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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Oct 3, 2012

TODAY: Council of Europe chides Russia on rights and freedom; Pussy Riot painters investigated; analyzing the upcoming Coordinating Council elections. Russia-Georgia relations poised to change after surprise election results?  U.S. reset needs an update, says Lavrov; oil output reaches new post-Soviet high.

Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened an investigation into a pro-Pussy Riot art exhibition in Moscow over concerns that it could incite religious hatred.  The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has decried Russia’s restrictive political climate in a new report which highlights numerous failings in free speech and human rights.  Opposition radio station Ekho Moskvy is apparently one of the prime contenders for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  The mother of deceased lawyer Sergei Magnitsky has testified that her son was tortured by a former official at the pre-trial detention facility where he died.  Brian Whitmore ponders who from the diverse opposition movement will triumph in the primary elections to the new Coordinating Council, also discussed in this profile piece on protest figurehead Ilya Yashin.

Despite the fact that the party of Russia-bating Mikhail Saakashvili has lost Georgia’s parliamentary elections, it is not a given that relations between Tbilisi and Moscow will change dramatically, analysts argue here.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned that the ‘reset‘ with the U.S. will end in ‘programme failure’ – unless it gets a software update‘.  He asserted that Russia will not subject European foundations to the same fate as USAID.

Europe should slash taxes imposed on gas deliveries rather than ask Russia’s gas export monopoly to reduce its prices, says President Vladimir Putin.  Ex-Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has criticized Putin’s latest decree, designed to protect Gazprom from an EC investigation, which orders the company inter alia to seek government approval for their activity overseas.

A number of recent foreign-led production sharing agreements saw Russia’s oil output reach a new post-Soviet high of 10.41 million barrels per day last month.   Faced with dwindling Siberian production, the country’s second largest oil producer, Lukoil, has signed an agreement for offshore exploration in Ivory Coast.

PHOTO: President Putin pausing during his address to businesspeople at the VTB investment conference Tuesday, October 2, 2012. (Vladimir Filonov/MT)