RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 26, 2014

TODAY: Poroshenko wins Ukraine as pro-Russian rebels smash ballot boxes, Putin promises to support new leadership, says no one wants new Cold War; Ukraine accuses Russia of military exercises on border; Putin SPIEF speech touches on sanctions, Snowden; BP and Rosneft sign shale exploration deal.

Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire confectioner often dubbed the ‘Chocolate King’, responded to news that he had won Ukraine’s presidential election by vowing to end the ‘war and chaos caused by pro-Russian separatists in the east.  He called for immediate talks with Russia to pave the way for restored relations and global security.  Turnout was poor in the more troubled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where rebels reportedly smashed ballot boxes and blocked polling stations.  Ukraine’s Foreign Minister says that, despite a recent troop withdrawal, Russia has launched an air-based military exercise on its shared border, thereby ‘saying one thing and doing another thing at the same time’; warning shots were reportedly fired at Russian helicopter gunships as they neared Ukrainian airspace on Saturday.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s two-day visit to Crimea, which began on the evening of Ukraine’s presidential elections, was seen as a ‘deliberate provocation’ by the Foreign Ministry in Kiev.  The menu for the President’s dinner for news agency editors over the weekend included ‘Crimean flounder’ as a main course, prompting many to applaud Putin’s sense of humour; but the dinner was also marked by the President’s ‘strong sense of aggrievement over the West’s relegation of Russia, in his view, to second-tier status.’  Prior to Ukraine’s election, during his plenary session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), Putin promised to work with the newly-elected leadership in Kiev, but analysts say this is merely a tactical assurance: ’Instability in Ukraine is a very handy tool for Russia.’ Nonetheless, Putin insists that ‘no one is interested’ in a new Cold War.

Putin spoke on a range of issues at the SPIEF, stating his intention to increase capitalisation of certain significant Russian banks; he said he would have sued Western countries in response if he had been targeted directly in recent economic sanctions; and he defended Russia’s treatment of Edward Snowden, saying ‘Russia is not the type of country that gives up fighters for human rights’.  Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin says Russia’s business problems are primarily related to weak infrastructure.

In defiance of U.S. sanctions, BP and Rosneft have signed an agreement on joint exploration for shale oil.  ‘We are very pleased to be a part of Russian energy complex,said BP chief Bob Dudley.  Will Russia come to regret the terms of its landmark gas deal with China?

PHOTO: Igor Sechin, right, and BP Russia head David Campbell signing documents during a ceremony in St. Petersburg. (Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA Novosti / Reuters)