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Press review: Key US warship enters Black Sea and Kiev gripes over Kazakh coal transit

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, November 8th
US Sixth Fleet’s flagship Mount Whitney EPA/ADAM WARZAWA
US Sixth Fleet’s flagship Mount Whitney

Izvestia: Experts eye threat of US ships in the Black Sea

A few days ago, the US Sixth Fleet’s flagship Mount Whitney and destroyer Poter sailed across the Bosphorus into the Black Sea. Izvestia talked to experts about what this means for Russia and what the dangers might be. Mount Whitney's chief weapons are communications and coordination, rather than cannons, machine guns or its helicopter. The ship consists of admiral’s cabins, which makes it possible to gather on board Navy representatives from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Turkey and Romania. This would result in the headquarters of an international coalition, capable of tackling global challenges in the Black Sea. This, for example, happened in 2011 during NATO’s intervention in Libya. The brains of the operation had been located on board Mount Whitney.

According to Alexey Leonkov, a military expert, the main task of the US Sixth Fleet flagship, located in the Black Sea, is to provide information interaction between the forces of the Sixth Fleet, located in the Mediterranean Sea and those countries with which the Sixth Fleet is conducting joint exercises.

Mount Whitney has a history of appearing near Russia during times of crisis, for instance in 2008, during the conflict in Georgia, and during Ukraine’s Maidan upheaval in 2014 and then, the ship even entered Sevastopol. The ship docked in the military unit of the port of Sevastopol, however, due to local protests, the crew did not come ashore. Then, the main task of the ship was to annoy Russia. And while the methods have changed, the goal, according to General of the French Armed Forces, ex-head of the French military mission to the UN, Dominique Trinquand, has not.

"NATO needs to find some reason to justify its existence. Afghanistan is over and now everything is returning to the 1990s, to the idea of resistance to the East. Former Soviet countries agree with this. They still think that the United States is their umbrella against any threats," the general told Izvestia.


Vedomosti: Kiev claims Russia isn’t letting Kazakh coal through

On November 4, Andrey Gerus, who heads the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on Energy and Housing and Communal Services wrote on social media that Russia was hindering the transit of coal from Kazakhstan to Ukraine, Vedomosti writes. "Technically, the blockage occurs within Russian Railways, which does not allow the cars with coal to pass through," he said. The restrictions, Gerus said, are related only to thermal coal. The next day, the Kazakh side confirmed the restrictions to TASS.

"Russia has not completely blocked the supply of coal, but there are some restrictions due to the workload of infrastructure on the Russian side," said Madiyar Uakpayev, spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development of Kazakhstan.

A representative of Russian Railways, confirmed for Vedomosti that there are no artificial restrictions set by the company in the transportation of goods from Kazakhstan. According to him, now there is an increased demand for the transportation of coal products in the western direction from both Russian and Kazakh shippers.

For 10 months of 2021, Russian Railways transported 6.8 mln tonnes of coal from Kazakhstan, which is "an absolute record of transportation for the entire time and more than 40% more than in the same period last year," the source said. He also noted that the priority of distribution for carrying capacity in the event of excess demand is determined by the rules of non-discriminatory access to the infrastructure of Russian Railways.

According to Mikhail Burmistrov, General Director of Infoline-Analytics, the monthly transit of coal to Ukraine from Kazakhstan is small but stable, on average 68,000 tonnes per month in 2019-2021, it varied in the range from 45,200 to 95,400 tonnes in the period from January 2020 to September 2021.

By comparison, Russia supplies Ukrainian consumers with 1.3 mln -1.7 mln tonnes per month, says Sergei Grishunin, managing director of the NRA's rating service. Burmistrov adds that Ukraine usually increases its purchases in Kazakhstan in November (for example, in November 2020 to a record 95,400 tonnes) and, considering the termination of shipments from Russia, Ukrainian buyers have planned a record increase (at least to 138,000 tonnes). "For this reason, some Kazakh consignors could have local difficulties with the coordination of applications for transportation in connection with the shortage of gondola cars," he said.


Izvestia: Russia set to ease visas for vaccine tourism starting January 2022

Russia may make getting visas easier for foreign nationals who would like to be vaccinated here, Izvestia writes. The Russian Tourist Watchdog plans to submit a proposal by the end of 2021. Russia’s Tourpomosch (Tourhelp) association is hammering out a program at the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The head of the association Alexander Osaulenko says it is possible to organize vaccine tours starting January 2022 and notes that Sputnik Light, the one-shot inoculation, will be the most popular among foreigners since its effectiveness has already been proven in combination with foreign jabs.

Back in September, Zarina Doguzova, who heads the Russian Tourism Agency, said that organized inoculation tours could be launched by the end of the year. The association has been working with the Russian Health Ministry. "We will offer this program to all countries that have regular flights to Russia, by the time the vaccines are available. Currently, there are 60 countries on that list, Doguzova said.

So far, there are no special regulations for those who want to come to Russia to get immunized. Guidelines for visas to Russia for EU citizens were set in 2007, and take 10 calendar days.

However, due to the pandemic restrictions, these dates are subject to change. In June, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s consular department said that foreign citizens still couldn’t get an electronic visa to enter Russia as part of vaccine tourism due to the lack of legal grounds and technical capabilities, as well as due to the current moratorium on the issuance of electronic visas, due to the pandemic. Also, according to the current federal law, the period of stay of foreigners on a visa like this cannot exceed 16 days, and it is necessary to have at least 21 days for the dual-shot Sputnik V inoculation. However, the e-visa will work for those foreigners who want to get vaccinated with the one-component Sputnik Light.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Foreign hand seen in plot to assassinate Iraqi PM

The thankfully unsuccessful assassination attempt against Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi could have serious political ramifications within the country, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes on Monday. His residence in Baghdad’s green zone was attacked by three drones, resulting in several guards being injured. The prime suspects behind the plot are radical pro-Iranian groups disgruntled with the results of the recent parliamentary elections. A photo of an unexploded missile on the roof of the prime minister's house was released.

In his televised address, Al-Kadhimi said that he was fine, and that the "treacherous missiles" would not break the will of the Iraqis. He called on everyone to exercise restraint for the good of Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr, a key Shiite leader, tweeted in support of Al-Kadhimi and said that anti-state forces want to throw Iraq back into "a time of chaos" in order to seize control. This looks like a transparent allusion to pro-Iranian Shiite parties closely associated with the armed network al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces).

An expert at the Russian International Affairs Council Kirill Semenov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the premier has a difficult relationship with the pro-Iranian militias. "Al-Kadhimi is looking to prevent the excessive strengthening of the militarized Shiite pro-Iranian groups. "Al-Hashd al-Shaabi" received some recognition, became part of the security forces, but did not lose their independence. They can act at their discretion: shoot the Americans or do something else. The prime minister frankly does not like this, and al-Hashd al-Shaabi does not like attempts to be brought under control," Semenov said.


Kommersant: Shipping industry encourages more investment into cutting emissions

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) seeks to increase investment in technologies that reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The industry, like most developed countries, intends to move towards zero CO2 emissions by 2050. This, according to the Chamber, will require a massive transition to new types of fuel, primarily hydrogen.

The chamber represents 80% of the world's merchant marine, in a joint report with the Ricardo consulting agency, and is calling for increased investment in technology to decarbonize the industry. The report, outlining an action plan for governments and industry towards zero emissions by mid-century, was presented at an industry conference at the Glasgow Climate Summit on November 6.

Currently, sea transportation accounts for 90% of world trade, which consumes 4 mln barrels of oil daily, the report says. This, according to Fitch's Dmitry Marinchenko, is equivalent to 5% of global oil consumption. At the same time, 98% of the fuel consumed by shipping is carbon fuel. ICS, referring to the estimates of the International Energy Agency (IEA), notes that without technological changes, by 2030 only 3% of the energy consumed by shipping will come from carbon-neutral fuels, and by 2050 no more than 30%. The chamber notes that in recent years, the IEA has recorded a reduction in private sector investment in carbon-free technologies: from $2.7 bln in 2017 to $1.6 bln in 2019. To reverse this trend, the organization proposes investing in research and development projects (R&D). The investment, the chamber believes, is necessary to support the development of technologies until they are commercialized.

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