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Press review: MP seeks to lock in Kurils ownership and Kiev to ban Russian OSCE observers

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, January 11


Kommersant: Russian MP initiates bill blocking any transfer of Kuril Islands to Japan

Member of the Russian State Duma (lower house of parliament) from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Sergei Ivanov has submitted a bill prohibiting any legal acts that would make it possible to transfer the Kuril Islands to Japan. According to Ivanov, when tackling this territorial issue, it is essential to proceed from the premise that all the Kuril Islands (a group of islands south of Sakhalin, according to the proposed bill) belong to Russia in accordance with several international agreements, Kommersant writes.

"If my bill is passed, technically it will be easy to cancel it. However, any party, which will resort to this step, will suffer enormous political damage," the lawmaker told the paper.

The proposed move came in the wake of the latest statements made by officials in Tokyo concerning the ownership of the Kuril Islands. The Russian Foreign Ministry stressed commenting on them that the solution to the territorial dispute "should be based on Tokyo’s unconditional recognition of the outcome of World War II," including Russia’s sovereignty over the Kuril Islands.

Meanwhile, Ivanov’s fellow lawmakers were skeptical about his initiative. "Theoretically, this bill can be passed. However, we should bear in mind the tradition of lawmaking and expediency. The State Duma has never passed any bills like that. Besides, when signing a peace treaty with Japan and passing the appropriate laws in Russia is discussed substantively, that law will be declared void at the very first meeting," Yuri Sinelshchikov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on State Affairs and Legislation, explained to Kommersant.

He suggested that the bill had been submitted to parliament as a political move due to the upcoming gubernatorial elections, including in the Sakhalin Region, in 2019.


Izvestia: Russia sets hydrocarbon production record

Russia has reached record-breaking levels in the energy sector, producing 556 mln tonnes of oil and 725 bln cubic meters of gas last year, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak announced at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. According to the minister, exports increased by 20 bln cubic meters of gas reaching nearly 225 bln cubic meters. Pipeline exports grew 4.1%, while LNG supplies increased 70% to reach almost 26 bln cubic meters.

Vladimir Feigin, President of the Institute for Energy and Finance, explained to Izvestia that the surge in production stemmed, in particular, from oil sector revenues brought about by investment in the development of new fields. "Rosneft and Gazpromneft showed a particularly impressive production increase last year," he pointed out. According to the expert, this year’s figures will depend on the new agreement with OPEC limiting oil output volumes. "However, the investment made by oil companies in previous years will play a positive role again. They will make it possible for Russia’s oil companies to boost oil production in the coming years," he added.

Russia’s success in gas exports is logical as well, says Sergei Pravosudov, Director of the National Energy Institute. "Russian pipeline gas in Europe is more preferable price-wise than supplies from other countries, given that Europe’s demand for gas is growing. Their own production has steadily declined. What’s more, coal fired power plants are gradually being decommissioned," he told the paper.

According to the expert, this trend will persist in 2019, and Russia is capable of setting another export record. These plans can only be hampered by warm weather, which would reduce the consumption of natural gas, he added.


Kommersant: Kiev wants to bar Russian OSCE observers from monitoring presidential race

The election campaign in Ukraine kicked off with an international scandal, which broke out after Foreign Minister Pavel Klimkin announced that Kiev would deny accreditation to those observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) who are Russian nationals, Kommersant writes.

A source in the OSCE ODIHR informed the paper that in spite of Klimkin’s letter, the organization does not intend to change its rules. According to the source, the Office sent invitations to all countries, including Russia, to nominate representatives to monitor the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled to be held on March 31.

Meanwhile, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for European Cooperation Andrei Kelin slammed Kiev’s stance "as discrimination on national grounds." "After the ODIHR employs a person as a member of its team, and the Office does employ Russian representatives to its main team, this individual becomes an international employee, and his or her passport does not matter. This situation created by Ukraine is uncommon," the diplomat stressed to Kommersant.

For his part, Nikolai Topornin, Associate Professor of the European Law Department at the MGIMO University, emphasized that there is an unspoken rule not to send observers from a country, which is at odds with another state, to monitor elections there. That’s what Armenia and Azerbaijan do. However, such issues are usually resolved without making them public, he added. "Klimkin could phone the OSCE secretary general and say, "If you send a mission, there should be no Russians in it. He could do that but opted for an open conflict," the expert pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Asian global economic hegemony on the horizon

China and India will be the world’s biggest economies in the next decade, putting an end to American leadership and elbowing out the US economy down to the third place, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes citing data provided by Standard Chartered Bank.

According to the bank’s forecast, China will be the absolute leader by 2020, becoming the largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity and even in terms of nominal GDP. However, China’s economic growth will slow down in the future, while neighboring India, on the contrary, will increase it. India will accelerate its GDP growth to 7.8% by 2020, while China is expected to reduce it to 5% by 2030.

The bank’s analysts say India’s growth is because it has a relatively young population, which can maintain growth in consumption. About 100 mln new jobs are going to be created in that country by 2030 in the production and services sector alone.

New Delhi’s key trading partners are currently such countries as China, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the UK and South Korea. Russia’s share in India’s trade turnover is modest. Russia exported goods to the tune of $6 bln to India in the first ten months of last year and imported goods amounting to $2.6 bln.

In comparison, Russia’s trade with the Netherlands exceeds trade turnover with India substantially, according to Ilya Zharsky, Managing Partner of Veta Expert Group. He noted though that the Russian-Indian trade structure was somewhat atypical. "Mineral products, that is, oil, petroleum products and gas, account for just 23% in the export framework, while high added-value products, primarily machinery and equipment, account for 20%," he said.

Our country supplies a very narrow list of items to India, such as nuclear reactors and equipment for the energy sector, Zharsky went on to say. "However, we supply neither civil aviation equipment, nor machine tools nor high-precision equipment. All that is supplied to India by China, the US, Japan, Korea and the EU," the expert stressed.


Izvestia: Moscow mulling swap for Ukrainian sailors

Russia is exploring the possibility of exchanging the Ukrainian sailors who were detained after Kiev’s provocation in the Black Sea for Russian nationals jailed in Ukraine, a high-ranking diplomatic source informed Izvestia.

"A lot depends on the Ukrainian side and Kiev’s willingness to reach specific agreements. Nevertheless, we must understand that it is impossible to exchange the Ukrainian sailors now. They are not prisoners of war, as Kiev claims. That means, that we need to wait for the court’s ruling, after which it will be possible to talk about any exchange. There is a fairly large number of Russians in Ukrainian prisons who need to be rescued. However, this is highly unlikely before the Ukrainian election, since Pyotr Poroshenko will immediately start claiming that as his victory," he noted.

For Kiev, securing the return of the arrested sailors is a foreign policy priority, some sources in the Ukrainian government and parliament told Izvestia.

"We want our guys to return home as soon as possible. We have some people to offer Russia for a swap, and our prosecutor-general recently said that," one of the interlocutors stated.

Returning the Ukrainian citizens is impossible before the court verdict is pronounced, since this would violate Russia’s legislation, said Yevgeny Balitsky, a Ukrainian lawmaker from the Opposition Bloc.

"Russia does not need these sailors. Nonetheless, first, the trial should be completed in accordance with Russian legislation, and only then could specific exchanges be implemented under any amnesty. Before the election, no one will discuss the issue with Poroshenko directly. His approval rating is currently so low that no serious politician, especially Vladimir Putin, would do that," he stressed.


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