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Top stories in the Russian press on Friday, March 6, prepared by TASS
Izvestia: Leaders of Russia and Turkey reach deal on Idlib ceasefire
During the six-hour talks, Moscow and Ankara agreed on introducing a ceasefire in Idlib. In addition, the parties decided to create a security corridor near the strategically important M4 highway - this area will be patrolled by Russian and Turkish forces. Experts interviewed by Izvestia believe that the negotiations will contribute to the normalization of the situation in the region.
Russian-Turkish relations have not been going through the best of times recently, Izvestia wrote. The militant rhetoric of Recep Tayyip Erdogan raises serious concerns in Moscow. A few days ago, the Turkish leader turned to Donald Trump, asking him to supply Ankara with weapons and ammunition. On March 4, the Russian Defense Ministry accused Turkey of violating international law in the Idlib zone and announced a practical merger of Turkish roadblocks and the positions of militants.
The Turkish leader presents the actions of Ankara as an attempt to ensure national security. He repeatedly emphasized that he was trying to prevent the Kurdish formations from approaching their borders and the next influx of refugees, Turkish political scientist Kerim Has told Izvestia. According to the expert, in reality there are currently no Kurds in Idlib. In addition, Ankara’s actions only exacerbate the refugee problem.
However, during the talks between the presidents, the Turkish leader expressed hope that the negotiations would ease the situation in the region. At the same time, he emphasized - Ankara values relations with Moscow and is not interested in a confrontation with Russia. At the end, the parties agreed to introduce a ceasefire in Idlib at midnight on March 5-6. However, the Turkish leader said that Turkey reserves the right to respond to any attacks by the Syrian forces.
Meanwhile, the Russian Federation Council believes that negotiations will help normalize the situation in the region. Franz Klintsevich, member of the parliament’s upper house committee on defense and security, told Izvestia that Ankara had cornered itself, since Turkey’s task of shifting the current government in Syria is not only counterproductive, but also contradicts the international law.
Kommersant: Russia’s senior diplomat sees future for Non-Proliferation Treaty
One of the most important security agreements, the Non-Proliferation Treaty, celebrates its 50th anniversary. At the end of April, representatives of 191 member states of the treaty will gather in New York to assess its implementation. Meanwhile, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov believes that the situation around the Treaty is "extremely difficult". At the same time he is certain that Russia has ideas on how to prevent its failure, he said in an interview with Kommersant.
"Sharp clashes, disputes are inevitable here. Under these conditions, the chances of adopting a meaningful outcome document are probably not very high," Ryabkov said about the upcoming conference. "However, the Russian delegation, as always, will work on positive results. Let me remind you that during the last such event, we were one step away from approving the final document. At the time, Russia confirmed its readiness to join the consensus, but due to well-known circumstances, primarily topics related to the zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, this did not work," he added.
According to the diplomat, Russia is working on the permanent members of the UN Security Council (the United Kingdom, China, Russia, the United States and France) accepting a joint statement on the inadmissibility of nuclear war, despite the United States not responding to Russia's proposal to do so in a bilateral format. "It is too early to say whether it will be possible to reach an acceptable result for all five participants. Unfortunately, there are signs that some capitals do not mind blurring this formula," he told the newspaper.
"We support that the idea of the inadmissibility of nuclear war and the impossibility of achieving victory in it was directly and unequivocally confirmed and possibly strengthened by emphasizing that modern technologies in this field make the unleashing of such a war even more dangerous than before. Alas, it is not yet clear that colleagues in Washington agree with this approach. Rather, the opposite," the diplomat noted.
Ryabkov added that tensions and military confrontation rise following to the logic of arms buildup. "Nevertheless, we hope that it will be possible to deter the Americans from further rash steps," the politician told Kommersant.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia may look into reviewing Taliban's status
The first strike by the US Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 11 days attracted criticism of Russian diplomacy. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the latest attempt by the Americans to stop the Taliban (banned in the Russian Federation) attacks on the Afghan military a violation of the agreement signed in Qatar and pointed out that the Taliban has no obligations to the Afghan armed forces. A source in Kabul told Nezavisimaya Gazeta that work might be underway in Russia to review the status of the movement. However, no specific steps in this direction should be made.
US Air Force Representative in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) Colonel Sonny Leggett said the United States attacked Taliban militants who were actively attacking the Afghan Armed Forces checkpoint. In turn, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Second Asia Department Zamir Kabulov commenting on the situation noted, "The Taliban did not take any obligations with respect to the Afghan government, but only to the United States."
The situation once again raises the question of Russia's position on revising the Taliban’s status. The movement was recognized as a terrorist organization by decision of the Russian Supreme Court in 2003. According to Russian diplomats, the decision to lift sanctions on the Taliban could be made by the UN Security Council before May 29, 2020.
"Judging by indirect evidence, certain lobbying work to ensure that the Taliban leaves the list of banned organizations has been carried out in Russia for a long time, but, obviously, this issue is not in the competence of one structure," political source in Kabul told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "It will be reasonable to do this after the relevant decision of the UN Security Council. However, it could be possible only after the Taliban has proven that it has broken relations with terrorist organizations," the source added.
The source noted that Russia should not be the first to review the status of the organization. "This could damage the image of the country in the international arena," the source said. It is possible that Russia's initiative would draw criticism from official Kabul.
Vedomosti: Russia’s launch of 5G networks postponed
Cellular operators will not be able to use the frequencies that they already have for the deployment of 5G networks. The State Commission for Radio Frequencies was expected to issue permission to use the frequencies that are now occupied by 2G, 3G, and LTE. However, after the recent meeting, the decision disappeared from the draft, sources close to the three communications companies, and a person familiar with the materials of the State Committee for Radio Frequencies told Vedomosti. Two sources also claim that the meeting of the commission was postponed from March 10, tentatively to March 17.
The Ministry of Communications did not comment on the development. A source close with the managers of several operators, and a person familiar with the documents told the newspaper that representatives of several departments spoke out against it, including the Federal Security Service and Roscosmos. State institutions that use adjacent frequencies fear that 5G in the proposed ranges will interfere with their radio equipment, one of the sources added noting that it particularly concerns space communication systems.
According to Vadim Poskakukhin, Project Manager of the Spectrum Management projects, the frequencies mentioned in the draft decision would allow combining 5G and LTE networks in one channel, which could make quick launch possible without completely replacing equipment. According to him, this would lead to first 5G base stations becoming operational in spring, and large-scale coverage could be set up by the end of the year. Postponing the issue to the second half of the year will lead to 5G launch at least in 2021.
Meanwhile, the range of 3.4-3.8 GHz used by popular 5G equipment, is designated in Russia to the Ministry of Defense and Roscosmos. "Unfortunately, there is no progress towards using the 3.4-3.8 GHz range, where the whole world will build 5G networks," a representative of Rostelecom told Vedomosti.
Vedomosti: Mechel asks for $1.47 bln for its main investment project
Mechel asks for 100 bln rubles ($1.47 bln) for a 51% stake in the Elga coal project in Yakutia, a source close to one of the parties to the potential deal told Vedomosti. Thus, the entire project can be valued at 196 bln rubles ($2.89 bln), and the share of Gazprombank (49%) - at 96 bln rubles ($1.42 bln). The figure was formed based on the debt to Gazprombank.
Elga is Mechel’s key investment project, the largest coking coal deposit with reserves of 2.2 bln tonnes. Mechel has been developing the field and building its infrastructure for over 10 years, spending over $2 bln. Gazprombank bought 49% in the project in 2016 for 34.4 bln rubles ($507.9 mln). Under the terms of the deal, Gazprombank three years later received the right to sell Mechel this share (49%), or find another buyer if it refuses. In August 2019, Gazprombank announced that it found A-Property company. In January 2020, A-Property submitted a request to the Federal Antimonopoly Service to acquire 100% of Elga. FAS agreed.
Selling shares would allow Mechel to reduce its debt by around 30% and make the debt burden manageable, which could ensure debt restructuring on favorable terms, a person close to one of the parties to the transaction told Vedomosti.
It is unfortunate that the company is losing its upstream asset, but in the current state of affairs, it is better to get rid of the capital costs of its development, Raiffeisenbank analyst Irina Alizarovskaya told the newspaper. Even if, against the backdrop of low coal prices, the debt burden after the sale of Elga will not decrease too much, this will be a good result for Mechel, Maxim Khudalov, senior director of ACRA told Vedomosti. Of course, this is a lot for the Russian metallurgical market (net debt does not exceed EBITDA for the largest companies in the sector), but for Mechel, the very fact of a declining debt burden is important, the expert noted.