Top stories in the Russian press on Monday, April 29, prepared by TASS
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Putin-Kim summit boosts Russia's influence on world stage
After nearly four hours of negotiations in Vladivostok, first face-to-face and then with delegation members, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not announce any particular deals. It’s clear that Moscow is committed to honoring international sanctions against North Korea until it halts its nuclear program and cannot offer any significant assistance to Pyongyang now, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. In 2018, the volume of bilateral trade halved, year-on-year, to $34 mln, because of the restrictions.
However, the friendly tone, which was seen before, after and during the pauses when the two leaders exchanged their views, contrasted to the failed Hanoi summit in February between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the paper says. Since then dialogue between the US and North Korea has been stuck in the mud. Pyongyang demanded replacing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with a more careful and mature negotiator.
Now Pyongyang has found Moscow’s support and it’s highly likely that this will prop up its position at further talks with the US on denuclearization. Besides, Kim’s visit allows reviving historic ties with Russia. Although Moscow’s influence on North Korea is seriously smaller than its key sponsor and ally China, Pyongyang apparently does not want to become totally dependent on Beijing.
For Moscow, this summit is a chance to present itself as a global player. The Russian president has joined a narrow club of leaders, who have met with Kim, which includes Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Putin backs the approach that Pyongyang’s steps on denuclearization should be followed by encouraging moves from Washington. But security guarantees given by the US are not enough to convince Kim to halt his nuclear program, he said.
This problem cannot be ironed out by "the law of the fist" and that’s why Trump’s guarantees should be substantiated by guarantees of those countries, which are concerned about the crisis on the Korean Peninsula - Russia, China, South Korea and Japan. Moscow’s recipe is to hold six-party talks, even if they failed to yield significant results in the past, according to the paper.
Izvestia: French lawmakers eye lifting all of Europe's anti-Russia sanctions
French legislators are planning to discuss abolishing the EU-wide sanctions against Russia after the election to the European Parliament, French MP and Co-Chairman of the French-Russian Dialogue Association Thierry Mariani, who heads the French delegation at the Yalta International Economic Forum, told Izvestia on Monday.
"Our party plans to raise the issue of lifting sanctions against Russia at the all-European level. But at first, we need to wait for the results of the election to the European Parliament due on May 26," Mariani said.
Besides, according to the French politician, the issue of cancelling the anti-Russia sanctions depends on the success of talks with the new Ukrainian president. "If Russia and Ukraine manage to agree on all points at issue, including Donbass, sanctions will be abolished. Moreover, both sides have their tried and tested ways for launching a peaceful dialogue, namely the Minsk agreements, which had been signed by [former French] President Francois Hollande," he said.
This is really a good deal, which included the issues of local self-government, the status of prisoners and the exchange of POWs. "If Poroshenko’s administration had been committed to this deal, the situation would not have gone that far. Four months ago, I visited Donetsk and witnessed with my own eyes what these poor people, who have suffered from the ongoing war, were going through. It’s difficult to imagine something like that happening in the middle of Europe. I hope that President-elect Zelensky will pursue another policy. I lay great hopes on him."
According to Mariani, the EU will need at least two years to lift all restrictions and start trade with Russia. "I believe the sanctions will be canceled in two years. It’s unlikely that this will happen earlier since all vulnerable issues are not solved on the spur of the moment."
Izvestia: Denmark’s delay on Nord Stream 2 may harm European consumers
European gas consumers will save 8 bln euro annually if Russia’s North Stream 2 gas pipeline starts operation in 2020, Izvestia writes citing the company’s press service. "If the gas pipeline is completed by late 2019 and is put into service in 2020, European families will get access to a source of gas with lower prime costs and save 8 bln euro per year. This will happen since prices will decline by 13%," the press service of Nord Stream 2 AG told the publication.
By mid-April, more than 1,000 km of the gas pipeline’s two legs have been built and presently its construction is underway in Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany. The company emphasizes that delaying the launch is not advantageous for anyone because the lack of access to cheap natural gas will increase prices across Europe. For each day of delay, European citizens and industrial enterprises will be forced to pay 20 mln euros.
However, the real timeframe of the launch and the future project’s profitability still remain in question. In particular, this is due to Danish government, which is delaying the Nord Stream-2 pipeline’s construction using the EU gas directive amendments to hamper the project.
By April 2019, Denmark was the only one out of five countries, which refused to issue permission to build the gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea. Other participants of the project - Germany, Russia, Finland and Sweden - gave the go-ahead for the project in mid-2018.
Until recently, Copenhagen was considering two bids on building pipelines in the Danish territorial waters, which Nord Stream 2 AG filed in April 2017 and in August 2018. Both are up in the air now since the Danish regulator has neither rejected nor backed them so far.
On April 15, a third bid was submitted on constructing a gas pipeline on an alternative route through Denmark’s exclusive economic zone to the south of Bornholm Island, but in international waters. This means that Copenhagen cannot ban building the pipeline. However, the Danish regulator has announced plans of carrying out an environmental analysis of the project, and this would take at least six months.
According to Director General of the National Energy Institute Sergey Pravosudov, it is unknown when this decision will be made and whether it will be made at all. "The thing is that Denmark is not prohibiting anything. It is just delaying the issue of the permit," the expert told Izvestia. Moscow links Denmark’s position to pressure from Washington, which is "twisting arms of its partners to drive out Russian gas from the European market and fill it with its liquefied natural gas," Russian diplomatic sources noted.
US Attorney General William Barr will check information into Ukraine’s alleged interference in the 2016 American presidential election, US President Donald Trump said in an interview with Fox News. Although US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has concluded that there was no collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, some key people behind this narrative were linked to a foreign state, namely Ukraine. This is not the first time when issue of Ukraine’s alleged meddling in the US presidential election in 2016 has surfaced, RBC writes.
In March, Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General Yuri Lutsenko in an interview with The Hill said that an investigation into Kiev’s alleged meddling in the US election had been launched. The probe began after an audio recording surfaced in which a person with a voice similar to Head of Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau Artem Sytnik acknowledged that during the US election campaign the agency deliberately released data on "off-the-book financial schemes" of the Party of Regions. This served as key evidence against Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, and the publication was aimed at helping then presidential contender, Hillary Clinton. Manafort, who started working in Ukraine in 2004 and continued his job after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted, reportedly illegally received a payment of $12.7 mln from the Party of Regions. This March, a Virginia court found Manafort guilty of financial and tax crimes during his work as a political adviser in Ukraine, sentencing him to six years and nine months behind bars.
The investigation into foreign meddling became part and parcel of a long process of Trump’s domestic political standoff with the Democrats, expert at the Russian International Affairs Council Maxim Suchkov told RBC. Trump has the right to demand that the attorney general launch an investigation into alleged Ukrainian meddling, although this case won’t be as high-profile as the crusade against Russia. However, this potential investigation may continue if Trump’s team sees that this may spiral into an attack on one of the Democratic leaders in the 2020 presidential race - Joe Biden, whose son had interests in Ukraine, the expert noted.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: New armed standoff in Syria poses threat to Russian base
An armed confrontation began in western Syria, which is directly jeopardizing Russia’s Hmeimim military base, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Last week, Head of the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria Major General Viktor Kupchishin noted several times that militants had shelled settlements in Latakia. This Syrian province, mostly populated by Alawites, was earlier considered the country’s calmest one.
Last week, outlawed armed gangs opened fire from multiple artillery rocket systems at targets in Latakia and also at the Hmeimim airfield. According to Al Masdar News, in response to the bombing, Russia’s Aerospace Defense Forces carried out a massive air strike on the areas controlled by militants in Syria’s Hama and Idlib provinces. The Syrian Arab Army also retaliated using artillery weapons and the Tochka tactical ballistic missile.
It is unknown which illegal armed group is behind this rocket attack, the paper says. Experts and the mass media believe that amid escalation around Idlib, these militants may try to deliver a new strike on the Russian military base, creating an additional threat to the Russian forces in Syria.
The head of Syria’s government delegation at talks in Nur-Sultan, and envoy to the UN Bashar Jaafari said Turkey could have masterminded these incidents. He cited intelligence data that Turkey supplied terrorists with dozens of rocket systems in several areas of Idlib for attacks against the Syrian army. Jaafari claimed that Turkey’s intelligence services backed the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) terrorists in Idlib. It’s highly likely that HTS groups, which constitute a majority of 85% in Idlib, used rocket systems against Syrian and Russian targets, according to the paper.
Internet portal avia.pro notes that the United States and Israel could have been involved in the strikes on Latakia since their reconnaissance jets were allegedly seen in the skies near Syria at that time. They could have shared data on the targets with terrorists because without this information it was almost impossible to carry out a precise strike on the Hmeimim base from the distance of 50-60 km, it said.
Syrian media reports say that Turkey continues concentrating its forces on the border with Syria. It’s highly likely that it can create a buffer zone on the Syrian border without Damascus’ permission. It’s unclear what steps the US and Russia will take. Now Moscow and Washington continue struggling for influence in Syria, the paper writes.