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Press review: Moscow slams US rebuke of Russian anti-satellite test and Minsk pressures EU

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, November 17th

Izvestia: How Russian mediation helped negotiate a truce between Armenia and Azerbaijan in a matter of hours

The sudden, renewed armed confrontation between Armenia and Azerbaijan was the most serious incident since the ceasefire between the countries a year ago. The clashes on November 16 resulted in casualties on both sides, and 12 Armenian soldiers were captured. A round of intensive meditation with the help of Russia led to a truce several hours later, the newspaper writes.

The clashes began far from the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh, but its command immediately joined in resolving the conflict and made every effort to establish reasons for the escalation, sources in the Russian Defense Ministry told Izvestia. Fighting on the disputed sections of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan flared up around noon on November 16. Armored vehicles, mortars and artillery were used. Both sides blamed each other for the attack. The shootings began outside the modern borders of Nagorno-Karabakh, on the territory of the Kelbajar and Lachin regions of Azerbaijan, as well as in the Syunik Province of Armenia.

President Vladimir Putin spoke with Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan via telephone on Tuesday evening. Prior to that, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke by phone with the defense chiefs of both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Shoigu called on both sides to stop actions provoking conflict escalation.

Moscow needs to make every effort to stop the escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, since the next escalation negatively affects the entire region, said Grigory Karasin, head of the Federation Council's foreign affairs committee.

"Russia demonstrated what it is capable of in November 2020, when our President firmly stopped the bloodshed with his mediating mission. Since then, confidence has been gradually restored between the two states, a trilateral group at the level of deputy prime ministers has been operating, economic issues are being resolved, and the transport infrastructure is being restored. Any exacerbation between Armenia and Azerbaijan is bad not only for Russia, but for the entire region and the world," Karasin told Izvestia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow fights back against Washington’s space offensive

Moscow has rejected the accusation by the US and other countries that Russia is using anti-satellite weapons.

"Russia has successfully tested the system, which skillfully hit the old satellite, so there is no threat to space activities," said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The US Space Command noted that on November 15, 2021 Moscow time, the Russian Federation tested a satellite intercept missile with direct injection into orbit. The missile hit the Kosmos-1408 satellite, which led to the formation of debris in low Earth orbit. NASA, the US government along with representatives from other countries spoke out against what they call reckless and irresponsible destruction of the Soviet-made satellite.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson is concerned that astronauts and cosmonauts had to lock themselves in a spacecraft docked to the ISS for two hours to avoid colliding with Soviet satellite debris. The debris cloud flew in the immediate vicinity of the ISS every 90 minutes, Nelson said. At the same time, he repeated almost word for word what US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said, that the actions of the Russian Federation in space are reckless and dangerous, they also threaten the Chinese space station and the taikonauts on board. State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Monday that Russia’s "dangerous and irresponsible behavior jeopardizes the long-term sustainability of our outer space". According to him, the resulting debris contains 1,500 tracked objects and hundreds of thousands of smaller ones.

Roscosmos noted that the domestic "warning system for dangerous situations in space monitors in orbit in order to prevent threats to the International Space Station (ISS), as if recognizing the danger of space debris.

Doctor of Military Sciences Konstantin Sivkov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the Americans "5-10 years ago, shot down their low-flying satellite with the help of missiles." "Who is a threat to whom? Russia is creating the same weapons that the United States has. Moreover, the latter has superiority in space. Therefore, in conditions of military tension, we must have ways to destroy enemy satellites and launch missile strikes," Sivkov said.


Kommersant: Germany suspends Nord Stream 2 certification

Germany’s energy regulator on Tuesday froze the certification process for Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, taking away Gazprom’s chance to use its facilities this winter.

In order to proceed, the company must create a subsidiary in the German jurisdiction, which may postpone the completion of certification until the summer of 2022. Gas prices in Europe once again soared above $1,000 per thousand cubic meters upon this news.

The certification process for Nord Stream 2 AG will now drag on for the time required to establish a subsidiary and conclude all the necessary agreements, including for gas pumping.

"It is required to regulate the ownership and use of the German section of the pipeline with the actual contracts for the supply of gas from Gazprom. After all, the Gazprom structure will conclude an agreement with an affiliated operator to use the German section," explains Yekaterina Orlova, head of legal practice at CM Grace Consulting. Orlova told Kommersant that the local operating company is needed for the German regulator to gain a greater level of control. The Swiss Nord Stream 2 AG is registered in the canton of Zug, which is traditionally used for tax optimization. "Switzerland is not a member of the EU; therefore, it does not comply with EU directives and the decisions of the European Commission to the same extent as Germany," she explained, adding that the requirements for taxation and corporate transparency in Germany are stricter than in Switzerland.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Lukashenko puts Europe in tight squeeze

Minsk presented Berlin its settlement proposals on the migrant crisis. While European politicians are discussing them, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has shown that he does not intend to stop escalating the conflict on the border. Polish border guards had to use water cannons and tear gas to stop the storming of the border, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The first half November 16 was tense for the participants in the conflict on the Belarusian-Polish border. The migrants, who had spent a difficult night on the cold concrete of the Bruzgi border crossing, stormed the fences and the border guards and military who were guarding them. They tried to ram through the fences with sticks and threw stones at Polish soldiers and officers. According to the Polish side, even stun grenades were flying at them. One Polish soldier suffered a head injury as a result of these attacks and was sent to hospital. The Ministry of Health of Belarus reported five victims from among the refugees.

Political observer Aleksandr Klaskouski told the newspaper that it is possible that after the clashes on Tuesday, "the migration crisis will gradually begin to dissipate" and Lukashenko will ease up, as he realizes that he has fallen into a trap between the EU and Russia, which has become the main beneficiary of the migrant saga.

"Putin is flattered that Europe is begging him to influence his ally one way or another! Moscow is ready to play the role of a mediator, and will try to bargain for something from the West," Klaskovsky said. "Indeed, Lukashenko clinched a PR win, Belarusian propaganda was a reason toot their own horn. Merkel herself called Us," the expert writes. But at the same time, Lukashenko is addressed as Mister, rather than President. According to Klaskouski, despite the slowdown with the sanctions, they will still be introduced.


Izvestia: More than 60% of Russian tour operators in danger of bankruptcy

Over 60% of Russian tour operators will not be able to pay back money to tourists for tours that were canceled due to the pandemic, according to a letter from representatives of the tourist industry to the Russian government with a request to extend the deferral for the obligations of the agencies, according to Resolution No. 1073, which runs until December 31, 2021. If it is not extended, companies will begin to leave the market and tourists will lose both vacation options and money, the Russian Union of Travel Industry (RST) said.

The appeal was signed by RST representatives, the Association "Turpomosch", the National Union of the Hospitality Industry and other organizations, and was made available to Izvestia.

The vast majority of countries and even entire tourist regions are still closed to Russian tourists: China, Southeast Asia, the Far East and almost all of Europe. This state of affairs did not allow tour operators to fulfill their obligations to tourists, taken in 2020, in 2021, according to the text.

Large market players are unlikely to face bankruptcy, since they are now massively selling stakes in Turkey and Egypt. Medium and small tour operators are under the threat of closure, since before the pandemic they had sent tourists to China, Southeast Asia, Europe and other now closed countries. And there are a lot of them on the market - the same 60%, - RST Vice President Yuri Barzykin told Izvestia.

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