RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec. 12, 2007

121207.jpgToday: Medvedev offers Putin a new job; Russia wants almost all operations of the British Council to be shut down; the OSCE urges Russia to reconsider its freezing of the CFE Treaty; Putin says “no state capitalism”. The biggest story in the UK today is that Russia has ordered the British Council, a non-governmental organization that acts as the cultural department of the British Embassy, to shut down all operations outside Moscow – “virtually its entire operation in the country” – by the start of next year. The order came after the Russian foreign ministry said the council, which promotes British culture, was operating illegally. The marketing director for the British Council’s main Moscow office was quoted as saying: “We have no plans to shut down [the regional offices].” The debate will “fuel tensions between the two countries sparked by last year’s murder in London of ex-KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko.”

Dmitriti Medvedev, the Vladimir Putin-approved candidate for the next presidency, has announced that he wants Putin to become Russia’s prime minister next year. Medvedev praised the current president, saying that Russia must continue the course that Putin has followed since taking office in 2000 by ensuring that he remained in the government. The news caused “the prospect of Russia moving into a post-Putin era [to] swiftly recede.” Some analysts say that “the choreographed speeches of the past two days could be part of a ploy to boost Mr Medvedev’s popularity at the elections, and that Mr Putin may not take up the role of prime minister after all.” The announcement reportedly “immediately tempered” those who may have seen Medvedev’s candidacy as “cause for hope”. The Central Elections Committee are reporting that political parties spent a total of 3.4 billion rubles, or $83 million, in this year’s State Duma elections campaign. Over a third of that spending was by United Russia. Medvedev is reportedly the member of a group nicknamed the St. Pete jurists, whose members have been elevated to various federal positions since Putin became president in 2000. Investigators have searched the Moscow offices of engineering and telecoms giant Siemens in connection with corruption charges against one of its Yekaterinburg-based employees.Putin has announced that Russia is not going to build state capitalism with giant, government-controlled corporations holding sway over the economy. “State corporations should not monopolize Russia,” he said. Putin has appointed Sergei Kiriyenko, Russia’s top civilian nuclear official, to head state nuclear power corporation Rosatom. Evraz Group is buying $3bn worth of steel, mining, coke and chemical assets from Ukrainian company Privat. The board of Alrosa, the diamond monopoly, has decided to set up a 100% subsidiary in the form of a holding to run its assets in Africa. Russia has reportedly felt the effects of the international liquidity squeeze following problems in the US subprime mortgage market, largely in fluctuating interest rates and growth. BP’s Russian arm, TNK-BP, has awarded $3 billion worth of drilling and rig contracts, $1 billion of which will go to its own subsidiaries. Oil firm Tatneft has obtained a $2 billion syndicated loan arranged by BNP Paribas. Leading British coffee shop chain Costa is set to open in Russia, after its parent company signed a joint venture with restaurant group Rosinter.Russia has suspended its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has urged Russia to reconsider, warning that the suspension could have an impact on European security. In a speech at New York’s Columbia University this week, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned against attempts to isolate Russia in world affairs, saying that the tactic employed by global powers in dealing with Russia has been “unfairness”. Malaysia could order a new batch of Russian-made Su-30MKM combat aircraft to equip an additional fighter squadron. Sukhoi, part of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation, has started the construction of a prototype of a Russian-Indian advanced multirole fighter, according to the Air Force commander. Russia and Poland have finally resolved a dispute over Polish meat exports that has caused friction in Russia-EU deals.A court in east Siberia has extended the custody of Mikhail Khodorkovsky until February 7 on a request from the General Prosecutor’s Office. Yury Chervochkin, an activist with the Other Russia opposition coalition, died in a hospital on Monday of injuries his colleagues say he sustained when attacked by police. Russia’s Constitution Day marks the adoption of the country’s Statute of Law which came into being in a referendum on December 12, 1993.(PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin toasts champagne during a meeting with ambassadors at the Kremlin in Moscow. (AFP/Pool/Maxim Marmur))