RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 31, 2013

TODAY: Heightened security follows Volgograd blasts; Putin lowers conservation status of nature reserves; Khodorkovsky granted Swiss visa, calls for decimation; Ukraine’s gas price is no deal; Gazprom announces new all-time EU delivery peak.

In the wake of the weekend’s double terrorist attack in Volgograd that has thus far caused 33 deaths and wounded 100 people, President Vladimir Putin has ordered a tightening of security all over Russia.  Bloomberg says Putin’s failure to address the nation regarding the attacks has triggered outbursts on social networks; the President’s hands are tied, says the Times, at least until after the upcoming Sochi Olympics.  The U.S. government has offered its ‘full support’ to the Kremlin on security, expressing concerns that Islamist militants may be planning further attacks.  Russia wins the contest for implementing more protectionist policies than any other country in 2013, accounting for 20% of protectionist policies identified worldwide.  Russia also set a record for the number of new bans it introduced in 2013, notes the Moscow Times, as it ponders Putin’s big events of the year.  Under a new bill signed into law by the President, the conservation status of Russia’s 103 nature reserves will be lowered, allowing some to be turned into areas where limited construction and logging are permitted.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has been granted a three-month visa by the Swiss government, granting him access to the 26 countries in the Schengen zone (most countries in the European Union, excepting the U.K).  The former Yukos head has called for a ‘decimation – arguing that one in ten Kremlin officials should be fired, and says he would only consider returning to his home country if the original charges against him were reversed.  Khodorkovsky may be free, but the lion’s share of his assets is still frozen, and could remain so.

Analysis of the ‘special’ new Russian gas price granted to Ukraine reveals that, compared to European hub prices, the country is not getting all that much of a deal.  The new price also isn’t very far off the average price that Gazprom charged its EU customers this year.  Gazprom has announced a new all-time peak in gas deliveries to Europe via Turkey this year.  Rosneft has announced a deal to sell up to $2.87 billion worth of oil products to BP via its Black Sea ports in an undisclosed timeframe.

PHOTO: Women cry laying flowers outside the Volgograd main railway station in Volgograd, Russia, early Monday Dec. 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Denis Tyrin)