Press Digest: Turkish Stream pipeline still waiting for green light

Vedomosti: The launch of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline could be postponed. Source: Reuters

Vedomosti: The launch of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline could be postponed. Source: Reuters

RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on international events, featuring reports on the continuing delays to construction of the Turkish Stream pipeline from Russia to Turkey, and the Ministry of Economy’s dismissal of a mooted tax on foreign films, as well as analysis of the justice faced by those who commit electoral fraud in Russia.

Launch date for Turkish Stream to be set back

The launch of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline could be postponed, writes business daily Vedomosti.

Earlier, Russian gas giant Gazprom reported that the first line of the pipeline, which will transport Russian gas under the Black Sea to a distribution hub in Turkey, would be launched in December 2016.

Construction was planned to be started as early as in June, but this did not happen, since Russia and Turkey have failed to sign an intergovernmental agreement.

The problem is that Turkey still has no government, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev explained last week.

Negotiations on Turkish Stream are complicated by the dispute between Gazprom and the Turkish company Botas over a discount on gas, the newspaper notes. Gazprom argues that it has been agreed upon.

Russia wants to sign a document on the issue along with an intergovernmental agreement and believes that Turkey can do this now in order to get work underway. But Turkey wants to first obtain a discount, so it is continuing to bargain, said a source close to one of the parties to the negotiations.

Ankara believes that if it is to become such a large market for Gazprom as Germany, the price for gas should be comparable to what Germany pays (according to the Chairman of the Board of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, the price for Germany is now Europe's lowest).

For Gazprom, it is essential to begin deliveries to Turkey via Turkish Stream no later than 2019, when the transit contract with Ukraine expires, but would be better in advance to strengthen its bargaining position with Kiev on the extension of transit, said Vitaly Kryukov, director of independent analyst firm Small Letters.


Election fraud is punished too little

Ahead of regional elections in September, the Interregional Public Foundation for Voters, Golos-Ural, has analyzed the practice of bringing members of the election commissions to justice, the website reports.

The practice has been analysed in the 37 Russian regions where elections will be held in fall 2015, but in none of the cases examined did the violators receive a real prison sentence. The punishment issued was either a suspended sentence or fines, the largest amounting to 300,000 rubles ($5,000).

Moreover, violators are suspended from the commission's work for just a year. “Given that elections are not held every year, violators are free to perform the same functions again at the next election,” said Golos.

A co-chairman of the Golos movement, Andrei Buzin, however, noted that the number of prosecutions has increased in the last couple of years. But most still go unpunished, and the “lack of punishment makes it possible to extend the fraud.”

For this reasin, experts are urging tougher penalties. However, the director of the Institute of Regional Projects, Nikolai Mironov, believes that this will not change anything; first, it is necessary to remove all the loopholes from the legislation that open the way for administrative resources.

“But the main thing is to give the opportunity to appeal independently against the results,” Mironov says. “Courts follow commands.”


Ministry of Economy does not support tax on foreign films

The Ministry of Economy has submitted to the government a reply to the request to study the idea of introduction of VAT on screening foreign films at film theaters, writes business daily Kommersant, citing the Ministry’s press service.

The Ministry said that it had “come to the conclusion that the proposal is contrary to the obligations of the Russian Federation, taken when joining the WTO,” while its positive effect is not obvious, since VAT is already paid by the distributors of films.

Previously, the Ministry of Culture actively supported the idea of a tax, stating that it was necessary to stop “subsidizing Hollywood” and send the proceeds to support the domestic film industry.

But, Kommersant recalls, theatrical chains and a number of film producers strongly opposed the idea, pointing out that this would lead to an increase in the cost of tickets (including for Russian films), and, consequently, to a decrease in film audiences.

According to independent researcher and consulting company Movie Research, Russian film theaters took about 46 billion rubles ($760 million) in 2014, of which 38 billion rubles ($630 million) (82 percent) accounted for foreign films.

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