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Press review: Kosovo police raid foments tensions and Moscow hosts Taliban for peace talks

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday

Kommersant: Kosovo police raid whips up tensions with Serbia, dragging in Russia

Serbia and its former region Kosovo are once again on the brink of an armed conflict. In response to the Kosovar police raid in the north of the former Serbian province and the detention of about 30 people, the army and security forces of Serbia were put on full alert. According to Kommersant, Russia got indirectly mixed up in the chaos, as a Russian citizen, who was a UN employee, was among those taken into custody by Kosovo police in the raid. Moscow slammed the incident as a provocation, calling on the West "to reason with Kosovo-Albanian radicals and to prevent a further escalation of the conflict with unpredictable consequences."

The Kosovar authorities have said that the arrests were part of a "long-planned operation" to neutralize a group of corrupt officials involved in smuggling goods. The European Union did not dramatize the situation, calling on all parties to show restraint. In contrast, Moscow took a harsh line on the events, when it tuned out that a Russian citizen, who was a UN mission officer was among the detainees. The Russian Foreign Ministry castigated the actions of the Kosovo police, branding it "Pristina’s provocation" aimed at intimidating and establishing control over the area by force.

"Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic who anticipates Serbia's integration into the European Union, would like to agree with Kosovo on normalizing relations by the end of the year, hoping to get at least some concessions in return," a source close to the Serbian president told Kommersant. "However, at the moment neither Pristina nor the West are showing any signs of readiness for such concessions. Under these conditions, it would not be easy to explain the normalization of relations with Kosovo to the Serbian public," the source added.

Meanwhile, Bosko Obradovic, the leader of the nationalist movement "Dveri", considered pro-Russian, directly called the events in northern Kosovo a "poorly staged performance" in order to create conditions for a new rift and recognition of Kosovo’s independence.


Izvestia: Putin, Lukashenko to discuss oil transit, global issues at EAEU summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko are scheduled to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) summit, Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Izvestia. Experts interviewed by the newspaper believe that at the meeting, the heads of state will outline their positions on the transit and processing of energy resources, and hash over issues on further developing the EAEU and other common organizations.

President of the Russian Association of Political Consultants Alexey Kurtov told Izvestia that he believes that the parties will also discuss their stances on ties with Ukraine.

The presidents will not only talk about bilateral relations, but the international agenda in general, Head of the International Institute of the Newest States Alexey Martynov said. "This includes issues on the future development of the EAEU and other organizations, which Russia and Belarus are a part of, like the CSTO and the Customs Union. Emotions are high and the mutual relations of the two friendly countries have faced some hurdles lately. Truth is, Lukashenko occasionally indulges in outrageous statements, but there are no fundamental issues that would threaten the allies' relationship," the political analyst told the newspaper.

EAEU leaders arrived in Kazakhstan to sum up the five-year results of the Union’s work and to outline new goals that will help them expand interaction with each other in various fields. Economic and social issues of cooperation will be discussed. In addition to the heads of the EAEU member states (Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan), Moldovan President Igor Dodon and President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon will participate in the summit.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia hosts Taliban, Afghan officials for peace talks

For the second time, Moscow provided a negotiating platform for delegates from Afghanistan’s political opposition and members of the Taliban (banned in the Russian Federation). The meeting took place on May 28 without the participation of the Afghan government and coincided with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Russia and Afghanistan. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, considering the fact that the negotiations in Qatar under the auspices of the US are stagnating, the conference in Moscow, according to experts, can be viewed in the context of the confrontation between Russia and the US.

"The presence of a strong Russia in the world and in the region is beneficial to all of us from the point of view of ensuring security and stability," former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai said at the opening of the meeting. According to the former leader, the Afghan people welcome the efforts of Russia’s diplomacy to establish an inter-Afghan dialogue.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban co-founder, who headed the group’s delegation in Moscow, said his associates wanted peace for Afghanistan. The main reasons for which the Taliban and the US have not yet been able to reach a compromise are the timing of the withdrawal of the foreign contingent from Afghan soil. The issue will be discussed during the next round of negotiations with the US. According to the newspaper, it is possible that the meeting in Moscow is necessary in order to strengthen bargaining positions at the next round of negotiations with the United States in Qatar.

"Inviting the leaders of the Taliban movement to Moscow and taking advantage of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Afghanistan, is certainly an idea that is as brave as it is risky," political scientist and Central Asia expert Arkady Dubnov told the paper. It is risky because Moscow has still not clearly explained why it accepted some terrorist structures such as the Taliban, and prosecutes people for mentioning other terrorist organizations, the expert added. "This practice is commonly referred to as the ‘double standards’ policy, which Moscow likes to blame on the West," he added. As for the current meeting in Moscow, according to the expert, Russia, for quite natural reasons, seeks to affirm the right to defend its interests in Afghanistan.


Izvestia: Russia may start testing 5G in late summer

On June 5, the Russian State Commission for Radio Frequencies will consider allocating frequencies in the range 25-29.5 GHz to operators for testing fifth generation cellular communication (5G), Izvestia wrote. The authenticity of the document was confirmed by a source familiar with several of the commission’s members, an official of the relevant department, and an employee of one of the mobile operators.

In the event of a positive decision, 5G tests can begin at the end of the summer, one of the sources told Izvestia. 5G at frequencies of 25-29.5 GHz will allow stadiums, shopping and business centers and other crowded places to be covered with high-speed Internet, experts told the newspaper. However, for the global deployment of fifth-generation networks in large cities, a different range is needed - 3.4-3.8 GHz - which is so far unavailable to Russian operators.

Right now, the top priority for deploying fifth-generation communication networks in Russia is clearing frequencies for them, an official representative of the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media Evgeny Novikov told Izvestia. Numerous Commission meetings, many of them at various levels, and the composition of participants will be devoted to this issue, he said.

In March, the Russian Ministry of Defense recommended using higher frequencies and did not approve using 3.4-3.8 GHz frequencies in Russia it is used by various satellite communications including the military. Later, President Putin was addressed with a request to clear the frequencies. A source in the Defense Ministry told Izvestia that the issue remains under discussion.



Kommersant: Russian government approves benefits for Rosneft oil field

Rosneft will receive benefits for its major Priobskoye Field. According to Kommersant, the Russian government, despite the opposition of the Ministry of Finance, decided to approve the request of Rosneft for a reduction in the mineral extraction tax for ten years for a highly irrigated field. According to the Ministry of Finance, falling budget revenues could amount to almost 500 bln rubles ($7.7 bln). To pay this back, Rosneft would need to increase production by 30%, experts say. Similar benefits were requested by Gazprom Neft, but according to Kommersant they might not receive it.

Prime Minister Oleg Osipov’s spokesman confirmed to Kommersant the existence of an "essential decision to support Priobskoye as a field with hard-to-recover reserves". The Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Energy, and Rosneft, on behalf of the Prime Minister, will submit proposals on support options, he said.

According to a source, "the investment agreement concluded by Rosneft with the Ministry of Finance on the Samotlor Field played a key role in the decision making".

Last year, Rosneft vigorously worked on the Priobskoye Field, extracting a maximum of 26 mln tonnes - 9 mln tonnes of which was under the mineral extraction tax, sources told Kommersant. Future mining figures are likely to decline.


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