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Press review: Fire at Ukraine’s NPP raises alarm and leased Russian planes face grounding

Top stories from the Russian press on Saturday, March 5th

Kommersant: Fire at Ukraine’s nuclear power plant raises global alarm

The fire at Ukraine’s Zaporozhskaya Nuclear Power Station (NPP), the largest in Europe, prompted global outcry. The UN Security Council, NATO, and the G7 discussed the incident on Friday. At the same time, foreign powers are not eager to interfere directly in the conflict, according to Kommersant. Meanwhile, Kiev conceded that negotiations with Moscow are challenging, and that the only chance for the time being is to create humanitarian corridors.

According to Ukraine's President Vladimir Zelensky, a disaster would have been equivalent to "six Chernobyls" in a worst-case scenario. In response, the Russian Defense Ministry called it a "monstrous provocation" by Ukrainian saboteurs. Igor Konashenkov, official spokesman of Russia's Defense Ministry, stated that the Russian side secured complete control over the NPP territory.

The situation in Ukraine is raising growing concerns in the West. The G7 foreign ministers convened a video conference on Friday to discuss it. And the leaders of the NATO countries' foreign ministries gathered in Brussels. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg voiced concerns over the use of restricted weapons in Ukraine. Despite this, he stated that the alliance will not establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as Kiev has demanded.

Meanwhile, the second round of talks between Ukraine and Russia resulted in an important, but not game-changing, agreement on opening humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid to people still trapped in the conflict zone.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Kommersant that they maintain contact with all parties and welcome any initiative "that gives civilians a respite". "Conflict parties must enable humanitarian activities by ensuring secure access to supplies and aid, as well as allowing safe and voluntary transit for people who desire to leave. The ICRC is ready to act as a neutral intermediary and provide support within its capabilities," the organization said.


Vedomosti: Russian airlines halt international flights following aircraft seizure

The Russian Federal Air Transport Agency urged domestic airlines to re-register their aircraft in Russia, according to a copy of the department's statement circulated on Telegram channels. The agency has not yet commented on this information. However, a source in one of its interregional territorial offices confirmed this to Vedomosti.

According to the source, all departments have been instructed to urge airlines to submit applications to the Federal Air Transport Agency's central office to re-register foreign aircraft operated in the country, including leased aircraft, in the Russian registry.

According to the source, this will enable airlines to get a certificate and, as a result, fly freely around the world, because only the aviation authorities of the country that gave the certificate can cancel it. If a foreign aircraft is used to travel abroad now, it will not be returned, a source in one of Russia's top ten airlines told Vedomosti.

According to Elena Sakhnova, an analyst at VTB Capital, a foreign lessor cannot seize an aircraft leased to a Russian operator on Russian soil. In order to make this work, she continues, local aviation authorities must prohibit the aircraft from taking off, for example, under the guise of lacking insurance or by cancelling their certificate.

The analyst also believes that "you can't just take and formally transfer a leased aircraft from a foreign registry to the Russian registry." Sakhova argues that this requires approval from the owner, and leasing companies will not allow this because they need to withdraw the aircraft. She noted that it might be possible to obtain a Russian certificate and fly within Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). She believes that before putting the aircraft on Russian registry, they should be either nationalized or purchased in some other way.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Foreign companies’ pullout from Russia to be seen as deliberate bankruptcy

News of preparations, or even decisions, by some foreign investors to suspend or discontinue their operations in Russia raises concerns about what will happen to Russians who work in localized businesses. According to First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov, if a foreign investor chooses the toughest option of entirely exiting the Russian market, this will be considered willful bankruptcy, and the government will intervene in the matter, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

According to the official government website, there are currently three options for developing relations with foreign partners. The first option is for a company to continue full-time operations in Russia. The second alternative is for foreign shareholders to transfer their shares into the hands of Russian partners and then return to the market later. The third alternative is for a corporation to fully cease operations in Russia, closing down manufacturing and laying off personnel. "We consider this to be a deliberate bankruptcy. In this case, we will act via a fast-track bankruptcy procedure," Belousov explained.

The Russian government stated that all planned measures are targeted at supporting industrial and business activity in the country, maintaining employment, and restoring all businesses' operations as soon as possible.

Lyudmila Ivanova-Shvets, Associate Professor at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, told the newspaper that another essential aspect is what actions regional governments will take to create new jobs, retrain workers, and support businesses. Furthermore, government programs to back start-ups and priority business areas, according to the expert, may come in handy in this case.


Kommersant: Transnistria seeks recognition and independence from Moldova

After Moldova signed an application for EU membership, the unrecognized Transnistria addressed the issue of an urgent and final settlement of relations with Chisinau. Tiraspol wishes to resolve the long-running standoff with a final split. The Moldovan authorities have yet to respond. Meanwhile, Kommersant's sources in Chisinau believe there is no need to worry about the destabilization of the region bordering war-torn Ukraine.

Transnistria's Foreign Affairs Ministry asked for talks with Moldova with the goal of "finalizing a civilized solution of relations based on the peaceful, good-neighborly existence of two separate states by signing a complete interstate agreement."

Chisinau has not yet responded to Tiraspol's proposal. "We are monitoring the situation and have read the statement. We will come up with a response, especially because there is a meeting in the 1+1 format next week, and this issue will be discussed," a source in the Moldovan government told Kommersant.

According to the newspaper, the current state of affairs in Transnistria is uncertain. A source in the Moldovan government says there are no reasons for destabilization of the situation in the Transnistrian region. Moldova, according to the source, is facing a different scenario than Ukraine. "The republic is neutral; it does not want NATO membership, and it maintains direct contact with Transnistria," the official stated. The source believes the situation does not create any grounds for Russia's drastic steps towards Moldova.


Vedomosti: Russia’s move to stop fertilizer exports expected to boost prices

Against the backdrop of logistical hurdles, the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade has advised Russian fertilizer companies to halt exports. The recommendation will be in effect until carriers resume operations and provide supply guarantees. According to experts interviewed by Vedomosti, Russian producers will follow the ministry's instructions in the current situation.

A source in one of the manufacturing companies says the domestic market, which accounts for only one-fifth of the fertilizers produced in Russia, "would not swallow the entire volume." In a global market, price hikes are unavoidable.

Elena Sakhnova, analyst at VTB Capital, believes that given the current situation, Russian manufacturers would comply with the ministry's proposal. "The suspension of exports will impact all key markets, including Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The fertilizer industry is global and so any disruption in supply, even to one region, will surely result in price hikes all around the world," the expert said.

Uralchem, Uralkali, PhosAgro, Eurochem, and Acron are the major fertilizer companies in Russia. According to Sakhnova, Russia ranks first in nitrogen fertilizer exports and third in potash exports.

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