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Press review: Turkey concedes in dispute over S-400s and tensions on the rise in Syria

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, November 25
S-400 missile systems  Sergei Malgavko/TASS
S-400 missile systems
© Sergei Malgavko/TASS

Kommersant: Turkey caught between Moscow and Washington in arms dispute

Russia’s S-400s supplied to Turkey will operate in an autonomous "stand alone system" that does not require their integration into the NATO air defense system, according to Turkish Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar. The decision to limit the scope of use of the S-400s was Turkey’s first concession to its Western allies, fearing that the introduction of the S-400s into NATO’s air defense system could pose a threat to their security, Kommersant wrote. However, it may be too early to say that this step will resolve the conflict between Ankara and Washington. The US State Department has already said that in order to resume full-scale cooperation with the US, Turkey must either eliminate the S-400s, or return them to Moscow.

Russian experts interviewed by Kommersant believe that the statements of the Turkish Defense Minister testify to Ankara’s desire to avoid continuing confrontation with the United States over the supply of S-400s. "After harsh rhetoric against the United States, the Turkish side is trying to demonstrate a willingness to compromise and prove the main argument of the United States and the Western allies is wrong, that after being put on combat duty, the S-400 systems will supposedly create an opportunity for entering the NATO air defense system and for information leaks. The use of the S-400s as an autonomous system eliminates this possibility," Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov told Kommersant.

"The decision of Turkey not to include the S-400s in the national air defense system, integrated into the common NATO system, slightly reduces its effectiveness, since in this mode it will be used exclusively for solving local problems," the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs expert Ilya Kramnik told the newspaper. However, according to him, abandoning the S-400 is out of the question. Moreover, there are no guarantees that Ankara will not try to expand the possibilities of the Russian systems in the future.

Meanwhile, despite Ankara’s gesture, the question of whether it will be enough to resolve the conflict with Washington remains open, the newspaper wrote. So far, the US has made it clear that the complete rejection of the S-400s would be a prerequisite for unlocking cooperation.


Vedomosti: Tensions on the rise in northern Syria

Terrorists continue to violate the ceasefire in the Idlib de-escalation zone, according to Head of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria Major General Yuri Borenkov. In just one day, illegal armed terrorists launched 24 attacks on the territories of the provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib. The Russian side is less and less satisfied with the situation in this zone, a military source told Vedomosti. Moreover, the Syrian government forces are aiming for a military operation in Idlib. Russia argues that in addition to the militants, there are several hundred thousand civilians in Idlib held hostage, the source told Vedomosti.

There is almost no hope for Turkey to fulfill its promises to disengage militants and the so-called opposition, a source close to the Russian Defense Ministry told Vedomosti. Turkey is too busy operating in north-eastern Syria against the Kurdish People’s Self-Defense labeled terrorists by Turkey. Actions by Turkey show that Idlib is not a paramount problem for it, the source said.

The situation may soon resolve in a positive direction, another source close to the Ministry of Defense told the newspaper. According to the source, the Russian military police and the Turkish military patrol areas in northeast Syria daily, the territory is increasing daily. The main Kurdish forces withdrew 32 km from the Syrian border, while the remaining units there will have to do the same if they do not want to be destroyed by the Turks, the source told Vedomosti.


Kommersant: Government turns blind eye to Novatek’s budget needs

Not a single Novatek project was included in the federal budget for 2020, despite repeated instructions from the president and a government decree. The company needs about 124 bln rubles ($1.94 bln) to create federal infrastructure for the Utrenniy Terminal and LNG transshipment complexes in Kamchatka and Murmansk.

According to Kommersant, the main owner of Novatek Leonid Mikhelson once again turned to Vladimir Putin in November, noting that the lack of budgetary funds creates risks for the implementation of the Arctic LNG-2 project on time.

Kommersant’s sources noted that Mikhelson in his letter to the president warned that the current situation would not allow the implementation of the Arctic LNG-2 project on time — that is, in 2023-2025. Arctic LNG-2, worth $21.3 bln and containing a capacity of 19.8 mln tonnes per year, should become the largest LNG plant in Russia. A spokesman for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Kommersant that the issue of funds is being worked out.

The Finance Ministry told Kommersant that in drafting the budget law for 2020-2022, the Medvedev-headed budget commission decided to consider allocating funds for the Utrenniy Terminal for 2021 to the budget draft for 2021-2023. Novatek expects that the government decisions will be implemented, and work on the construction of the federal property both at the Utrenniy Terminal will be carried out in full and in accordance with the planned completion date.

The company recalled that these funds are needed to secure cargo turnover through the Northern Sea Route, which, according to the decree of the president, should grow to 80 mln tonnes per year by 2024.


Izvestia: Pre-installed Russian software may increase smartphone prices

In 2020, smartphones in Russia may surge in price, and the available range might decrease if a law on mandatory pre-installation of Russian software on gadgets comes into force. Last week, the State Duma adopted this document in the third reading. Experts and market players polled by Izvestia believe that as a result, Apple may either leave Russia altogether or substantially reduce its product line. However, low-cost smartphones are also at risk. However, there are positive things, officials and lawmakers said. Support for domestic software manufacturers will provide new jobs, and customers will have the opportunity to choose between Russian and foreign software.

First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy Vladimir Gutenev, one of the authors of the document, said that pre-installed software may include antiviruses and social networks. In his opinion, the law will stimulate the development of Russian software companies and will lead to the creation of new jobs, thereby boosting budget revenues within a year. The Ministry of Communications is already preparing a list of Russian software. It combines more than 5,000 programs from Russian companies.

If the law comes into force, Apple is very likely to leave the Russian market, said leading analyst at Mobile Research Group Eldar Murtazin. At least, some products of the comapny line in Russia may leave the market — this risk could affect iPhones and Apple computers, a source close to partner company of several electronics manufacturers told Izvestia.

Prices for gadgets can also surge, representative of Inventive Retail Group Lyudmila Semushina told the newspaper. The product range might decline, while its "gray imports" will increase, she added.

Meanwhile, after the law comes into force, consumers will have a choice, Deputy Head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service Anatoly Golomolzin said.


Izvestia: Russian scientists grow artificial skeleton fragment on ISS

Russian scientists managed to grow fragments of a bone structure in space under zero gravity. During experiments on the ISS, tissue samples were made from calcium phosphate ceramics, which were populated with living cells. According to the newspaper, the project is currently being comprehensively studied on Earth. In the future, the technology will enable the creation of bone implants for transplants for astronauts on long-range interplanetary expeditions.

"In the study, we use biocompatible materials based on calcium phosphate ceramics, which in their composition are almost identical to the inorganic component of real bone," Director of the Institute of Metallurgy and Materials Science RAS named after A.A. Baykov Vladimir Komlev told the newspaper.

The experiments with growing tissues in orbit will continue. Plans are in store to add stem cells with human DNA to the ceramic composition to help improve the survival of implants in the body.

"Printing bone tissue from ceramic particles together with biomaterials under zero gravity was carried out for the first time in the world," Research Fellow at NUST MISIS Fyodor Senatov told the newspaper. "Thus, significant fundamental discoveries can be made studying the results of the experiment, which will affect the development of additive manufacturing in general," he added.

In the future, this new technology will make it possible to grow bone implants for astronauts and transplants without the need to return to Earth.


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