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Press review: Peacekeepers in Ukraine stalled and Russia suspects US leak to Islamists

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, September 21


Media: Russia and Ukraine cannot agree on peacekeepers due to different goals

Russia and Ukraine cannot find common ground on the issue of sending a peacekeeping mission to Donbass, which became clear on Wednesday following a meeting of the UN Security Council. Ukraine’s Pyotr Poroshenko said that Kiev was in favor of the UN peacekeepers in Donbass, but noted that their mission will not be efficient without "removing foreign contingent from the region" and establishing international control over the Russian-Ukrainian border.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in response accused the Ukrainian authorities of "evading" implementation of the Minsk agreements. A source close to the Russian delegation told Kommersant that Kiev introduced its draft resolution on peacekeepers only after Moscow submitted its own. According to the paper, in particular it requires the use of the wording "peace enforcement operation" or "peace restoration operation", which according to Kiev, would confirm "the role of Russia as an aggressor".

Senior researcher at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Oleg Nemenensky told Izvestia that the introduction of peacekeepers on the contact line does not meet the interests of Kiev for a number of reasons. "This means that the conflict in Ukraine is recognized as internal, which is inadmissible for the Kiev authorities, since it destroys the whole ideological of its policy. In addition, to introduce peacekeepers to the line of demarcation, it is necessary to recognize the Luhansk People's Republic and the Donetsk People's Republic as parties to the conflict. That contradicts the entire propaganda system built on the fact that the war is being waged with Russia," he told the newspaper.

With the help of peacekeepers the Ukrainian President wants to block Donbass from all sides to siege the region, former Prime Minister of Ukraine Nikolay Azarov said in an interview with Izvestia. According to him, the very idea of ··launching a peacekeeping operation in the unrecognized republics is certainly constructive and could stop the bloodshed. However, in the form proposed by the Ukrainian leader, it will continue the war."His main idea is to disrupt Moscow's peacekeeping initiative. He is going to continue bombing Donbass and wants a complete blockade of the region," he said.

According to Izvestia, the issues of the peacekeeper operation in Donbass is still on the agenda, however the prospects for its implementation remain vague because of the position of Kiev. The question is would the Western leaders of the Normandy Quartet be able to put pressure on Poroshenko.


Kommersant: Russia accuses US of rendering direct assistance to Syrian militants

The leadership of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces accused the "American special services" of "initiating the offensive" of the radical group Al-Nusra Front (banned in Russia) on the zone of de-escalation in the Idlib province, Kommersant writes. Because of this, 29 Russian military policemen were blocked there, who had to be rescued from the encirclement with a hastily formed special group, the paper writes. So far the Pentagon has rejected all accusations.

According to Head of the Russian General Staff Main Operations Department Sergey Rudskoy, the offensive was initiated by the US special services, who supposedly wanted "to stop the successfully developing offensive of government troops east of Deir ez-Zor" with the help of radical Islamists. General Rudskoy did not give any details. However, a Kommersant source in the military circles said that the United States is suspected of transferring "very sensitive information" about the location of the Syrian and Russian troops in Idlib to one of the groups classifying itself as "moderate opposition".

"From there, the data either got leaked to the Islamists, or it was deliberately given," the source said.

According to the paper’s source, the harsh statements of Rudskoy "don’t even begin to describe of the reaction of the department’s top management." Because of the situation in Idlib, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu canceled his planned visit to Belarus.


Vedomosti: Rosneftegaz might merge oilfield service assets into new major player

A new major player might be created based on oilfield servicing companies transferred to Rosneftegaz - according to Vedomosti sources, Igor Sechin proposed to consolidate state oilfield services assets back in 2012 in order to increase the competitiveness of enterprises, create conditions for investments and retain jobs.

In 2015, President Putin signed a decree increasing the authorized capital of Rosneftegaz as well as transferring shares of 13 oil and gas enterprises to the company.

The transfer of all enterprises to Rosneftegaz (its main assets include 50% plus 1 share of Rosneft and 10.97% in Gazprom) was expected to be finished within 9 months, but the process stalled. According to the company employees, the future of the national oilfield "champion" based on assets transferred to Rosneftegaz is currently unclear, Vedomosti wrote.

However, creation of such a player could benefit the oil industry, Raiffeisenbank analyst Andrey Polishchuk told the newspaper. "Usually monopoly state companies are less efficient than market ones. However, Rosneftegaz could retain prices on the market at the expense of its oilfield services."

This would also be relevant given the fact that the US-based Schlumberger is trying to buy 51% in Russia's largest oil-service company Eurasia Drilling, a source in one of the oilfield service companies told the newspaper.

According to Vedomosti, Rosneftegaz should have money for the oilfield services company. The company does not publish financial reports, however according to the documents of Rosneft and Gazprom in 2017 Rosneftegaz could receive 73 bln rubles ($1.25 bln) in their dividends.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Central Bank pushes private credit institutions out of market

The Russian Central Bank official promised in summer to finish the clearing of the banking sector. However, after these promises, the banking crisis erupted with renewed vigor. The scandalous withdrawal of Jugra bank license was followed by Otkritie financial recovery, and according to recent announcement, another major player B&N Bank will also undergo the financial recovery procedure. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta estimate the volume of distressed assets in the Russian banking sector at 5 trillion rubles ($85.95 bln), or about 7% of GDP. According to the newspaper, this means that the market should expect to see continuing high-profile bankruptcies.

According to the newspaper, even before B&N Bank’s financial recovery was announced, experts said it could worsen the already tough situation in the Russian banking sector. Financial rehabilitation of credit institutions by the fund for banking sector consolidation presents a long-term threat to private Russian banks, according to Senior Director at ACRA rating agency Kirill Lukashuk. The expert believes that in the long term this decision remains questionable, since the public sector absolutely dominates the economy and the banking sector.

"The share of state-owned banks increased last year, and in the year before, and this year. Even if we did not take into account the financial recovery of Otkritie and B&N Bank, the state sector now has a record share in the banking market in the last 10 years. And these recent developments might increase the share of the public sector even more, and it will approach 70%," Managing Director of the National Rating Agency Pavel Samiev told the newspaper. As a result, private banks are finding it increasingly difficult to compete with state-owned banks.

This gap between public and private banks is growing, which greatly undermines the competitiveness of the private sector, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.

At the same time, according to Vice-President of the international rating agency Moody's Olga Ulyanova, "The arguments in favor of ensuring the stability of the system so far outweigh the fears about its further nationalization, since more than 50% of the Russian banking system is already owned by the state and the Central Bank."


Izvestia: Russian IT company presents new antispyware smartphone

Russian company InfoWatch, whose president is Natalia Kaspersky from the eponymous anti-virus giant, has developed an antispyware smartphone - the TaigaPhone, which will be presented at the X International Business Information Security Summit in Moscow on September 22. Izvestia reviews the new model before the presentation.

According to the newspaper, the smartphone was created for the corporate market and will be supplied as part of the TaigaPhone software and hardware complex. This complex is designed to protect organizations from information leaks through mobile devices and provides full control over all installed applications.

"Employees do not always allow information leaks deliberately. It can happen without their knowledge - for example, because of the applications that the manufacturer installed on the phone before selling it," General Director of InfoWatch Aleksey Nagorny told the newspaper.

In order to prevent such situations, InfoWatch made its own "firmware" based on the Android operating system, which is fully compatible with the data leakage protection (DLP) system. It would be possible to set up a privacy policy for each phone individually, or for all smartphones in the company, specifying which applications cannot be installed, or prohibit installation of those that require access to certain information. At the same time, the location of each phone will be constantly monitored.

"It is only through this phone that employees will have access to the company's internal services, for example to e-mail or corporate documents," Nagorny added.

"From the point of view of corporate leaks, the solution is probably good. For ordinary users, this is quite an expensive device. However, the price of data leakage in large companies may be higher," Geek to the Future video blog author Denis Podolyak told the newspaper. According to him, the phone’s target audience is in the corporate sector.


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