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Press review: Lavrov blasts West’s Russophobia and Turkey launches assault on Syrian Kurds

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, January 22


Izvestia: Upper house invites more than 150 foreign MPs to observe Russian presidential election

The State Duma (lower house of parliament) has invited lawmakers from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa to visit Russia in March 2018 to observe the presidential election, Izvestia writes on Monday. Foreign lawmakers will work alongside representatives of international organizations, three sources in Russia’s parliamentary circles told the newspaper. "Various politicians are expected - leftists, rightists and centrists. They will be observing the election process in all regions of the country, including Crimea where around ten MPs will go. The State Duma has prepared invitations for almost 150 legislators," one of the sources said. A source in the Duma’s Committee for Foreign Affairs confirmed the information to Izvestia, adding that the list of those invited is being constantly extended. Representatives of almost all EU member-states are on the list, among them: Austria, Germany, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Finland, France, the Czech Republic, and others, the publications says. In addition, lawmakers from Brazil, Vietnam, Israel, India, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa and Japan are expected.

Chairman of the Duma’s Committee for Foreign Affairs Leonid Slutsky explains, "the invited observers will ensure an unbiased reflection of the presidential vote in the global information and political space." His deputy Alexey Chepa added that the idea to attend Russia’s election was initiated by foreign parliamentarians. "We welcome the motion. Russia’s election system is open, and we have nothing to hide," he said, adding that the observers "select the region they want to visit themselves." A source in Russia’s Central Election Commission (CEC) told Izvestia that the status of individual observers would give foreign lawmakers the same rights as representatives of global organizations, such as the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, or the ODIHR, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). "Those are not pro-Russian politicians, but people with election monitoring experience, qualified from a legislative point of view, and well-versed in voting technologies," he said.

Some visitors of those invited will attend ballot stations in Crimea. Crimean head Sergey Aksenov told the paper that the peninsula is ready to accept all international observers "able to furnish an unbiased assessment of the situation there and honestly send the information to the global public." "Let them arrive and monitor. This testifies to the positive changes in the public opinion and sentiment of some representatives of the political establishment, the fact that common sense is gradually returning to European policy," he said. The Central Election Commission said earlier that about 1,000 foreign observers are expected to monitor Russia’s March 18 presidential election. The mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which visited Russia last December, has decided to send a full-fledged mission of 80 long-term and 420 short-term observers to the Russian election. Long-term observers are due to arrive in Russia in early February.


Kommersant: Russia’s top diplomat notes West gripped by unprecedented Russophobia

Following a three-day trip to New York where he attended UN Security Council meetings, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has noted that Russophobic sentiment among western countries has hit unprecedented levels. "We have repeatedly claimed that we are not searching for confrontation. We also consider the sanctions ungrounded regarding their causes. As for their goals, they are also senseless since over the years that the sanctions have been in effect, their architects should have gotten the point that the sanctions cannot change the fair and efficient policy of the Russian Federation," he said in an interview with Kommersant. The top diplomat said that Moscow’s "independent and self-sufficient international policy based on national interests is cast in concrete under outer influence." "Nevertheless, being absolutely reluctant to fuel the spiraling confrontation, we cannot remain calm when attempts are being made to punish Russia using various methods, among them our (diplomatic) property, or the very sanctions themselves, or attempts to use sports. Many facts evidence that there exists a targeted campaign," the minister said, adding that the current anti-Russian sentiment "is indeed unprecedented, which was not even the case during the Cold War, as decency has been tossed aside."

Speaking particularly about Washington’s policy, Lavrov noted that Moscow has been putting hopes on recent statements by "certain Congressional members, diplomats, and (representatives) of US political circles, who acknowledge in private talks that the situation is absolutely abnormal and needs to be changed." "All say that those who had been trying to get us cornered were wrong, since it is evident that we cannot be isolated, it is enough to have a look at the schedules of meetings and trips of the Russian President, other government members to understand that isolation has failed," he told the paper. "They say that they understand they went too far, but suggest they we should take some step, so that they could say that Russia ‘has made progress’. This mindset cannot but feel that the US’ great-power mentality will fall short," Lavrov added.

Lavrov was asked about the recently adopted law on the Donbass reintegration by the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada), which labels the areas not controlled by Kiev ‘temporarily occupied territories’ and brands Russia as an ‘aggressor’. Russia’s top diplomat said that "from a legal point of view, it obviously crosses the Minsk accords," while Moscow is keen to “see that all agreements prescribed by the accords will be implemented.” "We will be defending the package, which is fair, and which was inked by President Poroshenko and the leaders of Donetsk and Lugansk," he added.


Kommersant: Turkey launches assault on Kurds in Afrin

The Olive Branch operation against Kurdish units around Afrin announced by Turkey’s General Staff over the weekend had to have been coordinated with Moscow, Kommersant says. "Turkey’s operation in Afrin could have only happened as a result of agreements with the Russian side, particularly taking into account the fact that the Turkish air force used the Syrian air space," head of the Islamic Research Center of the Institute of Innovative Development Kirill Semenov told the publication. "Moscow’s permission should have been obtained to avoid incidents," he added. "Moscow had no commitments to the Kurds. The fact that the Russian military deployed observers in the area of Afrin earlier was a move for a further bargain with Ankara. Back then Turkey’s operation was not beneficial for Moscow, while now it can fault the United States for funneling weapons to the Kurds, turning them into an instrument of the American influence," the expert added.

The details of the special operation dubbed ‘Olive Branch’ were discussed at a meeting between Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, Chief of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov, his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar and Director of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization Hakan Fidan on January 18, Kommersant writes with reference to sources. Sources close to bigwigs within Russia’s defense ministry told the paper that the Russian side was interested in clearly defining the region for conducting military operations. One of the sources said that the Turkish side mentioned Afrin as a "final and immovable target," adding that its zone would not be expanded since there Turkey’s armed forces would be able to "tackle Kurdish terrorists." Another top-ranking military source told the newspaper that Russia’s approach to actions of Turkish military forces is a ‘hands-off attitude’: "We have our own targets and goals in Syria."

Experts interviewed by Kommersant recognize that Moscow’s policy line, which is unwilling to take the Kurds’ side, has its reasons. "Russia understands Turkey’s wish to ensure its security and territorial integrity. Turkey’s integrity is in Russia’s interests today," Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said, adding though that "Russian considers it necessary to settle the Kurds issue to solve the Syrian problem." On Saturday, Turkey’s General Staff announced the launch of the Olive Branch operation against the Kurds’ units near Afrin, where about 1.5 million Syrian Kurds live. Recent reports say that the Turkish Air Force struck 153 targets in Afrin. According to Sky News Arabia, six civilians and three military were killed in the airstrikes. On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed that Turkey’s army has launched a ground operation in Syria. By now, Turkish troops have taken an area of five kilometers.


RBC: Foreign producers of communication devices may be granted localization subsidies

Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has been tasked by the Industry and Trade Ministry, the Communications Ministry and other departments to hammer out mechanisms for supporting local production of telecommunication equipment and devices, and for increasing their share of purchases for public bodies and defense enterprises, RBC business daily writes. According to the information obtained by the newspaper, the Deputy PM was also asked to revise the approach to what should be considered locally-produced equipment, making respective amendments to ministries’ orders dating back to 2011.

Currently, foreign equipment assembled in Russia may be considered ‘locally-made’ if the local content is no less than 60-70%, while Rogozin’s request loosens up requirements for foreign firms, giving them an opportunity to gradually reach the targeted level of localization. This equipment will be regarded as locally-made starting from the moment of its assembly in Russia, though with a special ‘temporary’ or ‘interim’ status, provided that the company follows the localization schedule, RBC explains.

Russian authorities announced the necessity to substitute imported telecom equipment several years ago. Due to complications with imports over western sanctions, the target has been set to substitute equipment supplies by such firms as Cisco, Ericsson, Juniper, and some others. As part of those measures, Russia’s Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov signed a wide-scale plan of actions in March 2015 on import substitution in the radio-electronics industry through 2020.


Izvestia: Russian space agency to develop satellite for mineral resources search

Russia’s State Space Corporation Roscosmos plans to develop a new radar satellite to search for mineral resources, Izvestia says. "The plan is to develop a group of radar satellites," Section Head of the Roscosmos Automated Space Systems Department Valery Zaichko told the publication. "Three Kondor-type satellites are expected to be launched," he added. A source in the space agency told Izvestia that the tender on the development of a new satellite would be announced in the first quarter of this year. The new-type satellite will be able to see pipelines, as well as gas and oil fields.

Aleksandr Zheleznyakov, a member of the Tsiolkovsky Cosmonautics Academy, told the paper that such satellites “are required in the best interests of the country’s defense capacity, and to tackle its economic issues." "Such data is in high demand worldwide. Foreign countries regularly launch radar satellite with unique possibilities to operate under any weather conditions," he said.


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