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Press review: Serbia rejects Russian sanctions and Asian smart money to flow to Russia

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, November 13


Izvestia: Serbia seeks to join EU but won’t back anti-Russia sanctions

Serbia wants to maintain friendly relations with all countries and expects similar reciprocity, while it has no intention of joining the Western-imposed anti-Russia sanctions bandwagon, the country’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said in an interview with Izvestia daily. "Serbia considers both the United States and Britain to be friendly countries, though we cannot view their moves as friendly actions. Two years ago Britain proposed a draft resolution, which accused the Serbian people of genocide without informing Serbia about it, and Russia was the only state to veto the resolution," he said. "Ten days ago, Britain proposed to cancel regular UN Security Council sessions on Kosovo and Metohija and recommended replacing them with closed consultations, again failing to inform Serbia. The US was quick to support the position, while Russia and China opposed it, the minister said, adding that Serbia "is eager to maintain a good partnership with all (countries - TASS), though it expects the other side to be ready for it."

"Both President Vucic and I consider Russia to be a true friend of Serbia and will further work to step up cooperation on all levels – political and particularly economic. We are really grateful for Russia’s support both in the United Nations and on other global platforms, and we are also grateful for (Russia) supporting Serbia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty," Dacic told the newspaper. However, he admitted that given the climate of anti-Russia hysteria, western countries are turning up the heat on Serbia due to Moscow’s influence in the region. Nevertheless, he rejected assumptions that the country might get on board the anti-Russia sanctions campaign. “We want to maintain full-fledged cooperation and friendly ties with Russia in the political and economic arena, in science, culture, education, as well as on issues related to defense, security and military production, and we will do it further don the road. That is why Serbia will stick to its policy and will not join the European sanctions against Russia. Moreover, we hope and want the anti-Russia sanctions to be lifted as soon as possible," the minister said. "Of course, we face the ramifications of our decision, as Serbia is seeking to join the European Union, but we will never go against our own national interests and will never impose sanctions against friends," he added.

These double standards have resulted in a paradoxical situation when "subsidiaries from Russia, which have been registered and have operations in Serbia were put on the sanctions list, while subsidiaries of Russian firms registered in the European Union were not restricted," Dacic pointed out. According to the top diplomat, "the Russian Federation is a reliable and traditional friend of Serbia. Besides, it is one of the most important economic partners and markets for Serbian goods. Our relations are based on mutual respect, trust and continued support that Russia provides to Serbia," he said, adding that “the Serbian government firmly intends to expand political and economic relations with all states that strive to do so, on the basis of equality and mutual respect.”


Izvestia: Russia to sign deal on mutual recognition of education with six countries

Moscow will sign agreements on mutual recognition of school education, diplomas and degrees with Spain, Angola, Nicaragua, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Eritrea in 2018, Izvestia says. Director of Russia’s Main State Center for Education Evaluation Vera Skorobogatova told the newspaper that draft projects have already been endorsed by all sides. Also, similar agreements are being developed with Hungary and Poland, and respective agreements may be inked in the near future. The deal assumes that universities and employers of those countries recognize diplomas and certificates without additional confirmations. Previously, Russia inked similar agreements with Serbia in 2015, with France and Italy in 2016, and with Malta in early 2017.

The Bologna Process particularly facilitates reaching agreements on education recognition with European countries. It assumes that the participating states harmonize their educations systems, adjusting them to those used in western countries. Russia joined the process in 2003. By making such agreements, Moscow first of all expects an inflow of foreign students. The plan is to triple the number of international students in local universities by 2025, the newspaper says. Angola, India and Malaysia are among priority countries, which may see such agreements made in the future.


Kommersant: Russia eyes AI to root out red tape and corruption in legal system

The Russian government is considering a proposal to digitalize policymaking and the legal system, Kommersant writes on Monday. Director of the government’s project management department Andrey Slepnev has addressed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev proposing a set of measures aimed at the digitalization of the country’s legal system. "Russia’s weak legal and justice system is one of the main obstacles to investment and economic growth," Slepnev wrote in a letter submitted to the premier. He suggested that such issues as non-transparent and excessive regulation, potentially contradictory interpretations of legal norms, overextended periods of case considerations and corruption should be tackled using cutting-edge technology, first of all artificial intelligence.

The initial stage is to reveal "obsolete, non-operating, as well as inefficient and perplexing norms" in legal and law enforcement acts, after which "electronic codes" and "consolidated regulatory documents" will be created following the experience of France, the newspaper says. The third stage envisions the creation of an automated support system for legal decisions based on artificial intelligence. Simultaneously, a risk management system should be developed for computer-aided analysis of court decisions concerning mistakes and corruption.

A source close to Russia’s Justice Ministry told Kommersant that "in its initiative the project management department is trying to sow the French system on Russian soil." He added that codification of numerous subordinate acts was discussed at the international legal forum in St. Petersburg. "However, it is hardly possible to apply the French system in its pure form in Russia as the whole decision-making process must be totally overhauled," the source said. Nevertheless, Russia’s Justice Ministry has positively viewed the plan to use artificial intelligence in policymaking.

According to the source, at least it will help avoid grammar mistakes, overlapping provisions of other acts and prevent corruption.


RBC: China’s Alibaba, major Russian electronics retailer hash over joint venture

Russia's largest consumer electronics retailer and China’s Alibaba Group are discussing various partnership options, RBC writes citing sources familiar with Alibaba’s negotiations with co-owners and top management from the Russian retailer. Alibaba’s equity participation in and a joint venture are among possible options, the newspaper says. One of sources told RBC that Alibaba is interested in taking a controlling stake in the Russian company. Another source close to one of the parties said that "no final arrangement on potential cooperation" has been reached yet, adding that the potential deal may affect the entire Russian group, which includes the and Eldorado chains. More to the point, the key term is that all investment should be spent on developing joint ventures in Russia, "not on shareholders cashing-out."

Currently, the Safmar Group owned by Russian businessman Mikhail Gutseriev holds a 57.7% stake in, with the remaining shares being in free float on the Moscow Stock Exchange. The company’s capitalization amounted to 74.95 bln rubles ($1.2 bln) as of the end of last week, RBC writes. One of its sources said that Russia is the only country where Alibaba Group wants to develop its offline business. In China, the company manages the Hema chain of retail outlets, which sell food products, ready-to-eat food, and where orders from Alibaba online stores are delivered. "The Chinese are mulling expanding into Russia mainly through a partnership with a strong local player," one of the sources told the newspaper. As reported earlier Russia’s top lender Sberbank was discussing the option to set up a joint venture with the Chinese retail giant, though the transaction has not been implemented.

President of Russia’s Association of Internet Trade Companies (AITC) Alexey Fedorov is optimistic about the potential deal between and Alibaba, which he thinks will allow Russian customers to order goods from the Russian retailer and get them from Chinese warehouses avoiding customs fee payments. In its turn, Alibaba will be able to sell electronic devices in Safmar’s chains, which were previously impossible to send from China. If the companies manage to establish a successful internet trade, will fully get rid of retail outlets in Russia and of tax payments, respectively, he added.


Vedomosti: South Korean movie theater chain to tap 40% of Russian market

CJ CGV, South Korea’s largest multiplex cinema chain and the world’s fifth largest multiplex theater company, which also has branches in Turkey, Vietnam and other countries, is seeking to tap at least 40% of the Russian market, the company’s executive vice president Bret Kim told Russia’s Vedomosti business daily. "We have been exploring Russia for several years, we have had meetings and discussions with many people, and I can say that we haven’t come to Russia to operate only 33 cinemas, regarding which we have already reached agreements. We plan to operate 150-220 cinemas to become the biggest market player," he said.

The company vice president views Russia as a market with gigantic potential. "Several years ago it was the fifth-or the sixth-biggest market in terms of box office receipts, and even now after the ruble’s sharp decline, it is still the 15th (biggest), so we like your market very much," Kim told the publication, though refusing to reveal any investment or other such plans. He added that there are too many Hollywood films flooding the Russian market, yet an increase in the share of locally-made movies could bring more crowds to cinemas. "As in the case of other countries I know that the budget of Hollywood blockbusters will always be 10-20 times higher than that of national films. But this does not dwarf the rise in the share of locally-made content, one just has to shoot good movies," he explained.

CJ CGV operates in eight countries around the globe, including the largest cinema markets, the United States and China. The South Korean multiplex major was also the first global chain to enter the Russian market as they set up a joint venture with the local ADG Group developer last month. In 2014, ADG won sites for 39 cinemas in an auction organized by the Moscow government. The plan is to construct cinemas on 33 such sites. The cinema chain controls 70% of the joint venture and will manage film theatres.


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