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Press review: What's behind Iran's unrest and Russia's military shows Windows the door

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday


Media: EU unlikely to win feud over Russia’s pork ban

The European Union’s chances of winning a dispute with Russia over its sanitary embargo on pork imports are very slim, experts told Izvestia on Tuesday. The EU has asked the World Trade Organization to slap trade sanctions on Moscow to the tune of 1.4 bln euros over its restrictions on pork imports. The restriction was imposed back in 2013 over African swine fever outbreaks in some EU countries, and was lifted in December last year.

Russia plans to convene a new panel of WTO arbitrators to settle the feud, Maxim Medvedkov, Director of the Department of Trade Negotiations at the Russian Economic Development Ministry, told the paper.

Yury Kovalev, Director General of the National Union of Swine Breeders, said the EU’s claim is just a means to get compensation for the losses its member-states suffered from Russia’s counter sanctions.

"It is impossible to challenge the sanctions under the pretext of sanitary restrictions. At the same time, there is direct evidence that our country has fulfilled demands by allowing the imports of clean-bred live pigs. Since the ban was lifted in early December, the first contracts on their purchase for Russia are already being carried out," he said.

Meanwhile, Sergey Afontsev, who heads the Department of Economic Theory at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Kommersant business daily that Russia could be forced to compensate EU companies for their losses, if Brussels proves that the restrictions, which were in place for seven months (since they were imposed by Russia’s veterinary watchdog until the adoption of counter sanctions), were illegal.

The European Commission is planning to revoke certain preferences, but there is also the risk that the sum may exceed that of the inflicted damage, the expert warned. In August 2014, the supplies were limited by the food embargo that, like the EU sanctions, was imposed due to national security reasons, and this is "a solid argument" for the WTO that no one has ever managed to challenge, Afontsev noted.


Kommersant: Islamic revolution sapping Iranian economy

Tehran is taking urgent measures to restore control over the situation after massive demonstrations swept the country in the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. Amid the statements on the arrests of the protests’ organizers and an exposed plot by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, rallies in support of the authorities are being held across the country. However, experts in the Middle East interviewed by Kommersant are skeptical about the authorities’ claims of "foreign interference." They say the real reasons behind the destabilization had been social and economic policy failures and mounting discontent with providing support to outside forces loyal to Tehran that may end up costing Iran significant financial, political and image losses.

Marwan Kabalan from the Doha-based Institute for Graduate Studies said initially Iran’s conservatives hoped to use the protests to weaken the positions of the reformist government of Hassan Rouhani, who had initiated unpopular measures. However, they failed to take control of the protests as the demonstrators chanted political slogans slamming the Islamic regime.

""The theory on Saudi meddling does not seem to hold water. Certainly, any destabilization in Iran plays into the hands of Riyadh, but Saudi Arabia today is engulfed by its own domestic problems and its politicians are clearly not obsessed with taking advantage of Iran’s unrest," Kabalan said.

Hugh Miles, editor-in-chief of a regional website Arab Digest, shares the opinion. "The demonstrations drew those Iranians who were tired of the social and economic situation and the theocratic authorities," he told the paper. "Iranians are more often wondering why their government is spending so much funds on risky foreign undertakings such as supporting the Lebanese Hezbollah group instead of earmarking money to meet the needs of its own citizens."


Izvestia: Russian military closes its Windows, moves to domestic made software

Russia’s Defense Ministry has decided to start using a domestic computer operating system called Astra Linux instead of Microsoft, Izvestia writes. A Moscow-based company, known as RusBitTech created the Astra Linux system.

The ministry plans to use the expanded version with a built-in office suite, Astra Linux Special Edition, for its work computers. At the next stage, the new system will be installed on special service smartphones and tablets.

If the new operating system lives up to the military’s demands, it will be installed on all of the defense ministry’s computers, thereby becoming the basis for automated control systems and workplaces, servers and on-board military equipment.

"A key feature of Astra Linux Special Edition is a unique system of information protection," the company’s Deputy Director Dmitry Donskoy said. The system is fully compatible with Russia’s modern computers and works with hi-tech domestic microprocessors such as Elbrus, Baikal-T1 and Komdiv. They are the ‘core’ of cutting-edge supercomputers.

Astra Linux has been used by the Russian Armed Forces for several years, including for the information system of the Russian National Defense Control Center.

Earlier, the Pentagon also announced plans to switch to an operation system based on Linux citing security reasons. The decision was made on the heels of a hacker attack on the system controlling the US Air Force’s unmanned aerial vehicles that uses Windows, the paper says.


RBC: Experts predict Russia will see rising car sales in 2018

Sales of new cars and light commercial vehicles (LCVs) in Russia will grow in 2018, though there will be price hikes, analysts and car manufacturers forecast, according to RBC business daily. The drivers for growth will be state support and pent-up demand.

In fact, sales may climb as high as 12% to 1.8 million vehicles, said Alexander Ryapukhin, an EY automobile sector analyst covering the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

KPMG, a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and consulting services, has made a more modest forecast saying that growth would reach 3-5%. Partner at NEO Center consulting group Alexander Raksha notes that the market is developing by leaps and bounds and the growth may reach as high as 17% by the year-end.

Starting from 2013, after a surge in sales in 2010-2012, the domestic car market began to shrink. When the recession peaked in 2015, sales dropped 35.7%. During the four-year-long crisis, the Russian car market saw a decline of over 50% the paper says. In May 2017, the market grew 14.7% for the first time since the beginning of the crisis.

Kommersant: First batch of gas from Yamal LNG to reach US

Gazprom’s long-held dream of exporting liquefied natural gas to the United States may come true, but not the way the Russian energy giant had expected in 2005, Kommersant business daily writes on Tuesday.

There were expectations that America would become a major importer of LNG, given the deficit of fuel its market had faced up to 2007.

France’s Engie will supply to Boston the LNG cargo from the United Kingdom, which had been delivered there from the Yamal LNG project of Russian natural gas producer Novatek, sources among traders told the paper. The reason for this strange deal is a surge in gas prices in the US, due to the ‘bomb cyclone’ snowstorm that paralyzed the east coast bringing bitter cold temperatures. As a result, prices skyrocketed to $6,300 per 1,000 cubic meters.

The LNG tanker Gaselys is scheduled to arrive in Boston on January 22. The supplies conflict with the strategy of developing the US market, which envisages turning America into a major LNG exporter, the paper says. The deal does not signal a new trend, but shows that the gas market is really becoming global.

Gazprom had put high hopes on delivering Russian gas to the United States. There were expectations that America could become a major importer of LNG given the deficit of fuel on its market prior to 2007. The Russian energy giant had planned to deliver gas to the United States from the Shtokman field but the US shale revolution thwarted these plans, the paper says.


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