Top stories from the Russian press on Tuesday, February 11, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Putin may address 75th session of UN General Assembly
Russian President Vladimir Putin may deliver an address at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September. According to Kommersant’s informed sources in Russia’s government institutions, the issue is being explored. The sources stressed that a preliminary discussion of the issue was underway, but there is no doubt that the decision would be positive. On the other hand, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the paper that there were no decisions on that so far.
Putin spoke from the UN podium four times, and the last time was in 2015. In his last speech, he recalled that, back in 1945, the key decisions on the principles of interaction between states had been made at the Yalta conference, where the leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition met.
If the Russian leader flies to New York again this year, he is likely to focus not only on the significance of the UN but also on the special role and responsibility of the UN Security Council’s permanent members (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States). Speaking at the World Holocaust Forum in late January, Putin suggested holding a meeting of the UN Security Council’s permanent members, stressing that they shoulder special responsibility for the preservation of civilization.
However, Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said in a recent interview that the meeting was planned as a thorough conversation about the problems that had piled up in global politics. He noted that it was difficult to arrange such an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly because of the busy schedules of the participants.
The leaders of the five UN Security Council permanent members have been invited to attend the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow in May, but Kommersant’s interlocutors do not expect that it will be possible to bring all of them together on that occasion. Moscow is ready to consider other options, given the consent from its partners. So far, the initiative has been backed by China and France, while the US and the UK have kept mum on the issue.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Turkey continues to sustain losses in Syria’s Idlib
The escalation in Syria’s Idlib Governorate, the last major remaining enclave of Assad’s armed opponents, has resulted in more fatalities among Turkish troops, Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes.
The Turkish Ministry of National Defense earlier reported that five Turkish soldiers had been killed at an observation post in the Idlib de-escalation zone after being attacked by the Syrian army’s artillery. According to Ankara, Syrian government forces are conducting offensive operations, which contravene all agreements. If Damascus’ offensive persists, Turkey will implement Plan B and even plan C in Idlib, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar vowed.
A few hours before the incident, Russian-Turkish consultations were held in Ankara. The February 10 meeting was the second attempt by the guarantor nations of the Syrian peace process to ensure a stable ceasefire in Idlib. However, the meeting did not seem to yield any substantial results.
For its part, Russia says the advance of Syrian government troops stems from the need to mop up the remaining terrorists inside the militant-held province. Officials in Moscow call for disengaging the so-called moderate opposition from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra (terror organization, outlawed in Russia).
"One cannot talk about the conflict between Moscow and Ankara. Rather, we can talk about the limits of bilateral cooperation," Russian International Affairs Council expert Anton Mardasov told the paper. "Given the previous deals between the two countries, it is difficult to say what specifically Turkey means by making such threats."
According to the expert, Ankara’s promises to launch an operation in Idlib are nothing more than a move to up the ante to secure an acceptable compromise in the future. "All that proves that Idlib and Euphrates River issues are interrelated in the Russian-Turkish dialogue," he went on to say.
"I do not believe that Ankara will ‘force’ Damascus to retreat to the positions envisaged by the 2018 Sochi agreement. The option of setting up a demilitarized zone, which would include the [M4 and M5] highways, would be a way out of the situation. However, it would be difficult to make Damascus give up its positions even for the sake of some kind of neutral control," the expert pointed out.
Kommersant: Trump seeks to hammer Democrats in upcoming presidential campaign
The Trump administration has submitted the draft federal budget for 2021 to Congress, which outlines its priorities in the run-up to the upcoming presidential election set for November. The new budget proposal implies an increase in defense spending, in particular, in terms of countering Russia and China, Kommersant reports.
At the same time, it lays out cuts to social programs and foreign aid. However, those reductions are not going to affect Ukraine. Given the predominance of Democrats in the House of Representatives, the presidential budget in its current form has no chance of being passed. However, it is important for Trump who is seeking reelection to show US voters his fortitude to protect America from "socialism," which he accuses his political foes of adhering to.
The $4.8 trillion budget proposed by the White House for fiscal year 2021 beginning in October highlights the need for bolstering the competitiveness of the US economy, reducing taxes on big business and cutting non-defense spending by 5%, to $590 bln.
"During the remaining time before the election, President Trump will spook voters with the ‘socialism’ of the leading Democratic candidates in the election campaign - Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. If the parties do not reach a compromise on the budget by the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1, the work of the government could be suspended on the eve of the election," Anton Fedyashin, a professor at American University in Washington DC, told Kommersant. "That will help Trump a lot, who will try to prove that Democrats not only made a mess of Robert Mueller’s investigation [on Russia’s alleged election meddling], the impeachment proceedings and the Iowa caucuses, but also that they are unable to agree on the budget and therefore they don’t know how to manage."
There is still a lot of time ahead, but so far, everything is in favor of Trump’s reelection, the expert added.
Izvestia: Russia cherishes good relations with Georgian people, says diplomat
Russia has always treasured relations with people in Georgia, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko told Izvestia.
"Russia has never initiated the deterioration of relations with Georgia. It was Tbilisi that severed diplomatic relations with Moscow in September 2008 after a treacherous armed attack on Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. Unfortunately, all political actors that came to power in Georgia in the subsequent years tried to demonize our country playing the anti-Russian card for the sake of short-term political gains," he stressed.
"For its part, Moscow is trying to work on a positive agenda, making efforts to mend Russian-Georgian ties and ensure peace and stability in the Transcaucasus region," the diplomat added.
Referring to Russian-Georgian dialogue, Rudenko noted that all necessary mechanisms were in place for solving bilateral and regional problems. "These include, in particular, the informal dialogue channel between Grigory Karasin and Zurab Abashidze. Despite all the ups and downs in bilateral relations, it continues to operate effectively," he noted.
"It is important to realize that Russia has always treasured friendly relations with the Georgian people, together with whom we lived in a single state for more than a century. We are certain that good relations between the peoples of our two countries that have been preserved can withstand any politically motivated pressure imposed from the outside and will serve as solid groundwork for the process of stabilizing intergovernmental relations," the senior diplomat pointed out.
Vedomosti: Low-coster Pobeda becomes Russia’s third largest air carrier
Pobeda Airlines, a low cost subsidiary of Aeroflot, became Russia’s third largest airline in terms of the number of passengers carried in January 2020, Vedomosti writes citing data provided by the Federal Air Transport Agency. Its traffic grew by 34% to reach 923,000 people. Only Aeroflot itself and S7 Airlines transported more people (2.64 mln and 1.37 mln respectively). In total, Russian airlines increased the number of transported passengers by 6.4% to 8.9 mln.
Pobeda, which commenced its operations in December 2014, ranked seventh among Russian airlines in passenger traffic in 2015, and was sixth and fourth in 2016 and 2018, respectively. Aeroflot’s subsidiary, Rossiya Airlines, which had been the third largest air carrier since 2016, saw a drop in passenger traffic by 11% in January, dipping to fifth place.
The low coster’s increase stems from its growing fleet. Over the past year, it has expanded from 24 Boeing 737 NG airliners to 30 planes. Rossiya, on the contrary, shed seven aircraft. Four of them are undergoing maintenance and are expected to be transferred to Pobeda and three others to Aeroflot, a source close to Rossiya explained.
Four additional planes, which will be handed over to Pobeda in March, will enable the company to increase passenger traffic by 16.5% in 2020, two sources close to the Aeroflot Group said.
Pobeda has so far shown phenomenal results, the paper quotes Infomost Agency Director General Boris Rybak as saying. "They are due to the aircraft’s flight time and the maximum passenger load rate among regular airlines - 94% in 2019. That stems from strong demand for a low cost airline in the country, where the vast majority of residents have low incomes," the expert explained.