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Press review: Europe's media war with Moscow and uncertain future of Iran nuclear deal

Members of the European Parliament  AP Photo/Christian Lutz
Members of the European Parliament
© AP Photo/Christian Lutz

Media: EU declares information war against Moscow

The European Parliament passed a resolution on Wednesday condemning alleged "Russia’s propaganda" and called on the EU countries to counter it, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Russia’s media outlets and analytical centers - RT, Sputnik, Russkiy Mir and Rossotrudnichestvo - have been accused of supposedly spreading disinformation and have been depicted as a threat to European values along with the Islamic State (terrorist group outlawed in Russia), the paper writes.

The major dispute was about comparing supposed threats posed by media outlets loyal to the Russian leadership with real terrorist groups such as the IS or Al Qaeda, the paper says. During the discussion, some European parliamentarians stressed that this comparison is irresponsible as Russia is Europe’s key partner in the fight against Islamic extremism. The dispute affected the outcome of the vote - 304 out of 691 MPs voted in favor of the resolution, while 179 opposed the document and another 208 abstained.

Sources in the European Parliament told the paper that the primary goal of the resolution is to counter certain points of alleged disinformation by these media outlets. Their activity won’t be halted immediately, but the EU countries will carefully monitor the compliance of their policy with the principles of freedom of speech and reliability of information. Moscow has already threatened to introduce tit-for-tat measures.

As for the impact of the resolution, sources told the paper that first this will be to further bankroll current projects and to create new Russian-language media outlets in Europe. As the information war picks up steam, the Kremlin is expected to respond by additionally financing European counterpropaganda in a sufficient way.

Kommersant writes that one of the particular steps proposed by the authors of the resolution is to boost funding for the so-called EastStratCom Task Force, a special group at the EU External Action Service that deals with strategic communications and chiefly the so-called fight against the "Russian propaganda."

According to the paper, some €800,000 may be allocated by the EU for this task force. In addition to 11 experts on Russia, another 16 specialists could be employed to expand the team working with Eastern Europe and also with North Africa, the Middle East and the Western Balkans.


Kommersant: Gas exchange hangs on Gazprom

The gas trade has in effect become the venue of a single player - Russia’s energy giant Gazprom, which sells almost all gas and buys more than half of the volume, Kommersant business daily writes. Independent producers have no significantly available gas resources for exchange, which allows Gazprom to carry out a policy of freezing prices at their highest levels since the exchange was launched two years ago, the paper says.

Sources told Kommersant that some 90% of gas on the exchange was sold by Gazprom, while independent manufacturers saw a reduction in sales. "There was a feeling that Rosneft had almost left the exchange, and Novatek traditionally sells small amounts and does not like the exchange," one of the sources said.

Due to the recent cold spell, Rosneft ran out of gas for the exchange since the company used it for long-term contracts, the paper writes. However, Gazprom, which has no problems with the gas, did not use the opportunity to increase sales.

Sources say that even when conditions for independent producers’ expansion on the domestic market dry up, Gazprom still does not find it profitable to boost gas volumes for the exchange. Sources among major consumers say they see no benefits of buying gas at the exchange.


Izvestia: Russia’s ban on foreign guide-interpreters to deal heavy blow to tourism

Next year, legislation will come into force stipulating that only Russian citizens can work as tour guides and guide-interpreters in the country, Izvestia writes. The law will primarily affect those travel companies that bring guests from China to Russia.

Executive Director of the World Without Borders, Svetlana Pyatihatka, said that companies employ Chinese students due to the lack of guides that know the Chinese language. Under the new legislation, the travel companies will either break the law or just won’t be able to continue their business.

Head of Russia’s tourism agency Oleg Safonov told Izvestia that there is a need to remedy the situation when Chinese students that work as guides distort information about the country due to their lack of professional skills.

The legislation, which was drafted by Russia’s Culture Ministry this March, is currently under consideration by the State Duma, and is expected to come into force on July 1, 2017.

There is high demand for guides that know the Chinese language in Russia, Safonov said. The agency is working with the regions and educational institutions to meet the demand as the flow of Chinese tourists has been steadily rising over the past years (from 158,000 in 2010 to 677,000 in 2015).


Vedomosti: Iran ready to scrap nuclear deal if US extends sanctions

On Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme leader Ali Khamenei said the US decision to extend sanctions against Tehran for another 10 years will violate the Iranian nuclear deal and threatened that an immediate reaction would follow suit, Vedomosti writes.

The House of Representatives of the US Congress unanimously endorsed the extension of the law on these sanctions for 10 years last week. The legislation, which expires on December 31, allows the president to introduce restrictions on companies that invest funds in Iran’s energy sector. The sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program were lifted on January 16 after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that Tehran meets its commitments under the deal with six world powers reached in July 2015 in Vienna.

Washington introduced various sanctions against Iran over the past decades, but they were not ‘bone-rattling,’ said Vladimir Sazhin, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "At the moment a significant part of them is lifted - for example, Iran is gradually re-entering the global banking system and its oil exports have already surpassed pre-sanction levels. Extending the US legislation here looks like a political and propaganda tool."

Unless the legislation is extended, it will become invalid before Donald Trump’s inauguration, and the new US president may indeed cancel the deal with Iran. The executive branch has powers to conclude international deals, but they cannot be ratified without the approval of Congress, Victoria Zhuravlyova, a senior research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said. During Barack Obama’s presidency, Congress did not ratify the legislation, and Trump can veto it just by his decree, the expert clarified.


Izvestia: Russia banks on skin saving innovation

Scientists from the Federal Research and Clinical Center of Physical-Chemical Medicine have come up with a groundbreaking innovation of artificially growing skin without risks that it could be rejected by the human body, Izvestia writes.

This technology is in high demand for the emergency treatment of patients with burn wounds. By mid-2017, once the clinical tests will have been carried out and mass production of the medication will have been launched, a federal skin bank is planned to be established, according to the paper.

The center’s employees say the frozen skin cover is stored for a long time as the cells taken from a donor "return to an embryonic state." The center is tasked with setting up the production of this innovation so that it could be used at any moment.

The research center says there aren’t any analogues to the technology so far. Overseas scientists have been working on creating these medications, but research has not reached the level of clinical tests.


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