All news

Press review: Trilateral talks on Rukban camp’s fate and site for pending Putin-Kim summit

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

Izvestia: Russia, Jordan, US gearing up for meeting to discuss Rukban camp

Russia, Jordan and the United States will soon hold trilateral talks to discuss the situation in the Rukban refugee camp, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said in an interview with Izvestia on Thursday. The diplomat arrived in Moscow to take part in the fifth Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum. The event focused on the so-called "deal of the century," the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, which is expected to be unveiled after the Israeli election. According to the Jordanian minister, peace in the region can be only achieved through creating two states - Israel and Palestine. The politician foresees a solution to the Rukban problem in evacuating all refugees from the camp, and here the positions of Russia and Jordan coincide, the paper says.

A week ago, Safadi met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Amman and the talks focused on the situation in Rukban. Speaking on whether Russia and Jordan had agreed on a solution to the major humanitarian crisis, the minister said, "Yes, there is a joint Jordanian-Russian position on this issue. It stipulates that the refugees from the camp should go back home to their native cities and villages. The areas where they used to live have been liberated from the terrorist threat - both direct ones and sleeper cells. Besides, there are other areas where they can return [the first evacuated Rukban refugees were sent to Latakia]. We are holding a constant dialogue with our Russian friends to solve the current crisis as soon as possible and find the ways for evacuating refugees from the camp. We have a joint Jordanian-Russian-US dialogue on Rukban, we have met earlier and we plan on holding another trilateral meeting on this issue soon," he said.

The foreign minister noted that the camp is located in Syria, where the crisis is ongoing. Jordan supplied humanitarian aid to Rukban when Damascus was unable to do it, but now the situation has improved and conditions have emerged for evacuating all refugees from the camp, he said, stressing that both Jordan and Russia see this as the only solution to the crisis. The top diplomat stressed that the Syrian crisis can be only solved through political means. Moreover, resolving the crisis is impossible without Moscow’s participation, he stressed. "Russia plays an important role in ironing out the Syrian crisis, this is true. We believe that a political solution to the conflict is the only acceptable way out of the situation, and all Arab states agree with this. In order to achieve this, all parties to the conflict need to consult and coordinate their steps with Russia, and we believe it is impossible to solve the eight-year-long crisis without Moscow’s participation," the diplomat said.

The basis for the peaceful and political settlement should be the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2254, which guarantees preserving Syria as a single and undivided state and also creating conditions for a voluntary return of refugees, Safadi said. "The resolution calls for restoring peace and stability to all of Syria’s territory as soon as possible and also ensure security of all its citizens regardless of their political views. We believe that the implementation of all these points will create conditions for bringing the Syrian Arab Republic back into the Arab family," he emphasized.


Vedomosti: Cyber attacks in Russia almost double in 2018

Russia saw the number of cyber attacks double last year, Vedomosti writes citing Vice President for Information Security at Russia’s Rostelecom Igor Lyapunov. In 2018, Rostelecom’s Center for Monitoring and Responding to Cyber Attacks, Solar JSOC, registered 765,259 attacks, an 89% increase year-on-year, he noted. These are massive and targeted attacks aimed at pilfering company funds, Lyapunov said, also noting that DDoS attacks have been on the rise.

Although Lyapunov spoke about Rostelecom’s clients, he said this analysis reflects the general situation in Russia as the operator provides services to the country’s major companies, which are key targets of these attacks. According to him, Russian hackers pocket at least 2 bln rubles ($31.3 mln) annually.

However, not all companies agree with Rostelecom’s assessments, the paper writes. According to their analysis, the hackers’ success was smaller in scale. The number of lucrative attacks in 2018 rose 27%, Director at Positive Technologies expert security center Alexei Novikov said. Most often, the perpetrators infiltrated infrastructure facilities (49% of incidents) and the companies’ web resources (26% of attacks), he said. Last year, hackers sought to steal information and obtain personal data (30%), account data (24%) and payment information (14%). Hackers were eager to get their hands on medical information because clinics are more willing to pay them since this information is crucial to people’s life and health. One quarter of attacks in 2018 affected individuals, Novikov said.

The total number of malware attacks surged 29% in 2018, Head of Department for Anti-Virus Research at Kaspersky Lab Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky told the paper, although this figure does not include DDoS attacks. The number of cyber attacks against mobile devices doubled, he noted.

According to Rostelecom, 75% of cyber attacks target credit and financial organizations, e-commerce and gambling houses. Food delivery services, car-sharing apps and other client programs are most vulnerable to these attacks, Lyapunov said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: North Korea seeks Russia’s support to ease sanctions

Preparations for a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are underway, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, not ruling out that Vladivostok could host the event. US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun also arrived in Moscow this week to discuss the North Korean nuclear issue. This may signal that Russia, which had been earlier put on the back burner, is again becoming one of the leading international players. Washington apparently seeks to get the Russian leadership’s support on the North Korean issue, while Pyongyang hopes to secure Moscow’s backing in order to ease sanctions. However, these restrictive measures had been imposed by the United Nations, so Moscow cannot do much without the consent of other UN Security Council’s permanent members, the paper writes.

The imminent Putin-Kim summit may be held at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, the paper says, citing Russian media reports that one of the university’s buildings had been closed apparently ahead of the preparations for the coming conference. The possible visit to Russia by the North Korean leader has been discussed since autumn 2018.

Professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) Georgy Toloraya told the paper it’s high time the summit was held now after the failed Hanoi meeting and amid the cooling in relations between two Koreas and also a lull in North Korea’s ties with China. It’s vital for Kim to demonstrate Moscow’s support and bring it into its fold, the analyst said. Pyongyang wants Russia to send its message to Washington during dialogue.

"The dialogue on Korea with the Americans is one of a few issues on the international agenda, which has brought us some fruit," Toloraya noted. "Mutually respectful dialogue has been continuously proceeding. The Americans are listening to us. One prominent US politician said he wants this to become a success story in Russian-US relations."

For Kim, the meeting with Putin could help demonstrate independence from China, and he also has an economic agenda, the expert said. Pyongyang believes that since Russia has been targeted by sanctions itself, it should take an unbiased stance on restrictions against North Korea, the expert said. This also refers to the problem of North Korean migrant laborers, who will be forced to leave Russia by December 22. "It is not ruled out that some other work options will be found for the North Koreans in other Russian regions."


Vedomosti: Europe buying less Russian gas amid warm weather

Europe’s demand for Russian gas in order to pump it into underground storage facilities will be significantly lower than in previous years, Gazprom said, attributing the trend to warm weather, according to Vedomosti. Traditionally, European consumers start filling their storages with gas in early spring.

The monopoly started doing this on March 5 and by April 15, it had pumped 1.4 bln cubic meters of gas, and the overall volume of its gas in Europe’s storages grew to 6.4 bln cubic meters, the company said. Currently, there is enough gas in underground storage facilities. As of March 22, this volume came to 38.2 bln cubic meters, a record maximum over the past seven years, the company said, citing data of the Gas Infrastructure Europe association. This is double of what was seen in 2017, Gazprom said.

However, this year is going to be tough, Sergey Komlev, Head of the Contract Structuring and Pricing Directorate of Gazprom Export told the paper. In the first three months of 2019, the monopoly supplied nearly 57 bln cubic meters of gas to the European market, which is 9% less than the same period last year.

In general, Europe’s gas consumption in 2018 decreased 3.4% to 550 bln cubic meters, Komlev said, noting that this was the first such decline after three years of growth. Besides warm weather, among the other reasons behind the trend he pointed to the growing supplies of liquefied natural gas to the European market.

Gazprom’s statement shows that in 2019 no export record should be expected, Senior Corporations Department Director at Fitch Dmitry Marinchenko said. It will be a challenging task to keep the level at 200 bln cubic meters, Deputy Head of Russia’s National Energy Security Fund Alexei Grivach noted.

However, in the coming two years the company’s export is likely to rebound, Marinchenko expects. The growing demand for gas in other countries will absorb the excessive volume, while gas output in Europe will keep declining. Besides, Gazprom can lower prices to hold on to market share, he said.


Media: UFC to launch network of MMA-style fitness clubs in Russia

Amid interest in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) bouts involving such famed fighters as Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, the organization plans to set up its own network of fitness clubs -UFC Gym - with a zone for practicing mixed martial arts, Kommersant writes. The Russian Fitness Group company, the owner of the World Class network, obtained exclusive rights for the brand, a source familiar with the deal told the paper. A representative of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which owns 22.5% in the Russian Fitness Group and is participating in the development of UFC Russia, confirmed the report. Director General of World Class fitness clubs network (part of the Russian Fitness Group) Nikolai Pryanishnikov noted that the deal has been signed for 10 years and can be extended for the same period.

In the coming decade, some 5.5 bln rubles ($86 mln) may be invested in developing UFC Gym. The Russian Fitness Group plans to build a total of 55 UFC Gym clubs in Russia. UFC Gym, is a subsidiary of UFC, an international organizer of mixed martial arts bouts. These fitness clubs have an octagon for fights in the UFC format, equipment for weightlifting exercises, cardio training and boxing.

According to Pryanishnikov, the first UFC Gym club is due to be opened in Moscow in 2019 in a Signature format. There has been a growing interest in mixed martial arts clubs, a representative of the Territory of Fitness company told the paper. This sport is popular among clients aged between 20 and 35. Soon, a tournament in Moscow will be held under the UFC brand, which is expected to attract more clients, he noted.

UFC’s activity now is aimed at winning the Russian market, namely by holding the first tournament in Moscow, active promotion, organizing various sports events under the UFC brand, a representative of the Territory of Fitness company Marina Sigai told RBC. The market is expected to grow in the coming years, and this will be encouraged by a Russian government program, which envisages developing sports in Russia and involving more than half of the public in regular exercises.

In 2018, the volume of fitness market grew nearly 5% to 118.9 bln rubles ($1.6 bln), while this year it is expected to rise 6%, an RBC analysis showed. Nearly half of this figure accounted for Moscow and the Moscow Region, 12% for St. Petersburg and 21% in other major Russian cities.


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