Scientists voice Yamal crater theories, Russia to increase defense and national security spending, Defense Ministry refutes involvement in downed Ukrainian fighter, Experts say U.S. sanctions against Russia more shock than substance, Israeli forces enter Gaza in ground assault, World leaders demand thorough investigation of downed commercial airliner. These issues in Voice of Russia's daily Press Review.
Moskovskiy Komsomolets has an article on the odd Yamal crater. The geological formation was spotted a few days and has baffled media outlets and new media commentators alike – a huge hole in the ground n the center of a massive crater seemed to have appeared overnight. The article writes that most popular theories explaining the forty to sixty meter-diameter hole leading to a cavern of unknown deep included meteors, underground explosions and human activity. Scientists could not leave the mystery unsolved as well and have sent an expedition, which has already provided preliminary findings. Press service of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug quotes Marina Leibman, leading researcher at the Earth Cryosphere Institute of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences: “There was no extra-terrestrial activity. A thorough inspection have showed that there were no traces of humans with hardware. Meteorite theories are also groundless, otherwise there would have been signs of charring. This place was the epicenter of an eruption of some substance from below the ground. This is a mechanical blow-out which most likely occurred due increasing pressure along with frost action and change of volume of some sort of cavity which stored swamp gas.” End quote
Russia is to boost financing of the defense sector due to military import substitution, Izvestia writes. The government plans to increase budget spending on defense and national security; by 2017 a quarter of the budget will be spent on these areas. The newspaper reports that according to high-ranking officials from the government, extra funds are indeed required to develop industries in order to comply with the new objective of import substitution. The daily notes that this year and 2015 budget spending will be social-oriented. However, the daily notes that while 27.3% of the budget will be social expenditures, by 2017 the number will drop to 26.5%, whereas current 17.7% spend on defense will be boosted to 21% in three years. A source from the Finance Ministry said that it would not be correct to talk about direct increase in spending exclusively due to the Ukrainian conflict. He added that one should not forget about the general budget situation in Russia, which has not improved since last year. Quote “Priorities will change. The government needs to think about security of its people.” End quote
Russia’s Defense Ministry has refuted Kiev’s accusations regarding downed Ukrainian jet fighter, Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes and quotes the ministry’s representative: “It’s absurd, just like all previous accusations voiced by Kiev administration against Russia’s Defense Ministry. We’re being exposed almost every day with promises to provide undisputable evidence. And each time this ‘evidence’ suddenly disappears anad the embarrassment is covered up with new, even more phantasmagoric accusations.” End quote A similar statement was made by Russia’s envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin, the daily notes. The newspaper reports that according to military experts, it’s likely that the airplane was shot down by militia from the Donetsk or Lugansk People’s republic. For instance, Igor Korotchenko says that statements made by Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council are no more than lies and “an example of propaganda characteristic of totalitarian and fascist regimes” end quote. He added that Russia is not involved and does not plan to get involved in the internal Ukrainian military conflict.
The Moscow Times reports that the U.S. struck Russia with its harshest round of sanctions yet, striving to demonstrate a willingness to take action without sinking the Russian, U.S. and world economies. Though the air filled with talk of heightened risk premiums and stocks tumbled 2.3 percent, many analysts said the sanctions were more bark than bite, the daily notes. For example, Maxim Osadchy, head of analysis at Corporate Finance Bank said that "This third wave [of sanctions] is unlikely to shave even 0.1 to 0.2 percent off GDP. Translate that into money, and it is laughable — some $2 billion to $4 billion." The most high profile names on the new sanctions list, published late Wednesday on the U.S. Treasury department's website, the article writes, were a foursome of Russia's biggest banks and energy companies: Novatek, Russia's largest independent gas producer; state-owned oil and gas giant Rosneft; state development bank Vneshekonombank, or VEB; and Gazprombank, Russia's third-largest bank by assets. Unlike the eight defense companies that were also blacklisted, the measures against the four companies are light: they will not be able to raise new debt in dollars with a maturity period longer than 90 days, but they can continue to work with U.S. companies and individuals.
Israeli tanks, infantry and engineering units were ordered to launch a broad front assault on Gaza on Thursday by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu as last ditch efforts to secure a ceasefire deal in Cairo collapsed, The Guardian writes. According to the Jerusalem Post, the decision to launch the ground invasion was taken at an Israeli security cabinet meeting on Tuesday night after Hamas had rejected an Egyptian ceasefire proposal and after Hamas militants tried to infiltrate Israel through a tunnel from Gaza. Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said the Islamist Palestinian movement refused to accept the Cairo proposal "in its current form" and is seeking a series of conditions for a truce with Israel. Netanyahu and defense minister Moshe Ya'alon then met on Thursday with the Israeli military leadership where the decision to launch the operation later that night was taken. In reply, Hamas said Israel's ground incursion into the Gaza Strip would have "dreadful consequences", the daily reports, reminding that it was the first major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza in just over five years.
A suspected surface-to-air missile downed a Malaysia Airlines jet in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, The Washington Post writes. U.S. intelligence officials confirmed, but could not identify the origins of, the missile strike that led to the deadliest downing of a civilian passenger plane in recent decades. One Ukrainian government official, however, said the Boeing 777 traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur appeared to have been hit by an advanced Russian-made missile system that recently came into the hands of the pro-Moscow militia. The attack - denied by some rebel leaders who insisted they did not have the capabilities to stage such a strike - appeared to propel to a pivotal new phase a crisis that has been brewing for months, the daily writes. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak demanded a full, independent investigation and said the United States had offered its assistance. A number of world leaders called for an international investigation, with Britain proposing a United Nations-led probe.