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Press review: US to bear guilt for Iran deal collapse and Xi goes to Russia to counter US

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday

Izvestia: US to bear guilt for collapse of Iran nuke deal, envoy warns

Moscow is pushing ahead with attempts to persuade Tehran to refrain from quitting the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but should these efforts fail, only the United States will be to blame for the nuke deal's collapse, Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan told Izvestia.

"Of course, Iran’s potential pullout from the JCPOA and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will be regrettable. At this stage, we are continuing explanatory work with the Iranians, cautioning them against refusing to honor their commitments under both the nuclear deal and the Additional Protocol to the IAEA Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, whose provisions, by the way, Tehran complies with on a voluntary basis. If Iran, nevertheless, decides to quit the JCPOA, the responsibility for the collapse of that international recognized agreement will lie entirely with the US, which grossly violated its obligations, withdrew from the JCPOA and continues to step up pressure on Tehran by imposing illegitimate unilateral sanctions," the ambassador stressed.

"There is still some time left for diplomacy. Together with our nuclear deal partners, we will continue to work to prevent events from developing under a negative scenario," he added.

Referring to Iran’s cooperation prospects with international associations, in particular, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Dzhagaryan pointed out that Moscow supported Tehran’s desire to obtain full-fledged SCO member status. "We expect the issue to be discussed in detail during the organization’s next summit in Bishkek scheduled for June 13-14," he said.

When asked to comment on plans to cancel visas for Russians visiting Iran and Iranians travelling to Russia, the ambassador recalled that the two countries’ foreign ministers had recently signed the Protocol on the amendments to the 2015 intergovernmental agreement on mutual travels. "This document provides for issuing visas to entrepreneurs based on written requests from interested organizations, government agencies or local authorities. That, of course, can be a positive impetus for intensifying ties between the two countries’ business communities," he explained.



Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Xi to embark on Russia tour to ally against US

Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a visit to Russia on June 5-7 to take part in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. This year’s event will be the fifth forum since the massive Western sanctions campaign against Russia began, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The Chinese leader’s visit to Russia will take place amid the ongoing standoff between Beijing and Washington. The two countries were expected to ink a trade deal in March, but the parties’ irreconcilable differences prevented them from doing so.

Does that mean that Russia now has a new window of opportunity to expand ties with China? Although officials in both Moscow and Beijing assure that bilateral relations have reached an unprecedentedly high level, the experts interviewed by the paper believe the upcoming visit does not demonstrate China’s overall shift from the US to Russia.

"The visit was planned a long time ago, when Beijing and Washington were trying to reach an agreement and viewed that process with a great deal of optimism. Secondly, the Russian and Chinese leaders meet regularly, and Xi Jinping noted that he had met with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin more than 30 times over the past six years. Thirdly, the rifts in relations between China and the US, and Russia and the US are obvious without symbolic visits," Vitaly Mankevich, President of the Russian-Asian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, told the paper.

According to Alexey Maslov, Head of the School of Asian Studies at the Higher School of Economics, Russia has always been more open to China than China has been to Russia. "That was particularly evident after the 2014 events, after which Russia declared a turn eastward. However, China failed to become an important partner in import substitution, while investment cooperation was not very extensive as well. So, Xi’s planned visit is a positive sign, but don't delude yourself. It is not improbable that only ‘old’ issues like energy resources with a discussion of their volumes and prices will be raised during the visit. One can judge the results by the volume of actual deals," the expert stressed.


Kommersant: Saakashvili’s comeback to play into Zelensky’s hands

Ex-Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has triumphantly returned to Kiev from where he was deported in February 2018 by the previous decision of then head of state Pyotr Poroshenko. Ukraine’s new President Vladimir Zelensky annulled his predecessor’s decree on stripping Saakashvili of Ukrainian citizenship creating conditions for his return to the country and to Ukrainian politics, Kommersant writes.

The controversial politician promised his supporters to achieve significant change, but this time not in spite of, but thanks to the will of the Ukrainian president. He noted that his activities would be aimed at supporting Zelensky rather than at pursuing his own political career.

Few people in Kiev doubt that Saakashvili will do his utmost to cause as much trouble as possible for Pyotr Poroshenko, who has not quit politics, and settle old scores in the run-up to the snap parliamentary elections.

"He is viewed as a battering ram against Poroshenko," Ukrainian lawmaker Igor Popov told Kommersant. "Individuals who can perform spectacular shows are highly sought after in politics." He added that the upcoming show would serve President Zelensky’s interests, because it is important for him "to show that his predecessors are being punished" and ensure that this is done by someone else. "He [Zelensky] created conditions for that," the MP concluded.

According to Vadim Karasyov, Director of the Global Strategies Institute, Saakashvili can be helpful to Zelensky for several reasons. "Firstly, he will deal a blow to the tycoons, and secondly, to Poroshenko. In addition, the Movement of New Forces party created by him can end up in parliament and become a partner to the pro-presidential Servant of the People there," the expert emphasized.

On the other hand, Alexander Gushchin, a Russian International Affairs Council expert, believes that allied relations between Saakashvili and Zelensky will be short-lived. "Knowing Saakashvili’s character traits, he is likely to make many enemies among Zelensky’s associates," he told Kommersant. "Considering Saakashvili’s rather tense relations with Kolomoisky (the oligarch who backed Zelensky and is considered to be his patron) and (Ukrainian Interior Minister) Arsen Avakov, who prevented Poroshenko from using his administrative leverage at the election to the fullest extent, Zelensky is trying to demonstrate his independence by allowing such a person to return to the country."


Izvestia: German MPs want to reconsider Kosovo’s status

German lawmakers will raise the issue of revising the status of Kosovo in the German Bundestag (national parliament) because of attempts to cover up the existence of terror groups operating in the region, member of the Alternative for Germany political party Gunnar Lindermann informed Izvestia.

According to the legislator, Berlin’s decision to recognize Kosovo’s independence in 2008 was a major blunder for Germany and for Europe as a whole. "Regional terrorist groups are operating in the areas controlled by the Kosovars. Taking into account the current situation, I believe that Germany should revise its decision on recognizing Kosovo as a separate state, of course, if the federal government is interested in preserving stability in Europe. That’s why we, the Alternative for Germany party, will demand a debate in the Bundestag in order to reconsider the region’s status," the politician vowed.

The policymaker noted that the Kosovar police violence against the Serb ethnic minority in northern Kosovo confirmed his fears and had to be strongly condemned.

Berlin should pursue a more active policy in the region to prevent further exacerbation of the conflict, member of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee Waldemar Herdt told the paper. The politician stressed that the situation in Kosovo and Metohija had become truly explosive. "Germany should have its own stance on the issue. This is our continent, our neighbors. We will discuss in detail the future of Kosovo and Serbia at the next meeting of the committee on June 4," he said.


Kommersant: Countries hit by Druzhba oil contamination await compensation

The supplies of clean oil through the southern leg of the Druzhba pipeline have been restored, while its northern leg is expected to resume operations on June 10. The biggest crisis in the history of Russian oil exports is therefore coming to an end, Kommersant writes.

The Russian oil transportation system has always been considered fully reliable. The Druzhba pipeline, which transports oil from Tatarstan 3,000 kilometers westwards, functioned without any interruptions for 55 years, even throughout the 1968 Prague Spring events and during the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. From that point of view, the April 2019 events look like something out of the ordinary.

According to Russia’s Transneft and Kommersant’s sources in the market, about 4.3 mln tonnes of oil - approximately 2% of the total annual export volume of the system - had been contaminated.

The compensation issue has been a key problem since the very beginning of the crisis, and not all of its aspects have been ironed out yet. The Russian government said Transneft would have to cover all losses. The situation with shipments from Ust-Luga is the simplest. Those tankers were taken by traders, and the discount averaged $10 per barrel, Kommersant’s interlocutors in the market said.

As for the oil, which was supposed to be delivered to countries outside the former Soviet Union, negotiations on discounts continue. According to two Kommersant sources, foreign contract partners want substantial discounts from Russian companies, even as much as $20 per barrel. However, a Russian government source stressed that Moscow would only compensate for "a fair level of expenses incurred in connection with the situation."


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