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Press review: What Lavrov, Pompeo discussed in Finland and what caused the Superjet fire

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo  Mandel Ngan/ Pool via AP
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
© Mandel Ngan/ Pool via AP

Kommersant: Investigators leaving no stone unturned in probe into Sheremetyevo tragedy

Pilot error is the dominant version in the probe into the deadly crash landing of Aeroflot’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane, which left 41 people dead, Kommersant revealed.

The plane made an emergency landing at Sheremetyevo Airport with unburnt fuel and apparently exceeded speed limits, damaging the aircraft, after which it burst into flames.

Many aviation experts believe that the first error in a string of mistakes made by the pilots was their decision to fly during a thunderstorm. Later on, having found themselves in dire straits due to equipment failure, the pilots attempted to land immediately instead of staying in the air and burning the extra fuel. Finally, during landing, the crewmembers showed poor aerobatic training skills by failing to come in for the landing in manual mode and then exacerbated the situation after a rough touchdown.

Igor Vinogradov, First Vice President of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft for Quality and Certification, informed Kommersant that SSJ 100s were tested for lightning strikes during trials. The results revealed that lightning does not lead to fires abroad the aircraft, or the loss of control.

Meanwhile, another source in the company told the paper that the SSJ 100 jets had been struck by lightning 13 times, but none of these incidents affected their operation in midair.

According to Alexander Zhuravkov, Chairman of the Airport Emergency Response Committee, Sheremetyevo uses six airfield fire trucks, which meet Russian requirements and the criteria of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). "In accordance with the ICAO's criteria and Russian standards, they should have arrived to the site in three minutes’ time tops," he stressed.

For her part, Ilona Borisova, head of the Sheremetyevo trade union of flight attendants, told Kommersant that the rescue operation leaves one asking questions. "There are emergency rescue and safety regulations, which were not complied with. According to them, the first rescue vehicles should arrive at the scene within three minutes after receiving the corresponding order. According to our data, the firefighters did make it in that time but arrived after the blaze and the rescue operation had begun," she noted. According to Borisova, the Alarm and Readiness commands were given a bit too late.


Izvestia: Top Russian, US diplomats discuss 'real politics' during meeting in Finland

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo managed to hold a constructive dialogue and hash over real politics, Russia’s top diplomat said following the negotiations in Finland. Their meeting was a continuation of a lengthy phone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump.

According to the experts interviewed by Izvestia, Moscow and Washington will try to revive bilateral contacts, which were effectively frozen after the Kerch Strait incident in November 2018.

Washington’s attempt to restore the Russian-US dialogue is related, to a large extent, to the outcome of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his report, which was published recently.

Valery Garbuzov, Director of the Institute for the US and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, explained to Izvestia that Trump is sure that Mueller’s conclusions fully cleared him and untied his hands. According to the expert, this is not quite accurate. Although Mueller’s report showed that Trump did not collude with Moscow, it gave a nod and a wink to the narrative of the so-called 'Russian meddling in US elections', which means that any steps to meet Russia halfway taken by the White House occupant will provide an opportunity for his opponents to subject him to a barrage of condemnation.

"Trump has said over and over again that he wants to get along with Russia. The problem is, however, that the overall atmosphere in Washington has remained unchanged. Moreover, any of Trump’s actions along this line will result in an avalanche of criticism against him," the expert explained.

Top-level contacts are useful, because they show that dialogue between Moscow and Washington does exist. However, one should not expect a breakthrough in bilateral ties, because the parties continue to disagree on some key issues, such as Venezuela, Ukraine and Syria. The North Korean issue stands apart, because Russia and the US have no irreconcilable disagreements now, Garbuzov stressed.

"If the parties are engaged in a reasonable dialogue on the Korean Peninsula, they will be able to make progress in that direction, but this involves intricate work, which can be derailed by any wrong move," the expert added.


Vedomosti: China reluctant to negotiate nuclear disarmament with US, Russia

Beijing will not take part in any negotiations on a trilateral nuclear deal with Washington and Moscow, the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said. According to its spokesperson, China’s nuclear arsenal is at the lowest necessary level and is incomparable with the nuclear arsenals of the United States and Russia. The idea of concluding such a deal was put forward by US President Donald Trump in late April. According to the American president, Beijing would like to be part of a future nuclear deal with the US and Russia, and the issue was discussed with Chinese representatives during the trade talks, Vedomosti writes.

China’s refusal to join the negotiations on the issue is Beijing’s standard stance that has remained unchanged for decades, the paper quotes Vasily Kashin, senior research fellow at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as saying. According to that approach, such talks are impossible as long as the US and Russia maintain superiority over China in the number of nuclear warheads and their delivery means. Theoretically, it is possible to imagine that Beijing will revise its stance after it catches up with Moscow and Washington, although their capabilities are growing rapidly, the expert stressed.

However, Trump’s initiative was hardly serious at all, Kashin went on to say. After Washington pulled out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, it was announced that new US missiles of that type would be tested in late 2019. Therefore, accusations of violating that treaty against Russia could be viewed as a political disguise of the decision made in advance.

In his view, the proposals aimed at China play the same role. Although the US currently has no plans to deploy medium-range missiles to Europe, it has already begun laying the groundwork for their deployment to East Asia, with China obviously being the key target. Washington has several years for political arrangements and brainwashing the public in the region, so Beijing’s refusal to maintain any nuclear weapons dialogue could come in handy, Kashin believes.

However, if Beijing agrees to conduct negotiations, that will be of no importance to Washington’s plans to deploy medium-range missiles to Asia, since a political decision on that score seems to have been made and will not be revised, he concluded.


Kommersant: Turkey testing Assad in northern Syria

Russia’s Hmeymim airbase in Syria was shelled by militants twice on Monday, for the third time over the past ten days, Kommersant writes. According to the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria, terrorists operating in Idlib have been shelling Hmeymim and other areas adjacent to the de-escalation zone in the Hama, Aleppo and Latakia governorates. Meanwhile, the Syrian army has established control over several inhabited communities in Hama and is determined to continue its military operation. Media reports say a new operation by Turkey in Syria is possible.

Moscow has to take into account Turkey’s interests and tensions between Ankara and Damascus. "The issue at hand could be the exchange of part of the territory in the Idlib de-escalation zone to areas around Tel Rifaat (a city located between Aleppo and the Syrian-Turkish border). Ankara seeks to free the area of Kurds and expand the zone controlled by the opposition loyal to it, but Damascus is hardly ready to agree to that," Russian International Affairs Council expert Kirill Semenov told the paper.

He highlighted the attempt by the Syrian National Army (composed of pro-Turkish opposition groups) to breach the defense line in in the Tel Rifaat area. Ankara says the Kurds were the target of the assault, but, according to the Russian Reconciliation Center, attempts were made to breach the pro-government forces’ defense line.

"The developments in Tel Rifaat and Idlib are interconnected. There is every likelihood that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is opposed to a compromise between Moscow and Ankara. He does not understand why part of Tel Rifaat should be given to Turkey, if the Syrian army, he believes, can capture both it and Idlib," Semenov explained.

According to the expert, Turkey and Syria are currently testing each other for fortitude, while Moscow has to maneuver, because a feud with Turkey is not in its interests.


Izvestia: Ambassador lauds Putin’s decision to visit Italy, blasts sanctions as ‘not normal’

Rome hopes that the mutual sanctions imposed by Russia and the European Union are temporary and will be removed soon, Italian Ambassador to Russia Pasquale Terracciano told Izvestia.

"We do believe that sanctions and their economic effects cannot be considered normal in relations between Russia and the West, and we miss no opportunity to voice that stance time and again, at all international platforms. These are temporary measures, and we hope they will become history soon. Their duration depends on how quickly the Minsk agreements are implemented," the ambassador said.

Referring to bilateral ties, he stressed that trade between Italy and Russia decreased due to the 2014 crisis. "The reasons for that are related not only to sanctions. They are also due to the devaluation of the ruble and falling oil prices. Not a single Italian company has left Russia over the past five years, and the positive signals emanating from the Russian economy confirm that this bold decision was justified. Last year, direct Italian investment in Russia exceeded $4 bln, and I am certain that our presence here has the potential for further growth," Terracciano stressed.

When asked to comment on bilateral energy cooperation and Russian gas supplies, the ambassador noted that Russia was "a strategic energy partner for Russia from the energy and industry viewpoint." "About 40% of all gas that we import annually comes from Russia. Italy appreciatively recognizes the reliability and competitiveness that Moscow had shown for a long time in direct energy supplies to our country. By the way, the first agreement on such supplies was signed between the USSR and Italy exactly 50 years ago, in 1969, and our countries’ contacts in the energy sector have carried on without any interruption since then," he pointed out.

The ambassador added that his country was looking forward to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Italy. "His consent to our invitation to visit our country in the coming months has been confirmed. This event will be an important opportunity to <…> continue our dialogue on bilateral and global issues that concern us directly," he emphasized.


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