Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, July 11, prepared by TASS
Vedomosti: Kremlin’s backing of Medvedchuk’s party mobilizes anti-Russian forces
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev held talks with leaders of Ukraine’s Opposition Platform - For Life party Viktor Medvedchuk and Yuri Boiko on Wednesday. The meeting, aimed at resuming dialogue between the Russian and Ukrainian parties, was held in the United Russia party’s headquarters in Moscow.
According to the Russian premier, his party supports the Opposition Platform’s ideas and hopes it will succeed at the upcoming parliamentary election on July 21. As yet, Russia has not received any clear signals concerning the policy of new Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky and is awaiting the outcome of the election to the Verkhovna Rada.
Just like during the presidential race, the election campaign has focused on peace in eastern Ukraine, Vedomosti writes. According to Viktor Medvedchuk, who heads the Opposition Platform’s Political Council, it is impossible to broker a peace deal in Donbass without cooperation from Russia.
At the meeting, the sides also discussed tariffs and gas prices as well as Russia’s possible move to cancel sanctions against Ukrainian enterprises. The latest opinion polls indicate that Medvedchuk’s party may count on the support of between 11% and 13.4% voters. The front-running Servant of the People party of President Vladimir Zelensky may get between 37.8% and 42.3% of the votes.
Some 12% of Ukrainians have an active pro-Russian stance, and another 20-25% are passive, Ukrainian political scientist Vladimir Fesenko told the paper. These are former voters of the Party of Regions and the communists, who are now choosing between the parties of Medvedchuk, Zelensky and the Opposition Bloc (former Party of Regions).
To a certain extent, the rising popularity of the Opposition Platform is attributed to the disappointment over Zelensky’s first moves, Fesenko explained. However, the key factor here is certainly the support of Moscow, and the latest initiatives, including the visit of Boiko and Medvedchuk to St. Petersburg, the release of four Ukrainian prisoners in Donbass and the buzz around the proposed TV bridge, the expert noted.
"On the one hand, the Kremlin sends a clear signal to pro-Russian constituents as to whom to cast the ballot for. But Moscow does not understand Ukraine because it [Moscow] looks at [Ukraine] it through Medvedchuk, while Medvedchuk has a side view himself." As a result of the Kremlin’s steps, anti-Russian forces are being mobilized and they are more likely to vote for Poroshenko, the expert explained. "Medvedchuk’s party will make it into the parliament and will most likely come in second, but later he will have to enter the Rada through a backdoor, because angry activists will be waiting for him by the entrance."
Izvestia: Syria denies links to British-seized Iranian oil tanker
Not a single Syrian port was gearing up to host Grace 1, an Iranian oil tanker seized by the United Kingdom in Gibraltar, and it’s absolutely wrong to link this to Syria’s oil refinery at the port of Banias, despite what British intelligence services have been insisting on, Ammar al-Assad, vice president of the Syrian Foreign Relations Committee, told Izvestia. He acknowledged that the country indeed continued buying Iranian oil, but these purchases were carried out via other channels. Damascus has called on London to release the oil tanker, stressing that Britain has no legal grounds for detaining the vessel.
Gibraltar’s police have been holding the Iranian tanker and its crew onboard since July 4, claiming that the vessel had shipped crude oil from the Islamic Republic to Syria, in violation of the EU’s sanctions against Damascus. Syria denied any links to the detained tanker, Ammar al-Assad said. "There is not a single official confirmation that the tanker was heading for Syria. I know for sure that our ports were not awaiting any vessel of this name and registration number," the politician said. "However, our country has the right to buy oil from any state and we need neither London's, nor Washington's permission for this."
The lawmaker also stressed that Gibraltar’s accusations against the Iranian vessel are basically Washington’s orders being fulfilled and not European legislation. He has also called on the UK to release the tanker since London has not officially backed US sanctions against Iran and therefore any seizure of a vessel is a matter of international maritime law.
Earlier, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi also stated that Grace 1 was not sailing to Syria. The diplomat did not specify the tanker’s destination though. The UK continues insisting that the vessel was en route to Syria’s Banias port.
Gibraltar’s intelligence services said they would continue holding the vessel until the investigation was completed, issuing a two-week arrest order. Specialists of Tanker Trackers service, which monitors the traffic of oil tankers, found out that Grace 1 had been carrying more than 2 mln tonnes of oil. The Syrian port of Banias cannot simply host supertankers of this size. Experts insist that the vessel had earlier been involved in reselling oil to other vessels in Syrian waters, the paper writes.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian prosecutors join the fight against fake news
A draft instruction, signed by Russian Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika, has been published on the federal portal of legal information, which outlines the procedure of considering notifications about the spread of harmful and prohibited information over the Internet. Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes that the new instruction broadens the term of banned and undesirable information, which was introduced in 2016, and also specifies response measures.
In particular, this concerns information expressed in an indecent form, which insults human dignity and public morals, as well as information, showing clear disrespect for society, the state, official state symbols, the Russian Constitution and state bodies. This refers to material calling for mass unrests and extremist activity, and for participating in unauthorized large-scale events.
Fake news and referrals to unreliable information of social importance, which is disseminated under the guise of trustworthy reports and poses danger to public’s health and welfare, will also be banned. The prosecutors specify malicious fake news, which may trigger mass violations of public order and public security or endanger the operation of vital infrastructure, transport and social facilities, banks, energy, industrial or communications facilities.
Russian prosecutors will also immediately respond to information published by foreign intergovernmental organizations, which are deemed as objectionable in the country. All notifications about objectionable information should be registered in the automatic system known as Nadzor. A decision on blocking dangerous information must be made immediately, the paper said.
Media: Kiev seeks jail time for those not ‘recognizing’ Crimea as ‘Ukrainian’
Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on Thursday may impose responsibility for public non-recognition of Ukrainian status of Crimea and Donbass territories uncontrolled by Kiev. One of the bill's initiators is Parliament Speaker Andrei Parubiy, who has been urging to push back against ‘an infowar’ carried out by Russia and the ‘fifth column,’ Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The bill proposes amendments to Article 110 of Ukraine’s Penal Code on "encroachment on the territorial integrity and the inviolability of Ukraine." The document says that "deliberate non-recognition" of Crimea and Donbass as Ukraine’s territories should be punishable by as long as three to five years behind bars and might also entail the seizure of property.
The proposers of the bill believe that the new authorities have not been taking any active steps on the international arena and the adoption of this document is vital for strengthening national security, Kommersant writes. Meanwhile, a source told the paper that Zelensky’s office does not consider it necessary to respond to the hints of wannabe MPs about the alleged attempts of the new administration to compromise Ukraine’s interests. The source believes that the rivals of the president’s Servant of the People party are deliberately pushing for these bills in order to accuse the new team of its readiness to make speculative concessions. He stressed that Zelensky’s team would never reconsider the Ukrainian borders outlined in the Constitution and bargain over the state sovereignty.
The source also doubted that this proposed law might be applied even in the most evident cases. In particular, it does not specify what "non-recognition" of territory as Ukrainian really means, it noted.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: US, Iran reportedly held secret talks in Iraqi Kurdistan
Two sworn enemies, the United States and Iran, have been suspected of boosting diplomatic links amid an unprecedented military and political crisis in the Persian Gulf, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. Israeli media reported about a secret meeting between the two countries’ representatives in Erbil, in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
According to the report, the talks allegedly involved Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Iran’s late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Other negotiators from the Islamic Republic reportedly included some members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an elite military force, which is responsible for carrying out military operations abroad. Washington denies holding such contacts.
Experts believe that the data on a secret negotiating channel is very contradictory. "The report [on talks in Iraq] may be either inside information or fake news in order to test the waters," expert at the Russian International Affairs Council Anton Mardasov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
However, Mardasov noted that there are questions regarding the venue of the meeting: Iran has stable relations with Erbil but it would be much easier to arrange a meeting in Sulaymaniyah (Iraqi Kurdistan). On the other hand, there are no military facilities and US intelligence forces there like the ones in the Erbil airport’s area.
According to the analyst, in theory Washington and Tehran could hold talks on a rather broad range of issues. "Dialogue between opponents is constantly held at various levels, including for example, contacts between the Saudis and Iranians," Mardasov noted. The most vital issue is the situation in Iraq, a key country in terms of ensuring US interests in the region, where Iran has great influence both on the political elite and the shadow economy.
The US is not hiding its concerns over the behavior of some factions from the Popular Mobilization Forces (al-Hashd ash-Sha·abi) in both Iraq and Syria, which have shelled US positions several times of late, he said. Besides, they are apparently controlling some Iraqi areas where Iran had deployed missiles. So, Washington and Tehran could discuss both local issues, related to the current standoff in the region, and nuclear issues.