December 21, 13:00 UTC+3
Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow may strike back at US sanctions against Russian firms
The US Department of Commerce blacklisted two Russian defense companies: the Novator Experimental Design Bureau and the Titan-Barrikady Federal Research & Development Center on Tuesday, accusing them of manufacturing missiles with a range prohibited by the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty).
Moscow is mulling a response against the new US sanctions, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma (lower house of parliament) Defense Committee Yury Shvytkin told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Russia is sure that the United States is searching for a pretext to cut loose from the INF Treaty. “It’s clear that our position is to respond tit-for-tat if needed. My personal opinion is if they (sanctions) have a rather significant impact on our companies, we should introduce some retaliatory measures,” Shvytkin stressed.
“The US is planning to test ballistic missiles, which are not in line with the INF Treaty,” he said. “They are violating international law themselves and want to shift the blame on us.”
Russian experts say the possible disintegration of the key Cold War-era arms control treaty will have negative consequences for Europe. Former Chief of Staff of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces Viktor Yesin told the paper: “This is a repetition of the situation in the 1980s, given that Russian-US relations have been marred. This means that there will be a new round of the nuclear arms race that will undermine stability on the European continent.”
Kommersant: Crimea gets more support at UN resolution vote
The UN General Assembly passed a resolution on Tuesday, which condemned alleged human rights violations in Crimea and referred to Russia as an “occupying power,” Kommersant writes. The motion, proposed by Ukraine and the West, was backed by 70 out of 193 UN member-states, while 26 voted against it. Unlike March 2014, when Kiev and its allies submitted a similar resolution to the UN, this time the vote was more in favor of Moscow, the paper writes.
Out of 36 co-authors of the document, 23 countries are European Union member-states. All EU countries unanimously voted in favor of the motion. The overwhelming majority of European countries, which are not part of the EU, also approved the document. Like a year ago, only Serbia voted against it, while Bosnia and Herzegovina abstained. Montenegro did not only endorse the resolution, but was among its co-authors, the paper says.
The good news for Moscow is the position of most post-Soviet republics. Out of 12 former Soviet states (except for the Baltic countries) seven voted against the Crimean resolution, compared with three in 2014. This time, Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan were joined by Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which abstained last year.
Meanwhile, Georgia and Moldova sided with Ukraine and were the co-authors of the document. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan did not take part in the vote just like a year ago.
Five Asian states were in the Ukrainian camp – Japan, Qatar, Yemen, Bhutan and Turkey, despite gestures by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan towards Moscow. The Philippines, Myanmar, Cambodia, North Korea, Iran and Syria voted against the resolution.
It is noteworthy that compared with 2014 the number of Arab countries, which backed the Crimean resolution, shrank drastically. Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are no more on this list.
BRICS stood by Moscow just as they did last year. China, India and South Africa voted against the document, while Brazil abstained.
The entire South African region did not support the resolution, the paper writes. No such unity was seen in 2014 when Chile, Peru and Colombia voted for the document.
Izvestia: Taxis to outer space: new mission to ISS may be record three-hour ride
It seems Hollywood fiction is becoming reality as express taxis will be launched between the Earth and the International Space Station (ISS). Starting next year, Russian manned spacecraft will take crews into orbit in three hours, twice as fast as now, Izvestia writes.
The Energia Rocket and Space Corporation told the paper that the next launch of the Progress MS-08 spacecraft to the ISS is scheduled for February 2018. If the flight is carried out successfully, the Soyuz spacecraft with the new crew will also head to the station via the new route.
“One test launch is enough,” said First Deputy Director General of the Energia Corporation Yevgeny Mikrin. “We just need to try the new scheme and it could be used for manned spacecraft by the March launch.” The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft will be launched to the ISS on March 15, 2018.
According to Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Solovyov, who is flight director for the Russian segment of the space station, if some mishaps occur during the Progress mission, the test launches of cargo spacecraft will continue until the new scheme is worked out to the last detail.
The new arrangement makes it possible to reduce physical exertion on pilots, said research adviser of the Space Policy Institute Ivan Moiseyev. “It is very important for space tourists. They do not undergo intense training and often complain of physical inconveniences during the first days.”
Vedomosti: Chinese metallurgy moving to Russia’s Far East
Debang Guangdong, a Chinese investor from Hong Kong, plans to create a cluster for advanced steel processing in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorye Region, Vedomosti writes. The project’s first stage envisages the construction of a production facility with the capacity of up to 1 mln tonnes per year, according to the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East. The overall investment in creating the cluster is estimated at $5 bln.
Chinese investors are interested in Russia’s Primorye Region due to its geographical location, tax benefits, developed port infrastructure, low electricity costs and its proximity to Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asian markets, the paper writes.
Now more than 20 Chinese-bankrolled investment projects to the tune of $4 bln are being implemented in the Far Eastern Federal District, Minister for the Far Eastern Development Alexander Galushka said.
China is moving its facilities to Russia, analyst at the AKRA analytical agency Maxim Khudalov said. Some 128 mln tonnes of steelmaking facilities will be closed in China this year and 37 mln tonnes per year in 2018-2020 due to tougher environmental standards, according to Severstal.
According to the analyst, the project’s major benefits for Russia are tax revenues and job creation in the region.
Izvestia: Gazprom to see 19% surge in revenue next year
OPEC’s agreement to extend the oil output cut deal will jack up prices on both oil and gas. Even if supplies to Europe are stable in 2018, Russia will earn a record $108 bln, Izvestia writes referring to Credit Suisse’s analysis.
Next year, the demand for Russian gas will be stable and will reach at least 192 bln cubic meters, analysts say. Over the past three years, gas exports have been on the rise, growing 31% from 146.6 bln cubic meters in 2014.
Major investment banks expect Russian gas exports to Europe to surge next year.
Although Gazprom’s risks for losses are very low, in 2018 the Russian gas exporter will face new rivals in liquefied natural gas supplies, Alexander Sobko, an analyst at the Skolkovo Business School Energy Center, said.
As Russian gas transportation projects are currently operating at maximum, supplies are unlikely to increase until 2020, leading expert at the National Energy Security Fund Stanislav Mitrakhovich pointed out.
Russian gas exports may grow only in an extraordinary situation when there is no access to supplies from other countries, he emphasized.
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