RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 20, 2012

TODAY: Russia clashes with U.S. over Israel, calls for end to attacks; Soyuz space capsule lands safely; rights leaders promise to boycott foreign agent law; Bout List in retaliation for Magnitsky List? Pussy Riot lawyers leave their clients; Putin prevents Novatek from independent export; state company execs named wealthiest; author Strugatsky dies.

Russia is urging an end to Palestinian rocket attacks and ‘disproportionate’ Israeli strikes on Gaza ‘without delay’.  Its U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, has complained about the U.S.’ blocking a U.N. Security Council bid to condemn escalating conflict between Israel and Palestine, dismissing the claim that they did not want to obstruct diplomatic efforts underway with Cairo.  A Russian Soyuz space capsule landed on the Kazakh steppe, safely delivering its cargo of astronauts, helping ‘to ease concerns over Russia’s space programme’.  Various prominent human rights figures promised to boycott the new law requiring foreign-funded NGOs to register as ‘foreign agents’; Alexander Cherkasov vowed that his rights group Memorial ‘won’t use that denomination and will use all legal means possible, both national and international, to oppose this law’.  Lyudmila Alexeyeva called the law ‘infamous and immoral’.

 A Duma Committee wants the Kremlin to do more to protect the rights of Russians abroad, including convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, and has proposed a retaliatory ‘Bout List against U.S. officials in response to the U.S. House’s approval of the Magnitsky List.  The lawyers for the two imprisoned members of activist group Pussy Riot have left their clients, in order to improve their chances of early release.  President Vladimir Putin’s move to prevent Novatek from exporting independently of Gazprom looks like a move to maintain the latter’s monopoly, says Reuters.  State-run Federal Grid Company (or FSK) is planning $24.4 billion of investments through to 2018.

Andrei Kostin, the head of VTB, has been ranked Russia’s highest-paid executive with estimated earnings of $30 million for last year, by Forbes magazine; all five of Forbes’ top earners work at state companies.  Soviet science-fiction writer Boris Strugatsky has died, aged 79, in St. Petersburg.  London Mayor Boris Johnson wants Russia’s oligarchs to continue suing each other in his city’s courts.

PHOTO: The Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft seen shortly after it landed in a remote area near the town of Arkalyk, Kazakhstan, on Monday, Nov 19, 2012. (NASA / Bill Ingals)