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Press review: Kakhovka dam damaged by Kiev strikes and search on for New START successor

Top stories from the Russian press on Wednesday, June 7th

MOSCOW, June 7. /TASS/. Aftermath of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam collapse should not trigger mass evacuation; the New START Treaty effectively ceases to exist for Russia; and Germany woos Indian defense contracts with submarines. These stories topped Wednesday’s newspaper headlines across Russia.


Izvestia: No major evacuation expected in wake of dam collapse at Kakhovka hydro plant

No mass evacuation of the city of Novaya Kakhovka due to the dam collapse at the nearby Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) is necessary because most residents left the city in the fall of last year during the regrouping of troops in the Kherson area, sources told Izvestia. A local state of emergency has been declared across the entire Novaya Kakhovka municipal district. Mayor Vladimir Leontyev said that the damage had resulted from Ukrainian strikes on the power generation facility and branded the incident as a terrorist attack. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov also stressed that this was a premeditated act of sabotage. Experts forecast that the water level, which is currently at 12 meters, may go down within 72 hours.

The consequences of the destruction of the HPP will impact both banks of the Dnieper River, academician Vladimir Tetelmin told the newspaper. He confirmed that, a month ago, Ukraine had begun dumping large volumes of water from the upstream reservoir. That said, water supplies to Crimea should not be affected. However, Tetelmin thinks that a threat may emerge to the security of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant.

"Water taps that supply the nuclear plant with water from the reservoir may dry up on the shore. Then, some other reserve source of water will have to be used for cooling the nuclear reactors," the expert thinks.

If the Kakhovka HPP’s dam is completely destroyed, the consequences are unpredictable and it would take years for local agriculture to recover, says Albina Dudareva, head of the Russian Civic Chamber’s committee on ecology and environment.

The water will most likely reach Russian positions on the left bank of the Dnieper, military expert Alexey Leonkov told Izvestia. "This will affect the ability to suppress Ukrainian artillery systems and MLRS on the right bank," he said, adding that while the water is high no assault landings should be expected from the adversary.

According to military expert Vladislav Shurygin, the flood is more of an issue for the opposing side. "After the water goes down, large water-logged areas will remain. Possibly, we will have to leave some positions but our defense is layered and it won’t critically affect it. We can withdraw temporarily to another line of defense and adjust what’s necessary. Of course, some minefields will be washed off but they can be quickly restored," the expert thinks.


Izvestia: What new agreement may eventually replace New START Treaty?

Russia does not consider the New START Treaty to be an active agreement anymore, diplomatic sources told Izvestia. However, they added that Moscow is not breaking ties with Washington and is ready to set them straight if a relevant initiative is forthcoming from the American side. The US, without formally suspending or halting its participation in the treaty, has substantially reduced its obligations under it, thus rendering the agreement virtually nonfunctional. Experts do not see any conditions for resuming the discussion of the future configuration of security and arms control systems while the Ukrainian conflict continues to rage, but think it is entirely possible that whatever new agreement eventually replaces New START after 2026, the year it officially expires, will involve China and other countries.

"Russia and the US have mutual complaints over New START and they can be rather easily resolved. More serious issues, such as the tracking of third countries’ nuclear forces, the coordination of restrictions on offensive and defensive arms, and all those issues that the sides set forth at consultations on the next treaty which began in 2021 can be resolved already in the context of the treaty that will replace the existing one," Alexey Arbatov, who heads the Center for International Security at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO RAN), told Izvestia.

According to Stanislav Ivanov, leading researcher at the Center for International Security at IMEMO RAN, overall, the idea of engaging other countries in arms control is quite logical. The reason is that close attention to the standoff in the nuclear missile realm, specifically between Russia and the US, will gradually recede into the background because the "world is evolving differently" - in addition to Moscow and Washington, China, India, Pakistan and other countries are urgently developing their own nuclear missile programs.

"The fact that Russia and the US froze and reduced their arsenals did not stop the arms race. And China did not sit down at the negotiating table because the arms reduction by Moscow and Washington was not sufficient for Beijing. The Chinese leadership firmly adheres to the course of bringing its nuclear missile potential up to the level of Russia and the US," the expert says.

Currently, China’s stance complicates the shaping of any new treaty that may potentially replace New START. However, according to Arbatov, third countries may reconsider their attitude to the issue of arms control because the global situation may force them to change their approaches to interacting with other players.


Kommersant: Germany seeks to muscle Russian weapons out of Indian market

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius is paying a visit to India, the main destination of his Asian tour, which also included stops in Singapore and Indonesia. Having arrived in New Delhi on the final day of a visit by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who called strategic partnership with India a priority, Pistorius went above and beyond his American counterpart. The German defense chief said that Berlin was ready to supply India with submarines, and, together with its allies, would seek to lessen New Delhi’s dependence on Russian arms.

"Nobody prevented Germany from supplying submarines and other weaponry to India even before the special military operation in Ukraine, and it was doing so with varying degrees of success," Vasily Kashin, director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, told Kommersant. He is certain that, "this is about an ordinary commercial project in the area of military and technical cooperation, although a rather major one."

"Pistorius’ attempts to fill a project for selling German weapons to India with ‘highly ideological content,’ by proclaiming it a ‘fight against Russian influence,’ are rather ridiculous. In addition to Russia, competitors from France, Spain and South Korea are participating in the tender bidding process. Some of them have stronger positions than Germany. Additionally, the Indians have a negative attitude toward lectures on how they should manage their relationship with Russia, and some Western countries, the US, for example, have already gotten the point. So, the calls by Boris Pistorius are unlikely to earn any bonus points for German manufacturers to help them win this tender," the expert concluded.

"Cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi on building ships and submarines has been developing for more than 30 years, with the Russian side supplying the Indians with the underlying technologies and helping organize shipbuilding at Indian shipyards," says Captain First Rank Vasily Fatigarov, a shipbuilding engineer. "This cooperation also involves training staff in Russia for India’s shipbuilding industry and navy. That said, the Germans have different sub configurations and manufacturing processes, which are unfamiliar to the Indians. Additionally, the Germans do not share their technologies quite as willingly," the expert added.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US, China, EU to regulate space traffic

Restrictions on launching space satellites will be introduced in the next five years due to the risk of collisions with space debris formations and the danger of catastrophes, according to a forecast by analysts at the US-based RAND Corporation, who think that the international regulation of space launches, similar to that for maritime and air transportation, is inevitable.

"The development of the Internet and various types of telecommunications as well as the tense military situation (which demands a multi-fold increase in military satellites) have caused a ten-fold increase in the number of satellites. The number of satellites will rise on already existing orbits, and new orbits will be developed. The amount of space debris will increase exponentially. All of this will result in an increasing risk of space vehicles colliding, so at some point space-using countries will be forced to reach an agreement. The issue is in what order and with whom. We have nothing to talk about with the US. So, Russia should first reach an agreement with China, then together they will have to set forth conditions for the US. A joint agreement should be reached at talks like that," Ivan Andriyevsky, first vice president of the Russian Union of Engineers and board chairman at the 2K engineering company, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

According to Roscosmos, currently Russia has five orbital groupings. Some satellites are involved in the international Cospas-Sarsat search and rescue initiative. According to experts, Russia has about 170 active satellites, while China has more than 430 and the US has almost 2,800. Russia’s only advantage here is that its satellites constitute a lesser threat.


Kommersant: Novatek pitches tax breaks for Chinese investors in Yamal LNG project

According to Kommersant, Novatek head Leonid Mikhelson has asked the Russian government to waive dividend taxes for CNPC and SRF, Chinese investors in the Yamal LNG project. In return, the companies are ready to reinvest these funds in new projects for liquefying gas in the Arctic. Currently, CNPC and SRF are paying tax at about 10%, while canceling it may free up about 10 bln rubles (over $123 mln) annually, according to analysts.

According to independent expert Alexander Sobko, China’s interest in new investments in Russian liquefying plants will depend on demand for LNG in China, which is currently difficult to forecast. Over the past two years, Chinese companies have concluded long-term contracts for annual supplies of about 50 mln tons of LNG, which is a substantial volume and comparable to the current level of consumption, but the majority of these contracts will take effect only in a few years, the expert added. "On the other hand, future LNG from the US makes up a significant share of these contracts, about one half. It looks rather risky for China to increase the share of American LNG, which speaks in favor of increasing imports from other directions, of which Russia is not last on the list," the expert says.

In 2023-2024 the Yamal LNG project may see a decrease in net profit because LNG prices reached record highs in 2022, says Sergey Kondratyev of the Institute of Energy and Finance Foundation. In his opinion, waiving the dividend tax would free up funds for additional investments in Russia. "This is, of course, an unusual proposal but it may facilitate capital-raising for Russia’s gas industry," the analyst notes.

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