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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec. 10, 2007

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Today: Medvedev to run for President; Renault buys Avtovaz stake; more failed talks between Russia and the United States; European Court of Human Rights rules against Russia in activist case.

President Vladimir Putin has backed First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, the chairman of Gazprom, as presidential candidate in the next elections after he was nominated by United Russia and three other parties (Fair Russia, the Agrarian Party and Civil Force). “I have known him very closely for more than 17 years and I completely and fully support this proposal,” Putin said.

United Russia will not officially announce its presidential candidate until a convention next Monday. The election results are now official, having been approved by the Central Elections Committee. “I don’t think United Russia got more than 40% of the vote. If you look at Moscow and St Petersburg, the results were much lower. It’s very clear in big cities … where information is available they vote differently,” said Garry Kasparov. Gennadi Zyuganov’s Communist Party now “seems to represent the only viable force remaining against Putin’s Kremlin”. Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov, owner of Polymetal, Russia’s largest silver producer, will become a member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament. The Finance Ministry, Ministry of Economic Development and Trade and Central Bank of Russia are to present a report to the government on the causes of inflation at the end of this year, together with measures to reduce it in 2008.Polymetal has won the right for geological exploration of a deposit in the Ural mountains. Renault has set its sights on dominating the booming Russian car market, buying a 25% stake in Avtovaz, makers of the Lada, “which used to rank as one of the world’s worst auto brands.” Strikes at a Ford Motor assembly line near St Petersburg last month slowed production and have cost “the pioneer of foreign car manufacturing in Russia”, millions of dollars in lost production. Steelmaker Severstal said that holders of 81% of the shares in Celtic Resources have accepted its offer to buy out the company. Libya, the holder of Africa’s largest oil reserves, has given Gazprom and Royal Dutch Shell permits to explore for natural gas in the central, western and southern desert. VTB may partly finance the purchase of a 25% stake in Norilsk Nickel by tycoon Vladimir Potanin for $15.7 billion. Up to $50 billion in stock is expected to be placed on the Russian market next year, according to the calculations of Russian investment banks.Sergei Ivanov, the deputy prime minister, has given warning that Russia would lose its independence if it did not achieve nuclear arms parity with the United States. The US is “flatly refusing” to contemplate carbon trading initiatives that could help Russia become a superpower once again. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has failed to persuade Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the urgency of new sanctions for Iran, and the two have clashed over the future of Kosovo. Russia has warned the West that recognising a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by Kosovo could set off a “chain reaction” of problems in the Balkans and beyond. A new report by CIBC World Markets says that “soaring internal rates of oil consumption” in Russia, in Mexico and in OPEC member states would reduce crude exports as much as 2.5 million barrels a day by the end of the decade. Hungary will continue to seek closer ties with Russia despite doubts about the fairness of the State Duma elections there, due to its dependence on it for energy supplies. Russian-Chinese trade in 2007 “will exceed $40 billion.” The Evraz Group and its subsidiary Titan Acquisition said they had signed a deal to acquire US-based Claymont Steel for $564.8 million.The European Court of Human Rights has ordered Russia to pay $22,000 to an activist with the banned National Bolshevik Party who was convicted of seizing a presidential administration reception office, ruling that the activist’s human rights had been violated. A Russian booster rocket, Proton-M, has successfully launched a new military satellite, the Kosmos-2434, into orbit. The death of VTB banker Oleg Zhukovsky, who was found in his swimming pool last week, has sparked fears of a factional war between Kremlin-connected elites.(PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visit the construction site of a housing project in Tavrovo in central Russia, some 695 km (432 miles) from Moscow in this September 13, 2007 file picture. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (RUSSIA))