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Press review: EU, May wrangle over Brexit delay and India snaps up Russian tanks

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, April 10
Graffiti by French artist Combo depicting France's President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris AP Photo/Thibault Camus
Graffiti by French artist Combo depicting France's President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris
© AP Photo/Thibault Camus


Kommersant: India set to buy several hundred T-90 tanks from Russia

India is preparing to buy 464 Russian battle tanks (T-90MSs) from Moscow for around $2 bln. The agreement, according to Kommersant, does not include a supply of ready-made tanks, but vehicle sets for subsequent assembly in the country. Moscow took this major step for the manufacturer of tanks, the Uralvagonzavod corporation. This is one of the largest foreign contracts in recent years. In addition, New Delhi decided to buy the T-90MSs in the run-up to its elections, thus demonstrating its attitude towards Russia as a partner in the field of defense cooperation, according to the newspaper’s sources in the military-industrial complex.

"The Russian side is ready to extend the license and boost production of the T-90 tanks in India due to the decision on additional purchases of tanks in the interests of the national armed forces," the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation told Kommersant. The agency noted that Russia would continue to assist its partners in India "in the further production of this armored vehicle."

At the same time, sources familiar with the negotiations told Kommersant that the applications for the T-90MS vehicle kits from New Delhi are expected in the near future. "This includes extending the license that India already has and the delivery of kits from Moscow, as well as assembly on the customer's territory," one of the sources said. Another source in the defense industry told Kommersant that the Ordnance Factory Board will handle the direct manufacturing of the T-90MS. Russian participation would be limited to supplying technological kits for their subsequent manufacturing, training Indian personnel and providing service.

Sources in the industry told Kommersant that the approval of the deal by the government is "an extremely important moment against the background of the upcoming parliamentary elections in India", which will be held from April 11 to May 19. "When the whole republic is in a state of chaos and certain instability, confirmation of its attitude towards Russia as a partner in defense cooperation is extremely important," a source in the military-industrial complex told the newspaper.


Izvestia: EU mulls over date for Brexit delay

Two days before Britain’s exit from the European Union, at an emergency summit, European leaders will decide whether they agree to give London a second postponement on Brexit. British Prime Minister Theresa May asked Brussels to postpone Brexit until June 30. However, the EU seems to be satisfied with a more distant date, Izvestia wrote. Anyway, the outcome of these discussions is not predetermined. The European Council told Izvestia that the leaders of the countries would make a decision only on April 10. If at least one of the 27 European leaders says no delay, then Brexit will come into force on April 12, and the United Kingdom will leave the union without a deal.

Five days before the summit, Theresa May turned to Brussels requesting to put off Brexit until June 30, 2019. In her letter, s

he confirmed that London does not intend to participate in the European elections, which will be held on May 23-26. She has already asked the EU to move Brexit to that date, and European leaders refused.

Valdai Club Expert David Lane told Izvestia that May hopes that EU leaders will change their minds. According to him, if Brussels does not agree to a postponement, then the responsibility for Brexit without a deal will be partially shouldered by them.

According to Izvestia, the European Union does not seem ready to meet London’s aspirations. According to British media, President of the European Council Donald Tusk has already offered the UK to postpone Brexit until March 31, 2020, with the possibility of leaving the EU ahead of this deadline if parliamentarians finally approve the agreement.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Serbia may cause delay of TurkStream 2’s launch

The news that during the talks in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, could not agree on the price of gas, agitated the public. Experts believe that most likely the parties will come to a compromise. A discount is possible, but in exchange for something, say for example, access to Turkey’s retail market. The fate of the second transit string - TurkStream 2 - which is unlikely to be launched before 2021 arouses more serious concerns, experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. This time Serbia has been labelled the project’s problematic participant.

Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that, despite the differences over prices, the threat to launching the first string of TurkStream is minimal. "This is not the first such case. We can recall the story of the project of a direct gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey - Blue Stream - which is currently operational. When it was under construction, Turkey said the same thing - that Russian gas was expensive and they needed a discount. However, gradually the gas pipeline was filled to 100%, and the situation was ironed out," Director of the National Energy Institute Sergey Pravosudov told the newspaper.

According to the newspaper, Serbia was supposed to begin the construction of a connecting gas pipeline, but so far, this has not happened. Its timing still remains a mystery. Pravosudov believes that Serbia is unlikely to complete its construction before the end of the year. "This means that the second string will not be loaded or will be loaded minimally," he said. It will require upgrading timeworn infrastructure, and constructing connecting routes. "By the end of 2021, perhaps, all this work will be completed," Pravosudov concluded.

"As for the second string, the timing of its construction and commissioning is difficult to predict," Deputy Director of Alpari Center Natalia Milchakova told the newspaper. Experts reiterated that earlier Russian officials had repeatedly demanded "to reinforce specific guarantees" from both the European Union and Bulgaria regarding the fate of the second string, and so far, no guarantees have been received.


Vedomosti: Russian Helicopters plans to increase deliveries by 25% in 2019

Russian Helicopters holding (part of Rostec) plans to produce around 250 helicopters in 2019 for domestic and foreign customers compared to 200 last year, the holding’s General Director Andrei Boginsky said in an interview with Vedomosti.

In 2017, Russian Helicopters delivered 221 helicopters, a year later, this figure decreased to 200 units. "The figure for 2017 is taking into account the upgraded vehicles. They need development work, so they are included in the supply statistics. For new vehicles, the figures for 2018 are roughly comparable to 2017," Boginsky told the newspaper. "In the future we plan to grow. In particular, in 2019 we expect to reach the figure of around 250 helicopters," he added.

Boginsky noted that the holding now has export potential, which was helped by last year’s demo tour of the Mi-171A2 and Ansat helicopters in China and Southeast Asia. "We have signed a contract for the supply of 20 Ansats in the interests of China Association for Disaster & Emergency Rescue Medicine, and we have also gained about 50 soft orders for the Mi-171A2 and Ansat for Southeast Asian countries, and we are now working on changing them into firm contracts," Boginsky said.

He also noted that the peak of rearmament with Russian military equipment had already been passed in countries that have historically been major partners of Russia, such as China, India, Algeria, Egypt, Malaysia, and Myanmar. "According to our estimates, military exports will amount to 30-40 helicopters per year. By comparison, in 2011-2017 we supplied 650 helicopters for military-technical cooperation," Boginsky concluded.


Kommersant: Russia prepares bill regulating Runet segment

The State Duma Information Policy Committee recommended adopting amendments to the draft law on Russia’s sovereign segment of the Internet in the second reading, Kommersant wrote. The document will come into force in November 2019, and the obligation to block prohibited content will be transferred from telecom operators to Russia’s media watchdog. According to the newspaper, starting from 2021, state bodies and institutions will have to fully switch to Russian encryption tools.

Experts interviewed by Kommersant believe that the lawmakers did not take into account many of the suggestions from the industry, and the document as a whole remains "illiterate and incomprehensible" and would give the Russian media and communications watchdog too much power. At the same time, the mandatory use of "Russian encryption tools" will affect only state bodies, local governments, and state-owned municipal institutions. Since the bill involves adopting bylaws of different levels, it could enter into force in November 2019.

"In general, the project remains illiterate and incomprehensible," Curator of the Working Group "Communication and IT" at the Government Expert Council Irina Levova told Kommersant, adding that it would be advisable to provide more time to draw up amendments.

Broad powers given to the Russian watchdog would be better off distributed between the service, the government, and the Ministry of Communications, Levova added. The newspaper’s source in one of the major telecom operators also called concentrating all power in the hands of one organization a "major problem".



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