Digest of headline news as of 3:30 p.m. Moscow time on May 16:
BUSINESS & FINANCE
*** RUSSIA PLANNING TO BOOST LNG EXPORTS TO 95 BCM IN 2025, HARD TO PREDICT DIRECTIONS - DEPUTY ENERGY MINISTER
Russia is planning to boost liquified natural gas (LNG) exports to 95 bcm in 2025, Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky said at a conference dedicated to the gas aspect of Russia-EU energy cooperation.
"It's rather hard to predict where our LNG will go - this will depend on pricing conditions in Europe and Asia," he said.
*** GAZPROM EXPORT ALLOWS FOR POSSIBILITY EXPORTS COULD FALL TO UNDER 200 BCM A YEAR
Four months after saying that Russian gas exports to non-FSU countries will not fall below 200 bcm a year, the head of Gazprom Export, Yelena Burmistrova, has allowed for the possibility of such a reduction.
At a conference on Russian-EU gas cooperation, she said that long-term demand for Russian gas in Europe is expected to stabilize at 194-204 bcma year.
*** UKRAINE'S PROPOSALS ON CONTINUING RUSSIAN GAS TRANSIT AT ODDS WITH THIRD ENERGY PACKAGE - RUSSIAN DEPUTY ENERGY MINISTER
Ukraine's proposals in the context of negotiations on continuing the transit of Russian gas contradict the provisions of the Third Energy Package, Russian Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky said at a gas conference in Berlin.
*** LUKOIL BEGINS COMMERCIAL PRODUCTION AT D41 DEPOSIT IN BALTIC SEA
Lukoil has begun commercial production at two wells of the D41 deposit on the Baltic Sea shelf, construction of which concluded on February 6 and May 7, respectively, the company said in a statement.
The field is operated from an onshore site with two newly drilled horizontal wells, one of which is 7,947 meters long and has a horizontal section of 616 meters. The other is a 7,517 meter long well with a horizontal borehole as long as 439 meters, the company said.
*** LUKOIL SHARES SURGE 5% ON NEWS THAT COMPANY WILL CANCEL PORTION OF SHARES
Lukoil shares surged 5% in trading in the afternoon on Thursday after the company announced that it was considering the matter of reducing charter capital in order to cancel shares acquired as part of its share buyback.
Lukoil shares were up 5% to 5,250 rubles per share in trading on the Moscow Exchange as of 13:22 p.m. Moscow time in trading volume of over 5 billion rubles.
*** ROSATOM PROPOSES USING 4 BLN RUBLES FROM ICEBREAKER BUDGET FOR SABETTA PORT DREDGING - PAPER
The Russian government has found the 4 billion rubles needed in 2019 for dredging work at the Sabetta port for Novatek's Utrenny LNG terminal.
On the recommendation of Rosatom, the money will come from the budget for the construction of the Arktika flagship icebreaker and two serial icebreakers Sibir and Ural, national daily Kommersant reported on Thursday, citing sources.
*** METALLOINVEST TO CONSOLIDATE 100% OF MIKHAILOVSKY GOK, BUY BACK 10% FROM SBERBANK
Metalloinvest intends to consolidate 100% of Mikhailovsky GOK by buying back a little over 10% of its shares for 12.8 billion rubles.
According to Mikhailovsky GOK, Lebedinsky GOK (a Metalloinvest subsidiary) has submitted a voluntary offer for the purchase of all Mikhailovsky GOK shares at 16,866.10 rubles per share.
*** IT SHOULD BE DEVELOPED FOREMOST IN CONTAINER SHIPMENTS - RZD
Information technology should be developed foremost in container shipments, Russian Railways (RZD) deputy head Pavel Ivanov, who heads the company's central traffic control department, said.
"We need a common platform so that we can analyse the operation of the container fleet online in real time. The owners of containers, as full-fledged participants in the transport process, should have access to this platform," Ivanov told RZD's corporate publication.
"Why are we talking about the importance of container shipments? Because we have now provided a competitive environment, we're shipping freight from Western Europe to China and back in 10-12 days. This is competing with marine shippers, where delivery times exceed a month and sometime six weeks. Transit through Russia increased by 27% in the first quarter. This is very important for us and for our partners," Ivanov said.
*** SBERBANK'S, VTB'S REGIONAL-AIRLINE PROJECT HALTED - GREF
The project for the creation of a regional airline being elaborated by Sberbank and VTB on the government's orders has been halted, Sberbank head Herman Gref told journalists in Nur-Sultan.
"There isn't the needed demand right now. We've prepared everything. If the government returns to this, we'll be ready to discuss it," Gref said.
*** RUSSIA'S FIRST CRAB AUCTIONS MIGHT BE HELD BEFORE SEPT 1
The first crab auctions in Russia might be held this summer, Federal Fisheries Agency head Ilya Shestakov said on Thursday.
"Our objective is to adopt all the secondary legislation as quickly as possible. Not only adopt the legislation, but also hold the auctions. We hope that we will be able to hold the first auction procedures before September 1," Shestakov told reporters after a meeting of the Far East Fisheries Research Council in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.
*** RUSSIA, TAJIKISTAN INCREASE AGRICULTURAL GOODS TRADE TURNOVER 30% TO $60 MLN IN JAN-APRIL
Russia and Tajikistan increased their trade turnover in agricultural products by 30% to $60 million in the first four months of 2019, Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev said at a meeting with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe on Thursday, Russia's Agriculture Ministry reported.
Such trade amounted to $154 million in 2018.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
*** PROCUREMENT OF LARGER NUMBER OF SU-57S WON'T LEAD TO SPENDING IN EXCESS OF MILITARY BUDGET - PESKOV
The Russian Defense Ministry's decision to procure a larger number of state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jets will not lead to any spending in excess of the existing military budget, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.
"This won't lead to any increase of the overall budget allocated for the procurement of new military hardware. Rather, it will take place through redistribution and by reducing the prime cost; in other words, by boosting the effectiveness of production," Peskov said on being asked by reporters how it would be possible to increase the number of fifth-generation fighter jets being procured by the Defense Ministry from 16 to 76 solely by reducing their prime cost by 20%.
*** CONTRACT FOR 76 SU-57 FIGHTER JETS WORTH UP TO 170 BLN RUBLES MAY BE SIGNED AT MAKS 2019 - NEWSPAPER
A contract for the delivery of 76 Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jets worth around 170 billion rubles may be signed during the MAKS 2019 air show in August, the newspaper Kommersant reported on Thursday, citing its sources.
"The price of the contract is estimated at up to 170 billion rubles, making it the biggest deal in the history of aircraft building and guaranteeing that the output of the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant [part of the Sukhoi holding, a member of the Russian United Aircraft Corporation] will be maintained at full capacity for at least a decade," the newspaper said.
"The price of the contract estimated at 160 billion rubles to 170 billion rubles is declining not only due to decisions to alter the interior arrangement of the Su-57 and the unification of technological solutions, but also because this production has become serial," Kommersant said, citing a top manager of a Russian defense industry enterprise.
*** FSB COL. CHERKALIN CHARGED WITH TAKING $850,000 BRIBE - COURT
Federal Security Service (FSB) Col. Kirill Cherkalin has been charged with taking a $850,000 bribe.
"Investigators have accused Cherkalin of taking a $850,000 bribe from citizen Nazarov in the city of Moscow in the period from November 2013 till February 2016 in exchange of his activity and inactivity to the benefit of the briber and a commercial company, as well as for his patronage," the Moscow District Military Court said on Thursday, citing materials in the proceeding. The court is hearing the appeal against the officer's arrest.
The ruble equivalent of the bribe exceeds 52 million rubles, according to materials in the proceeding.
*** MAN SUSPECTED OF TRANSFERRING 50 MLN RUBLES TO ISIL MILITANTS IN SYRIA DETAINED IN MOSCOW - FSB
A man suspected of funding militants of the Islamic State (ISIL) organization, banned in Russia, fighting in Syria has been detained in Moscow, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said.
"The FSB, the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and the Federal Financial Monitoring Service in Moscow have jointly dismantled the activities of North Ossetia native and Russian citizen Georgy Guyev, who was sending wire transfers to bank cards of people fighting in Syria within the Islamic State international terrorist organization, banned in Russia," the FSB press center told Interfax on Thursday.
The suspect sent transfers to the founder of the Muhajiroun Islamic fund Akhmednabiyev, also known as "Abu Umar of Sasitli", who is wanted for terrorism, it said.
"At least 50 million rubles have been transferred by the suspect since 2015," the press center said.
*** RADA SCHEDULES ZELENSKY'S INAUGURATION FOR MAY 20
The inauguration of Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky will begin at the Verkhovna Rada at 10 a.m. on Monday, an Interfax correspondent said in a report.
The relevant draft resolution was adopted by 315 votes at the Rada's plenary meeting on Thursday.
*** NEW PARTY LED BY ROCK MUSICIAN VAKARCHUK BEING CREATED IN UKRAINE
Sviatoslav Vakarchuk, a Ukrainian musician and leader of the rock band Okean Elzy, who intended to run for president but later decided not to, said he plans to go into politics.
He introduced his party, Golos, with whom he intends to run in the parliamentary elections, in Kyiv on Thursday.
"We are creating a political force, a party of real changes [...] With your help, I'm leading the Golos party to the Ukrainian parliament," Vakarchuk said in presenting the party and introducing his team.
*** NAZARBAYEV CALLS FOR RENOUNCING SANCTIONS, LAUNCHING DIRECT DIALOGUE ON INT'L PROBLEMS
First Kazakh President and Leader of the Nation Nursultan Nazarbayev has offered the Kazakh capital as a venue for dialogue between the leaders of the United States, China, Russia and the European Union, calling on them to renounce sanctions.
"It is important to shift from this unproductive regime of sanctions to a direct dialogue between the leaders of the key global powers, which determine the future of the whole world. Therefore, the time has come for representatives of the U.S., China, Russia and the European Union to discuss ways out of the current geopolitical crisis," Nazarbayev said at a plenary session of the 12th Astana Economic Forum on Thursday.
"I have been holding such discussions with the leaders of the abovementioned states. Overall, there is the right understanding in this issue," he said.
*** FOREIGN MINISTERS OF SCO, CSTO STATES TO MEET IN BISHKEK ON MAY 22
Meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will be held in Bishkek on May 22, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister spokesman Ulanbek Dyikanbayev told reporters on Thursday.
"The program [of the session] of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers is quite busy. A number of documents are expected to be signed and Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov and SCO Secretary General Vladimir Norov are expected to give a joint press conference," he said.
When commenting on an upcoming meeting of the CSTO Council of Foreign Ministers in Bishkek, Dyikanbayev said that the ministers will first hold a narrow-format meeting, to be followed by a session in the presence of the countries' delegations.
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