Izvestia: Moscow to shrug off Trump’s initiative on 'Russian influence'
Russia will not respond the most recent initiative by US President Donald Trump to counter Russia’s "malign influence," which he included in the draft US budget for 2020, Russian Permanent Representative to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told Izvestia, TASS reported.
The diplomat stressed that the proposed move is in line with the anti-Russian sentiment, currently prevailing in Washington.
"How Trump intends to spend taxpayer money is a big question. The funding of his pet project, the famous wall on the border with Mexico, has been cut recently. I believe that funds to fight the elusive Russian threat will be allocated. That is in line with the Russophobic atmosphere, which, alas, reigns supreme in Washington today. Let’s see what practical continuation this initiative will have," the diplomat said.
Chizhov stressed that Russia would not provide a tit-for-tat response to Trump’s proposal. "We do not do such things," he pointed out.
For his part, Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee, told the paper that the US president’s initiative was regrettable. According to the senator, this move is tantamount to refusing to mend relations and revive bilateral ties in the near future.
"These funds will be used for the so-called ‘color revolutions’ and efforts to ensure the allies’ security. Evidently, Donald Trump plans to create additional jobs for those working in the defense sector," the senator noted. He was certain that the policy of sanctions and attempts to export color revolutions would yield no results. We do remember that wherever the US intervened, its policies failed, the politician added.
RBC: Russia could divert funds for building Moscow-Kazan railway to Novatek’s LNG project
Russia’s Finance Ministry has suggested earmarking 112 bln rubles ($1.75 bln) set aside for the construction of the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway to be used for Novatek’s project, the Utrenniy terminal for the Arctic LNG 2 plant, a source in the Russian government’s Executive Office informed RBC. This information was confirmed by a Finance Ministry source.
The project is part of the Northern Sea Route and the Sea Ports of Russia federal programs, which will make it possible to increase the cargo traffic along the Northern Sea Route to 80 mln tonnes and the capacity of Russia’s sea ports to 1.3 bln tonnes by 2024, according to the Russian Finance Ministry.
Novatek’s spokesman told the paper that "the president and the government have issued all the necessary instructions to tackle the issues of financing the construction of the terminal’s infrastructure." However, Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov who oversees transport issues earlier said commenting on the proposed move that "it’s pointless to discuss that, because these are just ideas."
Novatek is completing the construction of the first private LNG plant on the Yamal Peninsula, Yamal LNG, with a capacity of 17.4 mln tonnes. The company is getting ready for the construction of the second plant, Arctic LNG 2, with a capacity of 19.8 mln tonnes. As it lures foreign investors, the company continues efforts to negotiate the construction of the infrastructure with the government. Novatek promises to transport 46.7 mln tonnes of cargo along the Northern Sea route by the end of 2024.
The amount of financing for the development of the Northern Sea Route is due to be readjusted in May, which is too late for Novatek, as the work should begin this coming summer. The terminal will be constructed in the Arctic region, and, if Novatek cannot do everything it planned during the short navigation period, the work could be put off until next year, the paper quotes Maxim Khudalov, Director of the ACRA Corporate Ratings Group, as saying. That will be problematic for the project, since Russia needs to fill the niche in the LNG market, otherwise it will be filled by the US, the expert explained.
Kommersant: Russia to create air pollution database
Russia’s consumer rights and environmental watchdogs have informed Kommersant that they would create databases and interactive maps to bring the public up to date about the current state of air quality and potential health risks. The data will be available on these government agencies’ websites and updated promptly, they said.
According to the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, 13.5 mln people in Russia breathed polluted air in 2017. More than half of the cities with high and very high levels of pollution are located in Siberia, the ministry said.
Environmentalists and scientists earlier pointed to the lack of reliable and up-to-date information on air pollution. They noted that the only system that met European criteria was the Moscow environmental monitoring service. That being said, there are similar maps in St. Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk and Tatarstan.
"Our experience shows that interactive maps are an effective means of communicating the problem of air pollution, explaining its true causes and consequences and a range of possible measures to resolve these issues, even on a local level, for decision makers and the population," the paper quotes Greenpeace Russia expert Vasily Yablokov as saying.
Meanwhile, Boris Revich, Head of Environmental Quality and Public Health Forecasting Laboratory at the Russian Academy of Science's Economic Forecasting Institute, highlighted the need to create local urban systems similar to the Moscow environmental monitoring service. "No one will now look at the air quality data provided by the Moscow Meteorological Service, because the information provided by the Moscow environmental monitoring service meets all the European criteria," he was quoted as saying.
Izvestia: Kabul rejects talks with Taliban
The sixth round of talks between the US and the Taliban (outlawed in Russia) to spell out in detail the conditions for a US troop pullout and efforts to fight terrorism will be held in Doha in late March. Russia’s delegate is expected to take part in them as well. However, the negotiations are going to be held without representatives from the Afghan government, drawing Kabul’s ire, Izvestia writes.
Afghanistan is opposed to any negotiations with the Taliban and views Washington’s failure to brief it over progress along the Afghan track as an insult. Moscow, which too hosted Afghan talks and received a delegation of the Taliban’s Qatar wing in February, has always invited the government to join the talks, but Kabul has always refused.
"People younger than 50 are primarily Afghan nationalists and only then ethnic nationalists, be it the Pashtuns or the Hazaras. They are fully aware of the fact that the Taliban is not an intra-Afghan project, that these are not rebels or armed opposition but mercenaries of the Pakistani special services. It is pointless to conduct negotiations with mercenaries, because only Pakistan’s special services can influence them," a source in Kabul close to the government explained to Izvestia.
Meanwhile, a considerable part of the US military and intelligence community is also opposed to any negotiations with the Taliban. People in the United States who understand the underlying reason for events in Afghanistan know that the Taliban’s members cannot be trusted and that they will never break up with al-Qaeda, Andrei Serenko, an expert at the Russian Center for Contemporary Afghanistan Studies, told the paper.
"To begin with, it is not quite clear who manages the Taliban and with whom agreements should be concluded. There are a few people who walk around Doha and say they are Taliban members. However, no one knows how these Taliban members can influence Taliban fighters ‘in the trenches’ in Afghanistan itself," the expert emphasized.
Commenting on the planned US pullout from Afghanistan, he noted that it is a very costly and complicated procedure. "If we look at what the Americans built in Herat, Bagram and other areas, the infrastructure just cannot be abandoned for good or handed over to someone else, it becomes clear that they will never withdraw their forces from the country," Serenko said.
Vedomosti: Russian government freezes gasoline prices until summer
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has extended an agreement with oil companies on freezing gasoline prices for three months. The government decided to maintain the status quo in the fuel market and prolong the deal to stabilize the market, according to Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak.
Under the current deal, oil companies were to contain prices at gas stations and small wholesale distributors until the end of March, thanks to which the cost of fuel at filling stations grew a mere 0.4-1.1% since the beginning of this year (compared to 8-9% last year).
Oil companies have lost more than 110 bln rubles ($1.72 bln) from the beginning of this year to March because of their obligation to supply gasoline to the domestic market, according to Vygon Consulting expert Evgeny Tyrtov. That sum could be partially compensated through the mechanism envisaged by the tax maneuver law, the paper quotes him as saying.
"The issue of price hikes on gasoline is a politically sensitive one, and the government has to maneuver between what it considers its social obligations and the promise to create clear rules of the game in the industry," says Fitch analyst Dmitry Marinchenko. So far, there is no consensus on a rather complicated issue of who and to what extent should bear the risks related to rising gasoline prices - companies, the budget or the population, the expert added.