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Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, October 30, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Russia, Cuba set sights on expanding ties
During his official visit to Russia, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel stated that the positions of Moscow and Havana remained unchanged despite US threats. In the morning, he met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and in the afternoon, he held talks with his counterpart, President Vladimir Putin. According to Kommersant, the negotiators made it clear that although rhetoric had not really changed since Medvedev’s visit to Cuba, nothing threatens Russian-Cuban friendship.
"Cuba is a political ally, the ‘gateway to Latin America" as countries of the region take their cue from Cuba, despite its particular nature," Deputy Chairman of the Russia-Cuba Business Council Tatiana Mashkova told Kommersant. At the same time, Moscow may benefit from the cancelled "reset" of US relations with Cuba during Obama’s presidency. "When Washington announced that diplomatic relations with Havana were being re-established, the Cubans were euphoric. They hoped that this would bring about the removal of sanctions, and a huge influx of American tourists. At first that was true,… but now hotels are empty, and their agricultural products, contrary to expectations, are still not in demand in the US," Mashkova added.
Meanwhile, during the first seven months of 2019, trade turnover between Russia and Cuba grew by 1.3% year-on-year to $157 mln.
"Russian-Cuban economic relations are now at a level that both parties can afford," said Nikolai Kalashnikov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "Cuba would like more involvement from Russia, but Russia is at the level of trade and investment that its economy allows," he added, noting, "politics has been purged from our economies. We are building relations with Cuba on a pragmatic basis. "
Top-level contacts, as it became clear from the results of the visit, will continue very soon, Kommersant wrote. The next time the Cuban president is expected to visit Moscow is in May to celebrate Victory Day.
Kommersant: Kiev begins troop withdrawal from Donbass
Ukraine has begun to fulfill the last condition for holding the Normandy Four summit (made up of Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and France). On October 29, the withdrawal of forces and equipment began in the village of Zolotoye, in the Lugansk Region. Next on the list is the Petrovskoye settlement in the Donetsk Region. According to Kommersant, in Petrovskoye’s case, the date is being kept under wraps so that opponents of Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky do not disrupt the peace process. The leaders of the Quartet may gather in Paris before the end of November to hash over the Donbass settlement.
"We will not name a date," Natalia Nikonorova, a delegate from the Donetsk People's Republic to the Contact Group told Kommersant. "This is a request from the Ukrainian side. We understand all the difficulties that they have in addressing breaches in these areas, so we agreed," she emphasized.
Moscow is satisfied with the process. "We appreciate it. We are waiting for the withdrawal in Petrovskoye, based on which we will determine the dates of the summit and begin preparations," Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko told the newspaper.
Depending on how the withdrawal goes, a source familiar with the details of the Donbass negotiations told Kommersant that there is a possibility that summit might be at the end of November.
The draft final document, planned to be adopted at the summit, is ready, Kommersant wrote. According to the newspaper, the final draft describes the goals for the future. They include, with a high degree of probability, the withdrawal of forces along the entire line of contact, as well as the consolidation of the "Steinmeier formula" in Ukraine’s legislation, Kommersant wrote.
Vedomosti: Russia to start testing latest nukes in early 2020
The Russian Ministry of Defense will begin carrying out flight design tests of the latest liquid-fueled, MIRV-equipped, heavy thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missile RS-28 Sarmat in early 2020. Vedomosti was informed by a person close to the Ministry of Defense, and this was confirmed by a manager in the defense industry.The initial stage of the testing involves two missile launches with a mass-scale mock-up of a warhead from a mine installation at the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, another source told the newspaper.
According to the source, at least five launches are planned. "If it fits the required characteristics, this missile system will be fielded in 2021," the source told Vedomosti.
The development process of RS-28 was fraught with problems, both technical and organizational ones, Vedomosti wrote. For example, tests of the powder launch accelerator were planned for 2016, but were postponed for a later date due to technical difficulties.
However, expert at the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Konstantin Makienko told Vedomosti, that development delays for two to three years for systems such as Sarmat can be considered normal by international standards. The development and testing of some other systems announced by the Russian president in 2018 should take longer than the liquid-fielder intercontinental ballistic missiles, since similar types of weapons have not been developed before.
Izvestia: Maria Butina plans to defend Russians detained abroad
Russian national Maria Butina, who was released from an American prison, wants to engage in human rights activities, she said in an interview with Izvestia.
"Human rights work will remain my top priority, it’s not fame that I seek in my life, but it turned out that way. I believe that this is a clear sign that I need to fight for the rights of those who are imprisoned today, for those who are not treated the way they should be. First of all, of course, I am talking about Russian citizens abroad, but also about those American girls, who asked me to tell the world about what is happening in US prisons, and to put it in one word - it's just a nightmare," Butina stressed.
Butina believes that she was imprisoned because she is a woman who has refused to renounce her country. "I think that I really fit the Hollywood stereotype. In their mind, an evil Russian should look just like me. I am very indignant that in a country that positions itself as a stronghold in the fight for human rights, I was judged thoroughly on a sexist basis. Because I am a woman, and most of all, because I am Russian, and because I did not renounce my citizenship and continuously told them: I respect America, but I love Russia. That's was what I paid for," she told the newspaper.
Butina was arrested in Washington on July 15, 2018, prior to the meeting between Russian and US Presidents Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Helsinki.
On December 13, 2018, she pleaded guilty in a Washington DC court to not registering as a foreign agent in the United States, and on April 26, 2019, was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison. Taking into account the time that she had already served in custody and good behavior, she was released on October 25.
Izvestia: Russia’s non-oil and gas, non-energy exports see first decline since 2017
In the first half of 2019, Russian non-oil and gas, non-energy exports of goods was 4.7% lower than last year and amounted to 67.1 bln rubles ($1.05 bln), Izvestia wrote citing a report by the Ministry of Economic Development. According to the newspaper, this was the first time since 2017 that this had occurred.
The report stated that the export of wheat, steel semi-finished products, products from ferrous metals and aircraft experienced the most noticeable drop. Meanwhile, platinum, raw aluminum, weapons and ammunition showed growth, the newspaper said.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade told Izvestia that the reason for the downturn was a decline in prices for steel, non-ferrous metals, petrochemicals, and woodworking products. Also, export values were affected by a decrease in the grain harvest relative to the record highs of 2018, the ministry told the newspaper. The Russian Export Center (REC) associated the decrease in non-primary non-energy exports with the completion of major construction. Andrey Slepnev, REC’s chief, told Izvestia that, in particular, "Russia has ceased to produce pipes for Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream".
Slepnev clarified that the physical volume of non-oil and gas non-energy exports, in contrast to monetary terms, increased by 1.2% over 8 months during 2019.
Diversifying the economy, improving the business climate and deregulation will help prevent further reduce non-oil and gas, non-energy exports in the future, the Ministry of Economic Development told Izvestia. Close attention should be paid to exports of goods with a high added value - the pharmaceutical industry and mechanic engineering products, Director of the FBK Grand Thornton Strategic Analysis Institute Igor Nikolaev told Izvestia.