Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, February 19, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Russia to fight Dutch court’s ruling over Yukos case
Moscow is going to appeal the ruling by The Hague Court of Appeal, which earlier overturned the previous decision on a lawsuit filed by former Yukos shareholders and ordered Russia to cough up $50 bln to them.
Russia will continue to uphold its legitimate interests and will challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, the Justice Ministry said. There are no specific deadlines for handling the appeal petition. However, according to Andrey Kondakov, who heads the International Center for Legal Protection, which represents Russia’s interests in the Yukos case in foreign courts, that could take about a year and a half. He added that the ruling did not automatically mean the seizure of Russia’s assets.
"Now much will depend on the national jurisdiction, under which these assets can be seized. Some countries are very conservative in their approaches to legal procedures against foreign states and are therefore ready to protect state property, while others, for example, the United States, will rather take sides with investors," Vladislav Starzhenetsky, First Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Higher School of Economics, told Izvestia.
It is very difficult to predict the outcome of this case, but Russia is unlikely to agree to pay that amount, which, taking into account penalty fees, is over $60 bln, the paper quotes Dmitry Gololobov, a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster, as saying.
According to Executive Director of Padva & Epstein Law Firm Anton Babenko, there are reasons for overturning the ruling in the higher court in The Netherlands and other countries’ refusal to abide by it.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia, Italy overcoming barriers in relations
The Russian and Italian top diplomats and defense chiefs have held their fourth "2+2" meeting in Rome to exchange views on strategic stability and arms control, as well as on the situation in Syria and Libya. The meeting, which took place after an almost seven-year hiatus, confirmed that Russia’s and Italy’s foreign and defense ministries are restoring dialogue and contacts, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The consultations enable the parties to coordinate their stances on issues of mutual interest and find adequate answers to today’s challenges and threats. This being so, Moscow welcomes Rome’s willingness to discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to impose a moratorium on deploying intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed after the talks.
"It is noteworthy that Italy, hot on the heels of France, is addressing the issue of the arms control crisis, in the wake of President Emmanuel Macron’s famous speech. That seems to reflect the general trend in the European Union, which seeks to play a more prominent role in global politics, especially in light of the destructive arms control policy pursued by US President Donald Trump," Nadezhda Arbatova, Head of the Department for European Political Studies at the Institute for World Economy and International Relations, told the paper.
Maintaining security and stability in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean is a top-priority issue for Italy because of its geographical proximity to the hotbeds of conflict, the expert went on to say. "In addition, Russia and Italy have important economic interests in Libya. Italy has not been able to reconcile the warring parties on its own. It tried to do so this past January but to no avail. The failure of the meeting between Fayez al-Sarraj and Khalifa Haftar in Rome dealt a blow to Italy’s prestige. Russia seems to be an important partner for Rome from the viewpoint of returning to the big Libyan game," she stressed.
Izvestia: Russian exports to China fall by almost 30% over coronavirus crisis
The novel coronavirus outbreak has adversely affected trade ties between Russia and China. The volume of exports decreased by 27.6% from January 1 to February 10, 2020, compared to the same period in 2019, a source in Far Eastern Department of the Russian Federal Customs informed Izvestia.
The decline was recorded in the supplies of ore, fats and wax, flour products, grain crops and wood. Growth is observed only in the exports of fuel materials and inorganic chemistry products.
It is difficult now to evaluate the impact of the restrictions imposed on China over the coronavirus outbreak, the press service of the Russian Industry and Trade Ministry told the paper. It noted though that the impact affected most of all socially vital goods, the automotive and consumer goods industry and electronics.
The epidemic’s negative impact on the bilateral trade turnover will be limited to the first quarter of this year, the paper quotes Freedom Finance analyst Yevgeny Mironyuk as saying. The expert believes that the overall decline in exports in 2020 will stand at 10% or about $5 bln. The drop in supplies from China will be insignificant, since there is a stable demand for Chinese goods in the Russian market, he added.
The coronavirus crisis has adversely affected the work of small and medium-sized businesses, President of OPORA Russia business association Alexander Kalinin stressed to Izvestia. He pointed out that Russian entrepreneurs could not conduct negotiations and sign contracts with their Chinese partners because of the coronavirus outbreak. If the virus continues to spread further, the association will raise the issue of assistance to domestic companies so that they can compensate for the losses due to force majeure circumstances, Kalinin noted.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Assad wants to fight to the bitter end
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reiterated his determination to continue the operation in the Idlib province despite Turkey’s demands, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
On Tuesday, Syrian troops resumed their offensive in Idlib and the neighboring province of Aleppo, which is almost fully controlled by Assad’s forces.
Damascus’ forces are currently engaged in battle against two groups in Idlib and Aleppo, specifically, Hayrat Tahrir al-Sham designated as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and Russia, and against the Ankara-backed Syrian National Army (formerly the Free Syrian Army). Some Turkish media earlier reported citing sources in the Turkish General Staff that Assad decided to use the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in the offensive. Turkey considers that group to be the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier actually issued an ultimatum to Assad, stating that Syrian troops should stop the offensive until the end of February, otherwise, the Turkish army will attack them.
"Ankara’s official stance is the following: in early February, the Turkish military in Syria came under fire by Assad’s forces. However, society and experts have a different opinion. The Russian military is behind the shelling," Russian International Affairs Council expert Yulia Kudryashova told the paper.
She believes that the root cause of the current situation is the difficulty in implementing the Sochi agreements, which envisage that radical groups will be withdrawn from the demilitarized zones in Idlib, while Turkey will have guarantees that its troops will not be attacked by the Kurds. "In practice, it turned out that Turkey is unable to control the Syrian National Army, Russia is unable to control the Kurds, and no one can fully control all parties to the Syrian conflict. So, all that creates problems," the expert pointed out.
Kommersant: New escalation in Donbass reported ahead of UN meeting
The situation in the Donbass region has escalated again. According to the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), on Tuesday, a Ukrainian subversive group tried to cross the frontline near the inhabited community of Zolotoye. The regime in Kiev, in turn, insists that "armed groups from the Russian Federation" attempted to break the status quo, Kommersant writes. The incident occurred a few hours before the UN Security Council meeting convened at Russia’s initiative in order to discuss the lack of progress in implementing the Minsk accords.
A source in Russia’s government agencies involved in the negotiations on Donbass described the incident as "a petty provocation." In his view, this destabilization is unlikely to morph into a large-scale conflict. He suggested that the Ukrainian military sought to gain a foothold in "the grey zone." According to the source, the latest events indicate that President Vladimir Zelensky is unable to maintain control of Kiev’s troops.
LPR People’s Militia Spokesman Ivan Filiponenko likewise pointed to the Ukrainian command’s inability to manage its own army. "This is a permanent situation and not something out of the ordinary," he told the paper.
Meanwhile, Director of the Russian Center for Current Policy Alexey Chesnakov stressed to Kommersant that "Ukraine’s failure to comply with the agreements reached at the previous Normandy Four meeting" was far more important than Tuesday’s incident.
He did not rule out that the escalation at the engagement line was linked to the UN Security Council meeting on the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements. "Ukraine’s provocation looks quite logical," the expert stressed.