Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, May 29, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Moscow-Berlin relations face hacker controversy
Russian Ambassador to Berlin Sergey Nechaev was summoned by the German Foreign Ministry to talk about events from five years ago that could now jeopardize relations between the two countries. Berlin believes that back in 2015, Russian national Dmitry Badin, allegedly in collaboration with Russian military intelligence, launched a hacker attack on the Bundestag and on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s email. Recently, the German Federal Prosecutor's Office issued an arrest warrant for Badin but now Berlin will seek introducing sanctions against him and others named in connection with the attack. Experts told Kommersant individual sanctions will only hurt Russian-German relations.
The Russian embassy declined to comment, yet earlier Foreign Minister Lavrov noted no concrete evidence in the case while questioning why it took five years for Germany to take action. Meanwhile, the German Foreign Ministry noted that Berlin will seek the use of the so-called "EU cyber sanctions regime" against those responsible for the attack on the German Bundestag, including Badin.
"From the legal point of view, Berlin can indeed appeal to the EU Council with a request to impose sanctions against Russian individuals or legal entities," Director of Programs at the Russian International Affairs Council Ivan Timofeev told Kommersant. He recalled that last year the EU Council issued a decision, which sets the framework for EU sanctions on cybersecurity issues — such sanctions can be imposed against foreign organizations or citizens who are suspected of cyber attacks or other similar actions.
"If Germany proposes it, the EU Council is highly likely to support it. Such a decision will not cause much damage to the economy. After all, we are not talking about large Russian enterprises or significant figures. But politically, it will worsen relations between Russia and the EU, and with Germany. There will be a precedent for the use of such sanctions against Russia. This is not fatal, but unpleasant for our relationship," the expert said.
Izvestia: Israel awaits resumption of flights from Russia by fall
Air travel between Russia and Israel could be restored in the fall, representative office of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in Moscow told Izvestia. According to them, Israel will fully open its borders to all foreigners from mid-July, including Russians, but flights from Russia are not possible before September. The Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv did not give exact dates for resuming flights, noting that the decision depends on the pandemic situation. Meanwhile, the Russian Union of Travel Industry told the newspaper that Israel will continue to be a popular destination among Russians.
"We will look forward to a decision regarding the date of opening of Russia's borders for cross-border tourism. We hope that by fall, air traffic between our countries will be restored," Director of the Department of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism in Russia and the CIS, advisor to the Israeli embassy in Moscow Vladimir Shklyar told Izvestia.
At the same time, the Russian Embassy in Israel noted that restrictions on foreigners entering Israel are valid until June 15 and can be extended. "Decisions are made by the country’s authorities based on the current epidemiological situation. We believe that the aviation and tourism industries will recover as soon as a decision is made to remove all restrictions on flights between Russia and Israel, as well as on the movement of citizens," the embassy told Izvestia.
According to Vice President of the Russian Union of Travel Industry Yury Barzykin, the coronavirus crisis will not affect tourist interests in Israel. "I think they will open in the fall. Russians, of course, will fly there, because the country offers diversified recreation — medical, historical-cultural, and pilgrimage. In addition, no visas, convenient logistics. However, the country is more expensive than Turkey and is not comparable with it in terms of tourist flow," the expert told Izvestia.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia’s Northern Fleet monitoring NATO submarines in Arctic
The US nuclear-powered submarine fleet is strengthening its military presence in the Arctic. This is a concern for the Russian military command, which organized a series of permanent exercises in the Northern Fleet on submarine detection. Experts told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that this training simulates real combat situations as close as possible. According to them, the US might have long-term goals in the region and Russia should be prepared for any developments.
According to Ambassador-at-Large at the Russian Foreign Ministry Nikolay Korchunov, Moscow is "concerned about the growing activity of the North Atlantic Alliance in the Arctic." "We are faced with a new phenomenon when non-Arctic countries — NATO members adopt their Arctic military strategies or issue reports and other strategic documents that justify military presence in high latitudes," the diplomat said.
"Compared to previous years, the Northern Fleet is having to increase the number of maneuvers associated with countering the military activity of NATO surface ships and submarines, primarily from the United States. The submarine fleet of the United States and other countries is constantly present off the coast of Russia," Chair of the All-Russian Professional Union of Servicemen Oleg Shvedkov told the newspaper.
"Whether US submarines have an underwater advantage is hard to say," military expert Colonel Vladimir Popov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "But the obvious fact is that US attack submarines are a formidable weapon. And we have to be able to counteract it, which is what military exercises of the Navy forces are for," he added. Popov noted that the goals of the US Navy in the Arctic have a long-term basis, and they have prepared military infrastructure for this.
Izvestia: Putin urges Transneft to keep investment on track
Despite the current crisis, Russia’s pipeline giant Transneft will be able to maintain the planned volume of its investment program in 2020 at the level of 257 bln rubles ($3.64 bln), experts told Izvestia commenting on the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the company’s CEO Nikolay Tokarev. Transneft’s management expects to reach this goal despite declining revenue. The Russian president urged Tokarev to pay particular attention to this issue.
Putin was primarily interested in the results of the company's work of the past year and investment plans, Izvestia noted. The president emphasized that this issue is extremely important for the Russian economy, since Transneft is one of the largest partners of industrial enterprises. The company expects to maintain its investment program for 2020 despite the fact that "the volume of revenue, turnover is sinking by around 10%," Tokarev explained.
Deputy Director at the National Energy Institute Alexander Frolov believes that the company will be able to do this. "The hydrocarbon market in the East is recovering quite quickly. Especially China. In addition, demand from Europe will begin to recover in the near future. This makes it possible to quickly sell off excess oil reserves accumulated during the crisis and return to normal levels of consumption and production of oil relatively quickly," he told Izvestia.
Recovery of oil prices may begin in Q4 2020, Deputy Director of Alpari analytical center Natalia Milchakova told the newspaper. By December it would be possible to see Brent at $50 per barrel or even higher, she said.
Vedomosti: Coronavirus may delay Russia’s 5G networks
Development of 5G in Russia may be delayed by several years if the state funding for 2020 is reduced by 50%, Russian state corporation Rostec said in correspondence with the Ministry of Communications. A representative of the ministry confirmed its content, noting that the budget is still being adjusted. Saved funds would be used to support people and businesses in the current pandemic conditions and economic situation, a person familiar with the government’s plans told the newspaper.
Funding cuts will affect the budget allocated for the development of 5G communications the most: it would decrease by 1.9 bln rubles ($26.95 mln). According to Rostec’s estimates, if subsidies are postponed to a later date, then by 2024 the state corporation will be able to set up only 5,000 base stations as opposed to the planned 20,000.
It is not unreasonable to assume that Rostec will not be able to achieve its goals in the planned timeframe should funding be halved, Managing Partner at AC&M Consulting Mikhail Alekseev told Vedomosti. In addition, Rostec will have to compete with global manufacturers, such as Huawei or Ericsson, which produce base stations more efficiently and cheaper due to the scale of their business, he added.
Reducing funding could certainly affect the launch of 5G networks and related services needed by a wide range of industries, a representative of Rostelecom told the newspaper. However, according to the source, frequency permits remain the main issue yet to be resolved.