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Press review: Russian military base in Egypt, Putin in Turkey and Iranian oil in Belarus

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, October 10
Russian military at the Hmeymim military base in Syrai (archive) Valery Sharifulin/TASS
Russian military at the Hmeymim military base in Syrai (archive)
© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Kommersant: Russia and Turkey gearing up to restore trade and economic relations

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Turkey on Monday, to reinstate Ankara with the status of key partner in the Middle East, Kommersant writes. Although the focal point should be the signing of an agreement on the construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline, the geopolitical agenda is no less important. Amid the ongoing offensive in Aleppo by the Syrian army with the assistance of the Russian Aerospace Forces, it is important for Moscow to secure the support of Ankara, which remains a member of the Western coalition but refrains from criticizing Russia. The agreements with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not only open up new opportunities for Moscow as a counterplay in its relations with the West, but will also make it possible to block the conduits for aid to the armed opposition holed up in the eastern part of Aleppo, the paper notes.

According to Kommersant’s sources familiar with the course of the negotiations, the draft agreement on the Turkish Stream project was not fully agreed until the end of last week. Nevertheless, the parties hope to do so by the beginning of Putin’s visit, and the signing of the document is seen as highly possible.

The proposed agreement is expected to regulate the main aspects of the construction of the first gas pipeline branch with the capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters per year, including the division of the parties’ responsibility regarding the construction of the onshore section of the pipeline in Turkey and its funding.

If the document is signed, this will be the first major step forward in the project that has stood still for nearly two years now. Given the political importance Moscow places on the Turkish Stream project, the signing of the agreement would also signal a real restoration of economic cooperation between the two countries and it would accelerate the process of removing restrictions in other areas, the paper adds.


Izvestia: Egypt to lease air force base to Russia

Moscow and Cairo are holding talks on the leasing some Egyptian military facilities, including the former Soviet air force base in the city of Sidi Barrani, Izvestia writes. Restoring the air base will indicate a new stage of cooperation between the two countries and help tackle certain geopolitical issues in the Middle East and North Africa. If the parties reach a consensus, work on restoring the military base may be completed by 2019, a foreign policy source has told the paper.

The source explained that the negotiations on Russia’s involvement in revamping the Egyptian military facilities on the Mediterranean coast near Sidi Barradi are quite fruitful. "Cairo is ready to agree to its lease by Moscow to address the primary geopolitical issues that meet the interests of the Egyptian side is well," he said.

Meanwhile, Andrei Krasov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma (lower house of parliament) Defense Committee believes that the joint restoration of this air force base is aimed at strengthening international security, as, in his view, Russia is a guarantor of stability in North Africa. "The current situation is such that a growing number of countries, including Egypt, are beginning to recognize Russia’s role in maintaining the balance of forces in the world. It is one thing to fight terrorism verbally, but it is quite another to take specific steps, the way Russia is doing. I believe we should establish cooperation with Egypt, this applies to the joint restoration of the air force base as well," the lawmaker said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Minsk’s plans to replace Russian oil with Iranian seen as unprofitable

The Belarusian plan to buy oil from Iran cannot be implemented, it is economically unprofitable and impractical, Eldar Kasayev, a member of the expert council of the Russian Oil and Gas Industry Union, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "Firstly, Belarus has no direct access to the sea. Secondly, these two countries are not linked by pipelines. Thirdly, the possible swap purchases of Russian oil are unprofitable for Belarus," he explained.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko earlier said he had found an alternative to Russian oil for his country’s refineries asserting that Iran is ready to send oil to Belarus at a bargain price. Lukashenko began contemplating the need to replace Russia’s raw materials after Moscow cut deliveries due to unpaid natural gas bills. Minsk’s debt for Russian gas has already run up to $300 million, the paper notes. The energy dispute between Moscow and Belarus is heating up, affecting not only gas prices and also oil purchases.

The expert recalled that a few years ago Belarus bought oil from Venezuela, but this cooperation was short-lived, as it cost Minsk an arm and a leg. "If Belarus does not want to repeat the example of Ukraine, which has not purchased our gas directly since last November and has to pay for that by its ‘dead’ economy and freezing population, Minsk should soften its rhetoric and engage in a constructive dialogue with Russia, a long-standing and reliable partner," he said.

"In 2015, Belarus purchased nearly 23 million tonnes of crude oil from us leaving only 6 million tonnes for its own needs. All the rest was re-exported," Director of the Institute of Contemporary Economics, Nikita Isayev, informed the paper. "The Belarusian budget derives revenues from re-exporting and processing Russian oil, not from oil purchased in some other country," he elaborated.


Vedomosti: Top Russian businessman to invest nearly $50 mln in education startups

The Prosveshchenie (Enlightenment) publishing house co-owned by Arkady Rotenberg and the Internet Initiatives Development Plan (IIDF) have agreed on a joint educational startup accelerator, Vedomosti writes. The publisher plans to invest up to 3 billion rubles ($48 million) in the project. The fund will deal with the selection of startups and invest 500 million rubles, the fund’s representative, Sergei Skripnikov, and the publisher’s, Sergei Grigorenko, told the paper. E-education projects, online courses, robotics for teaching, virtual and augmented reality educational technologies can expect investment.

During the first stage, the startups selected by the fund will receive 2.1 million rubles in exchange for a 7-percent share in the capital. These are the standard conditions for the fund, Skripnikov explained. Should the project expand, an additional 15-million ruble deal in exchange for another 10-15 % in the company will be considered, Skripnikov went on to say. Grigorenko declined to provide more details saying only that while the IIDF has investment restrictions, the publisher so far does not have any.

Parents are willing to pay for their children’s education, and some of this money could be used for innovative projects, says Alexei Solovyov, the Managing Partner of the Prostor Capital Venture Fund. The Prosveschenie publishing house is working with all schools, he said. According to Solovyov, Prosveshchenie could operate as a traditional venture investor buying a small stake or as a strategist obtaining a controlling stake in a startup.


Izvestia: Chinese pilots learn to read Russian

Moscow and Beijing have reached an agreement on the supply of Russia’s advanced Sukhoi Su-35 fighters to China, Izvestia writes. All information in the cockpit will be in Russian, based on the request of the customer.

Givi Janjgava, Deputy Director General of the Radio-Electronic Technologies Concern (KRET), a subsidiary of the Russian state corporation Rostec, has told the paper that, after a series of consultations and negotiations, it was finally decided that China will receive the aircraft in the same form as they are supplied to the Russian Aerospace Forces. The only difference in the Chinese version will be some elements of the Chinese BeiDou Navigation System integrated into the on-board complex, while the procedures for displaying data will remain Russian.

"Adapting the on-board equipment to a customer’s national requirements is one of the most important technical procedures,"Janjgava said in an interview with the paper. "Throughout the year, we have worked hard to translate the information displayed in the cockpit into Chinese. However, unlike the inscriptions in Cyrillic or Latin, hieroglyphic symbols have proved to be difficult to read on LCD monitors. The Chinese side eventually asked to leave everything as it is, all the more so because Chinese pilots have experience flying on board Russia’s Su-27 aircraft where the cockpit is not adapted for China as well, and they read on-board information in Russian."


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