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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec. 4, 2007

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Supporters of the pro-Kremlin Young Russia movement hold pictures of opposition leaders inside a makeshift pigsty in central Moscow supposed to represent mercenary politicians serving US national interests, 03 December 2007. (AFP/Dmitry Kostyukov)

Vladimir Putin has thanked the Russian population for turning out to vote, and thanked United Russia supporters in particular, saying of the victory, “I headed the slate of this party and it is naturally the sign of confidence.” The implication here is that support for the party was, as Boris Gryzlov said, “a referendum” on the president. In line with Gryzlov’s comment, the elections are being widely touted as a referendum on Putin’s rule. The speed with which the president commented on the election results “caused some wonder [as] the count was not even completed.” The election results “represent a huge — perhaps fatal — setback for Russia’s liberal-democratic opposition.” The president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly has announced that the weekend’s elections “failed to meet many of the commitments and standards that we have”, and the head of a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe commented, “if Russia is a managed democracy, then these were managed elections.” One Central Elections Commission member said the observers’ conclusions contained “flat-out lies.” The Kremlin called the observers’ “scathing” report, which has dominated this morning’s news, “biased, groundless and unbalanced“. One Kremlin spokesman said, “In general what we saw yesterday is just and fair democratic elections.” “Despite the rigging, this election showed that Russia wants Mr Putin and the authoritarian, paternalistic leadership he represents.” Given this, “why did the Kremlin resort to such extraordinary measures to harass the opposition, intimidate voters and manipulate the elections, given that the president and his programme are genuinely popular?” Nashi, the pro-Kremlin youth group, are meanwhile drumming up patriotic feeling, having accused the United States of planning to incite “thieves and traitors” to seize key public buildings and squares, overturning United Russia’s victory. One activist from Moscow, said at the rally that she had been told that the United States and Britain had mustered “military squads” to occupy Russia’s main cities, Prosecutors have opened a new criminal investigation into the activities of Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, separate to the charges of embezzlement that he is already facing. Russia’s government has cut the number of Norwegian producers allowed to import herring into Russia from about forty to just seven. The election outcome “has failed to inspire the local stock market.” The Canadian industrial company Bombardier Inc. has confirmed that its rail division is in “very preliminary” talks with Transmashholding, Russia’s leading rail technology manufacturer. Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel, Russia’s third-largest steelmaker, said profit advanced 30% in the first nine months of the year due to increased prices and production. A BBC special report on Russia’s methods of doing business can be found here. Yesterday’s creation of Rosatom, the state-run nuclear company, is being welcomed by analysts as it should help to increase regulation of the country’s diverse nuclear sector. VimpelCom, Russia’s second-largest cellphone company, has offered to buy rival Golden Telecom for about $4.2 billion, which would create Russia’s first integrated mobile and fixed-line provider. Roman Abramovich is to pay $400 million for new shares in Highland Gold Mining, giving him a total share of 40%. The chief of India’s navy has said that demanding more money from Moscow should make the country think about where its relations with Russia are headed, urging that there should be no renegotiation on the price or delay on the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier. Putin has announced that Russia might one day return to the CFE Treaty, but only if NATO members ratify an updated version of the pact. A Moscow court has sentenced Igor Reshetin, the head of TsNIIMash-Export, a leading rocket and space research center, to 11 years in prison for illegally selling weapons technology to China. “Whichever method Putin uses, the result will be the same as the results of the Duma elections: Power will be preserved with the help of a popular president, a complacent population and the combined power of the government’s huge administrative resources.”