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Press review: Tillerson’s first visit to Moscow and G7 summit in Italy

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday, April 11
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
© Toru Hanai/Pool Photo via AP

Media: Tillerson’s visit to Russia hoped to alleviate tensions

The upcoming visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow tops the front pages in the Russian press on Tuesday. The plan is to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday morning, Kommersant writes. Sources close to the Kremlin told the newspaper that initially Tillerson planned to have talks with Russian President Putin on Wednesday, though presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that no such meeting is scheduled.

Nevertheless, Kommersant’s sources do not rule out that the Secretary of State still will be received in the Kremlin on Wednesday afternoon.

According to Izvestia daily, Moscow expects a pragmatic dialogue with Washington, despite the recent sharpening of contradictions between the countries following the U.S. Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the Shayrat Airfield in Syria's Homs governorate last week. Vladimir Jabarov, First Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) International Affairs Committee, told the newspaper he thinks the talks will be constructive. "Tillerson has been sophisticated enough not to blame Russia for involvement in the chemical attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian troops, like certain American officials did. The Secretary of State assumes that Russia is not involved," he said, adding that "Tillerson will try to hear out Sergey Lavrov though the talks are going to be tough."

Director of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Foundation Yuri Rogulev does not expect breakthroughs following the visit, which he thinks will only test the negotiability of the new U.S. administration. "However, it appears that there are intentions to come to some agreements," Rogulev told Izvestia. Experts polled by RBC business daily expect the talks held by Tillerson in Moscow to focus mainly on the Syrian crisis, the future of the country’s President Bashar Assad, and the ways to avoid a conflict between the military forces of the United States and Russia, rather than on the whole complex of relations between the countries. Head of Science at the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies Sergei Rogov agrees the visit is unlikely to bring outstanding results, saying that the key aim for now is to alleviate military tensions, as the recent US missile attack on the Syrian aviation base has forced many to think of a potential direct military conflict between Moscow and Washington.


Izvestia: Rome speaks against new anti-Russia sanctions at G7

Italy has opposed a new package of restrictive measures against Russia proposed by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson following the latest developments in Syria at the G7 meeting in Italy’s Lucca on Monday, Izvestia reports with reference to a representative of the Italian foreign ministry.

"We assume that a positive restart of the relations between Russia and the United States is needed at this point in order to return to a political settlement and mitigate the escalation risk," the source told the newspaper, adding that Italy "does not support new sanctions" against Russia.

Rome also advocates the initiative to engage not only European but also Middle Eastern players into the Syrian settlement as Italy’s Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano has convened a special extended session on Syria with participation of top diplomats of Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar to be held later on Tuesday. According to Izvestia, Italy is pushing for a diplomatic handling of the Syrian crisis, whereas the U.S. administration’s contradictory policy in the Middle East is making some Europeans refrain from drastic steps.


RBC: New South Ossetian president expected to boost ties with Russia

Anatoly Bibilov, the winner of the presidential election in South Ossetia, can improve relations with Russia, experts interviewed by RBC daily say. The new president’s pre-election program pledged closer ties with Russia and an acceleration of economic growth in the republic. Previously Bibilov participated in the presidential election in November 2011, when South Ossetia’s presidency was also contested by opposition leader Alla Dzhioyeva who scored the majority of votes. However, the republic’s Supreme Court recognized the polling as invalid due to numerous violations on the part of Dzhioyeva. Both Dzhioyeva and Bibilov were disallowed to take part in the subsequent round of election.

Alexander Skakov, an expert at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), was not surprised at the result of the recent election, saying that the win had been backed by protest voters and the supporters of the former President Eduard Kokoity who wasn’t admitted to take part in the election. Moscow positively views Bibilov’s win and expects it to fortify the strategic cooperation between Russia and South Ossetia, a source close to the Russian President’s department on social and economic cooperation with CIS countries, Abkhazia and South Ossetia told RBC. According to the source, Bibilov is likely to reach progress in the relationship and bring them to the level of virtual integration in the legal, economic and defense areas.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia were recognized by the Russian Federation on August 26, 2008 after Georgia attacked South Ossetia in early August 2008. Earlier Bibilov said in an interview with TASS that the accession to Russia is his republic’s strategic goal and the people’s long-cherished dream since the 1920s.


Media: Warning against charter flights to Turkey could be followed by sales ban

As the political tension heats up between Russia and Turkey following the recent US actions in Syria, Moscow has warned that charter flights to Turkish resorts from Russia may be suspended prior to what was going to become a peak summer season. Kommersant writes that up to 400,000 tourists have already bought travel packages to the country, and the tourist flow was expected to reach 3 mln people. Moscow can use this measure, rather sensitive for Ankara, not only in the political but also in the economic dispute as the two countries are about to launch bilateral talks on Russian grain supplies to Tukey, which were virtually halted in mid-March, the newspaper says.

Representatives of several Russian air carriers told Izvestia on condition of anonymity that the warning is not going to affect their operations at this stage, since de facto it imposes no restrictions. However, Monday’s telegram from the Federal Aviation Agency (Rosaviatsia) with a warning may be followed by a ban on charter flights sales, the companies said. In this case the travel flow to Turkey will shift to Russian regular air carriers, while only those focusing on charter flights will be affected, same as tourists who will deal with higher prices for travel packages.

Previously Russia suspended charter flights with Turkey in late October 2015 after the Turkish Air Forces had attacked a Russian bomber, which was on a mission in the sky over Syria as part of an anti-terrorist operation. In August 2016, after the President of Turkey apologized for the incident, the parties decided to start the restoration of ties. Russian experts from the Transport Ministry inspected the safety of Turkish airports and then sent a corresponding report to the government. On August 28, 2016, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree on lifting the ban on charter air services between Russia and Turkey.


Izvestia: Skolkovo resident to launch 200 sattelites for Internet of Things

Sputnix, a resident of the Russian innovation center Skolkovo that mannufactures high-tech microsatellite components, technologies, and provides microsatellite-based services, plans to set into orbit around 200 satellite vehicles by 2025 in order to plug up to 1.5 million earth terminals into the Internet of Things (IoT), Izvestia writes with reference to the company’s majority owner, Aliya Prokofyeva, on Tuesday. Investment in the project called Pulsar is estimated at more than $100 mln over the next three years. The pilot launch is planned for 2018.

"At the initial stage we’ll create a small group to perfect the technology, implement pilot projects and attract first orders of our operator services in the IoT field," Prokofyeva said. "Our final goal is to create a global information infrastructure to ensure an explosive growth of services based on the IoT technology," she added. The company is currently negotiating cooperation with certain enterprises within Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos and Roselectronika holding, the newspaper said.


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