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Press review: Ukraine bans entry to Russian reporters and will TurkStream bypass Bulgaria

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday

Izvestia: Kiev to bar Russian journalists from covering Ukraine’s presidential election

Most Russian reporters will be denied the opportunity to cover the Ukrainian presidential election live from the scene. Several sources in Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada (parliament) informed Izvestia that the accreditation for Russian journalists would be selective.

"It is pointless to allow those correspondents who promote Moscow’s stance [to enter the country]. The final decision on who will come and who will be denied entry to Ukraine will be made soon," one of them said.

According to another source, there a list of Russian media outlets and journalists who are "not recommended" for entry into the country during the presidential election.

Lawmaker from the Opposition Bloc party Yevgeny Balitsky confirmed this information, adding that such actions are out of line with all democratic principles.

"The election should be divided into two parts. In the first round, while Poroshenko is still in power, Russian journalists will not be allowed into the country, there is no doubt about that. In the second round, those individuals who are in power now, will probably step down and will not influence this process, but there are no guarantees," he told the paper.

The lawmaker noted that the current political establishment in Ukraine is interested in whipping up this hysteria, while President Pyotr Poroshenko is thus trying to improve his approval ratings and cling to power.

"They continue to justify their mediocrity and theft shouting at the top of their lungs about the Kremlin’s hand. That’s silly, but that’s the policy pursued by the current leadership. They will not try to justify a ban for Russian journalists in any way. Now it is enough for them to say that Russia is an aggressor, so [Russian journalists] cannot be allowed [into the country]," Balitsky stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Bulgaria fears loss of TurkStream transit

Bulgaria will cease to be a transit country for Russian gas delivered to Turkey through the Trans-Balkan corridor in 2020, news agencies quoted Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova as saying citing Russia’s notice to this effect. Sofia is already trying to assess the potential losses, which could be painful indeed, if the second leg of the TurkStream pipeline, for some reason, bypasses Bulgaria. In the event of this negative turn of events, Bulgarian officials do not rule out even a repetition of the Ukrainian scenario and a lawsuit against Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The fate of the pipeline’s second leg has not been fully clarified despite Gazprom’s statements that TurkStream will be fully commissioned later this year. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Bulgarian media some time ago that the pipeline’s second leg could be extended to Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary. He stressed though that additional guarantees were required so that the new leg does not share the fate of South Stream project, which has never been implemented.

Anna Kokoreva, Deputy Director of the Analytical Department at Alpari, explained in an interview with the paper that the situation was predictable and should not come as a surprise for Bulgaria and other countries through whose territories the Trans-Balkan corridor runs.

"The Russian project provided for the development of infrastructure in Bulgaria and other participants in the Trans-Baikal corridor to be incorporated into the TurkStream pipeline. If work to prepare that infrastructure begins and ends on time, the process of changing the supply corridor will proceed smoothly and without losses," the expert said.

For her part, Tamara Safonova, Assistant Professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), stressed that "for Bulgaria, the transit of Russian gas is a key economic project, which makes it possible to influence Europe’s energy market and ensure high profitability from operating the main pipelines."


Vedomosti: Washington accuses Rosneft of violating sanctions against Venezuela’s PDVSA

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denounced Russia’s Rosneft oil company for continuing to purchase oil from the Venezuelan state oil company, PDVSA, despite Washington’s sanctions imposed in late January. In response, Rosneft branded Pompeo’s statements as unsubstantiated and biased, stressing that the company’s activities in Venezuela are carried out in accordance with international law and under existing market contracts signed long before Washington’s sanctions were imposed, Vedomosti writes.

Rosneft has not violated any sanctions, since the oil is supplied within the framework of repaying debt, which had been shaped before these sanctions were unveiled, the paper quotes Alexander Pakhomov, Director of the Law and Mediation Fund for the Fuel and Energy Complex, as saying. Alexey Panin, a founding partner of Urus Advisory, has a similar viewpoint. He added though that uncertainty in this case persists. "Pompeo’s remarks look like a way of whipping up tensions," he pointed out.

When Rosneft came to Venezuela, it was aware of the high risks of working in the Latin American country. Now those risks are mounting, so the company needs to be on good terms with all parties concerned, including the opposition, Panin went on to say.

"The principal risk it faces is an economic one. Everything that happens in the country is bound to affect businesses. Of course, one may consider the Iraqi scenario of 2003, when all business contracts were cancelled. I doubt, however, that something similar is possible in Venezuela," he explained.

"Pompeo publicly criticizes Rosneft, and this criticism does deserve attention, but Rosneft does not fall into the sphere of [Washington’s] influence. The major risk for Rosneft under these circumstances is secondary sanctions," said Alexander Bychkov, a partner of the Moscow branch of Baker & McKenzie CIS.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump unveils plans to counter ‘Russian influence’

US President Donald Trump has asked Congress to earmark $500 mln for fiscal year 2020 (beginning in October 2019) to counter Russia’s "malign" influence in Europe and other continents.

Considering its potential targeted use, this move can contribute to destabilizing Russia’s economy and harm its military-industrial complex, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. According to Colonel Eduard Rodyukov, a Corresponding Member of the Academy of Military Sciences, the US may use these funds to hinder Russia’s military-technical cooperation with other countries "not so much in terms of lobbying its weapons projects but in terms of information warfare." He also did not rule out that the Americans could bribe some officials and try to shape a generally negative image of Russian weapons on the world market.

The expert stressed though that could hardly hamper intense military-technical cooperation between Russia and its partners in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Rodyukov recalled that the order book of Russia’s state arms vendor Rosoboronexport (part of the state hi-tech corporation Rostec) has exceeded $51 bln, a record figure over the past decade.

On the other hand, Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategic and Technologies, stressed to Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Trump’s new anti-Russian initiatives have political implications. According to the expert, the proposed moves are unlikely to have a substantial negative effect, because Russia’s current and potential partners in the arms business have not changed their stances after Washington’s threats against them. "That applies to Algeria, Turkey and some other countries," he pointed out.


Izvestia: European business community reaffirms commitment to Nord Stream 2

Potential US sanctions against companies from Europe involved in the Nord Stream 2 project will affect neither the construction of the pipeline nor the activities of European firms in other markets, representatives of these companies and experts told Izvestia.

Uniper Spokesman Georg Oppermann assured Izvestia that the company would adhere to its contractual obligations under the Nord Stream 2 project. He stressed that this is a project for the coming decades, which does not depend on short-term considerations.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, with a total investment price tag of 9.5 bln euro, is scheduled to be commissioned in late 2019.

"If Donald Trump was sure that sanctions could prevent the project from being implemented, he would have imposed them long ago. Now that about 850 km of pipelines have been laid and nearly all the funds have been raised, it is difficult to do anything, and it is too late to impose sanctions," said Konstantin Simonov, Director of the National Energy Security Fund.

If any restrictive measures are ultimately unveiled, they will mainly affect the Swiss company Allseas, which lays the pipes on the seabed. According to Simonov, by punishing Allseas for its involvement in the project, the US will mainly harm its own businesses.

"Allseas is a Swiss family-owned company. It has no external shareholders, and its ties to the US banking system are less than that of other companies. The contract with Gazprom is currently the most important for it. It has projects in the US as well, but the work Allseas does in the Gulf of Mexico is so complex that it is almost impossible to replace it," the expert explained.


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