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Press review: Ripples from Barcelona terror attack and risks from China's shale revolution

Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, August 18


Media: Islamic State Barcelona attack sends ripples

The number of recent terrorist attacks with the use of vehicles in Europe has grown with the latest attack on Thursday when a van plowed into a crowd of people in Barcelona killing 13 people. The Islamic State terror group (outlawed in Russia) has claimed responsibility for the attack. Spanish media reported that the US intelligence services warned the Catalan law enforcement agencies about a potential attack two months before it occurred, Kommersant writes.

When asked about the consequences of this terrorist attack, Spanish political expert and Director of the El Semanal Digital publication Antoni Naranjo answered briefly, "unity", in an interview with the paper. He noted that, in the wake of the attack, employees of El Prat Airport decided to end the large-scale indefinite strike, which had significantly hampered the work of Barcelona’s major air hub.

Meanwhile, member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party Juan Moscoso del Prado informed Izvestia that the fact that Barcelona had been chosen by terrorists as a target is no coincidence. The politician recalled that the city is very popular with tourists, and it is very easy for terrorists to find a place for a potential attack. Apparently, jihadists are behind the attack, since the greatest number of extremist groups is in the region, he noted.

According to Maya Lomidze, Executive Director of the Russian Association of Tour Operators, currently there are at least 100,000 Russian tourists in Barcelona. However, she noted in an interview with Kommersant that the association does not forecast mass cancellations of package tours, as they believe "lightning doesn't strike twice".

Every successful terrorist attack is replicated, retired FSB Colonel Vladimir Lutsenko explained to Kommersant. "Terrorists believe that since they succeeded in Nice (on July 14, 2016), they will be able to repeat that in some other place," he said.

For his part, Iosif Linder, President of the International Counterterrorism Association, expressed confidence in an interview with Izvestia that the EU political elites are unable to take tough and not quite popular measures to protect their citizens.

"Currently, according to the most conservative estimates, there are more than 5 million illegal migrants in the EU, among them a large number of members of various terrorist organizations’ cells. The EU today is a hostage to professionally organized terrorist activity," he stressed.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Chinese shale revolution poses threat to Power of Siberia pipeline

Beijing has announced that China currently ranks third in the production of shale gas after the US and Canada. Moreover, according to Chinese officials, the country has the largest shale gas deposit outside North America, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

The total number of explored shale gas reserves in China is estimated at 764.3 billion cubic meters, including 600.8 bln at the Fulin gas field. The Chinese media dubbed all that a shale revolution.

This information cannot be seen in a positive light by the Russian energy giant Gazprom, which has been building the Power of Siberia pipeline towards China since September 2014.

The contract between Gazprom and China’s CNPC was signed on May 21, 2014. Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller promised at that time that annual supplies of 38 bln cubic meters for 30 years are planned, while the total value of the contract is $400 bln.

According to Sberbank CIB analyst Valery Nesterov, the growth of shale gas production is another factor that fortifies China’s stance at the talks with Russia.

"Any competing project poses a potential threat to the Power of Siberia, that is, the growth of conventional gas production, coalmine methane, plans to develop gas hydrates where China is the leader along with Japan, and, of course, the production of shale gas," the expert noted. "In addition to that, purchases of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US are growing, the same product is supplied by Qatar, and large LNG supplies from Australia are expected. The overall environment is not very favorable for us."


Izvestia: US-Russia diplomatic meeting still on agenda

A new meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon has not been taken off the agenda, Ryabkov informed Izvestia.

"The issue is still relevant, and work is in progress. However, at the moment there is no information on a specific date for a new round of talks," he said.

Ryabkov added that Moscow hopes relations between Russia and the US will stabilize but warned that any steps taken by Washington aimed at making contacts more difficult would mean the need for Russia to come up with a tit-for-tat response.

When asked about the tentative date for the arrival of new Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov in Washington, the senior diplomat noted that there is still no clarity with this issue. It is likely to be raised during the upcoming meeting between Ryabkov and Shannon.

Meanwhile, several diplomatic sources told Izvestia that the Russian-US talks had stalled because of the lack of tangible results and complex internal political processes in Washington, which prevent US diplomats from maintaining full-fledged dialogue.

"Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will take part in the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. There he will meet with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. After that, there will be clarity regarding the dates of the meeting between the Russian and US high-ranking diplomats," one of the sources explained.

Russian-US relations have been going through a series of tit-for-tat spats, with Moscow ordering to reduce the US diplomatic staff by 755 people in Russia by September 1.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russia’s relief efforts abroad reach unprecedented levels

The Russian Emergencies Ministry has recently sent one of its aircraft to extinguish wildfires in Armenia. This humanitarian operation was just a small drop in a series of Russian humanitarian operations around the world. Due to a significant increase in the number and scale of emergencies in the world Russia’s relief operations abroad have reached an unprecedented level, Yuri Brazhnikov, Director of the EMERCOM agency told Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

"More than 430 large-scale emergency operations have been conducted since 1993, including 278 operations to deliver humanitarian cargo. We even delivered aid to the US twice, in 2005 and 2012," he said.

Humanitarian operations are really expensive, Brazhnikov noted, and only a powerful and great country recognized by the UN and other influential international organizations can afford them. "We have been recognized the world over as an advanced and reliable agency dealing with global challenges, which requires a large-scale, multi-faceted and collective response," he stressed.

"While many countries are able to eliminate the effects of an earthquake or extinguish a fire, few can provide assistance to thousands of refugees, make a humanitarian contribution in many countries after a tsunami or cope with the Ebola virus," Brazhnikov added.

The official recalled that the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s Kamaz vehicles are known the world over not only because they delivered aid to the war-torn eastern Ukraine. In 1993, Russia sent humanitarian convoys to Yugoslavia, in 1994 - to Rwanda and ensured the work of refugee camps in Tanzania. Russia’s Kamaz vehicles were also seen in the Central Asian region and, of course, in Afghanistan, Brazhnikov added.


Kommersant: Russia’s Rosatom could step up presence in China

China wants Russia to take part in the construction of a new nuclear power plant in its Jiangsu province located some 20 kilometers away from the Tianwan nuclear power plant built with Russia’s participation, Russia’s Rosatom State Nuclear Corporation has announced. The new nuclear power plant in Jiangsu will consist of six units, but Beijing offers Moscow to build only some of them.

Meanwhile, a source in Rosatom informed Kommersant that Beijing had not come up with an official proposal to the company yet, and details of a potential contract were not discussed either. However, Natalya Prokhorova of AKPA has estimated the cost of the construction of two power units at $13 bln.

Unlike most European countries, which have frozen their nuclear programs after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, China is pushing ahead with efforts to develop its nuclear power industry.

According to Natalya Prokhorova, China has localized the technology of the AP1000 reactor of the American Westinghouse and rarely invites foreign companies to take part in the construction of new nuclear power plants. That explains why Rosatom was asked to build only two reactors out of six.

According to the government’s plans, the capacity of Chinese nuclear power plants is to grow to 400 GW by 2050, head of Alexander Uvarov emphasized.

Beijing’s key objective in the energy sector now is to reduce the share of "dirty" coal generation by developing renewable energy sources, hydroelectric power stations, nuclear power plants and gas generation. Earlier this week, China announced the planned freezing of the development of coal generation. The construction of new coal-fired thermal electric power stations has been frozen at least until 2020. Their total capacity could reach 150 GW.


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