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Press review: Russia, Belarus moving closer and Putin to meet Erdogan, Rouhani in Ankara

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, September 16
Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Rumas and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev  Dmitry Astakhov/POOL/TASS
Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Rumas and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
© Dmitry Astakhov/POOL/TASS

Kommersant: Russia, Belarus may unify trade by 2022

The economic integration program between Russia and Belarus, initialed by the countries in early September, but not publicly disclosed, is designed for a year and a half and includes a partial unification of the two economic systems starting from January 2021, Kommersant wrote referring to a source in the government. Press secretary of the Russian Prime Minister Oleg Osipov confirmed this to TASS.

The integration plan would include a unified tax code, a foreign trade system and a civil code, an amalgamated accounting of property and similar social guarantees, and an almost joint banking supervision system, but with two central banks, a single regulator of oil, gas and electricity markets along with a harmonized state regulation of industries.

This degree of integration is higher than in the EU, in fact as far as the economy goes it resembles more of a confederate state starting from 2022, the newspaper wrote. Moreover, it is unlikely to be completely equal for the parties. The Russian economy is 29 times larger than Belarus’. Given that Belarusian GDP in 2018 was 3.4% of Russia's GDP, implementing the plan by 2021, the fully state-owned economy of Belarus could be "absorbed" by the Russian economy at the management level, Kommersant wrote. There are few details in the program. The bulk of the parties’ plans are to submit roadmap proposals to each other on November 1, 2019, prepare legislative steps for integration by the end of 2020, and start working in a joint mode from January 1, 2021 on a majority of issues.

The most important thing is combining the tax systems of both countries. It is assumed that a single tax code will be adopted in the Union State of Russia and Belarus by April 1, 2021, Kommersant wrote. However, at the moment it is impossible to say when exactly the project would become fully operational, the newspaper wrote.


Izvestia: Putin to meet Turkish, Iranian leaders in Ankara

The upcoming meeting between the Astana guarantors in the Turkish capital could stimulate the normalization of the situation in war-torn Syria, according to politicians and experts interviewed by Izvestia. According to them, the leaders of Russia, Iran, and Turkey scheduled to convene on September 16 will definitely discuss ways to combat terror, as well as outline further steps for a political settlement in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also hold separate meetings on the sidelines of the summit with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts, and he will not just focus on bilateral issues, but also on international security matters.

One of the main topics of the upcoming summit will be the situation in Idlib and northeastern Syria. Moscow’s position is that long-term stability in the region can only be achieved through the full restoration of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov told Izvestia. "It is necessary to neutralize the militants who have ensconced themselves in Idlib and on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. We must find a solution to this problem with Iran and Turkey. In general, the presence of terrorists poses an immediate threat to the entire region," he emphasized.

The upcoming summit is certainly a vital step towards peace in Syria, Dzhabarov added. He noted that the event might provide an additional impetus to Syria’s post-war reconstruction.

The politicians will also touch upon the issue of a political settlement, as well as the launch of the anticipated constitutional committee, Turkish political scientist Kerim Has explained to Izvestia.

In the upcoming talks with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Putin will discuss maintaining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Actions for the Iranian Nuclear Program. After the departure of Trump’s hawkish adviser John Bolton from the White House, there is cautious optimism that the situation around the nuclear deal could change for the better, orientalist Roland Bidzhamov told Izvestia. "At the moment, the United States and Iran will exchange preliminary conditions. If the US proposes something that suits the Iranians, and Tehran meets them half-way on certain issues, then there will be a way out of the crisis," the expert told the newspaper.


Izvestia: Russia, Ukraine still hammering out list for possible second prisoner swap

No concrete list for a potential second prisoner exchange between Russia and Ukraine has been put together, sources familiar with the situation told Izvestia, this information was confirmed by attorney Valentin Rybin. Moreover, the dates for the second round also have not even been set. According to the newspaper’s sources, this will happen only after the Normandy summit, tentatively scheduled before the end of October.

Earlier, the media reported that Kiev sought about 113 people. How many people Russia plans to take home still remains unknown, however, a source close to the process told Izvestia, "the exchange will be equal." Meanwhile, another source told the newspaper that talking about a "swap list" now would be an overstatement. According to the source, coordinating the list of participants in the swap’s second round would take a lot of time both from the Ukrainian and from the Russian sides. Therefore, "there is no specific list yet."

In addition, there is no clarity on the timing of the possible exchange, another source told Izvestia. Nothing will happen before the Normandy Quartet summit, the source said, adding that the talks could be held in October.

First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration and Relations with Compatriots Viktor Vodolatsky told the newspaper that those who ended up in Ukrainian prisons from convictions based on far-fetched charges need to be fought for. "Continuing the swap is certainly necessary. Everyone needs to be exchanged for everyone. This cannot be delayed for too long, since people should not serve time on trumped-up charges," he stressed.


Vedomosti: Drone attack on Saudis could send oil prices to $100 per barrel

Oil prices might jump by $5-10 and reach $100 a barrel, after 10 UAVs attacked the Khurais oil field and the primary oil refinery at the Abqaiq oil field on Saturday night. After the incident, the state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, announced halving oil production by 5.7 mln barrels per day. According to Vedomosti, oil price hikes are inevitable, if Saudi Arabia cannot quickly restore production, since such a disturbance does not help balance the energy market.

The drone attack on Saudi oil infrastructure is an alarming event for the oil market, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Vedomosti. "Of course, any similar turbulence does not contribute to the stabilization of the energy market," he said, noting that the president "is, of course, in the know."

An employee from one Russian oil major told the newspaper, "Russian companies have already been asked by investors and buyers whether they can quickly increase production in order to close their oil needs". The source did not specify the answer. A representative from the Ministry of Energy declined to comment to the newspaper on whether Russia would increase oil production in connection with the incident.

"Oil prices will definitely rise, on Monday it is quite possible to imagine an increase of up to $70 or even higher, in the future everything will depend on how quickly they manage to cope with the consequences of the terrorist attack and restore production," Director of the Fitch corporation department Dmitry Marinchenko told Vedomosti. "Obviously, one of the largest oil producers was attacked, and this creates additional risks for the negative development of events," Raiffeisenbank analyst Andrey Polishchuk told the newspaper.


RBC: Pilot 5G zone may be set up in one of Russia’s regions in 3-4 years

Rostec, Russia’s state corporation, may launch a pilot 5G zone using its own equipment in one of the Russian regions in 2022-2023, CEO Sergey Chemezov said in an interview with RBC.

"We have the technology, we can produce the equipment for 5G. We have already carried out some preliminary studies, and I think that in 2022-2023 we can create an experimental network in one of the regions. Our goal for today is to present a strategic plan for creating 5G in Russia," he said.

Chemezov added that the company was holding negotiations with other countries on 5G technologies. "We are [holding talks], but on condition that it should be localized equipment. Separate modules or accessories must be produced entirely here. Otherwise, it would make no sense, and once again we would completely depend on an external manufacturer," he said, adding that potential partners could be found in East Asia, while negotiations with Europe or the US are almost impossible right now.

On July 10, Rostec, Rostelecom, and the Russian government signed a trilateral agreement of intent to jointly develop a new generation of communications networks in Russia. Under the deal, the companies will create a roadmap that will focus on fostering 5G technology, creating solutions based on it and developing the market for domestic 5G communication equipment.


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