Top stories in the Russian press on Thursday, October 29, prepared by TASS
Kommersant: Baku, Ankara push for new negotiation formula after month of fighting in Karabakh
The conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh has carried on for a month and the intensity of the battles is only mounting. On Wednesday, the sides again exchanged strikes against major cities. Despite three attempts to declare a humanitarian pause, the battles did not let up for a single day since September 27. Experts questioned by Kommersant business daily believe that one month is not the limit because now the fighting will be carried out not on the plains, but in the mountains where it is much more difficult for troops to advance.
Hopes for a ceasefire in the previous negotiating format are fading. News broke that Baku and Ankara demanded a new negotiation formula. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev described as acceptable a 2+2 formula (Russia and Armenia versus Azerbaijan and Turkey). This issue was touched upon in a recent phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
According to Azerbaijani political scientist and Valdai Discussion Club expert Farhad Mammadov, Aliyev’s statement on the 2+2 talks does not mean that the current format with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group is dead. However, the new formula could become useful. "Given the Syrian experience, the Geneva format had a UN mandate, but it was stalled," the expert noted. "And then Russia had to come to terms with Iran and Turkey and create the Astana formula and then the Sochi format, where only Moscow and Ankara participated. They agreed on particular issues and this gave an impetus to the Geneva process. Here the situation is similar: Armenia has confidence in Russia, while we trust Turkey. However, the legal implementation will rest on the Minsk Group, which enjoys a mandate.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s rhetoric over the continuing combat actions has obviously toughened, the paper says. In his phone conversation with the Turkish leader, Putin voiced deep concern over the participation of "terrorists from the Middle East" in the conflict.
Izvestia: Russia sees data breaches climb 10-fold in first half of 2020
The number of leaked personal and commercial data of transport and industrial companies in Russia has noticeably shot up. In the first half of 2020, 9.5 mln records were stolen, 10 times more than during this time last year, Izvestia writes citing the InfoWatch information security company. However, the penalty for companies failing to protect clients’ data remains insignificant, experts say.
In 2019, 2.2 mln records - both clients’ personal data and commercial secrets of organizations - ended up on the black market following 25 incidents of leaks. By comparison, in 2018 only eight such cases were reported. Meanwhile, the growth rates of such data leaks worldwide are much lower.
Companies in the transport sector are more susceptible to hacker attacks, while in industrial, mining and energy companies, major risks are linked to the actions of internal violators, InfoWatch analysts say. Some 43% of all leaks in transport companies occurred due to hacker activity, while only 22.4% of these leaks in industrial enterprises were the work of external malefactors. Other cases were blamed on negligence or dishonest staff, the specialists noted.
According to Andrei Arsentyev, who heads analysis and special projects department at InfoWatch, the surge in leaks at industrial and transport companies comes as more organizations store data on their servers and cloud services. This data could be lost unless there are proper protection systems, he noted.
Vladimir Ulyanov, who heads Zecurion think-tank center, pointed out that the expenses on protecting this data are much more than the fines for leaks. In case of a leak, companies risk only their reputation and not all of them value it.
Kommersant: Serbia’s new government shifts towards West
The new Serbian government was appointed on Wednesday, four months after the parliamentary elections in late June. The pro-Russian Socialist Party lost its key seats. Many Serbian experts view this ministerial reshuffle as a signal that Serbia’s foreign policy is shifting towards the West.
For the first time in the past 12 years, the party’s leader Ivica Dacic, who served as the foreign minister for many years, won’t have a government post. The new top diplomat will be Nikola Selakovic, who is considered to be President Aleksandar Vucic’s right hand man. Vucic views Serbia’s EU membership as his priority and lately he has been actively promoting the idea of rapprochement with the United States, Kommersant writes. Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic, who had close ties with Moscow, was replaced by Zorana Mihajlovic, a pro-Western politician. Serbia will also have a new defense minister. Aleksandar Vulin, the leader of the Movement of Socialists, who was honored by Russia’s FSB chief for his contribution to military and technical cooperation, will be succeeded by Nebojsa Stefanovic, who enjoys US support.
"Obviously, Moscow’s influence in the new government is weakening," said Director of Belgrade-based think-tank CeSID Bojan Klacar. "The new cabinet lost Ivica Dacic, a strong pro-Russian player. Moscow won’t be happy about that," said political analyst Cvijetin Milivojevic.
"The change in key seats in the Serbian government, namely in the Energy Ministry, and that they were not given to pro-Russian politicians says a lot," a Belgrade source close to the power structures told the paper. "Relations between Serbia and Russia are not the same as a couple of years ago."
In particular, in early September, the Serbian president inked a deal in Washington on Kosovo’s economic normalization. Its implementation, according to Balkan experts, could trigger serious geopolitical consequences, loosening Serbia’s dependence on Russian gas.
Izvestia: Ukraine’s local elections trigger spat with Hungary
Tensions are flaring up between Ukraine and Hungary over local Ukrainian elections, which were held on October 25. Budapest clearly backed Hungarian parties in Ukraine’s Zakarpatskaya Region and they performed quite well. In response, Kiev slapped an entry ban on two Hungarian officials, and handed Budapest a note of protest, Izvestia writes.
The standoff between the two countries exacerbated after the 2014 Maidan events. Additional strife occurred in 2017, when the Ukrainian parliament passed a law "On Education," which limited the use of languages spoken by ethnic minorities in Ukraine. Hungary excoriated the document as a "stab in the back" saying that Budapest had contributed to Ukraine’s EU integration. Kiev made some concessions then. In 2020, a new scandal exploded over Ukraine’s administrative reform.
Ukrainian political scientist Andrei Zolotaryov pointed out that more issues between the two countries are likely to emerge in the future. "Certain areas of the Zakarpatskaya Region will become more pro-Hungarian and ties with Hungary will expand. De jure this will be Ukraine. De facto the ties of these territories with Kiev will further weaken. In case of serious crises in Ukraine, a legal basis for this alienation could be created," the expert noted.
According to Bogdan Bezpalko, Deputy Director of the Center for Ukrainian and Belarusian Studies at Moscow State University, the conflict with Hungary shows that Ukraine has lost its sovereignty. "Budapest has been emboldened to campaign in Ukraine’s elections. Ukraine is turning into a third world country and stronger players are imposing their will on it".
Vedomosti: Moscow eyes testing grounds for cargo delivery drones
Moscow’s Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovative Development are in talks with drone manufacturers on creating possible zones of testing unmanned aerial vehicles for commercial use, Vedomosti writes on Thursday. The meetings were attended by members of the department, the companies producing drones as well as Invitro and the Skolkovo Innovation Center, Head of the Aeronet Association Gleb Babintsev said. Skolkovo confirmed that the idea to create a testing zone on the center’s premises had been discussed.
According to Babintsev, the drone testing will be carried out as part of an experimental legal framework. "By the end of this year, we hope to get the green light for launching the endeavors and to start working on the program for the experimental legal framework next year, the requirements for the grounds, the participants, their qualification and technologies and methods confirming compliance," he said. These testing zones could be created in Moscow as well as in the Khanty Mansi Autonomous Region, the Tomsk Region and the Southern Federal District.
The first test flights are likely to be conducted only in late 2021-early 2022, he said. The entire next year will be spent on paperwork and certain amendments to Russia’s legislation are needed to