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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec. 6, 2007

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Members of the pro-Kremlin movement Nashi protest against British ambassador to Russia, Anthony Brenton, seen in banner at left, outside the British Embassy in Moscow, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007. Nashi claim that the United Kingdom was sponsoring opposition during Russia’s parliamentary election. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Today: the Nashi have fun with the British ambassador again, Tymoshenko looks willing to fight over gas price hikes, the Russian Navy has begun patrolling the Mediterranean, and Khodorkovsky could go back to court in February.

Contributing to “dire” UK-Russia relations, the pro-Putin and Kremlin-backed youth movement Nashi has revived a campaign to drive out the British Ambassador as part of an apparent renewal of Kremlin attacks on British interests in Russia. Nashi is accusing Tony Brenton of having funded the Other Russia party’s election campaign. UK officials dismissed the case as “laughable. As a government we don’t give money to political parties and we don’t give money to individuals.” The youth movement of the Yabloko party has called for sweeping changes in the party’s structure, after the party was recorded as having won just 1.6% of the State Duma vote. According to a prosecutor, $1 million in cash has been found in the apartment of Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, who is currently facing charges of attempting to embezzle $43 million. The charges have reportedly caused conflict between the Prosecutor General office and its Investigating Committee, and a second case that was to be brought against Storchak is currently being disputed. A new state drive is aiming to close Russia’s technology gap, with government attention being focused on nuclear energy, space, nanotechnology, aircraft and shipbuilding. Registered unemployment in Russia dropped 10% in 2007 to 1.5 million people, according to the head of the Federal Labor and Employment Service.Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister poised to return to office, wants to scrap a natural gas accord with Russia in the face of increased prices, raising concern that a price dispute between the two countries could be repeated. The primary objection is to the use of RosUrkEnergy, “a murky intermediary”, the use of whose services has been referred to by Tymoshenko as “brainless policy”. China also is reportedly unwilling to pay the “considerably higher” natural gas prices that Gazprom is asking, potentially delaying a project to build two pipelines between the countries. “Fair market value for the gas is the only principle for all Gazprom’s clients,” said a Gazprom spokesperson. Venezuela could buy 12 combat jets from Russia late next year. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has begun negotiations with Russia on its accession. Poland’s ban on Russia’s accession, which delayed the negotiations, has been lifted. The European Union has upheld Russian claims regarding the quality of Poland’s fish exports, with one of its General Health Directorates confirming that “Poland tried to supply counterfeit powdered fish to Russia.” An OECD report, meanwhile, says that the Russian government’s “massive additional spending” this year is pushing up inflation that, as a result, is set to exceed the central bank’s target “by a wide margin.” Russia has dispatched an 11-ship aircraft carrier group to the Mediterranean Sea, according to an announcement from Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, as part of an effort to resume regular Russian naval patrols there. The Deputy Foreign Minister said that Russia will not expand armed forces by building military groups on its western border, provided NATO’s member nations do the same. The announcement comes after the country’s suspended its participation in the CFE arms control treaty. India’s Chief of Naval Staff has been reprimanded for “out-of-turn remarks” on India’s defence relationship with Russia, after saying that there should be no more price negotiations on the purchase of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier.Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of Yukos jailed for fraud and tax evasion, could possibly go on trial again in February on new charges of tax evasion. Yukos shares were bought by state-controlled Rosneft, which is now planning to float shares in its three oilfield service subsidiaries by 2010 or 2011. An insurance division of leading French bank BNP Paribas has registered a subsidiary in Russia.Russia currently meets its greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Kyoto Treaty and is now ready to start trading emission quotas. Flur Yamaletdinov, 48, the mayor of the village of Baitally in the Bashkortostan region, committed suicide after learning that he faced possible dismissal for failing to carry out orders to help United Russia garner election votes.