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Press Review: Kurdish federalization plan for Syria and Rostec in US sanctions’ crosshairs

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Syria’s Kurdish project gets off the ground

The Congress of Syrian people is expected to discuss the Kurdish federalization plan for the Arab republic, Kurdish Democratic Union Party envoy to Moscow, Abd Salam Ali, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Tuesday. He said the Congress would host a dialogue on the fate of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (previously known as Rojava), which was unilaterally declared by the Syrian Kurds in spring 2016. Preliminary consultations on the Congress may already take place in mid-November at the Russian Hmeimim base in Latakia.

"We are ready for this. It is time for Bashar Assad to start talks," said the envoy for the party, which is considered as one of the major political forces in the country’s north. "The Kurds are not calling for independence. They are trying now to ensure the creation of a federated democratic republic as part of a united Syria," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the plans to hold the Congress during the Valdai International Discussion Club earlier this month. The function of this Congress will be to assist the Geneva talks, a representative of the Moscow group of Syria’s opposition, Qadri Jamil, told the paper. The Syrian Kurds must attend the Congress or otherwise the idea will lose its point.

Moscow’s representatives point out that it is too early to say if the Congress, which should bring together the representatives of all nationalities and religious denominations throughout Syria, will definitely be held in Hmeimim.

Lately, Damascus has toned down its rhetoric on the Kurds, which have been successfully battling the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia), the paper writes.

Russian experts note that the liberation of Raqqa from jihadists already raises the question on the future political climate in Syria. Turkish analysts say the Congress may help the Syrian Kurds to obtain legitimacy.


RBC: Russia’s Rostec comes into crosshairs of US sanctions

Washington has slapped new sanctions on Russia’s military-industrial complex, targeting deals on exporting Russian weapons around the world, RBC writes. Even inside Russia, any military deal may now serve as a reason for imposing sanctions. De facto, these are the new restrictions against Russia’s military and industrial sector and its special services. By threatening the contractors of Russian companies from the list, US authorities may disrupt the already concluded deals and the signing of future agreements.

Out of 39 organizations, 21 are already on the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons. Defense heavyweight Rostec and the enterprises it controls, including arms exporter Rosoboronexport, account for almost half of the organizations on the list, which may be further expanded.

The major difference in the newest round of sanctions is that they refer to any deals outside the United States. That means individuals, companies and state bodies in any country may be punished for "significant" transactions with Russian military-industrial companies and special services, the paper says.

"The aforementioned sanctions may be applied to any individual, even Russian companies. The application of these sanctions to companies from the EU and other US allies may complicate bilateral relations with the United States, and it is expected that they may be used against domestic Russian deals, which refer to the criteria of "significant" transactions," partner at the Debevoise & Plimpton LLP international legal firm in Moscow Alan Kartashkin said. This is similar to the Crimean embargo, imposed by former US President Barack Obama, according to the paper.

Russia is the second largest exporter of weapons after the US and the new sanctions are "a blow against a rival under the pretext of sanctions," PhD in Law and legal advisor Sergey Glandin explained. The US State Department earlier officially rejected this suggestion.

The new sanctions particularly threaten Russia’s deal on supplying S-400 missile systems to Turkey, which is a NATO member-state and formally a Washington ally. Other US allies, which import Russian military goods, are Afghanistan, Vietnam and India. Russia also supplies weapons to European members of NATO, although the sums of the deals are insignificant.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Turkey looking for Russia’s Achilles' heel

Russia’s Turkish Stream gas pipeline may turn into an instrument for blackmail, which Ankara may use to its advantage, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Turkey may demand that Russia lift its ban on the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which is set to bring Turkmenistan’s gas to Europe via Turkey. Russia has been opposing the construction of this pipeline for many years, as cheap Turkmen gas will undercut the revenues of Russian export projects both in Turkey and in Europe.

The Turkish authorities continue spinning intrigues, entering the game with several exporters, and apparently, Ankara seeks to work with suppliers to make them dependent on Turkey, using its favorite carrot and stick method, the paper writes.

"All factors show that there are high chances that Turkey is lobbying the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline. Turkish Stream is a convenient tool for pressuring Russia," Sergey Khestanov, an associate professor with the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, told the paper. "Turkey’s specific foreign policy style of the past years only confirms this scenario."

Meanwhile, Alexander Timofeyev, an associate professor at the Russian University of Economics, said the major threat for Russia now is Iran, which is boosting hydrocarbons extraction after international sanctions have been lifted. Turkey cannot guarantee now that Turkmenistan will supply gas to Europe, he explained.

Director of the VETA expert group Dmitry Zharsky said the Turkmen gas is already creating hurdles for Russia, but on Asian rather than on European markets.

Izvestia: Russia’s Vostochny spaceport to conduct second launch with foreign satellites

Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome will launch 17 foreign satellites into orbit for the first time. The second launch from the new facility in the Far East is scheduled for November 28, Izvestia writes. Russia’s Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket with the Meteor spacecraft from the Natural Resources Ministry will launch into space US, Canadian, German, Japanese and Swedish micro-and nanosatellites, the press service of the Glavkosmos company, the major operator of all commercial launches, told the paper.

Vostochny has become Russia’s third spaceport carrying out international launches. At present, satellites take off into space from Baikonur and Plesetsk.

Glavkosmos has not unveiled the price tag for the launches, saying this is a commercial secret, but according to open source data, putting 1 kg of cargo into the orbit costs $10,000. The lightest satellite D-Star One, used for amateur radio, weighs just 3 kg, while the heaviest satellite, LEO Vantage for low orbit communications weighs 70 kg. The Russian spaceport will launch a total of 17 satellites, including the LEO Vantage and AISSat-3 (Canada), IDEA (Japan), SEAM (Sweden), two Landmapper-BC and 10 LEMUR (the US), and D-Star One (Germany).

According to Andrey Ionin, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, initially Vostochny was devised as a commercial spaceport to attract foreign customers. Russia should implement joint projects with the countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS and the Asia-Pacific Region, he said.

Vitaly Yegorov, an independent expert in cosmonautics, said Russia has been enhancing its market positions for launching small spacecraft. Research Adviser of the Space Policy Institute Ivan Moiseyev expects a major surge in the launches of micro-and nanosatellites in the coming decade.


Izvestia: Russia moves closer to lifting visa requirements for Georgians

Moscow is not ruling out that visa requirements may be lifted for Georgia in the future on a reciprocal basis, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Izvestia. However, it is too early to speak about any timeframe since there are still many obstacles, the diplomat said. The major stumbling block here is the lack of diplomatic relations, which were severed at the initiative of Tbilisi, he noted.

The Russian diplomat recalled that over the past years, Moscow has significantly liberalized the visa system with Georgia. Russia continues easing visa requirements for Georgians and putting forward mutually beneficial initiatives. Russia has sent its proposals to its colleagues in Tbilisi on lifting visa requirements for air crews.

"I hope that by my next meeting with the Georgian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy, Zurab Abashidze, due in mid-November, we will get a response," he said.

Last year, the number of visas issued by the Russian Interest Section in Tbilisi almost doubled to 40,000. "This year, the figure is expected to be even higher," Karasin stressed.

Abashidze confirmed that the sides are scheduled to meet on November 15-16 in the Czech capital of Prague to discuss the visa issue, including Russia’s proposal. The Georgian envoy recalled that Tbilisi lifted visa requirements for Russians in 2011. Since then, some 1 mln Russian tourists have visited Georgia every year.

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