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Press review: Poroshenko’s lonely debate at empty podium and is Russia returning to PACE

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, April 15


Izvestia: Russia ready to pay fee to Council of Europe if rights fully restored

Moscow is ready to return a debt of 60 mln euro to the Council of Europe, which has been accumulated over two years of non-payment, a diplomatic source familiar with the situation told Izvestia. Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev has laid down the condition under which payments can happen: only when the rights of the Russian delegation in the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) are fully restored. The Federation Council noted the need to reform the Council of Europe so that each delegation has a guaranteed voting right.

According to Kosachev, in addition to the full restoration of the Russian delegation’s rights, PACE should eliminate the very threat of further discrimination against national delegations. "In this case, Russia will be ready not only to pay its annual contribution, but also to recover the debt that has accumulated over the past two years. This is our official position, and I can only welcome it," he told the newspaper.

In early April, the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a resolution, in which it recognized that the Council of Europe was in a deep political and financial crisis. This document, in particular, included the need to preserve Russia's place in the Council of Europe, and also called upon Moscow to appoint a delegation to PACE and pay a contribution to the budget.

"Some of my colleagues took this resolution almost as an ultimatum to Russia. I do not share this point of view," Kosachev told the newspaper. "With 324 voting mandates, only 105 parliamentarians approved it, 30 voted against it, while another 16 deputies abstained and this is obviously not a majority position," he added.

Thus, Kosachev noted the imperfection of the PACE procedures, due to which, according to Moscow, the Russian delegation was deprived of its rights in 2014. Due to the events in Ukraine in 2014, PACE members voted to strip the Russian delegation of the right to vote and a number of other powers. In response, in 2016, the Russian delegation refused to confirm its authority, and in June 2017, Moscow announced that it was suspending its payments to the organization’s budget. The issue of Russia’s participation will be resolved in June 2019. That said, Moscow has become active in talking about the need to reform the regulations.


Izvestia: Poroshenko holds 'one man' debate, as comic's no-show leads to solo

The April 14 'debate' turned out to be a lonely monologue as Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko was forced to hold a one-man show as his rival Vladimir Zelensky, was a no-show. This fiasco testified to the agony of the current authorities and there might not be a real dispute, several Ukrainian deputies and experts told Izvestia. Poroshenko debated himself out of fear of answering uncomfortable questions, according to Verkhovna Rada MP Vadim Novinsky. At the same time, another lawmaker, Evgeny Balitsky, is certain that this type of format would not lead to any positive changes in the current leader’s rating.

The debate between Poroshenko and Zelensky was, perhaps, the most awaited event in Ukraine right after the first round of the presidential race, the newspaper wrote. However, Zelensky did not appear at the venue, attributing his decision to information that a provocation was being concocted against him.

"What happened on Sunday was not a debate, but a conversation with himself in an attempt to avoid uncomfortable questions," Verkhovna Rada MP, and representative of Ukraine in PACE Vadim Novinsky told Izvestia. "Debates involve competition, when rivals answer each other’s uncomfortable questions. But Poroshenko does not want this, because he cannot answer any pressing questions. All that he promised in 2014, when he became president, he did not fulfill, he deceived the Ukrainian people," the politician added.

Nevertheless, even such debates, turned into self-promotion, would not have a positive impact on the rating of the current president, Verkhovna Rada deputy Evgeny Balitsky told the newspaper. "It is hard for me to say what that was, except for - the agony of authority. Even ex-President of Ukraine Yanukovich, when he fled, had a rating of 22%. Yet, Poroshenko scored 16% with all administrative power behind him and five years of support from the West. Ukrainians gave their assessment of the authorities. So, in the second round, people will walk in with their eyes closed, believing in the fairy tale and the scenic image of Zelensky. Meanwhile, Poroshenko as a politician will fade into non-existence," he told Izvestia.


Vedomosti: Natural Resources Ministry agrees with Rosneft’s request to sell oil section of Northern Sea Route

The Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, at the request of Rosneft, has agreed to hold a tender for the Zapadno-Irkinsky subsoil area (north of Krasnoyarsk Region) with probable oil and gas reserves of 500 mln tonnes of conditional fuel, according to Minister Sergey Donskoy’s letter to President Vladimir Putin. The communique was confirmed to Vedomosti by a source close to the Ministry of Natural Resources. The letter was a response to Rosneft’s request to put the subsoil area up for tender this year.

At the same time, the ministry doubts that the volume of oil that Rosneft considers possible to produce at the field will meet the expectations of the state-owned company. "The liquid hydrocarbon reserves may be less than the stated estimate due to the dominating gas content on adjacent territories", the letter said. By the same token, the ministry noted that approximately 70% of the license area is located in a specially protected natural area of regional importance.

The license can be clinched by a company that satisfies three conditions: it must have its own ice-class fleet built in Russia, its exports must be extracted oil by the Northern Sea Route, and it must guarantee environmental safety requirements during development.

No oil company has its own fleet of ice-class tankers right now, General Director of Infoline-Analytics Mikhail Burmistrov said. Rosneft has just formed an order at the Zvezda shipyard. Rosneft could begin development of the area not earlier than 2026-2027.

"Holding a tender, when a specific subsoil user or group fits the launch requirements is a legitimate practice. There is also an economic reason - giving a license area only to those who would be able to develop it with an absolute guarantee," Senior Researcher at the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas Ivan Sidorov told the newspaper.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia falling behind in space race

In a Cosmonautics Day meeting with the staff of Russia’s major rocket engine manufacture, Energomash, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again called for taking new steps in the development of the space industry. However, objective data indicate that, in terms of their functions, the orbital grouping of the Russian Armed Forces is in many respects inferior to similar structures not only in the United States and NATO countries, but also in the developing countries of Southeast Asia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

According to Chairman of the Scientific and Technical Council Russian Technologies Yuri Koptev, if legislation does not stipulate an increase in the quantity and quality of domestic spacecraft, Russia will face an tough situation in the coming years when most satellites will be produced by the West. According to the newspaper, this is already happening. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, as of November 30, 2018, China had 284 spacecraft in space orbits, while the US had 849. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, it can be assumed that the number of Russian satellites in outer space in the interests of defense does not exceed 70-80 units.

The goal of restoring space aeronautics in Russia was already set before in the Rocket and Space Industry Development Strategy adopted two years ago. However, as reported recently by the media, citing expert sources, problems with import substitution can slow down the modernization of GLONASS satellites, which are now mainly working in the interests of the Ministry of Defense. The Russian satellites of this system would receive a fully domestic electronic component base only by 2030. "Talking about any breakthrough technologies at such a pace of development of satellite constellations is meaningless," the newspaper wrote.

"In more than 20 years, the development of a spacecraft system designed to detect space rocket launches has been stalled in the Russian Armed Forces, only a few satellites capable of conducting visual and electronic intelligence have been launched into orbit. Meanwhile, more than a hundred units have been operating in NATO countries and the US," military expert, Lieutenant-General Yuri Netkachev told the newspaper. In this state, the military threats associated with "Star Wars" are mounting for Russia, the expert noted.


Kommersant: Criminals feeling the pinch from cryptocurrency crunch

According to experts from the RAND Corporation, bitcoin and other common digital assets are less suitable for criminals, since these tools no longer provide complete anonymity and are controlled by regulators and law enforcement, and to top it off new cryptocurrencies are unreliable and illiquid. However, sources told Kommersant they consider such conclusions to be too optimistic, noting the presence of a shadow cryptocurrency market. RAND also recognizes that digital assets retain a potential danger to society, and are rapidly evolving and transforming.

The think tank also pointed out that the main problem for the criminal underworld is that bitcoin has been losing anonymity in all market transactions. Especially when it comes to large sums of cryptocurrency that need to be converted, which has become difficult because of the increased control from the international law enforcement system.

"In general, we concur with the conclusions: the cryptocurrency market is growing and becoming more secure for its participants," Co-founder and General Director of Wirex cryptobank Dmitry Lazarichev told the newspaper, adding that most popular cryptoassets have always been transparent. However, after the introduction of KYC/AML (Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering) procedures, many large players began to abandon these assets in order to avoid being blacklisted.

However, the newspaper noted that one should not underestimate potential of the digital market for use in underground operations. The rapid development of technology may lead to the emergence of new ways to avoid the long arm of the law.


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