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- Press review: Russia, India to deepen ties and NATO spying endangers civilian airliners
- Press review: Why Russia nabbed Ukrainian spy ring and Transnistria up against the wall
Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, September 18, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Russia vows to retaliate against potential EU sanctions
Even though the EU is trying to elbow Russia out of the gas market, it is unlikely that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project will be abandoned over the incident with Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny, sources in the Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) told Izvestia. The resolution approved by the European Parliament (EP) on Thursday stresses the need for an international investigation into the alleged poisoning of Navalny with a Novichok-type toxic agent. European MPs called for suspending Nord Stream 2 and slapping sanctions on Russia. Meanwhile, Moscow is urging Berlin to cooperate in the investigation of what happened to Navalny. If the EU levies sanctions on Russia, Moscow can provide a tit-for-tat response, Russian MPs told the paper.
"I don’t think this option will come to life, because it is difficult to connect the situation with Navalny to the construction of Nord Stream 2. This is just an excuse to push Russia out of the gas market. We need to react calmly and not be dragged into those discussions," Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on Foreign Affairs Vladimir Dzhabarov told Izvestia, commenting on the resolution.
Earlier, Klaus Ernst, who heads the Bundestag Economy and Energy Committee, told the paper that it would be absurd to tie Nord Stream 2 to the activity of the Russian opposition figure.
Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee Alexei Chepa explained to Izvestia that in the event of any real anti-Russian sanctions, Russia can provide a tit-for-tat response. For example, if the EU approves personal restrictions and a sanctions list, Moscow will do the same.
"Of course, we will respond. However, this will impact both our economy and the economy of Germany and the EU. No one wins here. However, there may be a tit-for-tat blacklist that would include, for example, the MPs that called for anti-Russian sanctions or for the suspension of Nord Stream 2," the MP said, stressing that Moscow will only retaliate if the EU introduces real sanctions against Russia.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Warsaw claims Russian air traffic controllers caused 2010 Polish presidential plane crash
Russia has dismissed Poland’s demands to arrest three Russian air traffic controllers who worked at the Smolensk North Airport on April 10, 2010, when The Tupolev-154M presidential plane of the Polish Air Force crashed while trying to land, killing all 96 people on board, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski. Experts from the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) concluded that the crash was due to the actions of the plane’s Polish crew. However, ten years later, Warsaw is still hurling accusations against Russia, Rossiyskaya Gazeta notes.
The Polish prosecution has not given up on finding a guilty party outside of Poland. Three years ago, Polish investigators came to the conclusion that air traffic controllers who "deliberately provoked the catastrophe" are to blame for the disaster instead of the Polish pilots who chose to land in Smolensk despite the numerous warnings from Russian traffic control.
Press Secretary for the Polish General Prosecutor's Office Eva Bialik disclosed that if the court demands the temporary arrest of the air traffic control workers, the investigators can take measures for their detention.
But does Poland have the ability to launch criminal proceedings against Russian citizens? Maria Spiridonova from the Russian Association of Lawyers explained that in accordance with Article 11 Part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code, any person that committed a crime on Russian territory faces criminal proceedings under the Russian law. "Therefore, even if we assume that the Russian air traffic controllers had committed a crime, the case proceedings and the criminal prosecution must take place in strict accordance with the norms of Russian criminal law," Spiridonova told the paper. "Special attention should be paid to Article 61 of the Russian Constitution, which says that a citizen of the Russian Federation cannot be expelled from the country or handed over to another state."
The lawyer emphasized that a foreign state can launch criminal proceedings against Russian citizens only if they committed a crime on the territory of the said state. In such cases, the Russian government must provide support for its citizens, which ranges from sending diplomatic notes to providing qualified legal aid.
Izvestia: How the GNA head’s imminent departure may impact Libya’s balance of power
The resignation of Fayez al-Sarraj, who heads the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), will not change the balance of power in the North African country, and it is unlikely to change Russia’s stance on the situation in the country. Whoever fills al-Sarraj’s shoes, Moscow will continue to support inter-Libyan dialogue mediated by the UN, Russian senators told Izvestia. Experts explained to the paper that the resignation of the governments in Tobruk (eastern Libya) and Tripoli (Western Libya) are part of the same process that shows a change in strategy. Any attempts to resolve the conflict by force won't satisfy Libyans or the international community. Further conflict resolution is possible only through peace talks.
Prime Minister of Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj announced on September 17 on national TV that he planned to resign in late October "to give way to new leaders."
Despite the changes in the Libyan government, Russia’s stance remains unchanged, Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Media Policy Commission Alexey Pushkov told Izvestia.
"We advocate resolving the Libyan problem through inter-Libyan dialogue and through political methods with the participation of the UN. I don’t see why Moscow’s position should fundamentally change due to a change in leadership," the senator stressed. "Libya must form a united government that would be recognized by all parts of the process. There is simply no other way."
The politician noted that the pending change in Libya’s leadership might improve or complicate the conditions for domestic dialogue. This will depend on who will come after al-Sarraj and what the new configuration of power in Tripoli will be like, he said.
Meanwhile, Grigory Lukyanov, a senior lecturer with the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Higher School of Economics’ School of Political Science, told Izvestia that al-Sarraj’s rival, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar of the Libyan National Army, is unlikely to resign in the near future. The expert noted that Haftar’s post is not a political one, and that he cannot be elected. The veteran commander continues to hold on to his clout in Libya, Lukyanov pointed out.
Kommersant: OPEC+ turns up the heat on production cut stragglers
Leaders of OPEC+ states are trying to crank up pressure on those lagging behind on oil production cuts. In August, Saudi Arabia and Russia failed to get stragglers, such as Iraq and Nigeria, to reach the required quota. Saudi Arabia excoriated those states that failed to adhere to the promised cuts, however, despite its tough rhetoric, OPEC+ gave the states that are falling behind some time until the end of the year to achieve the required level, Kommersant reports.
OPEC+ called on players that do not fully adhere to the oil production cut agreements to provide a plan on compensating for excess production until the end of September, the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee ruled. As expected, OPEC+ chose not to change the quota on the cuts, focusing instead on those states that are violating the agreement.
Despite some improvements in member discipline (in July, the required cutbacks were 95% complete), Russia and Saudi Arabia, the key OPEC+ players, called on participants to better fulfill their promises. As a result, despite the tough rhetoric of some of the deal’s participants, like the Saudis, OPEC+ decided to make concessions for their off-track partners, allowing them to compensate for excess production in the summer until the end of the year. Besides, OPEC+ will not introduce sanctions against them.
On the whole, the deal is being followed, and Iraq and Nigeria have improved their discipline, Fitch expert Dmitry Marinchenko told the paper, adding that in August, the UAE was among the deal’s violators, however, this is likely to have happened due to technical reasons. The expert pointed out that it is impossible to judge the effect of partial non-adherence to the deal, however, the fact that Saudi Arabia continues to monitor discipline closely is a positive signal for the market. OPEC+ is likely to continue its flexible approach to the agreement, potentially changing its conditions depending on the pandemic situation and global demand for oil, Marinchenko said. Nevertheless, the quotas are unlikely to change until the end of the year, as the second wave of COVID-19 becomes a far more real risk.
RBC: Bank of Russia documents record volume of money transfers from Russia
The volume of transnational money transfers from Russia abroad reached $837 mln in July 2020, which is a record high since October 2018 ($856 mln), the Bank of Russia’s statistical data cited by RBC reports, which includes the transfers made through money transfer services like Western Union, Golden Crown, Unistream, Contact, Blizko (until April 2020), and Russian Post.
The bulk of the money was sent to countries within the Commonwealth of Independent States ($686 mln), while the remaining part ($152 mln) was sent to non-CIS foreign states.
The international money transfer market recorded a sharp drop in April, reaching $302 mln. The border shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, along with a lull in the work of trade and services and the decreased value of the Russian ruble affected the situation on the market. In July, the volume of money transfers from Russia surpassed April’s figures by 177%, and last year’s figures by 15.6%. Meanwhile, $279 mln was transferred to Russia from abroad, which is the highest figure since December 2019 ($306 mln).
Pent-up demand was among the factors affecting a high volume of money transfers, deputy head of the National Payment Association Maria Mikhailova told RBC. As the majority of transfers went to CIS states, the pent-up demand came from migrants that come to Russia for work, head of the National Payments Council’s board Alma Obayeva said. "During the pandemic, the transfer collection points were shut. Some migrants might also have been left without work. Now they are transferring their savings that accumulated during the months of restrictions, if they did not lose their job, or they are sending the bulk of their wages to compensate for the lack of money in the previous months, if they had no job during the restrictions," she said. Meanwhile, Golden Crown money transfer service recorded a rise in money transfers from CIS to Russia during the pandemic, which is related to the support of migrants that were left without a job and were unable to return home, head of the service Ivan Sitnov told RBC.