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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec. 19, 2007

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Today: Warning on Russia’s stabilization fund; Rosprirodnadzor fines Sakhalin II project operator; Tymoshenko speaks about gas negotiations with Russia; relations improving with Greece, Poland and Iran; Foreign Ministry to release captured Japanese fisherman.

The official in charge of Russia’s stabilization fund has warned that “irrational” domestic spending could cause further inflation and make the economy dependent on the movements of the global oil market.

Is Russian CTC Media’s deal to buy one of Kazakhstan’s most popular television channels a smart business deal, or “another instance of Moscow’s intention, by stealth or by wealth, to reassert hegemony over the lands of its former empire”? Russia’s environmental regulator Rosprirodnadzor is fining the operator of the Sakhalin II oil and gas project in the Far East more than $15.8 million for deforestation. Roman Abramovich is waiting for a court verdict on whether the record low price he paid for a piece of land near Moscow was legal. Talks between the chief executives of energy giants Gazprom and BP about future ownership of a huge Russian gas field have broken down for a third time after the two sides again failed to agree on a price. This suggests that “broader negotiations on strategic alliances between the two companies are also in doubt.” Finnish paper maker UPM-Kymmene has signed a letter of intent with Russian plywood maker Sveza to form a 50-50 joint venture in a project worth over €1 billion. Tokyo Gas Co. has been notified that Russia may miss a target to start exporting liquefied natural gas by the end of next year. “We’re expecting a relatively minor impact from Sakhalin- 2’s shipment delay to our gas supply because we’ve already diversified supply sources,” said a spokesman.Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization says that Russia’s shipment of nuclear fuel to its Bushehr plant will “lead to further strategic ties with Russia”. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has stressed that there should be no brokers between Ukraine and Russia on the gas market. Following negotiations on Russian gas exports, President Vladimir Putin announced that “Greece is interested in signing new contracts after 2016 that will last up to 2040 with volumes rising almost twofold.” Russia is to hold consultations with Poland early next year over Washington’s plans to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. Poland’s previous government had reportedly been unwilling to discuss the matter. There are many reasons why Putin would want to create a federation with Belarus, but such an arrangement “would hardly be attractive” to Alexander Lukashenko. Russian and Kazakh government commissions have reached an agreement on the sum of the compensation Russia will pay for the crash of a Proton-M carrier rocket earlier this year. “A row between Estonia and Russia about a Soviet war memorial meant the Kremlin encouraged Russian companies not to do business in Estonia.”Russia plans to release the captain from one of four Japanese fishing boats seized by the Russian border guard in disputed waters last week out of concern for his health.(PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Greece Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, unseen, during a news conference in Moscow’s Kremlin on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007. (AP Photo/ Mikhail Metzel, pool))