MOSCOW. June 3 (Interfax) - The following is a digest of Moscow newspapers published on June 3. Interfax does not accept liability for information in these stories.
POLITICS & ECONOMICS
Ukraine has announced plans to freeze and seize the assets of Russian companies in the country and abroad as a way to compensate for damages resulting from the loss of Crimea, which it puts at $92 billion. Lawyers believe Ukraine's legal position is weak, but companies acknowledge that Ukraine is capable of anything in the current situation and its new law on occupied territories sets the legal foundation for confiscating even private assets (Kommersant, p. 1).
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) is offering a concession to Internet companies that, under the new law on bloggers, must now store data about their visitors for six months. They can avoid the cost of expensive equipment required for this if they give the FSB constant access to any information about users, with the exception of correspondence, on a voluntary basis (Kommersant, p. 1).
President Vladimir Putin awarded medals to businessmen and the heads of state companies, including billionaires Vladimir Potanin, Viktor Vekselberg and Oleg Deripaska, Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller and Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin, for their contributions to preparations for the Sochi Olympics. The awards were handed out behind closed doors in March with a presidential decree that was never published (Vedomosti, p. 1).
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has sent a proposal to President Vladimir Putin to eliminate the Federal Defense Contracts Service, which is overseen by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, and divide up its responsibilities among other agencies. The government disagrees, believing the service is effective in its current form (Kommersant, p. 1).
Divisions of the Russian Interior Ministry's chief economic crimes department and the corresponding Moscow department will soon be outsourced due to staff cuts. The reorganization will paralyze inspections of businesses for two to three months, after which they are expected to resume with renewed vigor (Vedomosti, p. 2).
The draft program for the development of Crimea is continuing to grow in cost. Russia's Regional Development Ministry is now proposing to spend 1.15 trillion rubles by 2020, including 1.1 trillion rubles from the federal budget. Other government agencies believe this is too costly. The draft is supposed to be ready by July 1 (Vedomosti, p. 4).
OIL & GAS
Russia has given Ukraine and the EU another week to work out conditions for gas supplies, postponing the switch to prepayment for gas by Ukraine until June 9. Kyiv is still demanding a price cut and has refused to immediately pay down $1.5 billion in debt as demanded by Moscow and Brussels. The deferral increases the chances of a compromise, but will also bolster Ukraine's negotiating position as it will use the extra time to pump more gas into storage (Kommersant, p. 8).
The Federal Grid Company has found a way to acquire new grid infrastructure almost for free. Polyus Gold, Russia's biggest gold producer plans to spend 2 billion rubles on building a power line and substation in Siberia to boost production at its Blagodatnoye mine. FGC will oversee construction and then buy out the infrastructure over ten years with tariff revenue. The grid monopoly hopes to reach similar deals with transport companies (Kommersant, p. 8).
METALS & MINING
A Cyprus court has frozen 67.37% of shares in Russian steel and coal group Mechel in a lawsuit filed by a shareholder of one of the financially troubled company's subsidiaries. A minority shareholder of Razrez Tomusinsky is challenging loans the mine gave to the parent company, which is struggling under a net debt of $8.6 billion (Vedomosti, p. 11).
BANKING, FINANCE & INSURANCE
Alfa Bank is preparing to become the first Russian issuer to return to the global capital market since the start of the Ukrainian crisis. The bank wants to raise 600 million euros with a Eurobond offering. The bank is promising not to use the raised money to fund actions or persons subject to U.S. and EU sanctions (Vedomosti, p. 1).
Russian conglomerate Sistema, the principal shareholder of Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), is looking to buy another bank as part of a strategy to turn its MTS Bank into one of the country's top-15 lenders. One of the banks Sistema is reportedly interested in is Unicredit Bank (Vedomosti, p. 11).
REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION
Russian tycoon Ziyad Manasir has sold his main asset - a controlling interest in engineering and construction group Stroygazconsulting (SGC), until recently one of the biggest contractors for gas giant Gazprom, to Ruslan Baisarov. The deal, reportedly worth about $5 billion, will be closed following regulatory approval (Kommersant, p. 7; Vedomosti, p. 10).
TELECOMMUNICATIONS, MEDIA & TECHNOLOGY
Rostec plans to increase its stake in MegaFon, one of Russia's top three mobile operators, to 5% by the end of this year and to 10% in two or three years. The state corporation could buy the shares on the market or from other shareholders, such as the operator's wholly owned subsidiary Megafon Investments (Vedomosti, p. 10).
Mikhail Prokhorov's Onexim Group and Boris Jordan's Sputnik have pulled out of the crowd sourcing platform Witology, one of the founders of which was Public Opinion Foundation president Alexander Oslon. They have sold their combined stake of almost 50% to company management (Kommersant, p. 7).
Interview: Artyom Kudryavtsev, President of TransTeleCom (Vedomosti, p. 8).
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Russian Armed Forces General Staff reports preparations of new humanitarian convoys with UN support in Syria
OSCE not planning any action in relation to preliminary report on Boeing crash in Ukraine - Russian permanent representative Lukashevich
Most intense fighting in Syria taking place southwest, north of Aleppo and north of Hama city - Russian General Staff (Part 2)
Situation in Northern Syria where Turkish army is conducting Operation Euphrates Shield deteriorated - Russian Armed Forces General Staff (Part 2)
Russia to send experts to Geneva to resume consultations with U.S. to find ways to normalize situation in Syria - General Staff (Part 2)
Syrian ceasefire disrupted by militants, govt troops forced to respond - Russian General Staff
A total of 685 populated localities join ceasefire in Syria - Russian Armed Forces General Staff
Most intense fighting in Syria taking place southwest, north of Aleppo and north of Hama city - Russian General Staff
Terrorists planning chemical shell strikes against Syrian army, residential areas in east Aleppo - Russian General Staff
Situation in Northern Syria where Turkish army is conducting Operation Euphrates Shield deteriorated - Russian Armed Forces General Staff
Russian General Staff claims having evidence of Syrian opposition forces' involvement in shelling of UN convoy
Russian General Staff at behest of country's leadership ready for further joint work with U.S. on Syria