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​Press review: US to boost Ukraine’s firing range and OPEC+ sticks to policy course

Top stories from the Russian press on Thursday, February 2nd

MOSCOW, February 2. /TASS/. Will the deliveries of Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs to Ukraine alter the course of Russia’s special military operation, why did OPEC+ keep the terms of the oil production deal and Russia and Kazakhstan discuss a gas pipeline to China. These stories topped Thursday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: Can longer-range weapons for Kiev affect the special military operation, or Crimea’s security?

The US government is readying a new $2.2-bln military aid package to Ukraine which is expected to include GLSDBs (Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs) with a range of 150 km capable of striking targets in Crimea. This would escalate the conflict, but it would be unable to impact the progress of Moscow’s special military operation, say politicians in Russia and the EU. That said, Crimean legislators told Izvestia that the peninsula’s security would be beefed up. However, military experts caution that a lot will depend on the quantity of the delivered weapons.

Member of the Russian State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Dmitry Belik in a conversation with the newspaper stressed that Crimea is a strategic object and the peninsula has several lines of defense. "We have resources and capabilities for a tough response if the peninsula is infringed upon," he said, noting that Ukraine has already repeatedly tried to attack targets in Crimea with drones. He asserted that the Crimean air defense system should create an impenetrable cupola over the peninsula.

Crimean Senator Sergey Tsekov points out that the longer-range GLSDBs have only been mentioned in the media and there has not yet been an official decision by Washington. While it is not yet known for sure whether the US will supply these weapons to Kiev, he noted that such deliveries would escalate the conflict. "And this will threaten not only Crimea but also Russia’s new regions," he added. That said, the politician stressed that even if these weapons were used, the Ukrainian side wouldn’t be able to win. He was confident that Russia’s security and air defenses would be boosted so the possible new arms deliveries would not impact the outcome of the special military operation.

First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Defense Alexey Zhuravlyov cautions that the range of the GLSDBs is much wider than Crimea and encompasses other Russian regions. "The projectiles are there to strike our cities and the US fully realizes this. And this is just the beginning. I am confident that later, Ukraine will receive even longer-range weapons guaranteed to reach Moscow," he told Izvestia stressing the need for preventive measures.

These weapons may impact the progress of the operation depending on the volumes delivered, says military expert Vladislav Shurygin. "The more they supply, the more difficulties will emerge for our army. They can strike those territories that the Ukrainians cannot yet reach," he said, explaining that with the GLDSBs, strikes can be delivered on storage depots, command centers and communication hubs. That said, the expert noted that Russian air defenses are quite capable of deflecting these strikes. "However, the possibility of destroying them does not invalidate the necessity of a flexible change in our rear infrastructure to lessen the effect of potential breakthroughs," he cautioned.


Izvestia: OPEC+ sticks to deal's terms

OPEC+ countries will continue to adhere to previously made agreements on restricting oil production. On February 1, the alliance held a meeting of the ministerial monitoring committee and confirmed that it was sticking with reducing oil output this year by 2 mln barrels per day compared to August 2022. This will help keep price quotations within $80-90 per barrel, say experts polled by Izvestia. According to analysts, this measure will balance the market under conditions of potentially decreased deliveries of raw materials from Russia and the slow recovery of the post-pandemic economy.

"The OPEC+ decision meets today’s challenges of the global oil market. Western countries are trying in every way to limit the supplies from Russia, using price caps and other tools, which brings additional uncertainty to the global oil market along with question of China’s economic growth," Igbal Guliyev, Deputy Director of the International Institute for Energy Policy and Diplomacy at MGIMO told the newspaper.

The decision to keep the oil output policy was expected. For the countries participating in the deal, the balance of supply and demand on the global oil market is the most important aspect, with the price of a barrel of Brent maintained at a comfortable level of $90, says Freedom Finance Global analyst Vladimir Chernov.

"The stability of the alliance’s policy was predictable and OPEC+ is unlikely to change its recommendations on the deal’s parameters on April 3 either," says BitRiver Financial Analyst Vladislav Antonov, adding that noticeable changes should be expected in summer and increased production should be expected against the background of the steadily increasing business activity in China, the EU and the US.

According to Finam analyst Andrey Maslov, the anti-Russian sanctions remain one of the most important factors affecting the oil market because they potentially may lead to a serious imbalance between supply and demand. However, Chernov noted that it is hard to forecast the impact of response measures to the price cap because it is not yet clear how exactly Russian oil companies will track the resale prices of Russian raw materials.

Head of Analytical Research at the Iva Partners investment company Dmitry Alexandrov pointed out that the oil price would also depend on how actively China lifts its coronavirus restrictions.

Keeping the current quotations benefits everyone, because overall the situation with Russia still looks uncertain while the global crisis still affects the economy. This is why OPEC+ in general is taking a wait-and-see approach while it’s still possible, Finam analyst Andrey Maslov concluded.


Kommersant: Kazakhstan, Russia discuss export gas pipeline to China

Kazakhstan and Russia are in talks on the construction of several gas pipelines to build up northeastern Kazakhstan’s gas infrastructure and exports to China. Among the options, pipelines from Omsk or Barnaul to Alashankou are under consideration. The Kazakh side sees the main problem in the cost of Russian gas because rates in Kazakhstan are substantially below Russian ones. Experts think that Kazakhstan might need subsidized tariffs or swaps with Gazprom on gas deliveries to China.

Kazakhstan needs Russian gas due to the lack of its own resources amid surging consumption (by 2 bln cubic meters over the last two years). Sources on the market told the newspaper that this may become about reducing exports to China for the sake of satisfying domestic demand.

According to Sergey Kondratyev from the Institute of Energy and Finance Foundation, regulated prices in Kazakhstan remain low and the government is unlikely to sharply raise them in the areas receiving gas service. In his opinion, the government may decide to directly subsidize the deliveries, but this would require substantial resources so, as an alternative, they may use a plan with gas deliveries from Russia to Kazakhstan organized in exchange for deliveries to Uzbekistan and China (including within the framework of swap agreements). The expert estimated that investing into the full-scale development of gas infrastructure in central and eastern Kazakhstan would surpass $2 bln.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US dragging India into technology duel with China

Talks were held in Washington between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Ajit Doval, the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of India. They agreed to expand cooperation on modern weapons, supercomputers, semiconductors and other hi-tech spheres. The goal of the Biden administration at the end of the day is to move "the world’s factory" from China to India. The White House is concerned that the US and the entire world are overly dependent on China’s telecommunications equipment.

Alexey Portansky, Professor at the Higher School of Economics, noted: "The Americans will manage to entangle India in a technological duel with China only partially. One of the obstacles may be that India will not want to exacerbate relations with China and will proceed with caution. On the other hand, the Indians understand that the US may help them in establishing the production of microchips and other hi-tech elements. Here, Washington may drag in Taiwan, a leader in the hi-tech field."

The expert noted that the second obstacle to the US on this path is that China is already delivering 5G equipment to half of the planet and the Americans are unlikely to elbow it out, much like in the production of AI equipment. He pointed out that China maintains its leadership in these two spheres.


RBC: Russian envoy to North Korea rejects claims Pyongyang supplying arms to Wagner PMC

Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora castigated Washington’s claims of arms being delivered by North Korea to the Wagner private military company as total lies from start to finish.

"Allegations by [US White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John] Kirby that Pyongyang is supplying Wagner PMC with weapons are false from start to finish. Russia is capable of resolving the tasks of the special military operation in Ukraine without resorting to military shipments from North Korea," the envoy said in an interview with RBC published on Thursday.

Matsegora said that railway service between Russia and North Korea had been restored on November 1, 2022. "Among the goods supplied from Russia to North Korea are medicines, flour, vegetable oil, and live animals," he noted.

"Additionally, through the Khasan-Tumangang rail border crossing, some transit goods from China to North Korea are being delivered, including ceramic tiles. The volume of shipments so far is not great but we are working on increasing it," the diplomat maintained.

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