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Press review: How the OSCE views Donbass peacekeeping and who can fill US shoes in Syria

Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, April 5


Kommersant: Donbass peacekeeping mission does not cancel need to fulfill Minsk deal - OSCE chief

Deploying a peacekeeping mission to Donbass will help end the conflict’s deadlock, but will not eliminate the need to implement the Minsk deal, OSCE Secretary General Thomas Greminger said in an interview with Kommersant.

According to Greminger, the Minsk agreements are at an impasse, that is why it is necessary to consider sending peacekeepers. The peacekeeping mission might help bring the situation out of its dead-end, but current problems, including the implementation of the Minsk agreements, would be needed to be resolved in any case, he added.

Greminger also noted that Russia and Ukraine have different views on the mandate of a possible mission. At the same time, he said it is obvious that the implementation of the Minsk accords will remain the objective in any case. According to him, if anyone thinks that the peacekeeping operation will alter the need to carry out the Minsk agreements in any way, that would not be the case. Greminger believes it could be possible to work out a concept that would allow the parties to consistently step up the operation regarding the political part of the Minsk agreements, but any decision should be made by the parties directly involved in the peacekeeping talks.

According to the newspaper, Greminger is attending the Seventh International Conference on International Security, organized in Moscow by the Russian Defense Ministry, where he met with a number of high-ranking officials, in particular, conducted a "frank and very substantive conversation" about the situation in Ukraine with Russian Presidential Aide Vladislav Surkov. Greminger told Kommersant that he believes Surkov shared his position that all parties involved should make every effort to protect the OSCE special monitoring mission.

In September 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin put forward the idea of placing a UN security mission on the contact line in Donbass to ensure the safety of OSCE observers. Later, he clarified that the mission could be located in other regions of Donbass, where the OSCE operates. Kiev, however, insists on deploying the UN peacekeeping mission throughout the region, even along the border with Russia.


Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Washington might delegate its role in Syria to other players

The intention of US President Donald Trump to scale back America’s role in Syria has probably become one of the main topics of the Ankara trilateral summit between the Russian, Turkish and Iranian leaders, Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote. The heads of state, according to the joint declaration, discussed difficulties in the ceasefire and the Astana process. However, experts told the newspaper that what is more important now is who might represent Washington’s interests in Syria: Saudi Arabia and France might play the proxy role.

On the day of the summit in Ankara the Western press, with reference to the US administration, reported that Trump might have decided to postpone the immediate withdrawal of troops from the region. "This step, however, does not address the question of whether the American forces will remain in Syria for the long term and whether Washington will agree to maintain its financial and diplomatic participation in the country at the current level. The answer to both these questions is likely negative," Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote.

According to the newspaper, the Russian expert community believes that Trump's statements are one of the main reasons for concern for the leaders of the Syrian peace guarantors’ triumvirate. Head of the research and publishing department of the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexey Sarabiev told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the American role in Syria might now be delegated to two ambitious states that have proven themselves.

"In this role, I see primarily Saudi Arabia, which is de facto headed by the crown prince. France would be the second choice," he said, noting that the main form of influence that Saudi Arabia and France would have on the situation in Syria would be a financial one. Presently, the problem of rebuilding a post-war Syria is emerging more clearly.

According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Turkish experts believe it is too early to talk about the fact that all disagreements between Russia, Turkey, and Iran are still up in the air and the spheres of influence in Syria are divided. According to political scientist Kerim Has, from the point of view of Syria's long-term prospects, it is not yet very clear what kind of reaction Moscow, Tehran and Damascus will show to Ankara's active presence in Syria, as it conducts operations on the Turkish-Syrian border without permission from the Assad government. At the same time, according to the expert, the reaction of such global political heavyweights as the US, the UK, and France, to plans by Moscow, Tehran and Ankara is so far unclear.

Has told Nezavisimaya Gazeta he believes the future of the "Kurdish question" is still rather vague, as this issue has subtle connections to Ankara's relations not only with Moscow and Tehran, but also with Washington.


Kommersant: Lukoil sets sights on stakes in two fields on Kazakhstan’s Caspian shelf

Lukoil wants to acquire stakes in two new fields on Kazakhstan’s Caspian shelf - I-P-2 and Zhenis, which Total turned down in 2012. According to Kommersant, Lukoil has little to no prospects of obtaining new shelf areas in Russia. The Russian oil company is discussing entry into a project with Kazakhstan’s state-owned oil and gas company, Kazmunaigas, Kazakh Energy Minister Kanat Bozumbayev told Kommersant.

The fields are located in the southern part of the Kazakhstan shelf. Joint ventures by Lukoil and Kazmunaigaz are not far from this region - the Tsentralnoye and Khvalynskoye oil fields - the newspaper wrote.

In February, Lukoil CEO Vagit Alekperov said that the company was interested in participating in the exploration of two fields on the Caspian shelf of Kazakhstan on the border with Russia. According to him, after recent amendments, Kazakhstan’s legislation has made it possible to have a good profitability rate on complex fields.

Currently, Lukoil is participating in a project to develop the Karachagank gas condensate field in northwestern Kazakhstan. Karachaganak Petroleum Operating BV consortium is working on this deposit, along with British Gas (29.25%), Eni (29.25%), Chevron (18%), Lukoil (13.5%) and KazMunayGas (10%).


Izvestia: Incarcerated Russian pilot complains about discrimination in prison

Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, serving a 20-year sentence in the Fort Dix Correctional Institution in New Jersey, sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons this week demanding that they put an end to the illegal activities going on at the Fort-Dix prison administration Izvestia wrote citing the letter.

According to the letter, Yaroshenko believes that the authorities were told to incite him, so that they could somehow justify Trump’s denial of Yaroshenko’s extradition to Russia. The pilot added that in this case he could be depicted as criminal dangerous for the Russian society.

In his statement, Yaroshenko complains about constant searches and selective harassment from the main duty officer of the correctional facility, the newspaper wrote.

On April 1, Yaroshenko met with Russian diplomats and told them about this harassment. According to the diplomats, Yaroshenko suggested that "he is being provoked into violating the order so that [they could] put him into solitary confinement and obstruct communication with his relatives, as well as with the media."

Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian civilian pilot was arrested in Liberia in May 2010 and later was secretly hauled off to the United States. In April 2011, a jury found him guilty of conspiring to smuggle drugs into the United States. Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He pled innocent and condemned his arrest as a staged provocation. Yaroshenko’s defense team noted that seven years after his arrest, all the legal mechanisms for his return have already been tried and tested. The only hope now is Washington's political resolve.


Izvestia: Poland demolished 23 monuments to Soviet soldiers since 2017 - Russian Ambassador

At least 23 monuments to Soviet soldiers have been demolished in Poland in accordance with the law on decommunization that came into force last year, Russian Ambassador to Warsaw Sergei Andreev said in an interview with Izvestia.

"From the summer of 2017 until now, we have recorded 23 cases where monuments to Soviet liberators were demolished by the Polish authorities, and their number increased dramatically in March - on the eve of the legally established ‘deadline’," Andreev told the newspaper, adding that "this list is far from being completed".

According to him, in accordance with the law, local authorities were ordered to remove all "wrong" monuments before March 31. Promises were made that the state budget would pick up the tab for the demolition costs for those who "meet" the terms and deadlines. According to him, the embassy and the consulate general of the Russian Federation in Poland intend to check the existence and condition of the Soviet and Russian memorial facilities in the country within a few months.

The ambassador also added that the Russian side has no right to forgive or forget the Polish authorities for tearing down these Soviet monuments. "As long as the liberating mission of the Red Army in World War II is denied in Poland, the memory of our ancestors who gave their lives on the battlefield to liberate this country is denied, the terms for discussing historical topics of interest to the Polish side will be nonexistent," Andreev warned.

Speaking about any possible tit-for-tat moves from the Russian side, Andreev noted that "certain decisions are being worked on - we do not always consider it necessary to speak publicly about them." "The ‘war against monuments’ essentially seeks to provoke us into ill-considered tough measures that would not provide the desired result, but rather satisfy our opponents," the diplomat concluded.


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