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Press review: Trump weighs telling Mueller 'You're fired' and Russia to fight meddling

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, June 14
Former FBI chief Robert Mueller EPA/SHAWN THEW
Former FBI chief Robert Mueller

Kommersant: Mission Unimpeachable: Special Counsel Mueller tests Trump team

The standoff between US President Donald Trump and his ‘Deep State’ rivals has entered a new phase. After former FBI Director James Comey testified before Congress, which seemed to have disquieted the White House occupant, the role of the new chief newsmaker goes to ex-FBI chief, Robert Mueller, Kommersant writes. He now shoulders the burden for the continued probe of Trump’s alleged connection with Russia.

However, media reports said earlier this week that the US President is considering firing Mueller as special counsel investigating the alleged "Russian connection." Mueller was in the spotlight again after Trump’s close friend, head of Newsmax Media Christopher Ruddy, told PBS’s NewsHour that the US president was "considering, perhaps, terminating the special counsel." According to Ruddy, the possible reason for such a move could be a conflict of interests, as the law firm the ex-FBI boss worked for represents the interests of the Trump family.

So far the question of Mueller’s role in possibly advancing the Democrats’ campaign to impeach the president is still open. According to Yuri Rogulev, Director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation for United States Studies at the Moscow State University, it is rather difficult to foresee how events will unfold. "I’m sure that those in the US, who are conducting this investigation, will not be able to find evidence confirming Trump’s ties with Russian officials and the basis for impeachment won’t have legs to stand on. At the hearings, Comey himself confirmed that reports on Trump’s connections with Russia had been fabricated, and in this case Mueller will not change anything, despite his political experience," he told the paper.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia to set up commission to defend national sovereignty, fight outside meddling

Russia’s Federation Council (upper house of parliament) is to pass a decision on protecting national sovereignty and preventing meddling in Russia’s internal affairs on Wednesday.

The commission will monitor any sort of outside interference threats from around the globe, from the Philippines to Brazil, Andrei Klimov, Deputy Chairman of Federation Council International Affairs Committee, who has been nominated to head the commission, said in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

According to Klimov, the methods of outside interference are developed not only in relation to Russia. "They are fine-tuned, put into practice, even with regard to us. The upcoming presidential election scheduled for next year is bound to attract ‘professional meddlers’ into our country. As a preparatory stage, these experts will use the elections scheduled for September 10. How will they manifest themselves there? As a rule, this is done through agents of influence, that is, the people who have been trained specifically for that. Let me note that our sovereignty is stable. I am absolutely convinced of that, but attempts to find some ‘split’ and turn it into an abyss are being made."

The senator noted that there are plenty of methods that can be used for meddling in Russia’s internal affairs. "For example, attempts to harness anti-corruption protests. Of course, these people do not care what kind of corruption we have. They are trying to manipulate our nation’s existence, because we are among countries where it is impossible to change the regime by using two marine corps battalions. They cannot gain the upper hand through military means, and they realize that, so they have to resort to non-military methods, including meddling in internal affairs and using sanctions," Klimov explained.

When asked how the commission is going to counter attempts to meddle in Russia’s affairs, the senator said, "Of course, I do not think that eight commission members will be able to provide protection for (the nation’s) sovereignty conclusively. Our task is far more modest. We have to monitor exiting threats and ones that may emerge by parliamentary means and systematically. We will have to see whether our legislation is prepared to ward them off. Moreover, we will examine what steps are taken in such cases abroad, even in the US, which gives a pretty good example of how the country’s national sovereignty can be protected."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia, US could act as mediators in Qatar quagmire

The Qatari crisis was one of the issues discussed during a telephone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. It was preceded by a visit from top Qatari diplomat Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani to Moscow. Although the minister said the aim of his visit to Russia was to clarify the country’s stance, some experts believe that the Qatari ruling dynasty is hoping for Russia’s mediation, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

Ellie Geranmayeh, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the paper that Russia has a certain role to play, considering that it has been able to establish good working relations with members of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf as well as with Iran and Turkey. She noted that Moscow should use its positions to nudge the parties towards a diplomatic solution and shut down any opportunities for escalation.

A significant role in resolving the crisis could be played by the United States. However, so far, US President Donald Trump has only succeeded in adding fuel to the fire by tweeting a few remarks on Qatar’s role in financing terrorist organizations. His team is trying to iron things out. Pentagon Head James Mattis noted that the Qatar’s authorities are moving in the right direction in terms of cutting off terrorist financing. In the coming days, Trump may meet with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to discuss the Qatari quagmire, the paper notes.

According to Boris Dolgov, Senior Research Fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, Washington could make a significant contribution to defusing the Qatar crisis. "Qatar is connected with the US. Their military base is located there, and one of the largest at that. The number of troops there, according to various estimates, exceeds 11,000. Saudi Arabia is also the United States’ ally," he noted.

The expert added that Russia could too act as a mediator. "Russia has interests in Qatar and Saudi Arabia," Dolgov explained. "The latest visit by Qatar’s representatives to Russia shows that Doha is looking forward to support from our side."


Izvestia: Kyrgyzstan to be first EAEU member to roll out cryptocurrency

Kyrgyzstan’s government is getting ready to issue a national cryptocurrency. The Russian company Kript NN, which will be the main Initial Coin Offering (ICO) trader, will be involved in carrying out this ambitious project, Izvestia writes.

According to two sources close to the Kyrgyz government, the new cryptocurrency (working title GoldenRock) will be backed by gold. This is the first state-backed project of this kind within the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).

By order of Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov, the local state-run company "Trade House Kyrgyzstan" will be in charge of implementing the project. Ulan Musakulov, Adviser to the company’s CEO, said that it plans to attract investment in gold mining companies and a number of agricultural projects.

"Since the state is the company’s shareholder, the specific parameters of the ICO are in the process of approval with the government, representatives from those companies which filed requests for funding and our Russian partners," he informed Izvestia. "Plans are also in the works that some Russian companies will provide us with technical support."

"Trade House Kyrgyzstan" has a wide range of partners in Kyrgyzstan, Russia and China and was established to carry out inter-state projects. According to Musakulov, the potential investment sum in all projects could exceed $500 million.


Kommersant: Russia eyes hosting humanitarian aid conference

The Russian presidential administration is mulling over a proposal to hold an international conference on humanitarian aid in Russia, Kommersant has discovered. The large-scale forum could facilitate cooperation between Russia and the West, even on Syria, considering that deep disagreements on that country’s political future persist.

Yevgeny Primakov, head of the Russian Humanitarian Mission, a non-profit organization, said in an interview with the paper that "attempts are constantly made to squeeze Russia out of the humanitarian agenda," putting emphasis on Moscow’s military operations abroad and "ignoring the Russian humanitarian agenda." He added that the forum could help expand cooperation between Russia and the West. "For example, we have logistics and contacts with the required governments, while they have, for example, drilling devices and rice," he said elaborating on a possible option for cooperation.

According to the information obtained by the paper, Russia’s Chechnya is considered one of the possible venues for this event. Chechnya’s Deputy Minister for National Policy, Foreign Relations, Press and Information, Lema Gudaev, told Kommersant that the region is ready to host the function. "If this event is held in Grozny, it will undoubtedly become a landmark both in terms of solving humanitarian assistance problems and in terms of strengthening Russia’s role in the international arena," Gudaev emphasized.


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