in digital breakthroughs there, the report states. Experts predict, however, that the share of the digital economy in Russia’s GDP will rise 5.6% by 2021 compared to 3.9% in 2015.

The digital economy is global by nature, but the country’s interests need to be protected as well, says Alexander Cherkavsky, a lecturer and researcher at the IT management School of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. "Digital security as an integral part of the digital economy," he stressed.

The digital economy is indeed one of the government’s top priorities for the next six years, so, at least some of the provisions of this program will be implemented and yield dividends, says Solid Management expert Sergei Zvenigorodsky. As for the introduction of digital technologies in industries, a lot depends on the enterprises and their management. "Enterprises themselves need to take the first steps and optimize the production process. Currently, only large market participants resort to this," he noted.

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