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Press review: US, Israel reject UN pitch for WMD-free Mideast and EU flirts with Belarus

Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, November 12

Izvestia: US, Israel won’t join ‘WMD-free’ Middle East conference

The United States and Israel refused to participate in a UN conference on establishing a zone free of all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East, which will be held in New York from November 18 to 22, Russia’s Permanent Representative to International Organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov told Izvestia. According to him, Moscow is always ready to help the Middle Eastern countries in creating this zone, if they request it.

"It is too early to talk about creating the zone - at the very least, we need to get down to work. The resolution on this issue was adopted in 1995 and co-authored by Russia, the US and Great Britain. The three of us are responsible for the implementing this initiative, especially since back then it had allowed us to extend the Non-Proliferation Treaty indefinitely by consensus. However, 24.5 years have passed since then, and there has been no progress. We honestly tried and, I think, we did much more than the United States and Great Britain, who at times were more likely to even interfere," he said.

"Now practical work will finally begin, though without the Americans," the diplomat noted adding, "The Americans refused to take part because Israel refuses to participate."

Ulyanov stressed that Arab countries of the Middle East "proceed from the assumption that Israel has nuclear weapons and does not want to abandon it." At the same time, Israel does not want to discuss this issue within the UN, the diplomat noted. According to him, Russia and China will take part in the conference as observers, the UK and France have not yet responded to invitations. Ulyanov will head the Russian delegation.


Kommersant: Belarus-EU ties getting closer

President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus is wrapping up his visit to Vienna, which was his first trip to the European Union in three years. According to Lukashenko, the key goal is to "pave the way" for those who "sell and buy products", whereas political issues for him take a back seat. Experts interviewed by Kommersant are confident that this approach is working. Although, not a single member of the opposition camp might win the Sunday parliamentary elections in Belarus, this will not hinder further "pragmatic rapprochement" between Minsk and the EU, the newspaper wrote.

Lukashenko will hold talks with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, and then with former Chancellor, and now Chairman of the Austrian People’s Party Sebastian Kurz. "Austria has traditionally been a kind of lobbyist for Belarus within the European Union, and Lukashenko has repeatedly noted this," Belarusian political analyst Artyom Shraibman told Kommersant. "In addition, Belarus has a lot of Austrian business: in communications, industry, and the banking sector. All this makes Austria practically the closest country to Minsk," he added. Trade and economic issues will be also raised during this visit, and an Austrian-Belarusian business forum will be held in Vienna today.

However, this does not mean that the Belarusian president will not hear a single word of criticism addressed to him, Kommersant wrote. The parliamentary elections scheduled for November 17, will almost certainly be discussed, as well as the lack of opposition politicians in the parliament.

Nevertheless, according to Director of the Minsk-based Center for European Integration Yury Shevtsov, Belarus and the European Union are now moving closer towards each other, and this process cannot be stopped.


Izvestia: Russian exporters see $12-bln decrease in revenues

Russian exporters lost $12 bln in revenue for the first eight months of 2019, according to a study by the FinExpertiza auditing firm, Izvestia wrote. Suppliers of petroleum products, diesel fuel, gas, metals and wheat lost the most in terms of value. Sales volumes of Russian products abroad also experienced a drop: they decreased 4.2%. Experts told the newspaper, this is due to lower prices, a slowdown in the global economy and the ongoing US-Chinese trade conflict. However, positive export dynamics are expected next year, the Ministry of Economic Development told Izvestia.

According to the report, oil industry revenues decreased by $7.75 bln, while diesel producers’ revenue fell short by $3.37 bln, and natural gas exporters took a revenue loss of $2.88 bln. This drop was accompanied by lower purchasing prices.

A 4.2% decline in the total supply is not dramatic and is due solely to price volatility, Director of the Center for Market Studies at the Higher School of Economics Georgy Ostapkovich told Izvestia. To date, Russian exporters have not felt the global economic slowdown, as demand for goods remains at a sufficient level. The consequences of the recession can be felt at the very least after a year and a half, the expert said.

Nevertheless, in 2020, the value of exports may well exceed the results of 2019, the Ministry of Economic Development told Izvestia. However, this will depend on many factors, namely: hydrocarbon prices, agricultural market conditions, demand for metals, aspirations and opportunities of Russian companies to send their products abroad, export support measures, as well as the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers from foreign partners, the department noted.


Kommersant: Sports minister delves into WADA’s technical questions for Moscow anti-doping lab

The story around the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) procedure to find the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) non-compliant, and its outcome will determine how Russia will participate in the upcoming Olympics, is now entering a decisive stage. A meeting of WADA experts and Russian officials will be held in November to discuss the inconsistencies found in the database of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory. Russian Minister of Sports Pavel Kolobkov informed Kommersant of the technical details.

"These questions concern advanced technology experts, because computers, computer bases are complicated, it may be related to a system’s setup, it may be a file transfer," the Minister said. He stressed that WADA issues are related to purely technical subtleties, and do not concern athletes.

Kolobkov explained why the Russian side took such a long time to transfer the database to WADA. "Removing the database itself was a very complicated procedure. The computer that stored everything was released in 2003, the disks are very old, actually ancient," Kolobkov said. "If the server had stopped, all the information could have been lost, so WADA’s special group had to renew their stay in Russia. We simply did not want to tell people about these problems earlier. Because of this, it seems, various assumptions and rumors surfaced," he added.

"Representatives of WADA, primarily the investigation department, which should draw the final conclusions, experts from the Lausanne Anti-Doping Laboratory and our specialists, including an independent group that provided the database, will participate [in the meeting]," Kolobkov said. "Our task is to explain all - as WADA calls them - inconsistencies between the database provided earlier by Grigory Rodchenkov and the database transferred in January. Explain whether there were logins into the system and what they consisted of," he told Kommersant.


Vedomosti: Russia anticipated to lag behind in 5G race

By 2025, China, the United States, Japan and South Korea are expected to be the leaders in 5G network coverage, GSMA Intelligence reported, while Europe and Russia will lag behind. According to experts interviewed by Vedomosti, the figures predicted for Russia, which will be 46 mln users, would be quite achievable, but rapid and widespread deployment of 5G networks will require extraordinary investment and a frequency resource that operators do not have yet.

GSMA Intelligence suggests that in Korea, 66% of the country's mobile connections (41 mln) will have 5G network connections. Korea will be the undisputed world leader in 5G coverage. By 2025, approximately half of all connections in the US and Japan will be connections to 5G - 188 mln and 98 mln, respectively. China will come in fourth with 36%, or 600 mln connections, Europe - 5th with 30%, or 209 mln connections. The global average by 2025 is 18% (1.5 bln) connections. Meanwhile, Russian is forecasted to have 19%, or 46 mln connections in 2025, GSMA Intelligence reported.

The outlook for Russia seems pessimistic, Megafon’s Chief Commercial Officer Vlad Wolfson told Vedomosti. The new communication standard, he explained, becomes dominant when more than 60% of subscribers start using it. Wolfson said that 4G technology in Russia required 5.5 years for this. At the same time, a Rostelecom rep told the newspaper that the GSMA Intelligence forecast with 46 mln connections looks optimistic.

The main advantage of the advanced mobile regions of the world, including the European Union and South Korea, is the 3.4-3.8 GHz "gold frequency" allocated for the development of 5G, an MTS representative told the newspaper, the speed of coverage and construction for 5G networks will depend on Russia solving the frequency issue.

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