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Press review: Moscow, Kiev talk grain and Canada nixes sanctions on Nord Stream equipment

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, July 14th

The delegations of Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United Nations met in Istanbul on July 13. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, during the negotiations, Moscow provided a package of suggestions for resolving the grain supply issue as soon as possible. According to the Turkish side, the countries will sign the final document next week. Settling the food crisis could become an incentive for resuming peace talks between Moscow and Kiev, the Russian parliament told Izvestia following the Istanbul meeting on grain exports. However, the success of a possible dialogue depends on the ability of Ukraine to fulfill the conditions of the Russian Federation.

The Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed that a follow-up meeting will be held next week, where the parties must sign the final document on the said issues. Now, according to Ankara, the delegations have agreed to set up a coordination center in Istanbul.

"Russia consistently takes a humanitarian position on the supply of grain. Our international partners know it. We support avoiding crises on the world market. I hope other parties will not toy with ideas and will be able to reach the necessary agreements with us," Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy Artem Kiryanov told Izvestia.

"We have never interfered with the export of grain. Of course, now any agreements can align positions closer. There have been shifts in Kaliningrad. Perhaps, the success of the negotiations on grain will be an incentive for resuming peace talks with Ukraine," Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Economic Policy Ivan Abramov told the newspaper.

However, the grain supply issue and the peace process are not directly related, Kiryanov added. According to him, in order to stop the operation in Ukraine, the conditions declared by Russia must be met. In the meantime, Kiev is inclined to rely on Western weapons supplies, rather than sit down at the negotiating table in order to solve urgent problems. However, Moscow is open to the resumption of meetings to work out agreements, he added.


Kommersant: Canada nixes sanctions on Nord Stream equipment

Canada has exempted all Gazprom equipment from the sanctions imposed on the company after the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine until the end of 2024. According to Kommersant, Ottawa has granted Siemens Energy a temporary license for repairing, maintaining, and transporting gas pumping equipment for Nord Stream. The first finished item is still in Canada and will be sent to Russia via Germany on July 15. Two more units may be sent to Canada for repairs in the near future. However, Gazprom declares that it is not sure that it will receive the turbines and, this would be able to fully restore pumping through the Nord Stream.

The decision to ease the sanctions came as the German economy would face serious dilemmas in the event of a gas shortage. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky called the exception for Gazprom "absolutely unacceptable".

Meanwhile, one of Kommersant's sources noted that issuing a license does not mean that Canada or Germany would not revoke it at any time.

According to independent expert Alexander Sobko, the situation with the turbines for Nord Stream and the pumping volume through it has already gone beyond technical issues and economic relations and touches upon political relations, therefore, "various scenarios are possible".

Alexey Grivach from the National Energy Security Fund, in turn, believes a temporary license from Canada "cannot suit Gazprom as a buyer of equipment". In his opinion, "Siemens should provide guarantees that the equipment will get the necessary technical support during its entire service life, and not as long as the government of Canada, the United States, or Germany so desires."


Izvestia: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey seek BRICS membership

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey plan to join the BRICS, President of the BRICS International Forum Purnima Anand confirmed to Izvestia, noting that a discussion and a possible decision on some countries could be made at the next summit of the association, which will be held in 2023. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey are potentially promising candidates, but their entry process won’t be quick.

It shouldn't take long for Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to join the club, Purnima Anand said, since these countries are "already in the process". She also added there is a chance that the association can work to create a new world order: increase the exchange of resources, cultivate aviation, trade and financial routes for the new global realities.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed to Izvestia that a decision was made to start discussing the process of expanding BRICS at the most recent summit. "After a consensus is reached on these issues, all members will have to decide when to start discussing potential candidates," Russia's Sous-Sherpa in BRICS Pavel Knyazev told the newspaper. He noted that Moscow welcomes the countries' interest in the club, but it has yet to hammer out precise criteria for the entry of the new members.

The expert community believes that Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are potentially promising candidates. "Turkey is a member of the G20, and Egypt is a member of the New Development Bank. There are several reasons to consider the applications from these countries if they follow Argentina and Iran," Yaroslav Lissovolik of the Russian International Affairs Committee told Izvestia.


Vedomosti: Brussels allows limited transit to Russia’s Kaliningrad region

The European Commission has adopted new rules to regulate Russian transit to the Kaliningrad region. Road transit of sanctioned cargo remains prohibited, but such strict measures will not apply to rail transit. Sanctioned goods namely, metals, timber, cement, and coal from August 1, and oil products by the end of the year - can be transported by rail, but the volume should not exceed the average for the last three years. According to Vedomosti, transporting military and dual-use products through the territory of the European Union is still completely prohibited.

Governor of the Kaliningrad Region Anton Alikhanov thanked "colleagues from the Russian Foreign Ministry" for the outcome on his Telegram channel. "The European Commission’s explanations are a step in the right direction," Head of the regional government's press service Dmitry Lyskov told Vedomosti. "At the same time, we still do not understand the effect from the ban on the transit of sanctioned goods by road, so we are evaluating it," he added.

In theory, the authorities of Lithuania, through whose territory the transit is conducted, can veto the decision of the European Commission, editor-in-chief of the analytical website Alexander Nosovich noted. But it is unlikely that Vilnius will dare to escalate the situation, since such actions would give Russia a trump card: Moscow can declare Lithuania a threat to European security.

The European Union has taken the problem of Russian transit to Kaliningrad very seriously, Director of Programs at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) Ivan Timofeev told the newspaper. The last thing politicians in Brussels want is any further escalation, so in the future, some moderation can be expected from Lithuania and the confrontation would die down as a result, he said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Europe mulls embargo on Russian gas

EU politicians begin negotiations on new restrictions within the seventh package of sanctions. The content of the package remains unclear, since the West has already introduced most of all possible sanctions against Russia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. What remains are rather painful measures for the EU, such as restrictions on Russian gas imports.

The expected additions to the new package of sanction could include new entries to the personal black list. It is also unlikely that restrictions on imports of Russian gold will cause objections. But any restrictions regarding gas imports will not come easily, the newspaper writes.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, "Europe is trying to pursue a sanctions policy coordinated with its overseas allies and with the G7". And the United States is fully committed to discussions about new sanctions. The main restriction would involve price caps for Russian oil. Whether it will be introduced, however, largely depends on Joe Biden’s efforts. The US President is trying to persuade Arab countries and the OPEC to increase oil sales in order to reduce its price. If it succeeds, introducing price caps might not be necessary at all, the newspaper noted.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the new package will be introduced only for show. "Undoubtedly, there is a lot of fatigue from the sanctions in the EU. But there is a shared determination by EU countries to carry on to the bitter end. Any fundamental decision to backpedal here would cost more. Quite a lot has been invested in these six packages, and of course the EU will go all the way," Associate Professor of the Department of Integration Processes at MGIMO Alexander Tevdoi-Burmuli told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

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