Izvestia: Russia, Serbia to set up Balkan version of Munich Security Conference

A new international platform, “The Belgrade Strategic Dialogue,” will be created in late June with the goal of enhancing Russian-Serbian cooperation and holding expert-level discussions on vital issues across the global agenda, sources close to the Serbian leadership told Izvestia. Serbia’s new President Alexander Vucic is expected to attend the first session, slated to be held in Belgrade.

A delegation of Russian lawmakers led by Deputy Secretary of the General Council of the ruling United Russia party Sergey Zheleznyak, leading experts on the Balkan region, representatives of the European Parliament and also legislators from a number of other European countries will participate in the event. Organizers say the forum should become a regional Balkan version of the Munich Security Conference.

The new platform is being created under the auspices of Serbia’s top leadership and in cooperation with the Zinoviev International Intellectual Club. The chief goal is to step up cooperation between Moscow and Belgrade. The idea is to exchange views on key foreign policy issues and to hold a broad international dialogue in all areas. First of all, the agenda will include issues of strengthening all-European regional security and developing economic ties,” one of organizers explained.

Deputy Chairman of the State Duma (lower house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee Alexey Chepa believes that such initiatives create a foundation to search for ways to stabilize the Balkan region and foster bilateral ties.

Almost simultaneously, Belgrade announced a decision to set up the Federal Agency under the National Council on Coordinating Cooperation with Russia and China to be led by former President Tomislav Nikolic, the paper writes. This is a state structure focused on administrative and technical cooperation with Russia, and according to plans the council will begin working in June.

Serbian political scientist Lyubomir Radinovich noted that the creation of a discussion platform is an initiative mainly aimed at publicity and generating positive impressions. As a rule, no decisions are made there and all resolutions and final documents are non-binding. However, these meetings provide an opportunity to form long-term channels of cooperation and draw attention to regional problems.

The establishment of this foreign policy discussion platform for politicians and experts shows that Moscow and Belgrade have similar interests. The organizers hope that other European countries will support this initiative. Serbia also believes that the discussions in its capital will help bring Russian and EU positions closer, and here Belgrade will play the role of mediator at the talks.

Izvestia: Putin confirms Russia not planning to meddle in other nations’ domestic affairs

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the chiefs of the world’s leading news agencies at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Thursday. The Russian leader divulged his view on the reasons behind anti-Russian sentiment surfacing in many countries, commented on ties between Moscow and Berlin and also on a possible solution to the dispute with Japan over the South Kuril Islands, Izvestia writes. The meeting, held in the Konstantinovsky Palace near St. Petersburg, was organized by TASS.

A member of the Federation Council (upper house of parliament) Foreign Affairs Committee Igor Morozov said the president’s aim was to convey the message to foreign journalists that Russia is sticking to the line of Moscow’s non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.

“Fairy tales about Russian hackers, who hack information resources from election headquarters, should remain just fairy tales. Vladimir Putin’s statements carried an important message that Russia, which conducts an independent policy, respects domestic legislation and likewise the choice and will of the citizens of other countries,” the senator said.

Putin expressed confidence that there is the need to ease tensions in the whole Asia-Pacific region in general. Director of the National Strategy Institute Mikhail Remizov called this “a diplomatic way to say that there won’t be any demilitarization of the Kuril Islands.” “In this case, statements about the region in general signal that this is an impossible mission, since we border on North Korea, China and US military bases in Japan. Amid all this, it is clear that demilitarization of the whole region is impossible,” he expounded.

Political scientist Andrei Kolyadin said, commenting on the president’s statement, that “over the past decades, Russia’s logic has been focused on defense.” “Indeed, this is absolutely logical. If military bases of our friends and foreign policy opponents are circling (us), why should we demilitarize this zone (the Kuril Islands)? There are no reasons to do this unilaterally,” the expert noted.

Kommersant: Moscow eyeing top position at new UN anti-terror agency

Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are expected to meet on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF-2017) on Friday.

Moscow will raise the issue of reforming the United Nations, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov said earlier. Kommersant business daily writes citing sources close to the Kremlin that the discussion will be about the possibility of nominating a Russian representative to head the UN’s new anti-terrorism agency. The status of this agency’s chief will rank equally with a deputy UN chief. Moscow wants Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak to fill this position, who is expected to be replaced by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Anatoly Antonov at his current post in Washington.

Moscow believes that Russia has the right to this new position given that during the Soviet era, the UN chief always had a deputy from the USSR. Guterres has 11 deputies now, but no Russian representatives are among them.

Sources told the paper that other candidates may be also considered, including Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, who is in charge of relations with the United Nations.

Vedomosti: US slaps sanctions on Russia’s energy producer over North Korea ties

The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on the Independent Oil and Gas Company (NNK), owned by Eduard Khudainatov, over ties with North Korea, Vedomosti writes. The Russian producer signed a contract on oil supplies to Pyongyang, allegedly delivering oil products worth more than $1 mln, and may have been involved in the schemes to bypass sanctions against North Korea, US Treasury officials said.

Washington has also slapped sanctions on the company’s subsidiary NNK Primornefteproduct, Ardis-Bearings LLC and a Russian citizen, Igor Michurin, who is linked to the Korea Tangun Trading Corporation. All of NNK’s assets in the US and accounts will be blocked, and the ban will be in force on payments in dollars. US citizens won’t be allowed to deal with the company and its subsidiary, attorney Ivan Tertychny from Tertychny Partners said.

A banker told the paper that the sanctions won’t affect the Independent Oil and Gas Company’s financial state. Sources told the paper that Khudainatov is searching for a partner for the company. Talks are underway with several foreign companies. Analyst at Russia’s independent investment group Aton, Alexander Kornilov, said that US sanctions are unlikely to have any significant impact on the company’s operations as its debt is mostly in rubles. However, the sanctions may affect the company’s plans to obtain any new loans in foreign banks, he noted.

Kommersant: Russian telecom satellite system sets up joint venture with OneWeb

OneWeb, a UK-registered satellite and global communications company, and Russia’s Gonets satellite system public company signed an agreement on creating a joint venture on Thursday, Kommersant writes. The JV will be called OneWeb and the Russian company will be a shareholder, with the agreement signed for an indefinite term. No details on the share and sum of the deal have been revealed. Gonets (Messenger) will handle selling the company’s resources in Russia and Roscosmos state space corporation will carry out the launch of the Soyuz 2 rocket with the first network of satellites by this year. The goal is to ensure broadband access to the Internet on the whole planet.

According to Kommersant, Roscosmos wanted to join the project shortly after signing a major contract on supplying 21 Soyuz carrier rockets in June 2015. OneWeb had to pay more than $1 bln for bringing the satellites to orbit.

However, the Russian side was not satisfied by the role of being only a carrier and talks on including Gonets in the project had lasted for more than six months, a source close to the state corporation said.

OneWeb is one of the most ambitious telecoms projects of our times, Kommersant writes. The network will have a total of 882 satellites, a representative of OneWeb said.