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Press review: State of emergency issued in Venezuela and tensions brewing on Golan Heights

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, March 12
Members of the National Bolivarian Guard try disperse people trying to collect water in Caracas EPA-EFE/RAYNER PENA
Members of the National Bolivarian Guard try disperse people trying to collect water in Caracas


Izvestia: Blackout pushes Venezuelan parliament to declare state of emergency

Venezuela’s National Assembly, which is under the control of the opposition, has announced a state of emergency amid the sweeping power outage in the country. The current authorities labeled the ongoing blackout an act of sabotage and the result of US cyber attacks.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido who earlier declared himself the country’s interim president said that the state of emergency would make it possible to request international assistance to resolve the crisis. He stressed that the issue had been discussed with Germany, Japan, Brazil and Colombia.

However, according to Igor Pshenichnikov, an expert at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, Venezuela’s National Assembly has no real resources and levers to take specific measures, so everything that has to do with the state of emergency will boil down to bombastic statements. In this case, it’s just rhetoric used by the opposition to create conditions for the Washington's actions in the future, the paper quotes him as saying.

For his part, Boris Martynov, Head of the Department of International Relations and Russian Foreign Policy at MGIMO University, told the paper that a US false flag plot line should not be taken off the table.

"It is essential to realize that a total outage affects not just elevators or, say, household appliances. Control over the airspace, and the country’s protection systems are shut off. That’s why one can say all that was done on purpose," he explained.

The expert added that the United States made a blunder by deciding to support the civilian opposition rather than the military who traditionally has the final word in Latin America.


RBC: Moscow has no plans to hand over Kuril Islands to Japan

Russia will not transfer the Kuril Islands to Japan, RBC reports citing its own sources. The consultations on signing a peace treaty between Russia and Japan intensified in late 2018. The issue was raised at the January meeting between the two countries’ top diplomats and, later on, at the talks in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Tokyo expects Putin to take part in the G20 summit where the territorial dispute could be brought up once again. However, the Kremlin seems to have finalized its stance on the matter. Russia will not hand over the islands to Japan. "There are no such plans," said RBC’s source close to the presidential administration. That was confirmed by another source close to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

The Kremlin assumes that the conditions put forward by Moscow at the talks are unacceptable for Tokyo, and that Japan will not agree with them. The first condition is signing a peace treaty based on the 1956 declaration, which means that Japan would have to recognize the results of World War II in their entirety, including Russia’s sovereignty over all of the Kuril Islands. The second condition is providing guarantees that US military bases would not be set up there, if the islands were transferred to Japan, RBC’s source said.

The chances of a Putin-Abe agreement being signed at the G20 summit are very slim indeed, says Valery Kistanov, Director of the Center for Japanese Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Far Eastern Studies. According to the expert, there will be no substantial progress in June or, more than likely, during Abe’s tenure as Prime Minister, which expires in 2021.

On the other hand, political scientist Alexei Makarkin believes that consultations on the issue continue due to Moscow’s desire to "drive a wedge between the United States and Japan."

"The USSR pursued the policy of playing off the US and its allies against each other. Russia purposes the same policy, since a new Cold War is raging. For the US, any interference by a third party in its military alliance with Japan is unacceptable, and, if Japan insists on the non-deployment of US military facilities to the Kuril Islands, that will lead to problems in bilateral relations," the expert explained.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Golan Heights could turn into new hotbed of Middle East tension

Russia, as a mediator country, is finding it increasingly more difficult to keep a lid on the risks of war in Syria’s border zones, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Damascus earlier promised to attack Israeli soldiers, if the Golan Heights occupied by the Jewish state are not brought back under its control.

According to the World Israel News online news outlet, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has handed a notice to this effect to Kristin Lund, Head of the UN Truce Supervision Organization. The Syrian diplomat accused Israeli troops of using violence on a regular basis and harming regional stability. Meanwhile, observers interpret his statement as a sign that the Syrian leadership is concerned over the fact that the US Congress could consider a bill on recognizing the annexation of the Golan Heights.

The issue was raised when Republican legislators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Mike Gallagher put forward a bill to recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli territory. Experts believe, however, that the proposed move would only complicate the situation even further. "This statement is interrelated with the US legislators’ initiative aimed at recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Syria’s Golan Heights captured by Israel during the Arab-Israeli war back in 1967," military expert Yuri Lyamin told the paper.

"This is a very thorny issue for Syria. One cannot forget that its stance in this case is backed by UN Security Council Resolution 497 of 1981. Despite the fact that Damascus has no potential for a full-fledged conflict with Israel right now, it cannot fail to respond to such initiatives, at least in the form of threats. It is also noteworthy that the US initiative only consolidates Iran’s position in Syria, since mounting pressure on a weakened Damascus makes it pursue even closer ties with Tehran," the expert noted.


Vedomosti: US may become the world’s second oil exporter, experts forecast

The global oil market is in for colossal changes, which make take place by 2024. The US could become the world’s second largest exporter after Saudi Arabia leaving behind Russia. That being said, Russian oil companies could reach their production peak in two years’ time, after which a decline in production will begin, Vedomosti writes citing data provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Oil production in the US has been growing in recent years thanks to the use of new technologies in the development of shale deposits and oil price hikes.

Sentiments about the second shale revolution in the US are justified, because oil prices have stabilized, and American companies have boosted their investment effectiveness substantially, the paper quotes ATON analyst Alexadner Kornilov, as saying. According to the expert, the US will continue to increase production with the current oil prices, start entering new markets and elbow out other producers. "All that may pose a threat to Russia’s market share. It is hard to say what markets with Russia’s involvement the US will enter initially, but the most logical option is Latin America and the Asian-Pacific countries."

"The issue at hand is a highly competitive environment leading to a significant reduction in actual costs and growing efficiency. All those changes have resulted in a turn of the tide in the industry, but they are difficult to forecast," says Fitch analyst Dmitry Marinchenko.

Russia needs to increase oil production primarily due to tax incentives, according to ACRA analyst Vasily Tanurkov. "Now this is an added income tax, which will be introduced gradually. It will make it possible to develop more complex and also old oil fields," he said.


Kommersant: Russia’s airlines to carry on employing the Boeing 737 MAX

Russian air carriers using the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, which have contracts for their delivery, have no plans to abandon them, despite the recent deadly air crash in Ethiopia, Kommersant writes. For now, the country has two such planes operated by Globus (part of the S7 group). The conglomerate noted that the air carrier would receive another 11 of these models by the end of the year.

Another 14 planes have been ordered by Ural Airlines, while Pobeda Airlines (part of the Aeroflot group ) was going to purchase 30 airplanes, but no contract has been signed so far. The final decision will be made after the investigation.

"Deals on purchasing or leasing aircraft are expensive and time consuming, and abandoning them for dubious reasons costs a pretty penny," a source in the aviation industry told the paper.

According to Boris Rybak, head of Infomost Consulting, any suspension of the aircraft’s operation in Russia could be caused by the results of the investigation, the developer’s recommendations or concerns by the aviation authorities. The expert explained that an investigation takes from two to three months on average, but sometimes it can last for years. At the same time, 80% of plane crashes occur due to "a complex combination of factors, with human errors being at the forefront of them," he added.


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