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Press review: Russia, US to concur on New START and terrorists down Russian jet over Syria

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday
Russian Foreign Ministry Mikhail Japaridze/TASS
Russian Foreign Ministry
© Mikhail Japaridze/TASS


Izvestia: Russia’s deputy foreign minister points to ways of enhancing US ties

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov believes it possible to normalize and improve relations between Moscow and Washington. "Russia has been and remains committed to a constructive settlement of problems, and to bringing ties with the United States to a direction of sustainable growth. We have not succeeded yet. As to where I see the potential, I can say that we have repeatedly announced particular proposals to the current US administration on both the settlement of pressing issues and shaping a constructive agenda. In our view, this plan contains issues to maintain and provide strategic stability. We cannot slide back to confrontation. This concerns efforts on quite a few regional crises and economic cooperation," he said in an interview with Izvestia.

According to Ryabkov, businessmen from around the world, including American entrepreneurs, are keen to cope with the existing challenging situation regarding Russian-US ties. "Businessmen want more predictability. This means normal conditions are required for mutually beneficial work. This attitude follows our approach. However, to do this, one should not whip up tension, but be involved in the practice. A very simple recipe that I can offer implies a deeper dialogue and solutions found on a mutually respectful basis," the diplomat said.

When asked about the release of the US Treasury Department’s so-called ‘Kremlin List’ that includes all members of the Russian government and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the leadership of the presidential administration and CEOs of state corporations and banks, and possible ways to respond to it, he said that the ministry does not view it as any signal that would add to Moscow’s attitude to the US sanctions policy as ungrounded and counterproductive. However, Ryabkov added, it is necessary to estimate the implications in case it is applied. "We have said and continue saying that Washington’s drive to put pressure on Russia is the only political reason for it. Which is why we are not looking for harsh reciprocity and (we) will not be our own enemy in this situation. There is an effect of sociopolitical consolidation and economic focus from continuous attempts by the United States to use sanctions in their geopolitical drive against modern Russia," the senior diplomat said. "We will respond when and if the President, and the leadership conclude that the time is ripe, after evaluating all the factors," he added.


Kommersant: Russia, US to agree on targets for New START Treaty

Moscow and Washington are to reach agreed on targets for the bilateral Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), which obliges the parties to exchange information on a number of warheads and delivery vehicles twice a year, Kommersant writes on Monday. As of now, the New START Treaty, which was signed in Prague on April 8, 2010 and came into force on February 5, 2011, limits the US and Russia to no more than 1,550 nuclear warheads and 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), heavy bombers and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). It also sets February 5 as the deadline for those limits. A source in Russia’s Foreign Ministry told the newspaper that Moscow will make a statement regarding the fulfillment of the terms later in the day.

However, there are doubts about the future of the New START Treaty, which expires in 2021, Kommersant says. US President Donald Trump has made skeptical comments on the agreement that was signed during his predecessor’s term. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also said that Moscow has some issues with the treaty. Vladimir Rybachenkov, an independent expert and a former adviser to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, told the publication that despite "all criticism against this agreement it is likely to be extended." "For the Americans the treaty is helpful primarily due to the possibility to have a clear picture of Russia’s nuclear armory via inspections and data exchange. For Russia it is even more beneficial since it initially had fewer allowed carriers than the US, which had to reduce them," he said.

Meanwhile, head of the Center for International Security at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) Alexei Arbatov warns that if the treaty is not extended then "there will be no transparency, and one can expect the worst case scenario." "Those who build nuclear plans should foresee 10-15 years ahead and have an idea of the other side’s forces. This certainty will disappear, which means both sides will have outsized plans, and an unlimited weapons race will start," the expert told Kommersant. He added that Russia "should take the initiative, both amid politics and safety concerns." "It is important (for Russia) to ensure that the upgrade of the US nuclear forces should be limited to certain levels, restrictions and a transparency system," Arbatov said.


Kommersant: Russian fighter jet shot down by terrorists in Syria’s Idlib province

A Russian Sukhoi-25 fighter jet was shot down by a short-range man-portable air defense system in the Syrian province of Idlib in what has become the first such loss since Russia launched the operation in the country, Kommersant says. The pilot, Roman Filipov, was fulfilling a standard combat mission tracking the Idlib province. Kommersant’s sources said that that incident happened after the assignment was completed. The pilot managed to eject but was later killed, while fighting militants on the ground who had downed the jet. The Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Warring Sides in Syria teamed up with their Turkish counterparts, responsible for the Idlib de-escalation zone, trying to retrieve the Russian pilot’s body.

Experts have raised the question about the low altitude of the flight. One of them told the paper that the altitude might have been connected with the fact that Turkey has provided safety guarantees for those territories. "They might have relied on that when performing the flight mission," the expert said, adding that the incident has also revealed that the militants have short-range man-portable air defense systems in their possession, and Russia’s aviation forces should take that into account in the future.

The return of the pilot’s body is another important assignment for Russia’s military, Kommersant says. "In the event of casualties, there is usually no bargaining, and agreements are reached quickly," a source told the newspaper. Another high-ranking source in the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces said that the Syrian special-operation forces and Russian divisions would do their best to organize "a good send-off for the hero."


Izvestia: IOC president’s push to fight CAS ruling marks battle over sports arbitration

President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach has criticized the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that had ruled to uphold the appeals of 28 Russian athletes whom the IOC had banned for life from participating in the Olympic Games over accusations of anti-doping violations at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Experts see it as another attack against Russian sport, Izvestia writes. Bach said at a news conference on Sunday, that the IOC was disappointed with the CAS ruling and troubled by it. He added that the ruling demonstrated the necessity for reforming this organization. The IOC also wants to appeal the annulment of its sanctions against Russian athletes at the Swiss Federal Tribunal.

Alexander Zhukov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee, told the paper that "it was the IOC that chose the CAS as a final authority for all claims related to the Games, meaning that it is the IOC itself that has to respect and observe the rulings of the CAS." "Otherwise, by passing a no-confidence motion against CAS, the IOC will call into question the provisions of the Olympic Charter and the IOC’s anti-doping rules," he stressed. The Olympic Charter says that the CAS must consider all claims connected with the Olympic Games. Nikolai Durmanov, former head of Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) considers the IOC’s statements about reforming CAS to mark the start of a huge battle for taking control over the system of sports arbitration. "The IOC has been like this for the last several years, everything that does not fall in line with their interests and views are wrong," he told Izvestia. "Obviously, WADA is putting pressure on them," he added.

The IOC slapped bans on Russian athletes following a probe by its commission led by Denis Oswald, which retested the doping samples from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The sanctions against them were annulled and their individual results achieved in Sochi 2014 were reinstated. Earlier reports said that in the event of a favorable CAS decision, these athletes might participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea’s PyeongChang on February 9-25.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Central Bank to tear down real estate fraud

The Bank of Russia has launched a center to tackle illegal financial scams as part of a plan to expose those behind fraud schemes, Rossiyskaya Gazeta says. Valeriy Lyakh, the head of the Central Bank’s market violations monitoring department told the newspaper that these scams are constantly being fine-tuned or adjusted nowadays. "We see where the fraud scheme masterminds are headed, and brace for it," he said. Two scams are most popular at the moment, aimed at people who send loan applications to several banks, and put an ad for an apartment or car for sale, Lyakh said.

"Usually those scams are launched not only by criminals, but also by businessmen who had been involved in private business, but faced difficulties, and the unlucky entrepreneurs decided to get money from the public," the economist said, adding that new schemes appear either in Moscow or in Russia’s South, for example, in the city of Krasnodar. The new Center of Competence is an information collection and analysis hub. "The work of the hub and the central apparatus is closely interrelated, and we expect to quickly reveal the bulk of new forms of financial fraud," Lyakh told Rossiyskaya.


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