Reuters Summit-russia Can Afford To Keep Putin’s Social Promises

Russia ready to send military observers to Syria

WHAT ARE KEY DEADLINES UNDER THE U.S.-RUSSIA DEAL? On Saturday, the one-week limit for Syria to present a complete list of its chemical weapons program lapsed. Syria submitted the list to the OPCW, the agency said. By November 30, inspectors from The Hague’s chemical arms agency are due to have completed on-site inspections of locations declared by Syria. November 30 is also the deadline for destruction of chemical weapons production and mixing/filling equipment. By June 30, 2014, the destruction of the entire Syrian chemical weapons arsenal is due to be completed. HOW WILL THE REMOVAL OF SYRIA’S ARSENAL BE FUNDED? U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva that Washington and Moscow would help fund the dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal. He added that “we will seek, in the process of the U.N. and in the effort to have a global commitment to this, help from many other of our international partners.” European Union sources said the bloc was looking into providing some financial assistance. Assad said the process of destroying his chemical arsenal would cost $1 billion. WHO WILL REMOVE AND DESTROY THE CHEMICAL WEAPONS? That is still being worked out. However, OPCW and U.N.

Chinas leader skipped energy-deprived Tajikistan, leaving this nation bordering Afghanistan to the Russians. Russia stations 6,000 soldiers in Tajikistan, its largest foreign military deployment. Moscow is laboring to strengthen Tajikistans border defenses in advance of NATOs planned pullout from Afghanistan next year. While Xi pursues his new marching westwards policy, he defers to Russia on security issues in Central Asia, a region administered by Moscow for about 150 years, until 1991. This month, Xi carefully followed protocol, breaking his Central Asia tour with a trip to St. Petersburg to consult with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit meeting. (Two days after this meeting, Novatek, a major Russian gas producer, announced that Chinese banks will help finance a $20 billion natural gas project in Russias Arctic.) Chinas shopping spree through Central Asias energy bazaar was so striking that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov felt compelled to give a press briefing in Moscow. As China signed strategic partnerships with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the Russian diplomat assured Russian reporters: Our Chinese friends recognize the traditional role our country continues to play in this region, so we do not see any regional rivalry problems. Central Asia is an important area of Russia-China relations, he said in the middle of the Chinese leaders 10-day tour. We are not competing with each other in Central Asia, but are adjusting our policies to reflect mutual interests. In Astana, Kazakhstans President Nursultan Nazarbayev (R) and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping applaud after launching on Sept. 7 yet another Chinese-financed pipeline that will bring more Central Asian gas to the Middle Kingdom. Photo: Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov As you know, the Russian and Chinese economies mutually supplement one another, Morgulov continued. China possesses sizable financial resources.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a meeting of leaders of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) in Sochi September 23, 2013. REUTERS/Alexey Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Russia also plans to address other acute problems, such as low pay for public servants. “The absolute priority is the level of pay for teachers and doctors,” said Golodets. Before his return to the Kremlin last year, Putin promised to double salaries for teachers and doctors by 2018, to increase maternity benefits and to open more kindergartens. Financing for these priority programmes is being increased, notwithstanding a recent economy drive forced by slowing economic growth and tight government finances. “I’m satisfied, because all the key obligations (spending)are fulfilled in their entirety,” said Golodets, after the cabinet last week signed off on savings in its three-year fiscal plan. LABOUR SHORTAGE For many years, Russia’s deep-seated demographic problems appeared to impinge little on its once fast-growing economy. But with a slowdown coinciding with record low unemployment, the shrinking labour force has emerged as a pressing economic and social problem. “We are now suffering from a severe labour shortage,” Golodets said. Due to a record low birth rate at the start of the 1990s, when the Soviet Union’s collapsed, the number of new entrants to the workforce is at a two-decade low. To help address the labour shortages, Russia has earmarked 45 billion roubles ($1.4 billion) over three years to encourage employers to take on workers in depressed regions, young people and the disabled, including funds for training, she said. Golodets said the government is cracking down on widespread employment of illegal immigrants in casual work such as on building sites, saying labour productivity in Russia could rise by 70 percent if such jobs were made legitimate.

Russia’s Alfa Group unit buys stake in Regal Petroleum

The buyer is one of A1’s subsidiaries, and the seller is CIS Natural Resources,” A1 President Mikhail Khabarov told the Reuters Russia Investment Summit. Khabarov declined to disclose financial details of the deal, but said Regal Petroleum’s revenues stood at 25.3 million pounds ($40.5 million) in 2012. “We do not rule out that we may invest more in this company. We believe it has potential to increase its market capitalization and think that we can make the management more efficient in the interests of all shareholders,” he said. A1 is a unit of Fridman’s Alfa Group and its investment portfolio ranges from car dealerships to cinemas to real estate. It is also known for investing in companies that struggle to pay debts or are embroiled in corporate disputes, selling them on relatively quickly after resolving the standoff. However Khabarov, who has a seat on Alfa-Group’s supervisory board, said he saw long-term potential in Russian coal asset Zarechnaya, part of an industry that has seen prices tumble over 60 percent since 2011. A1 represents a businessman who claims a 50 percent stake in Zarechnaya, a coal company in western Siberia’s Kuznetsk Basin, or Kuzbass, one of Russia’s biggest coal deposits. “In fact we’ve got not just an asset but an option (exercisable when) this market grows,” he said, citing the mine’s efficiency as an advantage over the small and medium-sized coal firms that he sees consolidating in a few years. “Most likely, we will not sell it (Zarechnaya) immediately. It would be more interesting to use it as a basis for consolidation in the sector and creation of a major player with annual production of 30 million tonnes.

Under a US-Russian plan, Syria is to give up its chemical weapons. Security is one of the plan’s major challenges, including how to prevent theft of the weapons. In an interview broadcast on Sunday on state TV’s Channel One, Lavrov said Russia has proposed that there be an international presence on the perimeter of all areas where chemical weapons experts will work in Syria. “We are ready to share our servicemen and military police to participate in these forces,” but “it seems to me that military observers will be sufficient,” he said. Although Russia and the US worked together on the chemical weapons plan, Washington and Moscow remain at odds over several aspects of the Syrian crisis. The United States, along with France, have sought a UN security council resolution that would authorize the use of force, if Syria reneges on the chemical weapons agreement, but Russia opposes invoking the UN charter’s Chapter 7 which would allow force. Lavrov criticized what he called “impudent” attempts by the west to include that chapter in the resolution. The minister said the west is unable to admit that previous military interventions, such as in Iraq and Libya, led to severe problems. “They are primarily interested in the evidence of their own superiority . And is not the task that drives us to solve the problem of chemical weapons in Syria,” he said. Mortar lands inside Russian mission A mortar round landed inside the Russian embassy compound in Damascus on Sunday, state media said. Russia is a leading backer of Syria’s President Bashar Assad and rebels fighting to topple his regime have previously targeted the diplomatic mission in Damascus with rockets and mortars. In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry confirmed the attack, saying rebels fired mortars that landed on the grounds of their embassy. Three workers were injured in the attack, the ministry said, adding that the injuries were not life-threatening.