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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec. 31, 2007

311207.jpgToday: RA show to go ahead; Putin praises Bush’s “personal commitment”; foreign policy will be “constructive” next year, says Lavrov; Russia’s relations with Iran and South Korea could strengthen; Moscow’s property boom; Yukos administrator can “ignore” earlier ruling; new survey says Russia’s is a “surveillance society”. President Vladimir Putin has been accused of “sexing up the Duma […] with an array of glamorous new female recruits” including former athletes who have starred in topless photoshoots and the principal ballerina of the Bolshoi.

In a message to US President George Bush, Putin said that Russian-American cooperation is important in forging a constructive approach to the settlement of international problems, and that “I highly appraise your personal commitment to strengthening mutual understanding between Russia and the United States.” Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) will reach 1.25 trillion US dollars this year.Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, has pledged that Russia will pursue a “united” and “constructiveforeign policy next year, and “won’t be involved in any new confrontations”. “A positive time has come in relations between Russia and Iran, and economic cooperation of our countries is positively developing,” said Iran’s foreign minister, as he expressed hope that this cooperation would continue to expand. A Russian senator says that the reason this year has not seen another Cold War is that there is an “absence of ideological rifts between Russia and the West today”. South Korean President-elect plans to send a special envoy to Russia as part of diplomacy to boost relations with regional powers. The Guardian newspaper today laments the fact that Putin’s Russia, unlike Musharraf’s Pakistan, evades the “democratic chorus” due to its oil and gas riches.One of Moscow’s “most recognisable central landmarks”, the Red October chocolate factor, is to close in order to make way for luxury flats, a side-effect of the city’s current property boom. Alongside the US, UK, Singapore and China, Russia has been billed as “an endemic surveillance society” in a new survey of 47 countries by Privacy International. A Dutch court of appeal has said that Yukos administrator Eduard Rebgun “can ignore an earlier ruling that he isn’t legally empowered to exercise control” over the company.The Royal Academy’s planned exhibition of French and Russian art is to go ahead in London after the British government rushed to enforce a new law ensuring the safety of the works involved. You can see images of the paintings here.(PHOTO: Britain on Sunday said it had passed an order to prevent the seizure of paintings from Russia due in London for an exhibition by people claiming they were looted from their families in the 1917 revolution, including “The Dance” by Matisse, seen here. (AFP/OFF))