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Press review: West stoking Azov Sea troubles for more sanctions and Russia to weaponize AI

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday

Kommersant: Senior diplomat believes Azov Sea tensions being stoked for more sanctions

In recent weeks, Kiev, Brussels and Washington have been stepping up accusations against Russia of militarizing the Sea of Azov, obstructing free navigation, encroaching on Ukraine’s interests and violating international maritime law. Thus, once again Moscow is being threatened with more sanctions. Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Kommersant that he believed the issue was created artificially as a pretext for more restrictions against Russia.

"The issue was planted in the media intentionally. The current regime in Kiev, in coordination with its foreign backers and patrons, found another anti-Russian subject from thin air. Moscow has been actively accused, and without any proof whatsoever - which is a custom lately - of some illegal actions in the Sea of Azov. However, this was expected since Crimea is no longer perceived as an acute problem and an instrument of pressure on Russia, so fresh ideas were needed. Consequently, Azov was chosen as such a topic," he told Kommersant. "This is a totally artificial creation. In fact, the situation in this region is not that interesting for our so-called Western partners. For them, this is just another reason for attacking Russia and a pretext for tightening anti-Russian sanctions," Karasin emphasized.

The bone of contention by the West and Kiev according to the Russian diplomat is that ships in the Sea of Azov had been stopped for inspection, though very rarely, and for good reasons. "There are no deliberate delays. This is all conjured up in Kiev, Washington and Brussels. By the way, we have recently discussed this topic in Brussels with Secretary General of the European External Action Service Helga Schmid and furnished appropriate explanations. It is strange that they still focus on it," Karasin told the newspaper.

The diplomat further slammed the allegations of Moscow's militarization in the region saying its just the opposite. "Ukraine is engaged in military preparations in the Sea of Azov, they intensively build up their naval groupings there with the support of the United States, expanding their coastal military infrastructure," he told Kommersant.


Izvestia: President Putin asks defense industry to bolster combat AI

Russia's military-industrial complex should work on the production of 'smart', high-precision missiles and ammunition, Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a recent meeting with the nation's top brass and representatives from the military industrial complex, held in the military innovation technopolis Era. According to Izvestia, the center will be up and running at the end of 2019, but experts have already labeled it the road to Russia’s military artificial intelligence.

According to Putin, the military needs “smart, high-precision ammunition, which boosts the capabilities of both current and future weapons systems and in addition significantly saves money.”At the same time, it is necessary not only to create optimal stocks of material and technical resources, but also to organize their proper, safe storage, timely upgrading and utilization, the Russian leader noted, adding that he means creating full-cycle production facilities.

Military expert Vadim Kozyulin told Izvestia that the place of the meeting - the Era technopolis-is Russia's road to military artificial intelligence. "The United States and China have adopted a detailed program for the development of artificial intelligence. The Russian head of state said earlier that whoever is the first in the field of artificial intelligence, will rule the world," he noted. "In the development of artificial intelligence, the one who does not move quickly enough will fall behind. Therefore, the military decided to take the initiative into their hands, and this should be only welcomed," the expert added.

The format of military meetings with the participation of President Putin has already become a tradition. Twice a year - in May and November - Putin gathers Russia’s top brass representatives from enterprises of the military-industrial complex in Sochi. Generally, these activities are held behind closed doors and instructions are given to the government, ministries and departments after the event.


Kommersant: South Africa’s top diplomat sums up her Russia visit

South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu wrapped up her official three-day visit to Russia, where she represented her country at the meeting of the Mixed Intergovernmental Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation. The diplomat told reporters that Moscow is not only a political associate of South Africa in BRICS, but also a promising economic partner. However, according to Kommersant, this does not mean that Pretoria is ready to resume a huge joint project, which is the construction of Rosatom’s nuclear power plant in South Africa.

According to the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, the countries are fostering cooperation in the field of geology and subsoil use, education, science and technology, agriculture and energy. Although the volume of mutual investments is not very large, the parties noted encouraging trends.

"In terms of turnover, we are counting on reaching a billion (dollars). The growth is very good. At the same time, it is necessary to widen variety and increase volumes," a source at the Intergovernmental Committee told Kommersant. "The market is very tough, competition is fierce, but we are managing to promote cutting-edge technologies, and our companies such as Roscosmos, Rostselmash, Kamaz, Renova, Alrosa, and Norilsk Nickel are taking part in a number of projects," the source added.

The construction of Rosatom’s nuclear power plants in South Africa could have turned out to be a huge step forward, but last summer, the country froze its nuclear program. However, answering a question from Kommersant, Sisulu did not categorically rule out renewing the project. "Before South Africa makes a decision on the Rosatom NPP, it (Rosatom) has been working on other projects," one of the Russian sources told the newspaper. Under these conditions, cooperation in space could hold much more fruitful prospects.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia’s Economic Development Ministry overly optimistic for the next 18 years

The Russian Ministry of Economic Development has submitted a new long-term forecast until 2036 to the government, which corresponds to three presidential terms. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the prognosis is far more optimistic than earlier versions. For example, the Ministry of Economic Development foresees growth of more than 3% a year in addition to surpassing global averages.

According to the Minister of Economic Development and Trade Maxim Oreshkin, a rather serious decline and a somewhat low level of prices for commodities is expected for the long haul and by 2025-2030, fuel prices will be at around $50 per barrel. After 2024, the economically active segment of the population will grow due to rising life expectancies and increasing birth rates. However, after 2024, productivity growth rates will gradually decelerate. "So, we have two global trends: a positive demographic trend and a gradual slowdown in labor productivity growth, which in general will ensure a fairly stable dynamics of the economy for the long term, just above 3% of GDP," Oreshkin said.

Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that the officials did not manage to escape the similarities to the Soviet-era Communist Party Congresses. "The forecasts of the Ministry of Economic Development for the next 20 years, talking about how our economic development rate will be consistently greater than global figures, reminds precisely of that," Finam analyst Alexey Korenev told the newspaper. "In recent years, we have already heard so many promises that Russia's GDP growth rates will be noticeably higher than the global numbers, that we have lost count. Every time something hinders it, our GDP lags behind," he added.

According to the head of Alpari’s analytical department Alexander Razuvaev, the forecast of economic growth at 3% per year looks reasonable. "Another thing is that such rates are significantly lower than in the 2000s and will not solve the poverty issue. Russians are waiting for an economic breakthrough, but the government honestly says - there will not be one," the expert told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.


Izvestia: Turkey launches mass production of Altay tank

In the first half of November, a contract was signed in Ankara between representatives of the Secretariat of Turkey’s Defense Industry and Russia’s BMC. As a result, the Altay battle tank finally went into mass production. According to Izvestia, Turkish army equipment is impressive, but nevertheless it has a major drawback which is the age of many combat vehicles. This new production might not solve the technical problem.

Within 20 years, it is planned to produce 1,000 Altay tanks with the total cost of the project estimated at $25-30 bln. In the future, the new Altay vehicles will generally replace those outdated models of tanks.

According to Izvestia, from a military point of view, the Turkish army does not need a new armored vehicle right now, it has a lot of much more urgent problems. The idea seems to be rather an image project and a way to show that even under extremely limited capabilities, the Turkish defense industry is technologically independent and capable of implementing large national projects, the newspaper wrote.

The demonstration is addressed to three parties at once. First, to skeptics in the country. Second, external partners in the arms market are being given a signal that the country is still able to participate in joint projects and develop modern weapons. And third, this is a gesture towards the European Union and, in particular, Austria and Germany, showing that the country is capable of such mass production on its own, Izvestia wrote.


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