What the Russian papers say

© Alex StefflerWhat the Russian papers say
What the Russian papers say - Sputnik International
Strategy 2025 /Latvia complains of high Russian gas prices, asks EU for help /Israel and Russia in new UAV deal /Russian Technologies set to buy blocking stake in national operating system /The Mikhail Somov to reopen Arctic stations

Vremya Novostei

Strategy 2025

The Russian presidential envoy to the North Caucasus, Alexander Khloponin, presented his regional social and economic development strategy to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Because all the key plans for the area have been under ongoing discussion at various levels ever since the North Caucasus Federal District was established, there is no news in this draft. The new strategy predictably includes social and economic recovery policies, which are expected to help stabilize Russia's most unstable region. Although Prime Minister Vladimir Putin admitted the situation is complicated, he assured the meeting that terrorists would not be able to thwart the plans.

Alexander Khloponin, in turn, focused on details. In his words, the cost of approved investment projects in the region will total 600 billion rubles ($19.6 billion). These projects are expected to create at least 400,000 jobs, increase the annual GDP growth rate to 7.7% across the regions in the North Caucasus and raise the average salary to 23,000 rubles by 2025.

The number of potential new jobs is probably the only factor that could really swing the region toward stability, especially given the fact that poor living standards and the shortage of jobs in the North Caucasus drive local residents to join militant groups.

The 400,000 job openings would certainly ease social tensions in the North Caucasus where the population is growing steadily but the number of available jobs is not. However, given that the program runs through 2025, and that in Dagestan alone the number of unemployed workers grows by 35,000 a year, this additional labor market capacity will be used up before it is even created.

Nor does planned financing for the North Caucasus seem all that generous, even though the current funding for the local investment projects will nearly double. According to Khloponin all the approved investment projects, in total will be worth 600 billion rubles, and these funds will be invested in the region in addition to regular federal subsidies. As Putin said at a conference in Kislovodsk in July, those subsidies have totaled about 800 billion rubles in the past ten years. Therefore, these investment projects will bring in slightly less money than federal financing of the region.

RBC Daily

Latvia complains of high Russian gas prices, asks EU for help

The European Union may unite in negotiating lower gas prices with Russia. The issue of price harmonization was raised by Latvia, which pays 30% more than Germany for Russian gas. Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger proposed starting another campaign to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy resources.

Europe needs to be united on Russian gas supplies, Oettinger said adding he was ready to support Latvia in talks with Gazprom.

Such issues usually crop up when Europe feels it has an opportunity to squeeze more concessions out of Russia. Qatar with its liquefied natural gas (LNG) and Poland, which claims that its shale gas reserves could meet Europe's demand, are two favored pressure points.

EU politicians often mention the Nabucco pipeline project as an alternative to Russia's South Stream project. However, forecasts say Europe's growing demand for gas will exceed the total output capacity of both pipelines.

"This is more of a political than an energy issue," said Dmitry Lyutyagin, an analyst with the Otkritiye brokerage. "However, as long as there are no alternative suppliers, I do not think these discussions could pose any real risk or lead to dramatic changes in Europe's relations with Russia," he said.

"These statements are part of a consistent policy aimed at changing the basic pricing pattern. At present, Gazprom sets the basic price for each country separately, depending on the market price as of the date the contract is signed. The accepted gas pricing formula is based on the oil price. Discounts or surcharges can be applied once the basic price has been set," he explained.

Taking the European Union as a whole, in order to review the price, Russia would have to coordinate it across all 27 EU members. If it were to offer spot market discounts, they would equally apply to all. The only difference would be in transportation charges, depending on the distance, Lyutyagin elaborated.

Gazprom owns a 34% stake in Latvijas Gaze, Latvia's gas transportation, storage and distribution monopoly. In February 2009, Latvijas Gaze signed a gas supply contract with Gazprom, which will meet the country's needs in full through 2030.

Latvia is one of the EU countries most dependent on Russian gas. A recent report by the European Center for International Political Economy (ECIPE) said that Bulgaria and Latvia were the most vulnerable countries should there be any future disruption to Russian gas supplies.


Israel and Russia in new UAV deal

Russia and Israel have signed an agreement on military technical cooperation in fighting their common enemy, Islamic terrorism. Israel will supply Russia with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), while Russia will deliver laser equipment under the GLONASS system.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak have signed the first bilateral agreement on military technical cooperation in 15 years.

Serdyukov said the Russian Armed Forces, which is currently undergoing reforms, needs Israel's experience and expertise. Barak said that Russia is not only one of Israel's major partners but also a major player in the Middle East.

The two officials did not disclose the details of the new agreement.

The Israeli minister said Russia and Israel will focus on a common problem: Islamic terrorism. Israel monitors reports from Russia's North Caucasus and is ready to continue sharing anti-terror experience with the Russian military, including the use of UAVs, Barak said.

Russia bought earlier 12 Israeli-built UAVs.

A source close to the Russian Defense Ministry said they could sign another contract for the delivery of at least $50 million worth of UAVs and subsequently establish a joint company, worth as much as $250 million, to design such vehicles.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin disclosed some details of the new agreement.

"We are considering the possibility of equipping Israeli aircraft with Russian technical devices - space and laser technology," Putin said Monday at a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak. "Now we are discussing with Israeli experts the possibility of deploying a long-distance laser in Israel for the GLONASS system."

Alex Goldman-Shayman, the press attache of the Israeli embassy in Moscow, said the agreement took about a year to draft, as long as Barak has been trying to reach Russia - his visit was delayed twice.

The embassy official said he was not aware of the details, but that the agreement involves cooperation on a wide range of issues, including joint performances by the two countries' military bands.

Goldman-Shayman said the agreement has been signed for five years but Israel hopes it will subsequently be prolonged.


Russian Technologies set to buy blocking stake in national operating system

This summer Russian Technologies, a state corporation aiming to help fuel future technological breakthroughs in Russia, acquired a blocking stake in Alt Linux, a Russian company developing and distributing free off-the-shelf and customized software, and put itself forward as the national operating system operator.

The fact that Russian Technologies asked the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media to appoint it operator of the national operating system has been confirmed to this paper by a ministerial source and a top manager of a major Russian IT company.

France's Mandriva S.A. open source software company may compete with Russian Technologies in implementing this project, due to annually receive an estimated 10 billion rubles ($306 million) worth of federal allocations.

The national operating system is being developed under the new Information Society state program, Deputy Minister of Communications and Mass Media Ilya Massukh said recently. The operator will be selected through a tender to be held in early 2011.

Russian Technologies, which bought a blocking stake in Alt Linux through its subsidiary Sirius in July 2010, may eventually acquire a controlling interest.

The New Generation Initiative (NGI) Foundation, established by Artur Akopyan, former financial director of Russia's Synterra telecommunications operator and currently managing director of private equity firm Sloane Square Capital Partners (SSCP), also wants to help establish the national operating system.

This summer NGI bought a minority stake in Mandriva, which is also involved in the project.

In essence, this involves the introduction of free software, first introduced in Russian schools in 2007, in Russian state agencies. At that time, then First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and software developers agreed on acquiring a software package at federal expense for a period of three years and the simultaneous development of software that works in a similar way.

A total of 2.7 billion rubles ($88.2 million) was allocated to provide schools with licensed software. In 2007-2008, the Armada group teamed up with Alt Linux to deliver software packages to schools in three pilot regions, namely, Tatarstan, the Perm Territory and the Tomsk Region, but it failed to win a nationwide school-software supply tender in 2009.

Alt Linux CEO Alexei Smirnov said the National Research Institute of Control Automation in the Non-Industrial Sector (VNIINS), which had developed a Linux version of software from Red Hat, Inc., a major Linux distribution vendor, for the Russian Armed Forces was the company's real rival.


The Mikhail Somov to reopen Arctic stations

The Mikhail Somov has left on its first voyage along the Northern Sea Route (NSR). It will take supplies to polar stations on the coast and carry out research.

The Mikhail Somov, a research expeditionary diesel electric vessel, was built in 1975 and has taken part in scores of Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. The ship is not an ice-breaker in the full sense of the word, but is able to sail in 70 cm of ice. Thicker ice and ice-drifts slow its progress and in 1977, 1985 and 1991 the Mikhail Somov had to spend months drifting in Antarctic ice. Now the ship is run by the Northern Inter-Regional Territorial Board of the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Sevhydromet) and is used to supply border posts, coastal settlements and weather stations in the Arctic.

In this, its latest expedition, the Mikhail Somov has to cover 15,000 kilometers in 80 days - from Arkhangelsk to Pevek on the Chukchi Peninsula and back again. Although the Atom-Flot agency has been contracted to assist the ice-breaker, the more desirable possibility that the Mikhail Somov will negotiate ice-fields itself cannot be ruled out - it is now much warmer in the Arctic than in 1975. A Sovkomflot supertanker, the Baltika, for the first time in history recently sailed through the Northern Sea Route. But in places it did have to call on nuclear ice-breakers for help.

The expedition will deliver builders and components for a GLONASS navigation system monitoring station building on Andrei Island in the eastern part of the Taimyr Peninsula, at the site of a semi-abandoned weather station. There are plans to establish a state-of-the-art weather station on Wrangel Island in place of the radar station that closed down in the 1990s.

The Mikhail Somov's research program also includes a study of the Arctic to be undertaken by specialists from the Likhachev Russian Institute of Cultural and Natural Heritage (Heritage Institute). In particular they will carry out research on Vaigach Island, which, according to Institute director Yury Vedenin, is the world's only sacred island, which the Nentsy would visit to worship their gods, although they never lived there. Researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences' Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution will study the animal world of the Arctic, in particular the polar bear, which is under state protection.

Wrangel Island is one of the main breeding grounds for this animal in the Arctic Ocean, with female bears delivering their offspring in snow lairs. The area has the largest polar bear population in the east of the Russian Arctic. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recently shown concern for their protection on the westernmost islands of the Russian Arctic - the Franz-Josef Islands. He personally put a satellite collar on one of the bears caught.

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.

MOSCOW, September 7 (RIA Novosti)

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