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Press review: US 'gears up for war' in Europe and experts doubt stability of Syrian peace

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, February 28
US Navy crew members on the deck of a nuclear-powered carrier Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP
US Navy crew members on the deck of a nuclear-powered carrier
© Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP


Izvestia: Hundreds of Turkish food producers seek access to Russian market

Russia’s Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance is reviewing 282 applications from Turkish food producers which have filed requests to let them supply their products to Russia, Izvestia writes on Tuesday citing the watchdog. The federal agency is not in any hurry to open its borders to milk, meat and seafood from Turkey as they had contained hazardous and prohibited substances during previous checks. Experts say the rapprochement should be mutual: it would be fair to allow Turkey’s poultry to Russia if Russian meat got access to Turkey’s market.

Turkey filed 97 permit requests for dairy products, 52 for fish and seafood, 43 for poultry, 40 for hatchable eggs and baby chicks, 31 for ready meat products and 12 for eggs. Only one Turkish enterprise wants to supply honey to Russia, and another two applications were submitted for collagen and gelatin.

Russia’s watchdog said the possibility of including new Turkish enterprises into the registry may be considered only after carrying out another round of checks by Russian veterinarians. The watchdog stressed that it cannot make any conclusions on the quality of the products, not supplied to Russia over the past year. The federal agency gave no further details when such checks could take place.

Head of Executive Committee of Russia’s National Meat Association Sergey Yushin said Russia could do without Turkish goods. He said Russian producers would manage to replace the share of import from any country, which already accounts for less than 5% of consumed meat.


Vedomosti: Experts doubt alliance of Syria's peace guarantors will hold

The Syrian crisis and the country's political fate were in the spotlight during the first day of the Moscow conference of the Valdai International Discussion Club on the Middle East, Vedomosti writes. The conference coincides with the fourth round of intra-Syrian political talks that kicked off in Geneva last week. Simultaneously, Astana hosted the talks where Iran, Russia and Turkey agreed to set up a trilateral mechanism for monitoring the ceasefire.

For the first time, the opposition was represented only by armed groups there, the paper writes.

Russia's role in Syria is very contradictory and even the talks in Astana do not soften attitudes toward Moscow, Executive Chair and Founder of Beirut Institute Raghida Dergham said. "Bashar Assad and peace in Syria are incompatible words. Many in the Arab world wanted Russia to leave Syria, and its joint actions with Iran, which among other things lead to a rift based on religious principles. The alliance of Turkey, Russia and Iran does not have a long-term basis."

Astana won’t replace Geneva, where there was a broader representation of domestic, Syrian and external players, primarily the United States, an Ankara-based political analyst, Hasan Ozertem, said. "At the talks in Astana, Turkey, Iran and Russia sat down at one table and together emerged as the ceasefire’s guarantors. However, the Syrian Kurds have already received a draft constitution from the Russians bypassing the Turks." Ankara wants to have equal weight, otherwise many recent gains may be quickly lost, the analyst said.


Izvestia: US nuclear forces gearing up for war in Europe

In February, the US military carried out the most massive round of drills by its strategic nuclear forces over the past years, Izvestia writes. According to their scenario, the hybrid conflict in Europe escalated into a global nuclear war with the participation of the United States. Experts say the scale of maneuvers and the choice of a potential enemy could be a response to last year’s drills by Russia’s nuclear forces.

Former Chief of Staff of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Viktor Yesin confirmed to Izvestia that the current Global Lightning 17 drills are distinguished by their scale and the choice of a simulated enemy. "These exercises have regular and planned characteristics. They were conducted during the Cold War time, but they had another name," the general stressed. "However, this year they are more large-scale. Five launches of ballistic missiles - this is the criteria of full-fledged drills," he stressed, adding, "This may be a response to the drills by the strategic nuclear forces that we carried out in October."

The expert did not rule out that the US military has been lobbying for an increase in defense spending and tried to demonstrate its capabilities to President Trump’s new administration.

Analysts say that large-scale exercises by strategic forces in the midst of the crisis in Russian-US relations indicate that there is a need for urgently reducing tensions and settling disputable matters, especially in the area of European security.


Kommersant: Rosneft eyeing prospects in Mexican shelf deposits

Following in the footsteps of Lukoil, Russia’s other oil giant, Rosneft may join the race for Mexican shelf fields. Sources told Kommersant that the company is studying only shallow-water deposits as production in deep marine shelves may be hampered by the US sanctions.

However, the paper’s sources say work in under-explored Mexican shelf sites would be rather difficult, pointing to Lukoil’s mixed results. Rosneft had already conducted a project with ExxonMobil in the Mexican Gulf on the US shelf, but the partners found no commercial reserves there, the paper writes.

Rosneft is currently wrapping up a study of deposits in shallow areas of the Mexican shelf, the sources said. Mexico’s National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH) said 15 contracts will be awarded in late June. The companies have to confirm participation in data room by late March and a tender will take place in June, according to the CNH.

Rosneft together with ExxonMobil had already shown interest in the Mexican Gulf but last year the partners refused to develop a project in 20 fields after finding no commercial reserves there. Rosneft will also join the new tender as part of a consortium since the risks are too high, one of the sources said. "Chances are Rosneft is unlikely to be a project operator in Mexico," said Valery Nesterov from Sberbank Investment Research, adding that large reserves from the Mexican shelf should not be expected.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Donetsk and Lugansk give Kiev ultimatum on ending transport blockade

The DPR and LPR, the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, have handed the authorities in Kiev an ultimatum saying they would fully reposition industry in Donbass towards Russia unless Kiev ended its transport blockade, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Kiev may lose tax liabilities paid by the enterprises in the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics. Moreover, starting March 1, the Russian ruble will also become the main currency in the Lugansk People’s Republic, the paper says.

Several plants in the region have already suspended operations, but DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko said the enterprises may be relaunched within two months. After taking over the enterprises presently under Ukrainian jurisdiction, the DPR may replenish up to 70% of its budget as a result, he noted. However, Russian experts are not that optimistic. "There is a very small chance that the products manufactured in Donbass will be in demand in Russia. Almost everything that is manufactured in Donbass is also produced in Russia," Anton Kozyura, an analyst at Alpari said.

Another analyst and broker from Alor, Kirill Yakovenko, said no stable export-oriented economy can be created during a war. "Saying that Donbass will be able to produce something for export and earn income from it will be possible in around five years provided that combat actions end today," he emphasized.

Russian financial experts are not in favor of introducing the Russian ruble in the Lugansk republic. "In our view, this is not the best idea for Russia. First, a new pretext would surface for accusing Russia of taking eastern Ukraine under control and therefore for extending or toughening sanctions. Second, for financial markets the ruble would become the currency of a territory involved in a military conflict. This envisages a discount in regard to the ruble and Russian shares," Director of Alpari’s Analytical Department, Alexander Razuvayev said. He stressed that a better idea for Donbass would be to start issuing its own currency.


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