Digest of headline news as of 3:30 p.m. Moscow time on March 25:
BUSINESS & FINANCE
*** NORD STREAM 2 HOPING TO RECEIVE CONSTRUCTION PERMIT FROM DENMARK
Nord Stream 2 is hoping to receive a permit from Denmark for construction of the section of the pipeline which is in Danish territorial waters on schedule, head of the company Jens Muller said in response to an Interfax question in a press conference at the German Foreign Press Association on Monday.
"There is compelling reason to believe that we will receive this permit," Muller said.
*** KOZAK TO DISCUSS EXPORT LICENSING, REVISION OF TAX MANEUVER WITH OIL COS MARCH 26
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak will hold a meeting with the heads of Russian oil companies on March 26 on the issue of licensing exports of crude oil and oil products and the revision of certain parameters of the tax maneuver in the oil industry, Kozak's press secretary, Ilya Dzhus told reporters.
"The extension of the government's agreement with vertically integrated oil companies, as well as the parameters of this agreement, will be discussed at the meeting," Dzhus said.
*** SWITZERLAND'S MET COMPLETES PURCHASE OF 50% IN SERBIAN WINDFARM, BECOMES NIS PARTNER
Switzerland's MET Renewables has completed a purchase of 50% of a project to build a windfarm in Serbia.
The remaining 50% belongs to NIS, a Serbian subsidiary of Gazprom Neft. The joint venture will be called NIS-MET Energowind, according to an NIS press release.
This will be the first windfarm project for both partners, and for MET, the first investment in renewable energy outside the European Union.
*** TALTEK BUYS COAL COMPANY SEVERNY KUZBASS
JSC TalTEK (Barnaul) has purchased 100% of shares inHong Kong-based Kuzbas Holding Limited (owner of 98.64% of shares in JSC Severny Kuzbass Coal Company), according to the lawyers' association Region Service, which carried out and closed the deal.
"Severny Kuzbass has gotten an owner that is strong, experienced in coal production, and capable of bringing the company out of its protracted crisis and providing the volumes of investment that are necessary for further development," Region Service said.
*** POLYUS UPS STAKE IN SUKHOI LOG GOLD JV TO 68.2%
The Polyus Group has increased its stake in the Sukhoi Log project from 58.4% to 68.2%, according to SPARK-Interfax.
The stake held by the state Rostec corporation decreased from 41.6% to 31.8%.
Polyus and Rostec had signed an option agreement by which Polyus would increase its stake by 9.8% or more at the beginning of 2019. Polyus would have to buy 4.8% for $28 million cash and 5% for $29 million worth of shares. According to previous statements, Polyus used 0.28% from its treasury stake for this purpose.
*** USC MAY MOVE HQ FROM MOSCOW TO ST. PETERSBURG - NEWSPAPER
JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) might move its headquarters from Moscow to St. Petersburg by the end of the year, sources told the newspaper Kommersant.
Details and dates have yet to be determined, but various options are now being discussed, according to the article.
*** RUSSIA, INDONESIA NEGOTIATING SUPPLY OF MC-21 PLANES - RUSSIAN INDUSTRY AND TRADE MINISTER
Russia and Indonesia are negotiating the delivery of Irkut MC-21 passenger jetliners, Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov told Interfax in an interview.
"Countries of the Asia Pacific region, among them Indonesia, are a key market for the promotion of Russia's new passenger aircraft. SSJ-100 planes are already being operated here. Talks on the delivery of MC-21 planes are underway," Manturov said.
Certification of the MC-21-300 plane is the current priority. Once the plane is certified, it can be purchased by Russian airlines, which will be its first operators, he said.
*** RUSSIAN MINFIN PLANNING TO RESTRICT ONLINE LOTTERIES, GAMBLING BY RESTRICTING MONEY TRANSFERS
The Russian Finance Ministry has prepared a bill on restricting illegal online lotteries and gambling, according to material posted on the online database of legal information.
The text of the bill has not been published. According to the material, it is intended to counteract illegal online lotteries and gambling by limiting individuals' ability to make money transfers to those who organize such activity.
*** BELARUS'S GROSS FOREIGN DEBT DECREASE 2.2% IN 2018
Belarus's gross foreign debt was $39.04 billion as of January 1, 2019 (65.5% of GSP), having fallen 2.2% in 2018, the country's National Bank reported.
In Q4, the country's foreign debt decreased 1.1% after growth of 0.5% in Q3.
On January 1, foreign debt per capita was $4,120, down from $4,200 a year before.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
*** ALLEGATIONS OF RUSSIA MEDDLING IN U.S. ELECTIONS UNFOUNDED - KREMLIN
There are no grounds for accusing Moscow of interference in the U.S. elections, and even the information in a summary of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report is baseless, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"We continue to see these accusations still being leveled at Russia regarding interference in the U.S.' election processes as unwarranted, as even the brief information contained in this summary, which I have already mentioned, is not based on anything," Peskov told journalists on Monday.
*** MEETING BETWEEN RUSSIAN, ANGOLAN PRESIDENTS BEING PREPARED, DATE NOT SET YET - PESKOV
The Kremlin has confirmed that a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Angolan President Joao Lourenco is being prepared.
"Such contacts are being prepared. The date has not yet been determined," Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said in reply to a relevant question from journalists.
*** N. KOREAN LEADER'S VISIT TO RUSSIA BEING PREPARED THIS YEAR - PESKOV
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has confirmed preparations for a visit of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to Moscow this year.
"You know that a trip of the North Korean leader to the Russian Federation has been discussed and prepared for a long time. As soon as concrete agreements are reached on the venue, time, and modalities of the meeting, we will provide you with relevant information," Peskov told the press on Monday.
*** FEDERATION COUNCIL MEMBER SAYS EXPECTING SOONEST VISIT OF KIM JONG UN TO RUSSIA
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un might visit Russia shortly, according to the head of the group of friendship between the Federation Council and the North Korean parliament, Oleg Melnichenko.
"As known, the invitation was made [to Kim Jong Un] during the visit of Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko to North Korea last year. I believe the issue is going through the stage of consultations. It was not specifically discussed during our visit [to Pyongyang], but it seems likely to take place in the near future," Melnichenko said at a press conference on Monday following a trip to North Korea.
Journalists asked when the North Korean leader might visit Russia and what city the visit might be paid to.
*** MOSCOW ALLOWS FOR TRANSFORMING INF TREATY INTO MULTILATERAL AGREEMENT - PATRUSHEV
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty might be transformed into a multilateral agreement, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev told the newspaper Izvestia in an interview.
"To our mind, there are no political or legal impediments to transforming the INF Treaty into a multilateral deal," Patrushev said.
The United States suspended the INF Treaty but gave no evidence of its violation by Russia, he said.
*** WESTERN SANCTIONS HAVE POSITIVE EFFECT ON RUSSIA - PATRUSHEV
The Western sanctions have helped Russia deal with a number of economic problems and have united its population, according to Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
"Russians always unite and mobilize all available resources at times of ordeal as a way of ensuring the country's sovereignty. The same is happening now: this foreign pressure has become an incentive for solving many problems in the Russian economy," Patrushev told the newspaper Izvestia in an interview.
"By imposing economic sanctions on our country, the West is trying to destabilize our domestic economy and create sociopolitical tensions in society," he said.
*** KYIV URGES MOSCOW TO SWAP PRISONERS '25 FOR 25'
Kyiv has proposed to Moscow that 25 Ukrainians held in Russia be exchanged for 25 Russians convicted in Ukraine, Iryna Herashchenko, first deputy chairperson of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada and Kyiv's representative in the humanitarian subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group for Donbas, said on Monday.
"Yevhen Kyrylovych Marchuk, Ukraine's representative in the Trilateral Contact Group, and I have forwarded a letter to Russia's representative in the Trilateral Contact Group [Boris] Gryzlov proposing that hostages and political prisoners be freed," Herashchenko said in an interview with Ukrainian TV channels.
"We have proposed that they immediately take 25 Russians in exchange for 25 Ukrainians," she said.
*** ARMENIAN PM, AZERBAIJANI PRESIDENT TO MEET IN VIENNA ON MARCH 29
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev will meet in Vienna on March 29 to discuss a settlement of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a diplomatic source based in the Austrian capital told Interfax.
"The meeting will take place in Vienna on March 29. It will be held with the mediation of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs," the source said.
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