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Press review: Russia to fight Western propaganda and Bulgaria talks pipes with Gazprom

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, September 27


Izvestia: Moscow believes reforming UN Human Rights Council shouldn’t be debated in New York

Moscow opposes any unilateral exclusion of states from the UN Human Rights Council, though accepts reform of the organization, Russian diplomatic sources told Izvestia. According to the sources, this topic cannot be discussed at the New York forum, and it would be unacceptable to use political disagreements as arguments for reform. Earlier, US Vice President Mike Pence called for reforming the council and for withdrawing such "repressive regimes" and "dictatorships" like Cuba and Venezuela from the Council.

Debating reform of the Human Rights Council is necessary, however, not in New York, but in Geneva, where a separate platform was created for this, sources in Moscow’s diplomatic circles told the newspaper. At the same time, according to the sources, Americans are constantly trying to bring up this topic in the framework of the General Assembly in the United States.

According to Izvestia, Moscow believes that Washington deliberately raises this issue in New York, since it is easier to manipulate political slogans in the UN General Assembly than in Geneva, where the focus is on "human rights", and where specific and genuine proposals would be required.

"The United States often talks about human rights issues on the New York site. Moscow advocates for discussing human rights on a specially created for this site - in Geneva. Of course, reforming the membership of the UN Human Rights Council should be discussed in Geneva. However, Moscow opposes unilateral restrictions on members of the council. It is possible to reform the structure, but it is not right to exclude members unilaterally and for purely political reasons," a Russian diplomatic source told Izvestia.

First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Committee Council on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov also believes that reforming the UN Human Rights Council should be debated in Geneva, and all of the organization’s members should participate in the talks.

He told the newspaper that such issues cannot be resolved without the UN Security Council, since "it actually stands above the General Assembly."


Kommersant: Bulgaria talks gas routes with Gazprom

Bulgaria, which risks losing revenues from the transit of Russian gas once the Turkish Stream gas pipeline is up and running after 2020, continues to push for including its territory in a route for a potential extension of the new pipeline. According to Kommersant, Sofia is displaying loyalty to Gazprom, but so far, no agreement has been reached. Moscow has repeatedly demanded Brussels approve these projects. According to experts interviewed by the newspaper, the final decision on the gas pipeline will not be motivated by economics, but rather by politics.

Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller held talks with Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova. According to Gazprom, Russia's gas supplies to Bulgaria, as well as transit through the country within the Turkish project, were discussed. Kommersant’s sources say that no specific agreements had been clinched, and right now Russia and Bulgaria are working on gas deals that they had reached earlier.

Currently, Russian gas goes to Bulgaria via Ukraine and Romania and continues on to Turkey along the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline. However, if the second leg of Turkish Stream also goes to Turkey, Bulgaria would lose the entire volume of gas transit and would become only a consumer, the newspaper wrote.

Vyacheslav Mishchenko, Head of Argus Media, told the newspaper that during negotiations, Gazprom was confident that the demand for its gas will remain high in Europe and that the issue of Turkish Stream’s final route was clearly political, given that from an economic viewpoint the most advantageous option is the current route through Ukraine. However, according to the expert, since it is likely that negotiations with Kiev on transit conditions after 2019 will not succeed, Gazprom should have alternative routes such as Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream. Moreover, gas agreements with various countries could turn out to be an effective pressure tool against Kiev, Mishchenko believes.


Izvestia: Greek airline to secure VIM-Avia airplanes to transport its passengers

Ellinair, a Greek airline, agreed to provide transportation to all VIM-Avia passengers, stuck in Greece, due to the Russian airline’s difficulties. The number of passengers sent from Moscow will reach around 1,000 people and over 3,500 people will be shuttled from Greece before October 15, according to Izvestia. Ellinair will use VIM-Avia’s planes and crews, commissioning aircraft on lease.

A source close to Ellinair's management told Izvestia that the Greek carrier would take three VIM-Avia airplanes to conduct this flight program on the so-called "wet lease" (leasing aircraft with crews). The Russian airline’s aircraft will start flying under the Ellinair flag from Moscow's Domodedovo airport, starting from Friday, September 29.

"Indeed, Russian planes with crews will be transferred on "wet lease" to the Greek Ellinair airline in accordance with its request. Thus, the Greek airline takes over all current operating expenses related to expenses for fuel and airport services along routes to Greece," Russian Federal Air Transport Agency said.

Moscow's Domodedovo airport told the newspaper that VIM-Avia's aircraft will be serviced according to the current agreement with Ellinair.

Earlier, the Greek carrier announced its readiness to transport VIM-Avia passengers at its own expense. A number of Russian airlines were also willing to transport passengers with VIM-Avia tickets within Russia. It was reported that 200 mln rubles ($3.45 mln) from the 2018 budget will be allocated to compensate airlines that will transport passengers on regular domestic routes. At the same time, bankrolling charter flights to transport tourists from abroad will be financed from extra-budgetary funds.


Vedomosti: FSB demands Telegram furnish decryption keys to user correspondence

Telegram, the instant messaging service, refused to furnish the Federal Security Service (FSB) with the information necessary to decode received, transmitted and delivered or processed electronic messages, Vedomosti wrote citing a statement by the service’s founder Pavel Durov. According to the newspaper, a subpoena on the administrative violation was drawn up for the messaging provider.

Durov told Vedomosti that he did not know if these administrative breaches could result in the service being blocked. "Lawyers told me that in theory I can face difficulties with leaving the Russian Federation after entry due to the consequences of such subpoenas," he noted.

The FSB sent a notification to the messenger that it had to comply with the requirements of the country's information law and provide the encryption keys by July 14. The company had to fulfill these requirements within five days, but as of the end of August, this requirement has not been fulfilled.

According to the Code of Administrative Offenses, the company could face a fine of up to 1 mln rubles ($17,282) for refusing to provide the FSB with the encryption keys.

In addition, the Russian Federal Internet Supervision Service could issue orders to the company to rectify the violation by paying a fine, with the time limit for it being 15 days. If the company fails to follow the orders once again, access to the service on Russian soil would be blocked within one day.

Earlier in June, Telegram was included in the register of information dissemination organizers. Those who entered the list for example must transfer information about users to law enforcement agencies. At the time, the government watchdog agency insisted that user data and correspondence would not be requested.

Earlier, a criminal case was opened against Durov in Iran. According to the messenger’s creator, "More than 40 million people use Telegram in Iran, and throughout all years of operation there we have not blocked any political channel and have not given the authorities a single byte of personal data."


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russian Civic Chamber seeks to protect youth from Western propaganda

The Russian Civic Chamber proposed creating an Internet platform to counter information attacks from the West, aimed primarily at Russia’s youth. Experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta suggest searching for "external enemies" should be avoided, but rather call for engaging in something realistic, like the patriotic upbringing of the younger generation.

According to the Civic Chamber, various Western institutions are conducting an active information war against Russia. According to Elena Sutormina, a member of the Commission for the Development of Public Diplomacy, cyberspace is behind the future, including political, "And we must be able to withstand challenges and threats."

A group of young journalists will work on the content of the future platform in close cooperation with the authorities. "They will publish explanations by officials on any Western fake news, Ministries and agencies will be able to refute any information disseminated by foreign sources on this site," Sutormina added.

At the same time, experts interviewed by the newspaper are skeptical of the initiative. According to Ilya Shablinsky, a member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, in fact, no one can limit or challenge Russia's sovereignty. "No pro-Western media can lure a crowd of young people out onto the streets. This is absurd," he told the newspaper.

According to him, "the protection of sovereignty" is usually used to conceal the desire to restrict ideological opposition, in the media and on the Internet. "The whole point of this campaign is to limit the rights of opponents of the authorities, and to discredit them by accusations of working for the West," he said.

"In terms of educational efforts with young people, the authorities took only timid steps. For example, no real steps are taken in terms of patriotic rhetoric," Head of the legal services of the Communist Party Vadim Solovyov told the newspaper. According to him, there is no Western influence as such, the increase of protest activity is not related to the "intrigues of foreign enemies", but primarily to the difficult social and economic situation in the country.


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