Today: Russia denies sale of anti-aircraft missile to Iran, delivers second shipment of nuclear fuel; contraband caviar; British-Russian relations – “Cold War lite”. At the cabinet’s final session for the year, Vladimir Putin said that Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov’s job for the new year would be “to ensure work of such intensity that even my possible arrival at the White House would seem like a holiday to everyone.” A poll by the All-Russia Center for Public Opinion Studies found that inflation was the key event of the year for Russians. Putin has topped business daily Kommersant’s annual rankings of Russia’s elite for the seventh consecutive time.
A Russian government agency has denied reports from the Iranian Defense Minister that the country is planning to sell its S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran. “The issue of supplying Iran with S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, raised by mass media, is not on the agenda, is not being considered and is not being discussed with the Iranian side at the moment.” Iran has received its second shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia for the Bushehr plant. One paper comments on the West’s response to strengthening cooperation between the two countries.British Ambassador Anthony Brenton says that British-Russian economic relations are “fantastic”, despite the existence of other, contentious issues. In an article titled “Cold War Lite”, the deputy international editor of The Economist is quoted as saying that “2007 was the chilliest year in relations between Russia and the West since 1991. In fact, probably since the days of the late Soviet Union. Not only did it mark a new low, but the trajectory is very ominous.” Despite this, the 100,000-strong, Kremlin-funded Nashi youth group is to send a select group of activists to study at British universities.A Russian crime ring involving gangs in several cities, smugglers and military insiders has developed around the sale of contraband caviar. Russia’s Defense Ministry has ordered new tank support combat vehicles to boost firepower of its Ground Forces armored units.In response to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Alexander Losyukov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, said Bhutto’s killing would “for certain trigger a wave of terrorism“. Putin condemned the “barbaric” attack, calling it “a challenge issued by the forces of terrorism not only to Pakistan, but the entire international community.”(PHOTO: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin gestures during his meeting with government members in Moscow December 27, 2007. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin (RUSSIA))