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Press review: Russia, India to deepen ties and NATO spying endangers civilian airliners

Top stories from the Russian press on Monday, December 6th
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

Kommersant: Putin, Modi seeking to define new partnership strategy

On his upcoming visit to India, Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Putin's second international trip during the pandemic, after just once flying from Moscow for a conference with US President Joe Biden in Geneva, is meant not only to reaffirm Moscow's commitment to Russian-Indian cooperation, according to Kommersant. Due to the escalating rivalry between Russia and the United States, as well as the worsening relations between India and China, Delhi’s ties with Russia are being put to the test.

Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov noted that the two parties are expected to sign "a package of agreements during the visit". Diplomatic sources in the Indian capital told Kommersant that a joint statement would be adopted at the end of the Putin-Modi summit, which will serve as a blueprint for deepening and diversifying bilateral relations. At the same time, agreements and memorandums of understanding will be signed to cover cooperation in a number of key areas, including military-technical cooperation, energy, trade, economic ties, and healthcare.

Meanwhile, experts interviewed by Kommersant noted there are also new serious risks. The geopolitical backdrop and atmosphere of Russian-Indian relations has become noticeably complicated as a result of a number of issues. First, the confrontation between the United States on one side, and Russia and China on the other, has resulted in the US attempting to separate India from Russia. Second, Indo-Chinese ties, which are at their worst in half a century, have resulted from escalating border tensions.

"One of the most important factors that determine India's foreign policy is the almost complete intolerance of China's activity in the international arena and, in particular, in Asia. India and China are extremely sensitive to each other, and India sees the United States as an antithesis not only to China but also to the actively developing military-political partnership between Russia and China," Director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies of Moscow State University Alexey Maslov told Kommersant.

Despite the fact that the Russian side still does not consider India's arguments in favor of its Indo-Pacific strategy sufficiently convincing, seeing in it only an American instrument of containing China, relations with India acquire additional weight for Russia in the context of its relations with both the United States and with China, Anil Trigunayat, former Indian ambassador to Russia, and expert with the Vivekananda Foundation, told Kommersant.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Minsk vows tit-for-tat sanctions against Western restrictions, yet eyes reconciliation

The fifth package of sanctions against Belarus proved to be more serious than expected. It was intended to be a response to the migrant issue on the Belarusian border, where thousands of migrants have been wandering for months seeking to get into Europe. Individuals and corporations implicated in the border problem were targeted by the sanctions. The extent of the actual restrictions, however, surprised the Belarusian authorities, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Minsk responded with threats and hints at pursuing reconciliation.

First, the new sanctions package did not come solely from Europe. The United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom also joined in, and each of them created its own list. Second, the sanctions targeted not just those implicated in the border crisis, but also strategically vital industrial businesses that generate revenue for the government, as well as several judges. The restrictive measures impacted 22 businesses and more than 30 people in total.

Belarusian officials were taken aback by the appearance of the US, UK, and Canadian lists. Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko stated the country would retaliate harshly. First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Dmitry Krutoy assessed the sanctions as "the only serious threat to economic security" of Belarus, but at the same time said that the government had a "mobilization plan", which would help it avoid major problems.

Possible losses from sanctions could reach around $250-300 mln and Belarus intends to replace these losses by focusing on other markets, in particular China, Russia, and African countries, mainly "Egypt and Zimbabwe", Krutoy said. The low price of Russian gas and savings on its purchases owing to the opening of a nuclear power plant are two further options that could make up for the losses.


Izvestia: BRICS to help South Africa fight Omicron

BRICS says it’s prepared to help South Africa to study the new Omicron coronavirus variant and fight it, President of BRICS International Forum Purnima Anand told Izvestia. According to her, Russia, India, China, and Brazil are now discussing ways to deliver aid to South Africa. Countries can send specialists there to study the new strain of the virus, and also supply drugs.

BRICS members are ready to support South Africa on all matters regarding the new variant, be it research or medical supplies, she told the newspaper, noting that it is important to stop Omicron before it is too late.

In particular, Anand added, India has put together a shipment of medical equipment and its Covishield vaccine for South Africa if they are needed.

Virologist Alexey Agranovsky told Izvestia that it could take from three months to a year to determine how dangerous Omicron is. "We do not yet know whether Omicron can supplant the Delta strain, although theoretically this scenario cannot be ruled out. Omicron has not been studied enough to suggest that it is more easily tolerated than other variants. With 10 or 100 case histories tracked, there’s sketchy information, so it is impossible to talk about anything seriously," he emphasized.

The Association of Russian Compatriots in South Africa told Izvestia that there is no panic over Omicron in the country, all establishments are operating normally. Despite the restrictions on air traffic, it is still possible to fly from South Africa to Russia.


Izvestia: US aviation reconnaissance imperiling civilian air safety over Black Sea

The Bombardier Challenger 650 ARTEMIS aircraft, one of which nearly caused a plane crash over the Black Sea, has been used by the United States for several years as a means of electronic reconnaissance, sources in the Russian Ministry of Defense told Izvestia. The experimental surveillance plane, which had a crew of so-called "contractors," narrowly escaped a collision with an Aeroflot passenger jet on December 3. This occurred against the backdrop of a significant mobilization of NATO forces in the region. Russian Foreign Ministry official Maria Zakharova stated that the operations of the US Air Force and its allies pose a threat to civil aviation.

According to Russian defense department and aviation sector sources, the US has been operating the Bombardier Challenger 650 ARTEMIS as an electronic surveillance aircraft with civilian crews of contractors for a couple of years. These planes, which are based in Romania, are frequently deployed, even over the Black Sea, the sources stated.

The Federal Air Transport Agency told the newspaper that NATO’s ramped-up aircraft flights near Russia’s borders increase the possibility of dangerous accidents involving civilian airliners. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, while reconnaissance aircraft operations should not result in flight restrictions at this time, any further escalation of tensions could lead to no-fly zones being created over the Black Sea.

According to a source in the aviation industry, the Aeroflot incident is far from the first in recent years. Since 2014, NATO intelligence has routinely created and continues to create dangerous circumstances over the Black Sea. "Unfortunately, as far as I know, no sanctions were applied to anyone after such accidents," the source said, adding that today there are no real levers of influence on "partners" who create dangers in the air and violate international air law, other than the air defense forces.


Kommersant: Russia’s independent oil service companies to face stagnation

The global oilfield services market in 2021 will not reach the pre-pandemic level of 2019 and will amount to $330 bln despite an increase of 12%, according to a report from Vygon Consulting. The Russian sector, experts said, will see a 10-percent rise to $24 bln. Meanwhile, independent contractors were hit the hardest during the crisis, while oil companies' own structures did not suffer, Kommersant writes. According to analysts, the growth prospects to 2030 for the independent oilfield services segment in Russia are limited, and in order to survive, companies need to move into new niches.

According to Vygon Consulting’s baseline forecast, the Russian oilfield services market will grow very slowly until 2030 - by 14% overall. Fulfilling commitments to reduce production under the OPEC+ deal, led to Russia shutting down about 30% of production wells.

The experts noted that Russian independent oilfield services will face stagnation or a decline if they do not diversify their business.

Providing complex technological solutions for the development of hard-to-recover oil, as well as the digitalization of fields could solve the crisis. Another option is to diversify towards services related to the energy transition, this market is just emerging in Russia. Potentially, CO2 injection systems can become a significant sector for oilfield services, Kommersant writes.

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