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Press review: NATO provoking Russia with border exercise and Naftogaz launches new lawsuit

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, November 6
Members of the US Army after arriving at the Pabrade railway station in Lithuania AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis
Members of the US Army after arriving at the Pabrade railway station in Lithuania
© AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis

Izvestia: NATO launches massive exercise on border with Russia

Tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery and military personnel from 11 countries are involved in NATO maneuvers that started in Lithuania. The main phase of the exercise dubbed Iron Wolf will last until November 18, with the primary goal being to bolster the interaction of the alliance’s units, Izvestia wrote. Earlier, a battalion of American troops and 30 tanks arrived in Lithuania for permanent deployment.

NATO’s move in beefing up the grouping in the Baltics, on the one hand, is just symbolic. On the other hand, the exercises are taking place against the backdrop of increased anti-Russian rhetoric. In September, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said that the international battalion, deployed in the republic since 2017, was a good means of protection against Russia, but is not enough to defend against a hypothetical attack by Moscow. According to him, currently Russia would be able to occupy Lithuania in 3-4 weeks.

Meanwhile, Moscow and Minsk are developing a regional force grouping. In October, the CSTO Interaction-2019 joint exercises were held. Russia is also beefing up its presence in the Kaliningrad region.

President of the Russian Association for Baltic Studies Nikolay Mezhevich told Izvestia that Russia and Belarus by their actions emphasize that they are not going to attack, but they are capable of rebuffing. "We try not to provoke our potential adversary. For example, the Interaction-2019 exercises were held at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod Region — as far from the state border as possible," the expert said.

Mezhevich added that NATO has a different tactic. "We are witnessing a slow but consistent increase in the number of exercises, the number of soldiers and officers, more heavy and very heavy machinery. In particular, this year Lithuania used B-52 bombers, though obsolete, but strategically close to the Russian border," he noted. According to the expert, Russia is being provoked.


Kommersant: Russia’s IT sector could see shift on foreign participation

Russian business is ready to put up with a possible limit on the share of foreign participation in significant Internet projects (like Yandex) at 49%, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) said. However, according to the lobby, it only involves voting shares, and not economic participation. This option might somewhat reduce any loss in investment attractiveness of Russian tech companies, market participants told Kommersant.

This format was submitted for consideration and approved by a majority of votes on October 30, Vyacheslav Sudin, executive secretary of the lobby’s Communications and IT Commission confirmed to Kommersant. The commission, which proposed the 49% threshold, includes representatives of Rostelecom, VimpelCom, Megafon, MTS, Tele2, Er-Telecom, Russian Railways and other organizations, but it does not have tech giants like Yandex there.

A source in one large Internet company claims that they considered the proposals of the Union and the government to be positive. "It is important that the government offers to control the votes, and not the economic share of foreign participation in the company," the source said.

At the same time, for example MTS and Sberbank also exceed the limit of foreign ownership proposed in the bill. Moreover, the concepts put forward allow a broad interpretation, thus all owners of websites and computer programs operating in Russia, including Google, Facebook, AliExpress, Microsoft, Adobe and others, can be included in it, Kommersant wrote.

"The proposed 49% in the current situation is better than 20%, but one way or another, the bill prevents Russian Internet companies from seeking financial support on global markets," Deputy Director of legal department at the Ivi video streaming service Ivan Platov told the newspaper. It would be better if the restrictions were not about ownership rights, but rights concerning corporate governance, he added, as this would make it possible to attract funds from financial investors.


Izvestia: PACE committees plan to consider Russia's amendment to sanctions

At a Berlin-hosted meeting on November 14-15, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) committees will review an amendment proposed by Russia to the procedure for imposing sanctions on delegations, Chairman of the CIS Affairs in the State Duma (and a Russian delegate to PACE), Leonid Kalashnikov told Izvestia.

According to the amendment, a decision to slap sanctions on a particular country will be taken not by a majority of the delegates present, but by two-thirds of all the organization’s member states, the newspaper wrote.

Kalashnikov told Izvestia that this method is similar to the vote in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. "There, a decision on sanctions against a particular delegation is made by a qualified majority of participating countries (about 32), while in the assembly it depends on the number of people present. So this is wrong and unfair, because 30 and 40 parliamentarians from a small number of countries can attend the meeting," he explained.

However, a member of the Russian delegation, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Economic Policy Sergey Kalashnikov told Izvestia that the committees in Berlin are not likely to be in Russia’s favor.

What’s more with the Russian initiative, the organization also intends to discuss a resolution on the introduction of a new sanctions mechanism for member states that violate the Council of Europe’s charter. PACE’s press service told Izvestia that the decision to create a new sanction mechanism for those violators is now under active discussion.


Kommersant: World Economic Forum chief believes regulating new technologies will top Davos agenda

The need to harmonize the regulation of new technologies globally will become one of the main topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2020, said its President and Norwegian diplomat Borge Brende in an interview with Kommersant.

Brende told the newspaper that artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and other technologies are increasingly affecting the economy, but this is still "the Wild West" in terms of regulation. In the case of new technologies, regulation is effective only if implemented globally, and not if everyone implements their own standards, he added.

The politician added that in addition to regulating the sphere of new technologies, the Davos agenda in 2020 would include geopolitical and geo-economic problems. The Norwegian diplomat noted that trade wars harm global economic growth, which is at a 10-year low. According to him, the organization is closely following the trade negotiations between the US and China, and that more and more attention should be paid to creating comfortable conditions for people without any negative impact on the rate of economic growth.

The fourth industrial revolution provides enormous opportunities for Russia, given the country’s strong positions in mathematics and science, he added. According to him, interesting examples include Sberbank. Brende added that talks with the business community and the Russian government are in progress on setting up a WEF center in Moscow.


Vedomosti: Russia responds to Naftogaz’s new $12-bln lawsuit against Gazprom

Naftogaz of Ukraine has launched a fresh lawsuit against Gazprom for $12.2 bln with the Stockholm Arbitration just a few days after the trilateral (EU-Russia-Ukraine) gas transit negotiations. At the talks, Moscow once again emphasized the need to drop all claims between Gazprom and Naftogaz as an obligatory part of the negotiation process. However, this time Russian President Vladimir Putin also decided to emphasize the rigidity of Moscow’s position regarding this option, Vedomosti wrote. Together with the new Naftogaz lawsuit, the total amount of compensation Ukraine expects to get from Gazprom has already exceeded $22 bln. Gazprom is still fighting these legal battles.

Naftogaz could try to use the new lawsuit to strengthen its negotiating position, Dmitry Marinchenko, senior director at Fitch ratings told Vedomosti. "Only time will tell if this is the right tactic. On the one hand, Naftogaz’s refusals within the framework of a possible package agreement will have more weight. On the other hand, brash actions can irritate Moscow and jeopardize the very possibility of substantive negotiations by the end of the year," he said.

The new lawsuit could be a serious problem, Deputy Director at the National Energy Security Fund Alexey Grivach told the newspaper. He noted that there is still the possibility of continuing constructive negotiations, but "to prevent the development of events along a negative scenario," EU representatives should take a more active position in the negotiations.

Moscow will still try to agree on uninterrupted transit through Ukraine at least in 2020, Marinchenko added. "The main intrigue is whether Ukraine and the EU will be able to convince Moscow to sign a long-term or at least medium-term contract with minimum contract volumes, or a deal will be signed for one year or the current contract will be extended, which is extremely disadvantageous for Naftogaz," the expert said.


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