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Tobolsk Authorities Excited About New $9bn Sibur Plant

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Siberia’s historic capital of Tobolsk is looking forward to the opening of a new plastics plant by petrochemical giant Sibur later this year, with the move seen as an important economic driver for the region, the Moscow Times reports.

“The city can no longer imagine itself without Sibur, or Sibur without the city,” said Tobolsk’s mayor Vladimir Mazur.

The city, which sits on the Irtysh River in the heart of Western Siberia’s oil-rich Tyumen region, had welcomed the expansion of the existing Soviet-era plant. The $9 billion complex will lead to an influx of jobs, taxes paid by Russia’s biggest petrochemicals firm and an economic boost for small businesses, Mazur said.

The complex also carries with it significance for Russia’s economy. The polymers it will produce will be made partly from the associated petroleum gases (APGs) that in the past have been burned off as a waste product during petroleum extraction. That represents a significant step in Russia’s drive to increase the value it derives from its natural resources. It also offers the country an in-demand export good that is insured against oscillations in oil prices, oil and gas analysts say.

“Russia’s economy is very dependent on oil,” said Dmitri Marinchenko, Senior Director of Oil and Gas at Fitch Ratings. “From a long-term perspective, this plant is a positive step. Oil demand will eventually go down with the turn to green energy but demand for plastics is only growing.”

The Kremlin has been pushing for quicker expansion in the petrochemicals industry.

“We have relatively small production capacity,” Russia’s Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin said at the Russian Energy Week in October. He noted that approximately 10 million tons of polymers that are produced in the country are mostly for the domestic market, with exports amounting to $3.2 billion. “This number does not impress.”

Sibur’s CEO Dmitri Konov has said that once the plant is open for business the company may go ahead with a long-awaited initial public offering (IPO). The company is already planning to spend another $6-$7 billion on an additional polymers plant in Russia’s Far East.

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Greek Church recognizes autonomy of Orthodox Church of Ukraine

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The leading figures of the Church of Greece decided at a meeting this weekend to recognize the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), making it the first of the Eastern Orthodox churches to take such a step.

The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece recognized the autonomy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine in line with a request by the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios

The Orthodox Times says the Greeks’ formal recognition will take place October 19 in Thessaloniki, with Archbishop Ieronymos and the OCU’s Metropolitan Epifaniy of Kyiv and All Ukraine present.

The Patriarchate of Constantinople, generally considered the spiritual headquarters for Orthodoxy, granted the Orthodox Church of Ukraine independence in January in a move that was adamantly resisted by Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church. The new Orthodox Church of Ukraine installed its first metropolitan, Epifaniy, at a ceremony in Kyiv on February 3 in a process that further established the new church body’s independence

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Iranian Oil Tanker Breaks Down in Red Sea off Saudi Arabia’s Coast

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Iran’s HELM oil tanker, one of the biggest vessels of its kind in the world, broke down on Wednesday about 120 km (75 miles) from the Saudi port of Yanbu. According to National Iranian Tanker Company spokesman Jabal Ameli, the crew are trying to fix the problem.

“The ship’s crew are fixing the defect and the vessel is in a stable condition from a safety standpoint. Fortunately, the ship’s crew are in a safe condition,” Akbar Jabal-Ameli, said as quoted by the media outlet IRNA.

The HELM has been subject to US sanctions. Iran has one of the largest tanker fleets in the world.

Earlier, US Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook said that Washington has called on all countries to ban Iranian oil tankers from their ports and not grant them passage.

In July, the Iran-flagged tanker Adrian Darya 1, former known as Grace 1, was impounded on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. The ship was ordered to be released last week and is heading for Greece. Iran said it was considering a naval escort after the United States made a last-minute request to detain it.

On 19 July, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized a UK-flagged tanker, the Stena Impero, in the Strait of Hormuz, citing a breach of international maritime regulations. The oil tanker, with its 23-member crew, was towed to the port in Bandar Abbas.

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UN says global refugee figures hit 70 million, highest since World War II

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The number of refugees in the world has hit a record of 70 million, the highest figure since World War II, according to the United Nations.

People are fleeing war, persecution and the consequences of global warming, the German branch of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in a statement this week.

Aid organization SOS Children’s Villages said 12,000 children were killed or wounded in 2018. Thousands were also kidnapped and recruited as child soldiers with hundreds of thousands of others being seriously traumatized, the group said on Sunday.

Afghanistan (3,062), Syria (1,854) and Yemen (1,698) had the highest numbers of killed and injured children.

“And those are only the reviewed cases. The dark figure is probably much higher,” said Teresa Ngigi, head psychologist at SOS Children’s Villages, in the statement.

“And the reports of the last weeks on dead and injured children in Syria, Yemen and Sudan demonstrate that the suffering of children in war and conflict regions is continuing in 2019.”

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