RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 18, 2015

TODAY: Russia coordinating Syria attacks with France, gave US advance notice of latest strikes; Egypt pledges cooperation against terrorism. Foreign Ministry cites UN charter stating new defence aims; Obama wants Russia to shift focus away from Assad; Sberbank says outlook for banking sector is bleak, oil production due to decline; Yukos opera.

Russia will begin coordinating its military attacks on Syria with France, with Russian sailors set to initiate direct contact with the French Navy, after the Kremlin publicly admitted for the first time that charter jet which crashed in Egypt was downed by a terrorist bomb. The New York Times calls this ‘a highly orchestrated announcement’.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is calling on all countries to ‘be together in this struggle’; President Vladimir Putin reported a decline in tension between Russia and the West at the end of the G20 gathering; and Russia for the first time yesterday gave the US advance notice of its latest significant round of strikes in Syria, though there has been no military coordination between the two as yet.  Egypt has pledgedfull cooperation with the Russian side to end terrorism’.  What a difference a year makes, notes The Guardian, in reference to Putin’s ‘diplomatic hat trick’.  The Foreign Ministry says it will use the right to self-defence in its war on terror, as stipulated in the United Nations Charter.  The Kremlin’s official position on Turkish President Bashar al-Assad is that no one outside of the country can dictate the fate of his rule; US Secretary of State John Kerry says he is convinced that Russia is not committed to keeping Assad in power.  US President Barack Obama says Russia must shift its focus away from supporting Assad and towards defeating Islamic State.  The Washington Post says Russia has become ‘a new front in the war against militant Islam’.

Sberbank, Russia’s top bank, has assessed the current banking sector situation as ‘a massive crisis’, citing zero profits and no recovery for several years; VTB is expecting to make $763 million in profits next year.  Oil production looks set to decline by 10 million tons in 2017, and Russia will be relying heavily on its Soviet-era discoveries as the hunt for new reserves is put on hold due to sanctions.  Russia has received some new foreign investments this year.  Google will contest Russia’s antitrust ruling that it broke competition law with its Android platform.  Yandex will launch a new cancer diagnostics platform through DNA testing.

Selfie-stick users are being taught self-defence, as ‘the act of flaunting an expensive smartphone on the end of a stick can mark somebody out as a tourist’.  Get ready for Yukos: the opera.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin heads a meeting on Russian plane crash in Egypt in Moscow’s Kremlin, Russia, early Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. (Alexei Nikolsky/SPUTNIK, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)