RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 7, 2012

TODAY: U.S. Senate passes trade bill with Magnitsky List; tax blacklist to target dodgers; journalist shot dead in North Caucasus; Kremlin’s rights council says convinced of claims against Chelyabinsk prison; Lavrov and Clinton bicker over OSCE; Russia and Turkey; Gazprom jumping the gun on South Stream?

The United States Senate passed its combined human-rights-trade bill yesterday, voting 92 to 4 to establish permanent normal trade relations with Russia; under the same bill, Russian officials linked with the death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky will be blacklisted. The foreign ministry called the U.S. vote ‘a performance in the theater of the absurd’.  Russian authorities are planning to start publishing a blacklist of tax dodgers to target those who are overdue on their payments.  26-year-old Kazbek Gekkiyev, a journalist at a state-run television channel, has been shot dead in the North Caucasus capital Nalchik, in the Kabardine-Balkariya province.  The killing is thought to be linked to his work, although nothing has been confirmed; witnesses say the men who killed Gekkiyev only asked him for his name and profession.  President Vladimir Putin urged police to find and punish those responsible for his death.

A member of the Kremlin’s human rights council compared the prison in Chelyabinsk, the site of a recent inmate riot, to a concentration camp, saying that the council was convinced that the rioting prisoners’ claims had been accurate.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bickered’ openly at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, each accusing the other’s government of failing to comply with OSCE principles.  At a separate meeting, Clinton referred to Russian-led efforts for regional integration, such as the Eurasian Union, as ‘a move to re-Sovietize’ Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  ‘Russia has become Turkey’s top trading partner.

Gazprom says construction on the underwater section of the South Stream pipeline will begin this week; but some expert sources are doubting this estimate, suggesting that construction couldn’t possibly begin until 2014 at the earliest.  Rosneft and ExxonMobil signed a joint exploration agreement yesterday for fields in Western Siberia.  Mikhail Gorbachev talks to the Moscow Times about the end of the Cold War, which has its 25th anniversary this Saturday.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao during their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi December 6, 2012. (RIA Novosti/Reuters)