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Press review: Russia may slap sanctions on WADA and EU divided on 'Russian threat'

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, January 18

RBC: Russian senators confirm sanctions may be imposed against WADA officials for 2018 Olympics ban

Russia’s Federation Council lawmakers have come up with a preliminary list of those responsible for barring the country’s national team from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, and who will therefore face restrictions from Moscow after the end of competitions in South Korea, RBC writes on Thursday with reference to sources in the upper house of parliament. The President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Sir Craig Reedie, the US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the head of the WADA Commission investigating Sochi Olympics doping accusations Richard McLaren, commission member Richard Young and Chief Investigator Martin Dubbey are on the blacklist, the paper says. It also confirmed earlier reports that the preliminary list includes around ten people. Once the list is approved, the Federation Council will turn to the Internal Affairs Ministry to restrict entry to the Russia Federation for those people, one of the sources said, while the second did not rule out even wider sanctions against foreign officials. "This depends on their involvement in the situation related to barring our athletes," he said, adding that "strictly individual" decisions would be made against each of them.

In December 2017, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee ruled to allow only Russia’s clean athletes to take part in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea under the status of neutral athletes, while the country’s national squad was officially barred from participating in the upcoming Games over multiple doping abuse allegations. This followed the release of a report by Richard McLaren, which summed up the results of an investigation into the alleged violations of anti-doping rules during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

Earlier this week Izvestia wrote with reference to the head of the Federation Council's Commission on Protection of State Sovereignty Andrey Klimov that senators are hammering out personal sanctions against WADA officials, including criminal cases opened, and restrictions on entry to the country. In an interview with RBC Klimov said that "many international sports officials are under enormous pressure, both psychological, information, material and legal in certain cases." "This pressure is being put by known persons and organizations, which are related to special services and other organizations involved in activities against Russia," he added.

Yevgeny Minchenko, a political scientist and head of Minchenko Consulting, considers the decision on personal sanctions in question to be in line with the general logic of worsening relations between Russia and western countries. However, Moscow would better not be at loggerheads with global sports organizations, since there are still international competitions ahead, primarily the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, he told RBC.


Kommersant: Russia to change basic border policy

The draft presidential decree on the state border policy, released by Russia’s Federal Security Service earlier this week, clarifies the country’s national interests and substantially increases the list of potential threats, Kommersant says. The draft decree, which is an amendment of the document approved by first President Boris Yeltsin in 1996, focuses on a new geopolitical situation, where Russia is exposed to international terrorism and separatism, and implications of destabilization in border areas.

External factors are forcing Russia to change the tactics both in the legal and socio-political sense, since the country fears territorial claims "by a number of foreign states" and attempted infiltration of the country by terrorists and extremists, the document explains. Also, there are "pockets of socio-political and military tensions" in the vicinity of its borders, which means risks of incidents in the area, as well as persisting factors of political destabilization due to unresolved social and economic issues, religious and ethnical factors and separatist exertions. The Federal Security Service also warns of risks of economic and demographic expansion for certain regions "due to low population density and the level of social and economic development, as well as transport isolation."

A source among heads of one of the federal agencies told Kommersant that the new decree is first of all aimed at mainstreaming Russia’s border policy "amid principally new geopolitical challenges." It "may still be amended," but in any case, it is likely to be adopted before the presidential election in March, the source said. According to Victor Zavarzin, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee, "sensitive problems and new issues (have emerged - TASS), that should be added to the document." Russia is the main target of negative impact of "global terrorism and trans-border criminals," that are rising due to unstable domestic environment in other countries," he said, adding that Moscow "should demonstrate inviolability of borders due to the situation in Syria and Ukraine."

Alexei Chepa, an MP of the Russian State Duma, considers the document to be "very relevant," saying that "it should even have been adopted earlier." First deputy chairman of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, Vladimir Djabarov, adds that in 1996 people "lived in the post-Soviet space," with ties to special services and border agencies of neighboring countries, particularly CIS-members, which remained strong. However, since then the situation has got more complicated: "The Ukrainian border has become dangerous, global terrorism has fortified," he told the newspaper.


Vedomosti: Germany upholds Russia’s Nord Stream 2 project

Germany has submitted legal findings on draft amendments to the Gas Directive to the European Commission, which claim that the EC has failed to demonstrate any explanations or clear arguments showing how the proposals can help the Energy Union reach its goals, Vedomosti writes citing a European official. Moreover, the amendments are unnecessary, since the European legislation fully covers the companies and infrastructure connected with offshore pipelines on EU territory, the document obtained by the paper says. This makes the initiative to expand the requirements to split supplies and transit providers or access of third parties to pipelines importing gas to Europe unreasonable, the document notes. Germany considers the proposals to be unacceptable, "both from the viewpoint of European and international law."

The European Commission approved amendments to the EU Gas Directive and presented them in November. The amendments imply that the EU's Third Energy Package, stipulating that all gas pipelines running through the EU’s territory should meet the European regulation, should be applied to the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project. In particular, it obliged the operator of the pipeline to pump gas from producers independent of Gazprom. At the moment, the provisions of the Third Energy Package do not apply to Nord Stream 2, since the gas pipeline is entirely outside of the European Union.

If the amendments are still adopted by higher European authorities before the completion of the pipeline’s construction, an exception should be made for Gazprom, similar to those made for already existing gas projects, Germany claims. The country is also concerned that the new bill creates the background for obtaining exclusive rights to regulate domestic gas markets by the European Commission, Vedomosti says. Alexey Grivach, Deputy Director of Russia’s National Energy Security Fund, told the publication that Germany is mainly protecting its own interests, and in a wider sense - those of the broader European market. The pipeline, which is set to run from the Russian coast along the Baltic Sea bed to the German shore, will ensure gas supplies to the EU, support competitiveness and trigger the development of infrastructure on market principles, he said, adding that what the European Commission is trying to do is to create additional barriers for the project in order to expand its own authorities and force its will on national governments in the energy sector.


Izvestia: Iran will not allow changes in JCPOA deal on its nuclear program

Iran will never acknowledge any changes in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) for its nuclear program, Izvestia writes with reference to a representative of the country’s embassy in Moscow. If Washington quits the deal, Tehran will follow suit, he added. This comes after US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticized the agreement reached between Iran and six international mediators (the United Kingdom, Germany, China, Russia, the United States, and France) on July 14, 2015, announced plans to amend the deal, or even quit it. The US leader said he had decided to waive nuclear sanctions against Iran "in order to secure the European allies' agreement to fix "the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal."

"The JCPOA is a respected international document, which in no case is subject to additional discussions. We openly insist that we will not undertake any actions beyond the scope of our JCPOA obligations and will not acknowledge any amendments to the document neither now nor in the future. And we will not welcome any attempts to tie the JCPOA with any other issue," the Iranian diplomat said, adding that "the US government would be responsible for consequences of any actions intending to break this international agreement." A high-ranked source in the Iranian government told the newspaper that Tehran would follow suit if Washington indeed quits the deal. "Of course Iran can quit the JCPOA agreement. If one of the sides, for example the United States, does it, Tehran will take similar decisions," he said.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this week that he views potential changes to Europe’s attitude on the future of Iran’s nuclear program to be dangerous. Under the deal, Iran undertakes curbing its nuclear activities and places them under the total control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in exchange for the lifting of the sanctions previously imposed by the United Nations Security Council, the European Union and the United States over its nuclear program. After Tehran had implemented its part of the deal, which was confirmed during IAEA’s inspection trips, on January 16, 2016, President Barack Obama’s administration lifted the sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program. Nevertheless, many other restrictions, for instance on Iranian ballistic missiles, remained in place. On October 13, 2017, current US President Donald Trump refused to confirm Iran was implementing the nuclear deal.


Kommersant: EU lawmakers split on ‘Russian threat’

As participants of the debates devoted to Russia’s influence on the EU countries in the European Parliament on Wednesday seemed to lack a common view on the issue, experts do not expect the European Union to expand anti-Russia sanctions so far, Kommersant writes. Some European lawmakers assume that Moscow is holding a very efficient "disinformation campaign" in Europe, which makes the EU double its efforts to tackle Russia as it risks losing the fight otherwise, while others accuse Brussels of putting pressure on the freedom of speech and "paranoid delusions", the newspaper writes. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov who participated in Wednesday’s debates, called for the normalization of relations with Russia, saying that assistance from all EU countries is required.

Both political experts and businessmen interviewed by Kommersant say that new waves of economic tensions between Russia and the West will only restrict ways of solving the conflict. Georg Zachmann, a research fellow at Bruegel, a Brussels-based economic policy think-tank, is one of those who do not expect new rounds of economic sanctions against Moscow. "Taking into account economic risks, I don’t think the Europeans will tighten sanctions, particularly as the intensity of political contradictions between the EU and Russia has considerably dropped since 2014," he told the paper.

The European Union first imposed sanctions on Moscow in 2014 over developments in Ukraine and Crimea’s reunification with Russia and has repeatedly extended them. Talks on a visa-free regime and a new framework cooperation agreement were suspended, a ban was imposed on entry to the EU member-countries for Russian officials and their assets were frozen. Restrictive trade, financial and military measures were put in place. A total of 151 individuals and 37 legal entities were added to the sanctions lists. Sectoral sanctions against 20 Russian financial, oil and defense companies have been in effect. Russia responded by limiting the imports of goods from the countries that imposed sanctions.


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