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Press review: NATO beefing up presence in the Baltics and Russia selling 12 companies

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, October 31


Izvestia: NATO beefing up presence in Baltics won’t go unanswered

NATO’s military buildup in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland in 2017 will not go unanswered in Moscow, Russia's Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko said in an interview with Izvestia.

"Since the NATO summit in Wales, the alliance’s meetings at the ministerial level continue as usual and, unfortunately, there are no positive signals for Russian-NATO relations at all. This trend is becoming more and more long-term in nature. In particular, within the context of strengthening the so-called eastern "flank", the alliance is forming "reinforced" multinational battalion-level contingents, which in early 2017 will be deployed to the Baltic States and Poland," Grushko said, noting that "the measures taken by NATO will not go "unanswered."

The diplomat also noted that the alliance is beefing up its presence in the Black Sea region. "Proposals on establishing some kind of a "framework" team in Romania are being considered, as well as specific options for expanding NATO's presence in the Black Sea," Grushko said.

At July’s Warsaw-hosted NATO summit, a decision was taken to build up the Alliance’s eastern flank in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland by an international battalion of up to 1,000 soldiers each. At the same time, it was decided that Canada will be responsible for Latvia, with Germany covering for Lithuania, the United Kingdom - for Estonia, and the US - for Poland. Grushko said earlier that the summit’s decision contradicts the NATO - Russia Founding Act, signed in 1997.


RBC: Government plans to sell stakes in 12 largest companies

The Russian government intends to sell an 8% stake in Alrosa, 35% of its shares in VTB and 25% of its interests in Russian Railways, as well shares in the country’s nine largest companies over the next three years, according to the draft privatization plan for federal property in 2017-2019,which is available to RBC.

The specific terms and methods of privatization have not yet been determined and will be set by the government "taking into account market conditions, and recommendations by leading investment consultants," according to the draft document. The privatization plan for the next three years must be submitted to the State Duma on Friday together with a three-year draft budget.

Two major transactions are planned for 2017 - selling shares in VTB and Sovcomflot. The government also plans to reduce its share in Alrosa’s authorized capital by 8% to 25% plus one share by 2019. The sale of the government package might be coordinated with selling the shares owned by Yakutia (the republic is now owns little over 25%, the Yakut municipalities - over 8%), the document said.

So far, the government is not ready to privatize Aeroflot, or Vnukovo and Sheremetyevo airports, although that could change.

"The plan could be adjusted based on the government’s decision. Thus, the absence of any company only means that the Russian government might decide to come back to them later during the forecast period," a source in the Economic Development Ministry told RBC.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: OPEC gets bogged down in output freeze dispute

OPEC members have not yet agreed on an oil production freeze, as they continue to quarrel about production volumes and urge Russia to cut oil output by 4%. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, experts agree that without the participation of the United States, one of the largest players in the market, in the talks, any agreement would be meaningless.

Exporter countries have only agreed on putting off further consultations until November, to gather information on a possible freeze or cutback in oil production. At the same time, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries urged Russia to cut oil production by 4%, which Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak immediately refused, though confirming the possibility of freezing production at current levels.

However, according to the most recent forecast by the Russian Economic Development Ministry, Russia will have to freeze oil output either way - in three years. According to Ministry, the country’s output will increase by 2% in 2016 to 544 mln tonnes and will climb until 2019 when the production level off to 2018 figures.

As for the cartel, according to the newspaper, many experts believe in the sincere intentions of OPEC members and countries outside the organization, ready to join production freeze. However, experts still doubt that the measure will "restore order" in the market and bring back high oil prices.

Director of The National Energy Institute Sergei Pravosudov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta, he agrees with the forecast of the Economic Development Ministry. According to the expert, Russia will be forced to restrict oil output. "The level of oil production in Russia is currently at its maximum, growth is possible only with very substantial investment, which is unlikely in the high-cost fields," the expert told the newspaper. According to Pravosudov, Russia will focus on maintaining production levels in existing fields.


Izvestia: Central Bank plans to cultivate active cyber-defense for financial institutions

The Russian Central Bank plans to create a laboratory specializing in studying technology and consequences of computer attacks, Deputy Chief of the Department of Information Security of the Central Bank Artyom Sychev told Izvestia.

"Specialists of the laboratory will study the methods and outcomes of computer threats, including attacks on ATMs, POS-terminals and self-service devices. In addition, the Central Bank’s employees will analyze fraudulent web resources and mobile devices," Sychev told the newspaper. He also noted that the new structure will help credit and financial institutions to properly remove and seal assets sent to research facilities.

"The Central Bank, for its part, will prepare an outline for the means and methods of attacking self-service devices, as well as recommendations for counterattacks on those devices," Sychev added.

The laboratory will be created using the Central Bank’s structure, based on the Center for monitoring and response to computer attacks in the credit and financial sphere. According to Sychev, law enforcement agencies and leading credit institutions will participate in the implementation of the project.

The exact timeframe for creating the laboratory has not yet been determined, Izvestia wrote. However, the Central Bank is already developing a launch plan for the facility, which is expected to be approved before the end of 2016.


Kommersant: Bracing for centennial of October Revolution, top experts ready to fight distortion of Russia’s history

With the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution in 2017 looming, the need to counter intentional distortions of this and other important milestones in Russia’s history is crucial, experts from the Scholarly Council of the Russian Security Council told Kommersant.

According to the newspaper, the meeting’s participants discussed how historical memory has turned into an object of "deliberate destructive actions by foreign government agencies… whose geopolitical interests are rooted in anti-Russian policy." Disinformation campaigns by foreign countries, the younger generation’s lack of historical knowledge, the evaporation of historical non-fiction books as an independent literary genre were cited as key risks. The six “most significant historical events and periods”, subject to falsification, are: the national policy of the Russian Empire (or the "colonial question"); the USSR’s national policy; the role of the Soviet Union in the defeat of Nazism in World War II; the Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact; USSR and the political crises in the former East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other former socialist countries.

According to the Council’s experts, the centennial of the Russian Revolution of 1917, could also be a major target for a “deliberate historical distortion.”

The meeting’s participants recommended that the Security Council carry out a coordinated information campaign, and suggested establishing a special public center to shed light on Russia’s historical truth to the public.

However, the Russian historical society does not see the need for such centers. "We have academic institutions, historical departments and faculties in various universities, which are able to deal with any attempts to “distort” history," Academic supervisor at the Institute of World History, the Russian Academy of Sciences.


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