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Serbia suspends South Stream project

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Press Review - Sputnik International
Serbia and Bulgaria suspends construction of South Stream pipeline, Russian journalists detained in Ukraine return to Russia, Watchdogs to supervise advertisement volume on Rusian TV, Syrian president announces amnesty, London taxi drivers protest Uber app.

Serbia suspends construction of South Stream pipeline, Russian journalists working for the Zvezda television channel detained in Ukraine return to Russia, Watchdogs to supervise advertisement volume on Rusian TV, Bulgaria's suspension of South Stream considered sanctions by Russia, Syrian president announces amnesty for some prisoners, London taxi drivers vow to block the streets protesting Uber app. 

PR. Serbia suspends South Stream project. Part 1

RBC Daily reports that start of construction of the South Stream pipeline in Serbia has been postponed. A Serbian news portal quoted the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Zoranu Mikhaylovich as saying: "Bulgaria is a key country. Until the talks between Bulgaria, European Union and Russia are concluded we have no choice but pause construction. It’s inevitable, even if Russia changes the route. Either way it means our country has to postpone the project". The daily reminds that the news came in the wake of a report indicating that Bulgaria has frozen construction works of the South Stream project, following the European Commission sending its comments to Sofia. Serbia’s Energy Minister announced June 5 that Belgrade had no plans to postpone South Stream construction, which was at the time scheduled for July. The official emphasized that the future of the pipeline mainly depended on the European Union, while Serbia, apart from Russia, is the only European country participating in the project which wasn’t part of the EU. June 4 head of the European Commission warned that EU countries could be slapped with sanctions if they participated in the project, the article reminds.

Correspondents working for the Zvezda television channel, Andrey Sushenkov and Anton Malyshev, have returned to Russia after being detained by Ukrainian security forces. Moskovskiy Komsomolets shares their story of being held captive; the bottom line is that their stay was less than welcoming, the article notes. "We were hungry, hot, dirty and sometimes hurt. We weren’t tortured per se, but we were forcefully interrogated on the subject of working for intelligence services or being undercover". The newspaper reminds that the journalists’ arrest near Slavyansk was reported last Friday. It was initially unclear who detained them; it was discovered that Ukraine’s National Guard arrested them and given over to Security Service of Ukraine on Saturday. The journalists were accused of spying on the security checkpoint of the Ukrainian army and intelligence gathering; the TV channel’s management has refuted these accusations. Alexey Pimanov, president of the media holding "Krasnaya Zvezda" called these statements blatant lies. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has contacted OSCE demanding release of journalists; however, it’s not clear how exactly correspondents were released, the daily notes.

On Tuesday the State Duma is set to discuss the law on advertisement. Proposed amendments suggest that the Telecom Ministry approves norms for audio data in television and radio broadcasting; the Federal Anti-monopoly Service is to be tasked with providing methodology to gauge sound. Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports that legislators hope to improve governmental regulation in advertisement and reduce customer dissatisfaction due to commercials being played at a louder volume on radio and television. Both advertisement industry representatives and consumer rights activists praise the bill. However, they’re concerned with its effectiveness, the article notes. For example, co-chairman of the Creative Agency Committee of the Russian Communications Agencies Association Alexey Andreev says that consumers believe that tight governmental control over TV and radio commercials is long overdue; tools to impost such control and limiting obtrusive ads should be created. However, he added that the main tool would be social maturity of advertisers.

PR. Serbia suspends South Stream project. Part 2

Bulgaria's decision to suspend construction of the Russia-led South Stream pipeline project on its territory, undermining Russia's efforts to diversify its gas transportation infrastructure to Europe away from Ukraine, is an underhanded economic sanction thrust on Russia by the West, a top Russian diplomat and Russian industry analysts said Monday. The Moscow Times reports that Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's envoy to the European Union, slammed the move against the $45 billion pipeline project, which followed a visit by three U.S. senators to Bulgaria late last week, as "economic sanctions by stealth", and highlighted efforts by top European officials to link the continuation of work on the project with Russia's position on Ukraine. The daily notes that McCain, who is known for his strong criticism of President Vladimir Putin, reportedly said after the meeting that "obviously we want as little Russian involvement as possible". Bulgarian authorities soon tried backtrack on Sunday's announcement, with the Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev saying on Monday that the project cannot be cancelled and that it will be completed sooner or later.

The Washington Post writes that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad followed his triumph in last week’s election by announcing a general amnesty Monday for at least some prisoners. The daily admits it was unclear whether the thousands of people jailed for opposing his rule would be included. A presidential decree publicized by state media said the amnesty would apply to all crimes committed before last Tuesday’s presidential election, but it also suggested that at least some prisoners would merely have their sentences commuted. Human rights groups say tens of thousands of people have vanished into Syrian jails since the revolt against Assad’s rule began three years ago, and at least some are likely to have died in detention, the article notes. Several amnesties issued since the beginning of the uprising in 2011 have resulted in the release of minor criminals or, in the case of one in the immediate aftermath, scores of Islamists. Moderate opposition leaders have suggests that this was evidence that Assad intended to radicalize his opponents and thereby turn international opinion against the opposition.

Taxi drivers hope to bring central London to a standstill on Wednesday as the controversy over the Uber app escalates, The Guardian reports. Thousands of black cab and licensed taxi drivers are expected to block roads, causing travel chaos. The daily reminds that the conflict began with the introduction of Uber, an app designed by a US company which allows customers to book and track vehicles. Unions and groups representing taxi drivers say the system enables users to contact unlicensed drivers who have not been subjected to safety checks. For example, Steve Garelick, of the GMB union, said: "GMB members consider that the introduction of unregulated taxi drivers, ending criminal records checks, ending vehicle checks and ending local licensing, will be a hammer blow to the taxi and private hire industry". Meanwhile, Garrett Emmerson, chief operating officer for surface transport at Transport for London, said: "A number of taxi drivers are set to cause pointless disruption for Londoners over a legal issue that is down to the courts to decide upon".

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