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Top stories in the Russian press on Wednesday, July 17, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Kiev yields on Russian language to sway Donbass
The law on the state language in Ukraine that entered into force will be amended after the elections to the Verkhovna Rada, sources in Kiev close to the situation told Izvestia. The legislation that infringes upon the rights of the country’s national minorities will be somewhat modified. According to experts interviewed by Izvestia, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky will try to confirm the inadmissibility of dividing the country "into Ukrainian and Russian-speaking." In addition, a partial restoration of Russian language’s rights is necessary for the new administration in Kiev to strengthen their negotiating positions on Donbass.
A source close to the leadership in Kiev told Izvestia that it is planned to "soften the language policy," though stating that the expansion of the "rights of Russian and other languages" after the parliamentary elections on July 21 would serve as a political veneer.
"The president does not shy away from speaking Russian and recognizes the right of people to speak their language. However, no one will review the position of the Ukrainian language as the only official one. Certain adjustments for minority languages should follow. Perhaps the rules will be eased in specific regions, as well as in certain areas of use," the source said.
According to another source, easing the law will be aimed at strengthening Kiev’s negotiating positions on the Donbass settlement, thus reaffirming Vladimir Zelensky’s statements that all citizens of Ukraine are equal regardless of what language they speak.
The source added that the decision should also improve relations between Ukraine and Hungary, which took an uncompromising stance because the Hungarian community's civil rights in the Trans-Carpathian region were being infringed. Budapest has repeatedly threatened to stonewall the integration of Kiev into any Euro-Atlantic structures because of the "unfriendly policy" towards the Hungarians living in the area in question.
"This sort of revision is possible with the Verkhovna Rada. I think the law will see many changes. And, of course, it is necessary to solve the Donbass problem, which is impossible without the Russian language," Ukrainian MP Evgeny Balitsky told Izvestia.
Izvestia: EAEU central banks agree on monetary policy
The central banks of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) countries will start coordinating moves that affect the rates of national currencies, the Eurasian Economic Commission told Izvestia. In order to do this, a separate supranational council will be set up that will include the heads of the countries’ regulators.
It will determine the actions of central banks in overcoming external shocks and internal problems that may cause instability across EAEU financial markets. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that coordinating exchange rates is necessary because there have been cases when inconsistency in action has led to an imbalance in trade within the union. However, they still doubt that the regulators will coordinate every step together.
Presumably, the heads of central banks, which will be part of the council, will coordinate the decisions impacting currency value. For example, foreign exchange interventions and changes in key rates. However, a specific list of activities that the council will analyze, has not yet been determined, the Eurasian Economic Commission said.
The need to regulate the actions of the EAEU central banks was long overdue, because in the history of the union there were several precedents when the policy’s lack of coordination caused market imbalances, Management Board Chairman of the National Payments Council Alma Obaeva told the newspaper.
Similar documents on financial policy coordination exist in Europe, expert at HSE Sergey Pukhov told Izvestia. For example, in 1992, the so-called Maastricht Treaty was signed, which limited the budget deficits and the level of public debt of European states. However, in some cases, the universality of the requirements, poorly tailored to the specific features of some states, led to abuse, Pukhov noted.
Kommersant: Arctic shelf development lags behind state company plans
The chance of launching new large fields in the region before 2030 is minimal, Kommersant wrote referring to the plan of the Ministry of Natural Resources for geological exploration of the Arctic. Meanwhile, Gazprom and Gazprom Neft still intend to introduce several sites in the Gulf of Ob and on the coast of Yamal, but legally they are not classified as a shelf. Low oil prices, a shortage of offshore drilling platforms, and, according to some experts, tax incentives are holding back active geological exploration.
According to Kommersant, the Ministry of Natural Resources has drawn up a plan for geological exploration in the Arctic zone up until 2035, aimed at forming a cargo base for the Northern Sea Route. According to the document, oil and gas companies do not plan to launch already announced offshore projects that could contribute to the development of the Route in the upcoming decade. Consequently, the projects themselves can be launched in the 2030s at the earliest.
A source familiar with the situation told Kommersant that the plan was sent to the government, and next week will be considered by the State Commission for Arctic Development.
In early 2010s, the Arctic shelf was seen as the key future source of growth in oil and gas production in Russia, and the largest state-owned companies - Rosneft and Gazprom - were actively fighting to obtain licensed areas. However, so far the only discovery on the Arctic shelf has been the Pobeda field in 2014, made by Rosneft together with ExxonMobil.
Rosneft told the newspaper that the decision on the development of the offshore projects "will depend on external market conditions, as well as economic and technological conditions".
Gazprom stated that by 2030 they plan to commission three offshore fields in the Arctic zone, among them assets in the Gulf of Ob or transit fields partially located on land. Legally, these deposits are located in inland waters, and not on the shelf.
Kommersant: Zvezda Shipyard may build new LNG-run icebreakers
According to Kommersant, Novatek, shelling 60 bln rubles ($952.96 mln) out of its own pocket, will build four icebreakers running on liquefied gas to provide navigation services along the western part of the Northern Sea Route. The Zvezda Shipyard, managed by a consortium of Rosneft and Gazprombank, will get the order, Kommersant wrote.
Novatek clarified that the company is still in negotiations with different shipyards and wants to receive all icebreakers before the end of 2023. Sources told Kommersant they doubt that the deadline is feasible, while experts believe that such vessels will be relevant once the Taymyr atomic icebreakers become obsolete by 2025-2026.
Novatek told Kommersant that the company considers making a series of three icebreakers running on LNG, as well as an option for more vessel. "Commercial negotiations on manufacturing a series with deadlines for all ships before the end of 2023 are underway with shipyards, including Zvezda," the company said.
In the future, Novatek would be interested in transferring the icebreakers to companies with expertise in fleet management under icy conditions. Rosatom told Kommersant that the decision on LNG icebreakers will be discussed at a meeting on July 24, and at the moment it is ‘too early’ for questions.
Sources told the newspaper that in addition to Zvezda, China’s Hudong-Zhonghua Shipyard was considered for building site, as well as cooperation with Korea’s Samsung or Hyundai. The Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade told Kommersant that the issues of price and cooperation would be resolved when a deal is concluded between the customer and the contractor.
Vedomosti: Russian companies under sanctions to receive right to transfer legal disputes to Russia
A bill has been submitted to the State Duma, providing Russian legal entities and individuals blackballed by Western restrictions with the opportunity to fight for their rights in Russian courts, Vedomosti wrote. At the moment, Russian citizens and legal entities under sanctions are virtually deprived of the opportunity to personally defend their rights in foreign and international courts outside Russia, according to the authors of the bill.
If the draft law is adopted, they will have the right to transfer any legal proceedings to Russia, as well as the right to unilaterally change the existing agreements with counterparties so that resolving disputes comes within the purview of Russian courts.
According to the newspaper, the bill grants the right to citizens and companies to appeal to a Russian court with a claim to terminate proceedings in a foreign court. Transferring disputes to Russian national jurisdiction is a possibility, not an imperative. In any case, the choice remains in the hands of Russian companies and individuals, according to one of the authors of the draft law, lower house MP Dmitry Vyatkin.
Experts interviewed by the newspaper doubt that the decisions of the Russian courts, adopted under the new law, would be carried out. Russians under sanctions do experience difficulties defending their interests abroad, Double Bridge Law partner Sergey Usoskin told Vedomosti. However, the expert is not sure that the proposed method of protection will be effective. A decision that contradicts any current agreements on the jurisdiction of the dispute is unlikely to be executed somewhere outside Russia, he said.