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Press review: How was Iran’s top nuke scientist assassinated and OPEC+ decides on oil cuts

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, December 1
Iranian military personnel standing near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a funeral ceremony in Tehran Iranian Defense Ministry via AP
Iranian military personnel standing near the flag-draped coffin of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh during a funeral ceremony in Tehran
© Iranian Defense Ministry via AP


Izvestia: OPEC+ decides on fate of oil cuts

The preliminary plan of OPEC members to extend its oil production restrictions in 2021 will strengthen oil prices, according to experts interviewed by Izvestia. OPEC+ countries are expected to make a final decision on December 1. If the cartel members agree to extend the oil cuts, then by the end of the year, the price for a barrel of Brent could surge above $50, analysts believe. But even if OPEC+ decides not to prolong the restrictions, Russia will be able to benefit from the decision by increasing export volumes.

So far, OPEC members have concurred on prolonging the deal’s parameters until the end of March, and the decision can be considered positive, Head of the Information Analysis Center at Alpari Alexander Razuvaev told Izvestia. "There is no doubt that OPEC+ countries will approve this decision. As long as the global economy remains constrained, demand for energy is going to be weak and volatile," he projected. According to the analyst, in December prices for a barrel of Brent oil may rise to $50.

The markets are waiting for the most logical decision, the continuation of the current production limits for 3-6 months into 2021, Head of Analytics Department at AMarkets Artem Deev believes. This guarantees that about 2 mln barrels of oil per day will not enter the market, which would be unnecessary at the present consumption levels.

"In addition, all parties to the deal are unhappy with Libya, which is continuing output without restrictions, because in recent years, its production has fallen sharply due to the civil war," independent analyst Dmitry Adamidov told the newspaper. The expert did not rule out that, most likely, the issue will end in a compromise.

Proposals to extend the tough August-December restrictions are associated with the risks of an oil demand decline due to the second wave of coronavirus, Deputy Director General of the Institute of National Energy Alexander Frolov said. "Now, demand is rising, although this growth is slowing down. OPEC+ members fear that large oil consumers will have to impose tough restrictions once again," the expert told Izvestia.


Kommersant: Intelligence experts doubt Iranian version of top nuclear scientist’s death

The funeral of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the scientist considered by many to be the father of Iran's secret military program related to weapons of mass destruction, was held In Tehran. The Iranian authorities promised to avenge his death and put forward various versions of the assassination plot. Experts told Kommersant that by doing so, Tehran is trying to hide the obvious failure of its security services.

However, many experts question the details published by the Iranians, believing that the authorities are trying to cover up their security agencies’ failings, the newpspaer writes. Kommersant spoke with several Russian experts in the field of special operations. According to their version, the events look rather strange. Given the level of protection of the vehicle, he could have been killed inside, experts said.

"But the version with the use of a remote-controlled machine gun can be possible. In any case, our experts have warned Iran about the possibility of using such systems. However, the photo looks more like a car bomb detonated at the side of the road and this explosion caused the death of the scientist," the experts said.

Israeli specialist on security and intelligence services Amir Bohbot, in an interview with Kommersant, expressed doubt that a remote weapon was used during the operation. He believes that several shooters could have been involved in Fakhrizadeh’s death.


Kommersant: Lukashenko brushes off Berlin's appeal

The German authorities have urged Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to put a stop to a fresh round of violence and repressions, and to start an open and constructive dialogue with the opposition. The Belarusian leader, however, will surely ignore the demands from abroad, Kommersant writes. A day earlier, hundreds of people in Belarus were once again detained at the now regular Sunday protests in Minsk and other cities around the country.

Another Sunday demonstration took place in Minsk - more precisely, several decentralized actions in different parts of the capital. The national security forces were thoroughly preparing for a potential offensive against the city center. Downtown squares were cordoned off, five subway stations were closed, and mobile Internet was jammed in the morning. Later, the first detentions began in different parts of the city, followed by dispersals of protesters.

The Belarusian authorities continue to fight oppositionists through massive and selective means, Kommersant writes. Thus, on Sunday, a member of the opposition Coordination Council, Belarusian economist from the BEROC Center for Economic Research Dmitry Kruk was detained and taken to an isolation center for offenders. In addition, it was reported that the term of detention was extended for blogger and activist Sergey Tikhanovsky for another three months. By the end of the new term, in February 2021, he will have been in jail for nine months.

"Meanwhile, almost four months after the protests broke out, the public agenda of Alexander Lukashenko and his team has not shown any sign that Minsk is ready to make any serious concessions," the newspaper writes. Earlier, Lukashenko has repeatedly argued that the demonstrators are foreign forces interested in destabilizing the situation in Belarus.


Izvestia: Russia, EU plan to cooperate on green energy

Fighting climate change and developing green energy are becoming one of the most important areas of cooperation between Russia and the European Union. On December 1-3, the parties will hold the first forum dedicated to the implementation of the Paris Agreement. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, against the background of the decarbonization course taken by the EU, along with a number of other countries and by Russia itself somewhat, the production and transportation of hydrogen energy may turn out to be a new and highly promising area of cooperation between the parties.

Many other market players acknowledge the prospects of cooperation between Moscow and Brussels on the new energy front. Russia has great potential for producing environmentally friendly hydrogen, and Germany has expertise in solutions for sustainable and clean energy systems, Executive Director of the German Energy Agency Andreas Kuhlmann told Izvestia. By combining both, the countries could shape the development of the hydrogen economy, he added.

Russia boasts a pre-existing pipeline infrastructure that is considered the most efficient and cheapest way to deliver hydrogen, Izvestia writes. "Russia has large reserves of hydrocarbons, huge potential for renewable energy sources and large reserves of water, …, great scientific and technical potential and technological developments in the field of hydrogen, along with a logistical proximity to the main sales markets of Europe and Asia," Coordinator of the Initiative Group on Hydrogen of the German Chamber of Commerce Irina Grechukhina told Izvestia.


Vedomosti: Russian banking giant Sber plans to dominate e-commerce market

Sber’s main goal until 2023 is to build an integrated ecosystem, Head of the Russian baking giant Herman Gref announced when presenting the company's new strategy. At the same time, by the end of 2023, Sber intends to enter the top three leaders in the e-commerce market. Experts interviewed by Vedomosti are rather restrained about the banking giant’s plans for a sharp increase in non-revenues. The company will have to compete for a leading position in the field of non-banking services with such traditional market players as Yandex and Group.

Frank RG CEO Yuri Gribanov told the newspaper that non-banking services are a non-core business for Sber, and there are only two ways to increase its share in these markets: it either buys a ready-made successful businesses, or develops its own competences. The main risk in the event of a purchase, in his opinion, is that companies might not be able to reach integration agreements, "but developing your own competences is even more risky."

"Diversification balances all these risks," Gribanov noted. "It is clear that Sber will operate in a variety of non-banking segments. Some of its projects will probably be successful, some will die off. This is a classic venture strategy," the expert added.

Head of the Department for Trading Operations on the Russian stock market at IC Freedom Finance Georgy Vashchenko pointed to the fact that the bulk of Sber's client base is made up of pensioners and public sector employees who don’t have much need for such services. "Of course, the bank will try to promote all services to the maximum, but non-banking services are generally in demand among the most solvent group of clients - corporations, large payroll clients, and mortgage borrowers," the expert concluded.



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