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Press review: Will Russia, Turkey collide on Libya and House unveils impeachment articles

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, December 11


Media: Normandy Four reaffirms commitment to dialogue

The leaders of France, Russia, Ukraine and Germany signed a statement following their Paris meeting on resolving the Donbass conflict. The four reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and a comprehensive ceasefire, as well as to incorporating the Steinmeier Formula into Ukrainian legislation, Vedomosti notes.

Senior Researcher at the Russian State University for the Humanities’ Department of Post-Soviet Countries Alexander Gushchin told the newspaper that expectations for a great breakthrough had not come true as the parties only "agreed to make agreements." "The most important thing is that it wasn’t a total failure," Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Andrey Kortunov emphasized.

The statement signed by the four leaders will not help rapidly resolve the conflict but it does point to some progress, envoy of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LRP) to the Contact Group’s political subgroup Rodion Miroshnik told Izvestia. According to him, the Normandy Four leaders achieved their main goal by confirming that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements. At the same time, Paris, Berlin and Moscow refused to accept a number of ideas put forward by Kiev.

Member of Ukraine’s "Opposition Platform - For Life" party Ilya Kiva pointed out that the Paris summit had shown the way out of an impasse and marked the launch of dialogue between Kiev and Moscow. "We have embarked on the right path. There will be many issues ahead and a long search for compromises," Kiva noted.

Not even a small step to reintegrate Donbass based on the Minsk Agreements has been made because the current Ukrainian authorities continue to pursue the policy of the previous Poroshenko government, Director of the Kiev Center for Political Studies and Conflictology Mikhail Pogrebinsky said. However, the summit was a success in itself as "there was a need to end the standstill in talks," the expert added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: House Democrats unveil impeachment articles against Trump

The Judiciary Committee of the US Congress House of Representatives has unveiled two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. They include abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The abuse of power count relates to Trump’s attempt to encourage Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to force an investigation into the Burisma energy company, which was linked to Hunter Biden, the son of Joseph Biden, Obama’s former Vice President and a potential Democratic candidate for the 2020 presidential election, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Higher School of Economics Professor Dmitry Yevstafyev believes that the impeachment process will turn out to be a tough test for all those involved. "Both Republicans and Democrats will suffer. Trump has shown determination to make the world see the dirty laundry of his opponents and there is much to see," the expert told the newspaper.

He pointed out that the impeachment articles against Trump were actually based on the usual practices of US presidents. "It has happened many times in US history when the country’s leaders abused power to solve their personal problems. The Trump impeachment process will inevitably bring up Biden’s Ukrainian ties. Bill Clinton’s ties to Arab countries will probably surface once again as well, which will deal a blow to Hillary Clinton, who still has considerable weight within the Democratic Party," Yevstafyev noted.

According to him, though Trump’s impeachment still does not seem inevitable, the chances that the head of state will be removed from power have increased in the past two months. "There are signs indicating that both Republicans and Democrats will go full steam ahead and the impeachment process is not just an election stunt," the expert emphasized.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Libyan war may pit Russia and Turkey against each other

Ankara will send troops to Libya if the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez al-Sarraj requests it, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Such a scenario sets the stage for a potential conflict with Russia, who feels politically closer to commander of the Libyan Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

On November 8, the Turkish authorities and the GNA signed a defense cooperation agreement, which paves the way for Ankara’s assistance in training troops loyal to the GNA and efforts to boost military ties between the parties. Meanwhile, the LNA continues its offensive towards the GNA’s capital of Tripoli, which was launched in the spring.

Russia talks about having an arm’s length between the parties to the Libyan conflict but the Turkish president’s statement once again makes it clear that Moscow is deeply involved in the crisis.

"Assuming that Russian troops are present in Libya - though it is still a question for debate - the possibility of a confrontation does exist," Middle East and North Africa Director at the Moscow Policy Group Yury Barmin told the paper, commenting on Libya’s place in Russia-Turkey relations.

The expert pointed out that "no matter how many troops are sent to Libya, they don’t engage in military activities." "The fighting in Libya is different from that in Syria. This is the way military activities take place there: attacks are carried out by drones or aircraft in order to create chaos and allow the party that owns those drones and aircraft to seize an area," he explained.

This is why troops don’t have a crucial role in the Libyan conflict, Barmin pointed out.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: US stops WTO from intervening in trade wars

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has lost its authority in resolving trade disputes, which is the core of its functions. Two members of the WTO Appellate Body are leaving as their terms of office have expired, while the US has blocked the appointment of new judges, depriving the member states of the possibility to file appeals. The US has also blocked the passage of the WTO budget, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

The United States started criticizing the WTO’s system for settling disputes about ten to 15 years ago, Leading Researcher with the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration Alexander Pakhomov pointed out, adding that some of the criticism was justified. The judges of the WTO Appellate Body believe that their rulings should be viewed as precedents, while the Americans are strongly against it. The Appellate Body’s decisions in a number of disputes went beyond the WTO’s agreements, exceeding the legal status of agreements and decisions made by WTO countries. The US seeks to prevent such situations in the future.

WTO members have been aware for a long time that the trade dispute system will be crippled in late 2019 but their efforts to prevent the system’s collapse led to nothing. In July, the European Union, Canada and Norway agreed to create an appellate mechanism outside the WTO but it’s hard to tell if it will be viable, Pakhomov noted. Russia and the European Commission are also in talks on establishing alternative mechanisms, a Russian Economic Development Ministry source told the newspaper.

An alternative appeals body will lack the legitimacy within the WTO because the member states won’t recognize it, Pakhomov noted. It will also be impossible to create a smaller appeals body as such agreements are added into the WTO’s legal system through the consent of all members, including those not involved. However, the US will likely block any agreement of this kind. Launching talks with the US on modifying the dispute settlement body could help find a way out of the crisis, Pakhomov said. The US may partially unblock the WTO budget and the appointment of new judges as talks progress.


Kommersant: Arctic LNG 2 project may attract $8 bln in loan funds

The shareholders of Novatek’s Arctic LNG 2 project plan to attract $8 bln from foreign banks, Kommersant wrote, citing company sources.

If it is done, the share of foreign loans in the project’s $21.3 bln investment portfolio will grow to reach 40%, while the other 60% will come from the shareholders. Large-scale equity investment is highly appropriate for Novatek since it reduces the project’s dependence on risks coming from potential sanctions.

The pool of banks that could provide loans to Arctic LNG 2 has not been determined yet. The newspaper’s sources explained that the lack of long-term contracts for the supply of large amounts of gas was the main reason why. Meanwhile, sources added that Russian banks’ proposals would be considered after all others because of their higher interest rates. Novatek expects to get loans at an interest rate of no more than four percent.

According to Advance Capital’s Karen Dashyan, equity financing usually constitutes 10%-30% of capital expenditures. As far as Arctic LNG 2 is concerned, it will be enough to attract $8 bln in loans, provided the project’s shareholders are capable of investing the remaining money, the expert emphasized. Fitch’s Dmitry Marinchenko, in turn, pointed out that from the very beginning, Novatek had made the market understand that Arctic LNG 2 would get most of its funds from shareholders who had been ready for it when joining the project. He added that potential sanctions on LNG equipment posed the main threat to Novatek and its projects, but those sanctions were not on the agenda yet.


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