Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, October 16, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Zelensky has to act in order for Normandy summit to materialize
The Minsk talks of October 15th, did not generate any specific results. The assumption was that Kiev and the representatives of the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics would coordinate the withdrawal of forces and equipment in the area of the Petrovskoye and Zolotoye settlements, but it did not pan out, Izvestia wrote. LPR’s chief diplomat Vladislav Deinego told the newspaper that it was possible that the issue would be resolved by the Contact Group’s next meeting on October 29. Sources close to the negotiation process told Izvestia that the parties could not agree on a new date for the withdrawal of troops due to Kiev’s inability to guarantee the implementation of the agreements, however, the much-awaited pullback could still take place in the coming weeks.
An individual close to the negotiation process told the newspaper that it was Kiev’s fear of taking any action against nationalists and volunteer battalions of neo-Nazi extremists ensconced on the contact line that caused the failure. "Nationalists have already announced that they would not leave these positions voluntarily. The Ukrainian authorities will not dare to disperse them, and therefore cannot guarantee any dates for the separation in Petrovskoye and Zolotoye. As soon as Kiev takes control of these groups, in other words, once it demonstrates political willpower, the problem will be resolved rather quickly," the source said.
According to another source close to the Contact Group, despite lacking a specific date, the event can still take place in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the situation in Donbass is relatively calm. Eduard Basurin, the DPR’s deputy defense chief, told Izvestia that the Armed Forces of Ukraine had recently ceased combat operations based on the ceasefire deal. "At the moment no violations have been detected," he said.
Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that the issue is putting the Normandy Four summit at risk. "The separation of the forces is a test of how much real power is concentrated in the hands of the new Ukrainian president. The meeting was practically foiled. Therefore, Zelensky’s main task right now is to demonstrate that he can resolve something in his country. If we talk about the Normandy format - it will not be held for just any reason," Kirill Koktysh, an associate professor of political theory at MGIMO told Izvestia.
Kommersant: Trump’s Turkey sanctions push Erdogan closer to Russia
Turkey’s military campaign in northern Syria has sparked a new crisis between Ankara, the United States and its NATO allies. Demanding to curtail the operation, the Trump administration imposed sanctions against two Turkish ministries and several members of the country's top leadership, and raised export duties on Turkish steel. In response, Ankara stated that it did not intend to terminate the operation, despite increased pressure from its Western allies. According to experts interviewed by Kommersant, one of the main consequences of the new sanctions will be to draw Turkey and Russia closer.
Kommersant wrote that in the context of the escalating strife between Turkey and the United States and its European NATO allies, the main intrigue is Ankara’s possible response, since it hosts the strategically important Incirlik air base used by the US Air Force and NATO.
"Turkey has very limited ability to exert pressure on its Western partners since they are linked by thousands of threads. By taking such a radical step, like refusing to let the allies use the Incirlik base, Ankara would face disastrous consequences, since it would inflict a severe blow to its defense cooperation with NATO. However, the United States also has limits to any potential pressure on Turkey. Washington cannot afford to turn an ally into an implacable opponent," Senior Researcher at the Institute for World Economy and International Relations within the Russian Academy of Sciences Viktor Nadein-Raevsky told Kommersant.
"The introduction of new US sanctions against Ankara was just additional confirmation that Washington’s Turkish policy is becoming increasingly captive to the escalating domestic political battle inside the United States. President Erdogan, who does not want to be a victim of a showdown within the American elite, understands this. Thus, one of the main consequences of this new sanctions struggle launched by Washington will be the further rapprochement between Turkey and Russia," Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov told the newspaper.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Ukrainian nationalists give Zelensky ultimatum on Donbass settlement
Ukraine’s top diplomat Vadim Pristayko presented Kiev’s plan for a settlement to the Donbass conflict to his colleagues in the EU and those on relevant committees of the European Parliament. A source close to the situation told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that the Ukrainian chief diplomat reiterated Kiev’s intention to move towards a settlement by fulfilling the Minsk agreements through political and diplomatic means. Meanwhile, experts interviewed by Nezavisimaya Gazeta believe that Ukrainian nationalists could throw a monkey wrench into the process by trying to sway the Ukrainian president. However, the country’s future depends on solidarity between the nation’s leadership and society.
Pristayko unveiled the red line, which the Zelensky administration does not want to cross. Such conditions include refusing to add a provision on the special status of Donbass into the country’s constitution, preserving Ukraine as a unitary state, holding elections of local authorities in Donbass under the Steinmeier formula only after the Minsk agreements points on security are fulfilled.
Valery Chaly, Ukraine’s former envoy to the US, believes that the Zelensky government is facing serious difficulties. “I understand that President Zelensky is in a tight spot, he’s fallen captive to his election promises since he needs to quickly establish a peace that must be permanent and reliable,” he said. In his opinion, Kiev's consent to implement the Steinmeier formula would not solve the situation.
At the moment, Ukrainian experts agree that it is not society in general, but only the radical fringe that is trying to pressure the head of state. At the end of protest rallies held in Kiev on Monday the leader of the National Corps party Andrey Biletsky asked the president questions about Ukraine’s future setting a 10-day deadline to secure decisions at the legislative level that would prevent the possibility of a "surrender", the newspaper wrote.
Kommersant: Rosgeo requests $160 mln from state budget
Russia’s Rosgeo asked the government for additional capitalization of 10.3 bln rubles ($160 mln) so that the enterprise could invest in upgrading equipment. Otherwise, CEO Sergey Gorkov believes that Rosgeo will no longer be competitive, Kommersant wrote. The company has already requested billions of dollars in assistance, but to no avail. Experts argue that the existence of a special state-owned company for exploration does not comply with international practice, but the issue of support will depend on the government’s priorities.
At the end of 2018, Rosgeo’s loan portfolio came to around 6 bln rubles ($93.22 mln), including 4.65 bln rubles ($72.25 mln) that had to be repaid during the year. That said, the company had 4 bln rubles ($62.15 mln) sitting in its accounts, the newspaper wrote.
Kommersant’s source in Rosgeo denied that there were any problems with the bank loans. Meanwhile, the company remained mum on the letter for help, but said that the depreciation of fixed assets reached 90% and this "significantly limited the possibility of increasing the mineral resource base."
A source close to the Ministry of Natural Resources told Kommersant that the situation with fulfilling the state order had worsened and Rosgeo needed funding. In addition, the Accounts Chamber has repeatedly criticized the organization for breaching contracts, Kommersant wrote.
Meanwhile, mining companies across the globe are themselves engaged in geological exploration, Fitch’s Dmitry Marinchenko told the newspaper, noting that the existence of a separate state-owned company in Russia is more of an exception. If the state has to support the holding, it is necessary that the geophysical equipment complies with today’s requirements, Advance Capital’s Karen Dashyan added.
Izvestia: Russia mulls breeding animals for organ transplants
Russia plans to engage in breeding genetically modified animals for organ transplants in the coming years. Scientists at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, together with colleagues from China, are launching a large-scale project to create genetically modified animals for transplantation needs, Izvestia wrote. Pavel Volchkov, head of the genomic engineering laboratory, told Izvestia that an agreement between the institute and four Chinese organizations was signed in Shanghai at a recent forum.
"The Clonorgan company came to us for help in editing the genome. The employees of our laboratory have already hammered out the technology for creating transgenic animals," Volchkov explained.
Scientists are trying to crack the xenotransplantation - transplantation of organs, tissues or cells from one species to another, but it can be used to test new drugs for HIV and cancer. This sort of breakthrough technology could also help patients with diabetes, or solve the problem of bone marrow transplantation.
Konstantin Krutovsky, a leading researcher at the Vavilov Institute of General Genetics believes that genome editing is a quantum leap, but like any new technology, it has certain risks. "We must approach this with great care, using the timeless principle that medicine can ‘do no harm’. Not all side effects of genome editing have been studied. Therefore, additional research is needed before using this method in practical medicine. In addition, the scientific community, together with sociologists, economists and legislators, should develop ethical principles and laws governing the use of this method, and strictly monitor compliance," he told the newspaper.