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Press review: Russia's partners on US sanctions radar and Russian-Shiite axis on the rocks

Top stories in the Russian press on Tuesday


Kommersant: US puts the squeeze on Russia's military-industrial complex partners

The US State Department announced that starting from Tuesday, Washington would able impose sanctions against foreign companies or people for "significant transactions with persons in the defense and intelligence sectors of the Russian Government." According to Kommersant, the US State Department and the US Treasury provided Congress with a "secret report" on the sanctions, but they are not going to make this information public.

Starting from January 29, the State Department may begin imposing sanctions in accordance with section 231 of the America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) for significant transactions by organizations from the Russian defense or intelligence sectors. According to the explanations by State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert, it became clear that no one specifically would be penalized yet, the newspaper wrote. The State Department believes that the fear of coming under American sanctions will make foreigners refrain from cooperating with Russia on its own.

According to a top manager in one of Russia’s defense industry enterprises, the sanctions "almost guarantee" problems with the means of delivering products to customers - for example, a ship for transporting weapons chartered from a third party can only operate under a Russian flag (since it transports the product with the label "top secret" ).

"For ship owners, the prospects of coming under sanctions for cooperating with Russia are huge, the risks for them are becoming too big," the source explained. According to the source, large amphibious ships of the Russian Navy are often involved in delivering weapons to customers. However, this situation is not very encouraging for the military. "Their main need is to deliver weapons and equipment for the operation in Syria, and not to transport commercial products," the source said.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russian-Shiite alliance on the rocks

Only Turkey is concerned about the unity and security of Syria, one of the founders of the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah, Subhi al-Tufayli said, noting that according to him, many international players, including Russia, pursue only their own interests in the region. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, despite the fact that al-Tufayli is not related to the current leadership of Hezbollah, his point of view coincides with the fears that prevail among the leaders of countries within the "Shiite axis" about Russia.

Referring to the situation in Lebanon, the former head of Hezbollah accused the political factions of relying on foreign forces, noting that Iran, Saudi Arabia, France and Russia are only promoting their own projects and interests.

According to the newspaper, while it is difficult to say that al-Tufayli expresses the opinion of Hezbollah's leadership, at the same time the expert community recognizes that there are doubts about the true aims of Russia’s policy in the Middle East from the countries of the "Shiite axis" (Iran, Lebanon). Even despite the fact that the de facto Shiite paramilitary forces and the Russian Federation stand on the same side of the civil war in Syria.

"There are indeed some concerns among the Shiite leaders regarding Russia's actions in Syria. This began primarily after the agreements were reached in Oman on the southwest zone of de-escalation in Syria with the participation of Russia, Jordan and the US," Head of the Islamic Research Center of the Institute of Innovative Development Kirill Semenov told the newspaper.

According to the expert, Moscow is interested in the fact that Damascus is moving away from Iran. "Russia believes that Iran's influence on the Assad regime is excessive, and seeks to minimize its influence. It is difficult, but Moscow has such intentions. Both the Shiite groups and the command of the IRGC are afraid that the Russian side will somehow try to push Iran back and can make agreements with both the US and Israel," the expert told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US envoy hints at dialogue with Russian elite amid sanctions woes

The United States Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman is ready for meetings with representatives of the Russian political elite, including both current and potential figures of the US sanctions lists. According to experts, interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the fact that this was announced before Washington published the new ‘Kremlin report’, is a clear signal to the Russian elite about the readiness for dialogue. It is also possible that this is a message from US President Donald Trump personally.

Huntsman's plans drew additional attention on Monday, before the expected publication of the news about the US sanction list. As the US Embassy in Russia earlier published a schedule of Huntsman’s official meetings, it turned out that he asked for meetings with practically the entire country's leadership, including Federation Council Chairwoman Valentina Matvienko, State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Administration Alexey Gromov, and many others. According to the newspaper, it is worth noting that for example, Volodin, Gromov, and Matvienko are already under American sanctions.

"This served as a reason for assumptions that all this is a signal for dialogue, and a certain warning," Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

Head of the Center for International Security at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) Alexei Arbatov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that Huntsman's plans to meet with Russian officials should demonstrate that despite the sanctions, there is a desire to negotiate. Arbatov told the newspaper that the rumors about Huntsman and Trump being on good terms with one another are quite reliable. "American presidents do not appoint random people to the post of ambassador to Russia," he noted.

At the same time, the US diplomat says the same thing that any other ambassador would say in his place - he talked about the need for dialogue, Head of the Center for Political and Geographic Research Nikolai Petrov told the newspaper. "He cannot determine the kind of relationship, but his attempts to minimize diplomatic damage are quite understandable," the expert pointed out.

"If you consider the ambassador as a ‘Trump man’, then his current message can be viewed as quite a clear signal by the US president to the political elite of the Russian Federation," Alexei Makarkin, leading expert of the Center for Political Technologies told the newspaper.


Vedomosti: Rusnano plans to attract over $350 min in private investments in 2018

The Russian state corporation Rusnano plans to attract 20 bln rubles ($356.12 mln) in private investments in 2018, Rusnano Executive Chairman Anatoly Chubais stated in an interview with the Vedomosti newspaper.

"We have an additional 20 bln rubles ($356.12 mln) for this year," he said, adding that the minimum goal is to attract 160 bln rubles ($2.85 bln) from partners by 2023 into joint funds.

He also said that Rusnano consistently boosts investment in the nanoindustry. In particular, in 2016 the company invested more than 1.5 bln rubles ($26.7 mln) into various projects, and in 2017 it poured in 6 bln rubles ($106.84 mln). "And in 2018, it intends to invest another 19 bln rubles ($338.35 mln)," he said.

Touching on the subject of renewable energy in Rusnano’s total portfolio, Chubais said that the total volume of our investments reaches 200 bln rubles ($3.5 bln). "Thus, the total volume of renewable energy in the portfolio exceeds 15%. Taking into account the processing of solid municipal waste that’s more than 20%. This is a serious share for us, and, frankly, we are going to increase it," he added.

Chubais talked to Vedomosti about huge trends in the industry. "For example, a new tendency is clearly visible under the odd name "electrification". The volume of electricity consumption in the world is growing faster than consumption of primary energy resources. In other words, with sufficiently high and stable rates of development of the world energy sector as a whole, its electric power segment will develop ahead of schedule. This is a very important point. The new upward trend in the global electric power industry is caused by a whole set of new technological clusters, starting with electric cars and ending with a system of electric energy storage. The other point is the discussion on renewable energy is ‘over,’ he said, noting that renewable energy might be a way forward, as Germany and China have already announced their renewable energy programs.


Izvestia: Finance Ministry’s bill to take luster out of cryptocurrencies

The Finance Ministry’s bill on regulating cryptocurrencies in Russia would deprive tokens of their investment attractiveness, Deputy Minister of Economic Development Savva Shipov said in an interview with Izvestia.

"The financial soundness of digital financial assets is limited in the draft law. This kind of legislative measure is underdeveloped. It deprives tokens of investment attractiveness as financial instruments and depreciates their issue," he said, explaining that investors would not be able to use their investments, because resale of purchased tokens would be banned.

He also noted that, in his opinion, "not only Russian citizens and residents can and should participate in transactions, but also foreign citizens and legal entities,".

On January 25, the Finance Ministry published a draft law dubbed "On Digital Financial Assets" regulating its issue and turnover. The document, in particular, defines tokens, establishes the procedure for conducting ICO (Initial Coin Offering), and also determines the legal status of cryptocurrencies and mining. The latter is the subject of discord between the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank. However, the authors of the draft law are confident that including cryptocurrencies in the legal regulation of digital assets will reduce the risks of violating the law and bolster tax transparency, which will lead to an increase in tax revenues into the Russian budget.


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review