Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, July 18, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Why Putin and Lukashenko need private meetings like Valaam
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko held an informal meeting on the Valaam Archipelago located in Russia’s northwestern Karelia Region ahead of the upcoming formal events in St. Petersburg. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, the two leaders will have to outline new objectives for the Union State of Russia and Belarus, which marks its 20th birthday this year.
Face to face negotiations are an important aspect of relations between Moscow and Minsk, this kind of communication makes it possible for them to openly discuss the existing problems and outline prospects for cooperation in the future, says Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council (upper house) Foreign Affairs Committee.
"It’s good that the two presidents meet so often. Purely economic issues have piled up in our relations recently, and we are tackling them. They have been able to solve many problems during such informal meetings. I believe this year will be marked by some progress in the Union State affairs. However, the pace of its development will depend on the results of the next meetings between the two leaders," he explained.
According to Kirill Koktysh, Associate Professor at the Political Theory Department at MGIMO University, both leaders needed to discuss a number of issues in a quiet atmosphere during an informal conversation to iron out disagreements in bilateral ties.
"Essentially, they need to outline new goals of the Russian-Belarusian union. The previous agenda has been implemented, by and large, and it is essential to work on the new one," he stressed.
Russia and Belarus seek deeper integration, which means that any steps aimed at meeting each other halfway can be viewed as the beginning in accomplishing this objective, the expert added.
Kommersant: US ready to quit all arms accords unless China joins them
The Russian-US consultations in Geneva have once again revealed the parties’ conflicting stances on arms control issues, Kommersant writes. While Moscow is interested in extending or amending the existing accords, specifically, the INF and New START treaties, Washington seeks to dismantle the current system and replace it with fundamentally new agreements.
The US negotiators earlier told reporters on condition of anonymity that they had no intention of discussing those issues, which Moscow is most concerned about. They insist that the INF Treaty will cease to exist on August 2, and it cannot be salvaged. Secondly, they see no point in extending the New START Treaty, while Moscow is in favor of extending it.
Washington is also pushing for a trilateral nuclear arms control deal that would involve the US, Russia and China. Beijing, however, has made it clear more than once that it sees no preconditions for its involvement in that agreement.
It is not improbable that the Trump administration is fully aware that the prospects for a trilateral nuclear arms control deal are dim.
According to Kommersant’s source familiar with the content of the recent meeting between the Russian and US presidents in Osaka, Donald Trump did not raise the issue of China’s involvement in arms control agreements.
The Guardian earlier reported citing its sources in Congress that there was no plan to replace New START expiring in 2021 with a new accord.
Izvestia: Russia and Georgia ready to mend relations
Moscow continues to explore the possibility of abolishing visas for Georgian citizens, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Izvestia. According to the senior diplomat, Moscow is interested in mending relations with Tbilisi and is ready for top-level negotiations, should Georgia express such a desire.
"The issue of abolishing visas with Georgia has been the focus of the Russian political leadership’s attention. I believe Tbilisi’s specific steps aimed at normalizing relations with our country could bring it back to the bilateral agenda," he said.
Consultations between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Special Representative of the Georgian Prime Minister for Relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze are presently the only direct channel of communication between Moscow and Tbilisi. Nevertheless, the parties could make substantial progress by expanding the negotiation mechanisms and possibly arranging a top-level meeting.
"Russia is always open to any direct talks, including summits. Unfortunately, Georgia isn’t showing any willingness to do that, and the latest events prove that. If it weren't for attempts by Georgian politicians, let alone extremists, to focus on the issues that divide us, we could make tangible progress and arrange meetings at any level," Karasin assured.
Meanwhile, a delegation of Georgian lawmakers representing the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia visited Moscow to hold talks with their Russian counterparts. Chief negotiator Giogri Lomia told the paper that the parties discussed potential steps that could ease tensions in bilateral ties and help go over to their normalization. He was certain that as soon as anti-Russian sentiment in Tbilisi subsided, positive steps from Moscow would follow soon.
"Only after that will normalization begin. Flights should resume. Also, I believe visas will be abolished. This will not happen overnight, but neither should it take years. The most important thing is to make sure that the Russophobic sentiment fades away. We draw the conclusion with our Russian counterparts that there is no alternative to dialogue anyway," he stressed.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Moscow, New Delhi trying to evade US sanctions
Russia and India have reached an agreement on settling defense deals in national currencies. The move came in response to Washington’s threats of sanctions and banking restrictions, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. That could help both countries to shield themselves from restrictions envisaged by US laws.
India is expected to pay the first installment for the construction of two warships for its navy soon.
It is noteworthy that military-technical cooperation between the two countries covers almost all types of conventional weapons, from small arms to strategic air defense systems. The contract for the deliveries of five regiments of the Triumf air defense systems was initialed in October 2018. Its estimated value is $5.43 bln.
According to the Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, Ruslan Pukhov, the Russian-Indian deal marks the beginning of "breaking the US siege."
"Global finances are controlled by America, so we need to abandon world currencies. The rupees, which we will receive, must be converted and used in our economy. We need to buy Indian goods for that money, the way we did during the Soviet era. It’s good that the parties show determination to overcome the stumbling blocks created by the Americans. However, it’s too early to celebrate," he emphasized.
Commenting on reports by the Diplomat magazine saying that Russia would like to resume talks on the joint production of the Su-57 jets with India, the expert explained there are some problems that need to be solved. "To begin with, India has spent a lot of money on purchasing French fighter jets. Secondly, the Indians have become more demanding, even needy, and we were not quite ready for that," he noted.
Kommersant: Cyber attacks on healthcare facilities are becoming more common
Kaspersky Lab has informed Kommersant that it had registered a series of attacks on healthcare facilities in Russia. According to data provided by the company, up to ten large state-owned health facilities located in Russia’s southern regions were the targets of these attacks in the spring and early summer of 2019. It is unclear so far who is behind the attacks.
Computers were hacked by using the CloudMid spyware. Kaspersky Lab’s representatives noted that they had never come across such "unique malware" before.
"Hackers, including the organizers of complex and covert targeted attacks, have become interested in the healthcare sector. In this case, the attacks were not thoroughly prepared technically. However, they were precise, and the attackers were able to get what they wanted," the paper quotes Dmitry Kuznetsov, a computer virus expert at Kaspersky Lab, as saying.
"Many healthcare facilities have a very vulnerable infrastructure because it is common for equipment to have outdated software, as not all manufacturers of medical devices regularly update their drivers for the latest versions of operating systems and programs. In addition, software upgrades imply the need to recertify all equipment," said Yevgeny Voloshin, Chief of Security at Bi.Zone.
At the same time, healthcare facilities possess critical personal and financial data on their patients, including bank account details, the expert stressed. "This is critical information for patient care, an interested party is ready to pay thousands of dollars for such data," he said.