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Press review: Putin’s visit to Finland and Trump’s G8 revival bid

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, August 22
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto
© Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS


Izvestia: Russian, Finnish leaders discuss bilateral ties, US missile test

Security cooperation with Finland plays an important role for Russia, Franz Klintsevich, member of the Russian Federation Council (upper house) Defense and Security Committee, told Izvestia, commenting on Wednesday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto.

"The meeting was very important. I am certain that the parties were able to ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s’ on many issues. Unfortunately, the US has been cranking up the heat on Finland recently. Washington is interested in drawing Helsinki into NATO and making Russian-Finnish dialogue more complicated," the senator stressed.

Moscow and Helsinki have repeatedly spoken out in favor of improving flight safety in the Baltic Sea zone, the senator went on to say. In particular, they proposed switching to flights with transponders turned on in order to prevent aircraft interception incidents.

"NATO has rejected the proposals that were put forward, because when transponders are turned on, that shows the true intentions and the alliance’s provocations in the Baltic Sea region. They are not interested in that," Klintsevich told the paper.

For his part, Juha-Pekka Vaisanen, leader of the Finnish Communist Party, pointed to the need to lift anti-Russian sanctions so that Helsinki and Moscow could foster genuine good-neighborly relations.

During his visit to Finland, the Russian president expressed his dismay with Washington’s recent moves, namely, the Pentagon’s missile test, saying that this step creates more tension throughout the globe. At a news conference after the talks, Putin once again spoke about some domestic Russian issues, first and foremost, the opposition protests in Moscow.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Trump wants Russia back in G8

In the run-up to the imminent G7 summit in France, US President Donald Trump’s statement about the potential revival of the G8 and Russia’s return to the global club actually posed a challenge to his political rivals who enjoy milking "the Russian meddling" hysteria. At the same time, it seems that this is not just rhetoric, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

A French diplomatic source close to preparations for the G7 summit in Biarritz did not rule out that world leaders would discuss the G8’s revival this coming weekend. However, one should not expect anything sensational from that event, the paper’s interlocutor noted.

On the other hand, Moscow’s stance on the issue is that the G8 has outlived its usefulness. Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed at his recent meeting with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that he couldn’t return to the organization, which no longer existed.

Trump remains loyal to the arguments he put forward during his election campaign, Valdai Club Program Director and Director of the Institute of International Studies at MGIMO University Andrei Sushentsov told the paper. "He first suggested that Russia should return to the G8 at the beginning of 2017, which drew accusations from his opponents in the Democratic Party. In general, we cannot say that Trump is abandoning his convictions," he said.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Trump has a deep affinity for Russia, the expert added. "Apparently, he believes that the G7 remains one of the leading global decision-making and coordination centers, which secures the West’s leading role in managing international affairs. While seeking Russia’s return to that framework, Trump may want Russia to be part of the West rather than a member of the tandem with China," he explained.

In light of that, Trump’s interest seems to be purely pragmatic, Sushentsov added.

At the same time, one has to admit that the G8 has ceased to be a unique and universal organization in terms of its importance, the expert stressed. "There are far more interesting formats, for example, the G20. Besides, the UN Security Council continues to play a pivotal role in managing international affairs," he said.


Kommersant: Donbass peace process showing signs of improvement

The pursuit of a resolution to the Donbass conflict, which many believed was off the radar a year ago, has regained the attention of influential players. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spoken of "cautious optimism" after the Zelensky administration came to power in Ukraine, and along these lines Western countries link the solution to this problem to Russia’s return to the G8, Kommersant writes.

Statements that the situation in Donbass, complex as it is, is gradually improving, are becoming a tradition. At the July 31st Contact Group meeting, OSCE envoy Martin Sajdik described the ceasefire declared on July 21 as an important achievement.

Russia’s envoy to the Contact Group Boris Gryzlov likewise commended the truce agreement, adding that Moscow will do its utmost to facilitate prisoner swaps. However, it is unclear now when the next POW exchange could take place.

"If I say that I would like to know that too, you will hardly be satisfied with my answer. These issues are still being discussed," Sajdik said when asked by Kommersant to comment on the prospects for any prisoner exchanges.

Meanwhile, LPR envoy Vladislav Deinego told the paper that the unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics were ready for that "almost one hundred percent," adding that the ball was in Kiev’s court.

According to Kommersant’s source in the Contact Group, the next prisoner swap could involve over 150 people, which is less than in December 2017, when Kiev handed over 223 detainees to Donetsk and Lugansk, receiving 73 in return.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow, Beijing issue stern warning to Washington

A UN Security Council meeting convened at the request of Russia and China is due to take place on Thursday. Moscow and Beijing suggested discussing the recent violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by the Americans. The United States tested a modernized Tomahawk missile 16 days after it quit the accord, which confirms that it had no intention of complying with the agreement. The joint Russian-Chinese initiative shows that they have started coordinating their actions on the global stage more closely, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Russia earlier said it would adhere to a unilateral moratorium on the deployment of intermediate-range ground-based systems until the US deploys such systems in any region of the world.

Vladimir Batyuk, Chief Research Associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute for the US and Canadian Studies, recalled in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta that an American cruise missile had been test-launched from an Mk 41 vertical launch system. According to the expert, this missile test cannot signify any technological breakthrough.

"I have no doubt that Moscow and Beijing will react harshly only if the Mk 41 vertical launching systems are deployed in close proximity to Russia’s and China’s borders. Both Russia and China have the means to counter the United States’ steps. The situation will indeed become critical if these are no longer test launches on US soil and if the deployment of installations with Tomahawks on the territory of America’s allies in Europe or the Far East begins," the expert noted.

By now, the Mk 41 systems have been deployed to Romania and Poland. They are equipped with SM-3-type interceptor missiles. There are no Tomahawks there yet, he explained. "When they appear, Russia and China will not twiddle their thumbs," Batyuk concluded.


Vedomosti: Government raises Gazprom’s quota for gas sales through exchange

A 40% increase in Gazprom’s quota for natural gas sales through exchange trading endorsed by the Cabinet will make it possible for the Russian energy giant to sell up to 25 bln cubic meters of gas per year at unregulated prices, Vedomosti writes.

The government decree also canceled the parity principle between Gazprom and independent producers.

"The gas industry needs to move from state regulation to market relations in the gas supply sphere," Igor Artemiev, head of the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service stated, commenting on the move to Vedomosti through his spokesperson.

So far, maximum gas sales through exchange trading have been limited to 35 bln cubic meters per year. It was assumed though that all gas producers would trade on the St. Petersburg International Mercantile Exchange (SPIMEX). Gazprom’s quota was 17.5 bln cubic meters (50%) to observe the parity principle between the state-owned company and independent suppliers.

This decision has long been overdue, the paper quotes Alexey Grivach, Deputy Director of Russia’s National Energy Security Fund, as saying. The situation in the domestic gas market had changed while it was being made, he pointed out. Gas production by the largest independent producers for Russian consumers has been dropping for the second year in a row, and they cannot fulfill their contracts on their own and have to conduct negotiations with Gazprom on purchasing gas to their portfolio.

According to Dmitry Marinchenko, Corporations Department Director at Fitch, the market would be much more competitive, if quotas were abolished. Gas prices would reflect the real balance of supply and demand to a large extent and could vary depending on the region and the season. However, the government is unlikely to do that so as not to ‘offend’ Rosneft and Novatek, which, unlike Gazprom, have no excess production capacity, the expert stressed.


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