All news

Press review: Russia set to sue for diplomatic property and what is Trump’s plan for Syria

Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, April 2


Izvestia: Moscow ready for US court battle over Russian diplomatic property

Russia will soon file a lawsuit with a US court for the return of its diplomatic property in the United States. Moscow has already hired American lawyers to defend its interests, a high-ranking source in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia.

According to the source, launching a lawsuit amid the current diplomatic conflict with a number of Western countries is an opportunity for the American justice system to "prove its independence and political impartiality." Former Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Izvestia that Moscow is not going to back down and will fight to the very end.

"Russia has exhausted all diplomatic and political avenues to return its diplomatic property to the United States, in which it’s seizure set off the conflict at the end of Barack Obama’s presidential term," the newspaper wrote. According to Izvestia's source in Russian diplomatic circles, it would be quite symbolic if an American court sided with Russia in this property battle. 

"We found a firm that will be dealing with this case, in the near future and we will file a lawsuit. Unfortunately, notes of protest and calls to reason failed to succeed. The US continues to keep hold of Russian property. Besides that, Washington decided to expel 60 of our diplomats. Against this background, the problem regarding diplomatic capacity has not only failed to die down, but it has become even more pressing. Therefore, the issue will be resolved through litigation. The lawyers (we) hired are currently engaged in hammering out the final draft of the lawsuit," the source told the newspaper.

Former Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak told the newspaper that an adequate draft of the suit took a lot of time, so it would be wrong to say that Russia is dragging its feet on this issue. "We must be ready to defend our case in the American court system, which demands a highly professional approach. I initially proceeded from the fact that it would take a lot of time, consultations and precise knowledge from our specialists. If you want to solve something in an American court, it is unlikely to be productive without involving American expertise,” Kislyak said, confirming the participation of US lawyers in the case.

Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs Konstantin Kosachev told Izvestia he is confident that Moscow has a very good chance of success if "the approach to the case is based on legal rather than political principles."

"If the American justice system is ready to prove its impartiality in practice, then the chances for success are quite high. The situation did not only violate the law, but it is outside the legal field - the actions of the United States are so unprecedented. Any impartial judicial institution must rule in favor of the plaintiff. Further developments will show how independent the American judiciary is," Kosachev told Izvestia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US ready to freeze its Syrian strategy

US President Donald Trump’s doubts over the need to leave US forces in Eastern Syria and allocate $200 mln to rebuild the region may indicate problems in Washington’s interdepartmental coordination, Former Special Coordinator for Regional Affairs in the US Department of State's Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Frederic Hof told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. According to him, the White House occupant might have learned about the price of America’s military presence in Syria from the news.

The expert noted that the practical effect of President Trump's statement about the imminent withdrawal from Syria is yet to be seen. Hof added that the news reports indicate that Trump was disappointed to learn from the newspapers that $200 mln was allocated for the stabilization of East Syria. The reports raise the question of what the interdepartmental coordination of Trump’s national security looks like, the expert told the newspaper.

According to White House staff, this week a meeting of the US National Security Council will be held to discuss the future of the campaign against the Islamic State (terror group, banned in Russia), which was initiated by the Obama administration in 2014. According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, among the key points highlighting the continuation of the contingent in eastern Syria were the economic benefits, namely the region’s large oil reserves.

At the same time, Hof noted that nothing threatens Russian interests in Syria. According to him, given the goal of defeating IS east of the Euphrates in Syria at all costs, the United States is thus committed to stabilizing this area, speeding up humanitarian assistance and preventing the resurgence of extremism. The Euphrates River serves as a demarcation line between the Russian and American military operations, and all actions to stabilize the situation to the east of this line. As long as both sides respect the demarcation line, no one has anything to fear, the expert told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.


Kommersant: Saudi Arabia ditches ‘Assad must go’ rhetoric

The Syrian army achieved one of its most decisive victories in the seven-year civil war plaguing the country, by taking control of the armed opposition’s largest stronghold in Eastern Ghouta. The organized withdrawal of opposition groups from the region, who agreed to end its resistance and move to other parts of the country, was the result of agreements brokered with the stewardship of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides, according to Head of the Center Major-General Yuri Yevtushenko. This turning point in the Eastern Ghouta struggle coincided with another important political victory for Damascus. Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for the first time said that Riyadh was ready to recognize the fact that Syrian President Bashar Assad ‘is staying’ in power.

"There are 41,126 militants and members of their families that have left the Erbil, Jobar, Ein Tarma and Zamalka settlements," Yevtushenko said. According to him, large forces of militants who left Eastern Ghouta, accompanied by Syria’s security forces, ambulances and the military police of the Russian Armed Forces, were transported to the Idlib province in accordance with the agreements reached between the parties to the conflict.

Similarly, despite the turnaround there, it is too early to talk about a total victory for the Syrian army in this strategically important region near Damascus. While Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq Al-Rahman factions agreed to the terms of the Damascus peace plan, one of the most influential forces of the armed opposition, the Jaysh al-Islam group, which controls the city of Duma, just 10 km from the Syrian capital, refuses to lay down their arms.

"Without an agreement with Jaysh al-Islam, any sort of victory in Eastern Ghouta is out of the question. However, if a deal with the group is reached and the Syrian army establishes control over Duma, and after that full [control] over Eastern Ghouta, it will be even more crucial than regaining control over Aleppo," Director of the Centre of Islamic Research at the Institute of Innovative Development Kirill Semenov told the newspaper.

According to the newspaper, the statement by the Saudi Crown Prince, who allowed the possibility of Syrian President Bashar Assad to stay in power has dealt a big blow to Jaysh al-Islam. The group is quite close with Saudi Arabia and is likely to take Riyadh’s position into account, Kirill Semenov told Kommersant.


Izvestia: Russian programmer’s US trial scheduled for December

The trial of the Russian programmer Pyotr Levashov, accused by US authorities of computer fraud, has been postponed to December 3, 2018, his attorney Igor Litvak told Izvestia.

"The judge postponed the start of the trial due to the complexity of the case, neither the defense nor the prosecutor's office are ready to begin in April," Litvak told Izvestia. According to him, the trial will be held in the state of Connecticut, where Levashov is being held.

Levashov faces up to 50 years in prison due to the gravity of the charges, all federal counts, levelled against the programmer. Sources in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia that despite the current climate involving both countries’ diplomats, Moscow is going to continue defending the interests of its citizens who are imprisoned in the United States.

Levashov was detained at the request of the United States in Spain on April 7, 2017. US authorities accuse him of computer fraud, committing cyber crimes, developing malicious software and using bulk spam emails.

On October 3, 2017, Spain decided to carry out the US request to extradite Levashov. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexey Meshkov said in October that Moscow had opposed the extradition of Russians to foreign countries, including the United States. In early February, the programmer was handed over to the United States and was brought to trial in Connecticut.


Kommersant: Russian government works on requirements for foreign online stores

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov instructed the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and the Federal Customs Service to present proposals on preventing goods that pose life-threatening dangers and health hazards to consumers from reaching the Russian market. According to Kommersant, the initiative mainly concerns children's products from foreign online stores, which could lead to the market losing 50-80 bln rubles ($874 mln - $1.4 bln) per year, experts told the newspaper.

According to Kommersant, after the meeting, Shuvalov instructed the Ministry and the Federal Customs Service "to hammer out and submit proposals to the government on applying the legislation to the field of consumer protection" covering goods from online stores. Thus, the goal is to "prevent the sale of life-threatening, health-hazardous and environmentally unsafe goods." A source familiar with the course of the meeting told Kommersant that the initiative primarily concerns children's goods. A representative of Igor Shuvalov told Kommersant that the order must be executed within a month.

Thus, sellers will be required to indicate a code that corresponds to the classification of goods used on the territory of the Eurasian Economic Union. Sellers would be also obliged to provide information about safety certificates for things that contain items intended for use by children.

Proposed measures may entail a complete ban on cross-border trade of children's goods, co-founder of Data Insight Fedor Virin told Kommersant. "A lot of people simply will not do it. Besides the fact that this is an unnecessary headache, it is expensive. From the point of view of the consumer, however, this is probably right," he said.

A representative of AliExpress told Kommersant that the company constantly monitors its product range for compliance to the standards of various countries. The company expects that "the decision, whatever it is, will take into account the interests of millions of Russian consumers."


TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in these press reviews