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Press review: Trump's plan for 'safe zones' in Syria and Nuland's resignation

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, January 27
Residents in Salaheddine neighborhood in the eastern Aleppo, Syria AP Photo/Hassan Ammar
Residents in Salaheddine neighborhood in the eastern Aleppo, Syria
© AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Izvestia: Moscow hails Washington’s "safe zone" initiative

US President Donald Trump’s proposal to set up "safe zones" in Syria may improve the situation there. However, it is necessary to take into account the experience of Moscow, which has worked along this line for a long time, and hash out the proposal with the Syrian government, Russian senators told Izvestia.

"We can only welcome the initiatives aimed at enhancing the security of Syria’s civilian population," said Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee. "However, if any initiatives on that score are put forward unilaterally and are not agreed on with other countries involved in the efforts to resolve the issue, this would raise some doubts. If Mr. Trump is willing to discuss this idea with those who are really working in Syria, that is, Russia, Turkey and Iran, not only with former US allies of the so-called anti-terrorism coalition hastily forged by Barack Obama, I do not rule out the emergence of some viable agreements."

For his part, Franz Klintsevich, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Defense Committee, noted that the US president raised "the right issue," but in order to implement the initiative, it is necessary to maintain dialogue with Damascus. "We would like all issues concerning Syria to be discussed with the legitimate authorities taking into account all parties’ interests," he said. "Now, we need to speak about cooperation in resolving the situation in Syria. The issue raised by Donald Trump is the right one, but it should be implemented properly taking into consideration the Syrian people’s opinion and not unilaterally. Only then will it be possible to achieve positive results."


Kommersant: Nuland steps down amid massive US State Department shakeup

The resignation of Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, has whipped up conflicting opinions on her performance among experts interviewed by Kommersant. While some of them describe it as bad news, others are convinced that she was unable to achieve productive results in any areas.

Nuland was a key player in the events leading to the regime change in Kiev, while propping up pro-Western forces in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova and pressing for anti-Russian sanctions. "The toughest decisions like the idea to supply offensive weapons to Ukraine were blocked by President Obama. Otherwise, until recently Victoria Nuland remained the headmistress in the post-Soviet area," Alexander Gabuyev, expert at the Carnegie Moscow Center, explained.

Meanwhile, a source in the administration of Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko voiced regret over news of Nuland’s resignation. "Of course, her departure from the State Department and the fact that she will no longer be in charge of the Ukrainian issue is bad news for us," he lamented.

On the other hand, a former State Department official who spoke with the paper on condition of anonymity described Nuland’s actions during her tenure as a catastrophe. "No positive results in any area except for her bureaucratic victories in Washington and an ability to make an impression on her boss," he stressed. The former American diplomat noted that the developments in Ukraine became an important political phenomenon, which prevented the US from openly acknowledging existing problems. "Instead of admitting failures, we only spoke about success and reforms. Criticism could be heard too, sometimes pretty tough, but only behind closed doors, which gave grounds for the Ukrainians not to heed it," he added.


RBC: Russian tycoon’s firm to draft extensive Far East development project

The Strelka consulting company owned by Russian billionaire investor, Alexander Mamut, will hammer out a master development plan for Russky Island off Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, RBC writes. The project will be implemented as part of a 3.8 bln ruble ($64 mln) contract signed by Strelka and a fund set up by the Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending. 

That will be Russky Island’s first large-scale project since 2012 when an APEC summit was held there, while the standards that are to be developed will form the basis for transforming the urban landscape throughout the country, the agency’s press service noted.

The contractor for such extensive projects, like the one due to be implemented on Russky Island, should be chosen on a competitive basis, says Irina Ilyina, Director of the Institute for Regional Studies and Urban Planning at the Higher School of Economics. The expert questioned Strelka’s competence, which has no experience in developing similar undertakings.

Nikolay Lyzov, Vice President of Russia’s Union of Architects, has a very different opinion. "The lack of experience here would not be counterproductive," he said. There is always a first time, and sometimes that’s much better. Yet, the best result is achieved by announcing an open tender with the largest possible number of participants."


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: City legislator suggests keeping Moscow libraries open into late night

Chairman of the Moscow City Duma’s Culture and Mass Communication Commission, Yevgeny Gerasimov, has put forward an initiative to extend the working hours of libraries located close to the Russian capital’s colleges and universities, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes. Presently, most of them close at 10pm local time.

Gerasimov explained that many students in Moscow combine work and study, and have practically no time left to visit reading halls. Therefore, it would be useful to prolong their working hours so that they can be visited at night as well, he said.

The paper notes that municipal authorities attempted to open night libraries in 2015 extending the working hours of the Dostoyevsky Library in central Moscow until 5.30am. However, the initiative flopped, according to Vladimir Vladimirov, Acting Head of the Cultural Centers Directorate. "There were few visitors in the library at night time," he said. "During the daytime, the number of visitors varied from 200 to 400, while no more than 15 people turned up after midnight. Spending on overnight security guards and electricity costs turned out to be extremely high."


Izvestia: Psychiatrists to help Russian teachers reach out to troubled teens

Russia’s Serbsky Federal Medical Research Center of Psychiatry and Narcology will train teachers at secondary schools to reach out to troubled teenagers, Izvestia writes. Teachers also need new skills to determine adolescents’ suicidal risk.

"The program is meant for teachers of various school subjects, it does not matter what subject one teaches," Zurab Kekelidze, the center’s Director General and Chief Psychiatrist of the Russian Ministry of Health, told the paper. "That will be additional training for both primary and secondary school teachers." He added that the draft program has been submitted to the Ministry of Health for endorsement.

However, according to Irina Medvedeva, a child psychologist and Vice President of the Interregional Fund for Socio-Psychological Aid for the Family and Child, this should be done by medical professionals, namely, child psychiatrists rather than hastily trained teachers.

"Teachers have their own work, and a hasty diagnosis can only do harm to a child. We need to develop child psychiatry instead of burdening teachers with something they may not be competent at," Medvedeva stressed.


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