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Press review: Moscow saves Maduro and what Baghdad plans for Kirkuk

Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, October 4
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Mikhail Metzel/TASS
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro
© Mikhail Metzel/TASS


Izvestia: Iraq's Kirkuk may be facing military scenario

Baghdad is not ruling out a military operation to return the disputed territories, including the oil-rich Kirkuk Governorate in northern Iraq, which is currently under control of the Kurds, Saad Al-Hadithi, an official spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, told Izvestia. The government of Iraqi Kurdistan told the paper that this decision does not contribute to overcoming differences. The conflict over the disputed region deteriorated after the September referendum on Kurdistan’s independence, backed by 93% of voters.

Iraq’s plans to regain control over the disputed area will be supported by a number of neighboring countries, first of all where the Kurds live, Izvestia writes. Syria earlier opposed the referendum, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed the Iraqi Kurd authorities would pay a steep price. Iran announced plans to hold joint drills with Baghdad along the autonomous Iraqi region’s borders. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier openly endorsed the Kurdish referendum. The United States, which is considered to be one of the major allies of the Kurds, is likely to back Tel Aviv, the paper says.

Assistant professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities, Sergey Seregichev, doubted that the conflict would slide into a "hot phase." "After the referendum, the Iraqi authorities have no choice but to respond to what is going on in the region. In a certain sense, this is a game aimed for the domestic audience. But the major problem is the combat capacity of the Iraqi army, which is insignificant, despite even its experience in Mosul. Besides, the Kurds fight very well in areas they populate. Kirkuk is such a case," he emphasized.

According to the expert, external factors also play a role: both Baghdad and Erbil will make every effort to encourage Kirkuk to hold talks and search for a mutually acceptable solution.


Vedomosti: Rosneft’s oil output may see 25% surge

Russia’s Rosneft oil company may increase its oil and gas output by a quarter or 1.3 mln barrels of oil equivalent in the coming five years thanks to its efforts in developing its current deposits, Vedomosti writes referring to Russia’s Renaissance Capital investment banking firm. This year, the company’s hydrocarbon production will reach almost 260 mln tonnes of oil equivalent, and in 2021 that figure will come to 325 mln tonnes. The increase is equal to the current production of ConocoPhillips Co., an American multinational energy corporation, analysts say. Rosneft has not unveiled its output strategy for the next few years, the paper writes.

The major surge in Rosneft’s output in 2017 will be due to its new deposits and their launch should result in cutting the prime cost of oil production, experts note.

Over the past six years, Rosneft has spent some $90 bln on purchasing assets, Renaissance Capital says. The state-owned company acquired TNK-BP, Inter, Bashneft and Essar Oil. Over the same period, the company has invested $45.3 bln in developing its deposits, manager at GL Asset Management Sergey Vakhrameyev said.

Rosneft has opportunities to increase its hydrocarbon output, noted Alexander Kornilov, an analyst at Russia’s independent investment group Aton. A lot depends on whether the OPEC+ deal on cutting oil output is extended, the expert said.

Vakhrameyev said the 15% growth figure may be expected, while 25% is a very ambitious target.

Another issue is the company’s markets for supplying hydrocarbons. Most likely, China, India and other countries of the Asia-Pacific Region would be potential markets. Here, the company may face competition from Persian Gulf oil producers, the expert pointed out.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia keeps debt-laden Venezuela afloat

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is arriving in Moscow on Wednesday. While the formal reason for the visit is his participation in the Russian Energy Week-2017 forum, Maduro’s real goal is to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Nezavisimaya Gazeta says.

The Venezuelan leader needs to make sure that Moscow won’t let down its strategic partner in the Western hemisphere amid the bellicose rhetoric of US President Donald Trump. Russia has been using all means to help Caracas stay afloat, the paper writes. Most recently, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the Latin American country’s authorities had asked Russia to restructure their debt. "We will do that ourselves and as part of the Paris Club," the minister said.

Venezuela’s debt, estimated at $2.8 bln, should be paid off in October, but this is only the tip of the iceberg, the paper writes. According to Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, the debt amounts to $8.8 bln. The Kremlin is not counting on being repaid. The debt arises from the rule of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who got ‘hooked on Russian armaments,’ the paper points out.

Russia views Venezuela as an important stronghold on the continent amid the standoff with Washington. So by rescuing Maduro’s bankrupt regime, Russia is pursuing its own geopolitical goals, the paper writes. However, the situation may drastically change and in order to strengthen its positions, Moscow needs to establish contacts with Venezuela’s opposition, following the example of China.


Izvestia: Russia opening doors for South Korean companies

The new free trade zone between the Eurasian Economic Union and South Korea will be created not only for preferential trade in goods but also for mutual investments in the countries’ economies. The new conditions will come into effect no sooner than 2019, Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) Trade Minister Veronika Nikishina told Izvestia. The idea is to fast-track localization of production, and create joint ventures. However, the establishment of a free trade zone only for commerce won’t meet the EAEU’s interests because in this case its market would seriously suffer, especially due to the imports of South Korean cars, the federal official explained. Experts note that this arrangement would be one-sided as Russian companies are not interested in localization on the soil of the East Asian nation.

Russian IT-companies actively sell services to South Korean state structures, and if the free trade zone is created, some benefits for them could be introduced, Director General of the Research Center for International Trade and Economic Integration (ITI) Vladimir Salamatov said.

"We are interested in the localization of production by the South Korean companies as this country is among the technological leaders," he said.

Russia’s key goal should be increasing its exports to South Korea, as it has nothing to localize there, said Alisen Alisenov, assistant professor at the economic and social sciences department of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA).


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Ex-minister says Trump’s cultural-educational exchange ban is political ploy

Last weekend, US President Donald Trump extended a ban for another year on financing cultural and educational exchanges with Russia and some other countries, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes.

Trump’s ban is "first of all a political gesture signaling that any solution to all of the problems accrued in Russian-US relations in culture, education and science has been postponed for indefinite time. I can surely say: even those in which our US partners are certainly interested," former Russian Minister of Culture Mikhail Shvydkoy wrote in an article titled "Goodbye America" published by the paper on Wednesday.

Previously, this order was signed by President Barack Obama in 2016 and was based on the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act. "Apparently, in 2014, Barack Obama decided to curtail humanitarian contacts with this country, and they could not find a better legal foundation for this move," Shvydkoy explained.

"Throughout the entire history of Russian-US diplomatic relations cultural and educational ties have been considered something akin to a "sacred cow." We have tried to maintain them under any political climate," the ex-minister noted.

The biggest US museums say they are suffering serious losses due to the impossibility of carrying out exchanges with their Russian colleagues, he said. Russia stopped sending its pieces of art from state museums after the notorious decision on the Schneerson collection.

"For resuming exchanges, real guarantees by the US government are needed, and therefore we have to look for new legal solutions," the former culture minister said. "But today it is evident that the US government is not going to deal with these issues despite the demands of US museum representatives."


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