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Press review: US hawks ‘Russian INF violations’ to NATO and pushes Kiev to war with Russia

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday

Kommersant: US persuades EU, NATO allies that Russia is ‘violating’ INF

Washington has apparently convinced its NATO allies that Russia ‘violated’ the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Kommersant writes. NATO members' top diplomats are due to hold a meeting on Tuesday, the first such event after the US announcement on leaving the 1987 treaty, to adopt a statement condemning Moscow’s steps. Earlier, the leaders of some European countries lashed out at US President Donald Trump’s decision and called for reconsidering it.

In order to persuade its NATO allies, Washington decided to take a step, which it had avoided for five years, namely to share intelligence data with Europe and make public its accusations regarding Russia’s ‘violation,’ Kommersant says. According to Der Spiegel, the US shared its satellite data allegedly proving that Moscow had test fired a ground-based cruise missile at a prohibited range. The report did not provide any other details, but the German authorities believe that this data is enough and are ready to sign a statement criticizing Russia’s steps.

Other NATO members also have no doubt that Washington is right and now the question is whether the text will include countermeasures that the alliance could impose in response to the Russian ‘threat,’ the paper says.

Earlier, the US military and diplomats had adamantly refused to lay out Washington’s claims. However, on Friday Director of US National Intelligence Daniel Coats finally stated that Russia had completed flight tests of the 9M729 cruise missile, which has "a conventional and nuclear warhead capability," in 2015. According to Coats, Russia’s authorities had used a combined scheme of flight tests to conceal the real potential of the new missile and have equipped several division sets with it.

Moscow has not yet responded to Washington’s claims. Earlier, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov warned that the US sought to accuse Moscow of failing to comply with the INF Treaty. He insisted that the 9M729 is a modernized version of a missile for the Iskander-M system and it has not been tested at a range banned by the treaty.

According to Pavel Podvig, who heads the Russian nuclear weapons project (, the US apparently has serious grounds to substantiate its claims. Even if Russia decides to provide more details on the missile or demonstrate it, Washington will likely use these steps to back up its claims, he noted. "Basically, the only real option of resolving this dispute is to achieve a political agreement on preserving the INF Treaty. If this is achieved, a means will be found to solve all technical issues - there are possibilities for this." But a mutual desire is needed to keep the treaty afloat as well as a high level of trust and willingness for some concessions. "Unfortunately, there are no such conditions today," the expert said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington pushes Kiev towards war with Russia

US President Donald Trump’s refusal to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Argentina over the Kerch Strait standoff with Ukrainian warships came as a surprise only at first glance, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Apparently, the United States is seeking to exacerbate Russian-Ukrainian relations. The imposition of martial law in Ukraine’s regions bordering Russia, its military buildup in Donbass and the calling-up of reserves is a sign that Kiev has started preparations for war, the paper says. Neither the United States nor NATO, nor European agencies have called for Ukraine's restraint. The Americans are carefully monitoring the events near Russia’s Black Sea coast, including Crimea, the Kerch Strait and Kuban.

The Ukrainian Navy’s illegal steps near Crimea were apparently linked to US goals in this region. The fact that agents of the Ukrainian Security Service were present on these vessels confirms this, the paper writes.

"US plans in Ukraine are not only about the desire to sort out Kiev’s problems in the Sea of Azov, but also about Washington’s large-scale plans to use new sanctions as a pretext to isolate Russia’s military activity in the Middle East and other regions throughout the world. It also wants to hinder Russia’s implementation of its hydrocarbon projects on shipping oil and gas to Europe via its pipelines, which are under construction now," a corresponding member at the Academy of Military Sciences Col. Eduard Rodyukov told the paper.

In order to impose these sanctions, the Americans are helping Kiev launch active combat activities in Donbass with the goal of later pinning the blame on Russia for this and starting a new blockade against its interests," he noted.

"Poroshenko announced that Russia is planning to seize the Ukrainian cities of Berdyansk and Mariupol. Actually, he declared a partial countrywide mobilization effective December 3, and sent elite forces to the Donbass front," Rodyukov said. "The US and NATO are turning a blind eye to the fact that Ukrainian Armed Forces have been beefing up their group along the entire frontline in Donbass and have put the army on full combat alert," the expert said.


Vedomosti: Russia, Saudi Arabia agree to extend oil output cut deal

Moscow and Riyadh have come to terms on extending a deal to cut oil production, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. The parties have yet to agree on the volumes, the Russian leader said, according to Vedomosti.

OPEC’s Secretariat suggested that its members cut daily output by 1.3 mln barrels, Bloomberg reported, citing its sources. Twenty-five OPEC countries and non-OPEC members have been on board the global oil production arrangement. Since January 2017, the parties to the deal have curtailed their production by 1.8 mln barrels per day from the level of October 2016. The issue of a further oil production cut will be discussed at the Vienna conference on December 5-7.

Since early October, oil price has dropped by more than 30% due to milder-than-expected US sanctions against Iran, as well as a weaker demand for oil and an oversupply. Starting from this autumn, the Saudis and Russia have stepped up production to historic levels to compensate for the falling output in Venezuela and Libya and amid an expected decrease in production in Iran due to sanctions. Russia started producing 11.4 mln barrels per day, while Saudi Arabia’s output reached a peak of 11.2 mln barrels per day in November. Besides, in August the United States became the world’s leader in oil production, which hit a record level of 11.475 mln barrel per day in September. According to the International Energy Agency, in October global oil production hit 100 mln barrels per day, while the consumption stood at 100.1 mln barrels per day.

Russia is expected to agree to cut oil production by 200,000 barrels per day, but it is unclear how quickly oil companies are ready to curtail their output, Bloomberg said.

According to a report by Raiffeisenbank, the oil production cut will reduce Russia’s economic growth rate. If Russia rolls back oil output by 166,000 barrels per day for six months, its economic growth and industrial production may slow by 0.1 percentage points and 0.3 percentage points, respectively, the experts say.


RBC: Ukraine slaps entry ban on Russian men

Ukraine has banned entry to Russian men aged 16-60 amid fears that they could conduct ‘destabilizing operations aimed at undermining the country’s interests,’ Spokesman for the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service Andrei Demchenko said. The ban won’t cover diplomats, transport maintenance personnel, as well as the Russians, who have documents on permanent or temporary residence in Ukraine and who go there to visit their relatives or attend funerals. A decision on whether or not to permit Russians entry will be made at interviews with them. Initially, Kiev had planned to introduce a full entry ban on most Russian men, but later decided on more flexible measures, Vladimir Fesenko, Head of the Center of Applied Political Studies in Ukraine, told RBC.

The decision to tighten border control comes on the heels of Kiev’s move to impose martial law from November 26 for 30 days. Poroshenko attributed the need for such a step to the allegations of a Russian ‘offensive’. Meanwhile, Moscow believes the Ukrainian decision is due to Poroshenko’s desire to boost his rating ahead of the March presidential election.

According to Ukraine’s customs authorities, in 2017 some 1.47 mln Russians visited the country, and 1.4 mln of them arrived in the country on a private visit. Another popular reason for trips is sports and cultural tourism.

Nearly one-third of Ukrainian citizens have relatives in Russia, Deputy Director of the Institute of Sociology at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences Yevgeny Golovakha said. Some 50% of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine and Russia should be friendly states with open borders and without visa and customs control, a September opinion poll carried out by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology revealed.

Moscow is unlikely to retaliate against this move since Kiev’s tightened border control fails to inflict any significant damage to Russia, analyst at the Center for Political Technologies Alexey Makarkin said.


Izvestia: Russia seeks deal with US on protecting cultural items

Moscow is planning to sign a new agreement with Washington on protecting cultural values brought for exhibitions, and the US side has signaled its understanding, Mikhail Shvydkoy, Special Representative of the Russian President for International Cultural Cooperation and ex-Culture Minister of Russia (2000-2004) told Izvestia.

"Russia outlined its position back in 2012 and it is very simple. We believe that today’s guarantees given by the State Department (by the way, they were provided to ensure security of Soviet exhibitions in the US) are insufficient in view of the judicial decision [Schneerson library case]. We insist on signing an intergovernmental agreement on protecting cultural values, which will be shown at exhibitions in the US," Shvydkoy told the paper.

Since 2014, dialogue with Washington on this issue has been frozen, but a Russian delegation’s visit to the US this November showed that "there is some understanding of the US side."

The envoy did not rule out that he could visit Dallas in February 2019 for a conference on exchanges between Russian and US museums. "I will try to meet with my colleagues in the State Department to discuss the work on the above mentioned intergovernmental deal. The process is underway, but I don’t think it will be easy," he said.

Russia and the US suspended the exchange between museums in 2010 over the Schneerson library case. Russian museums had to refuse to participate in exhibitions on American soil over the lack of guarantees against claims from third parties, and US museums took tit-for-tat steps.


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