RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov. 13, 2007

President Vladimir Putin has been quoted as saying that a convincing victory for United Russia in the upcoming elections would give him the “moral right” to maintain strong influence in Russia after he steps down next year. The first week of pre-election debates on Russian television channels has failed to spark viewer interest. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said its observers cannot begin work monitoring the December 2 election because Moscow has not issued their entry visas. “Restrictive” new visa rules mean that foreigners will have to apply for their visas in their home countries or in a country where they can stay 90 days or more. Alexander Aksyonov, head of the visa registration department, said the new rules were in line with those in 33 countries that had the same rules for Russians traveling on business visas. It has been forecasted that Russia’s economy will grow 7.5% in 2007. The Central Bank has officially increased its annual inflation forecast from 8% to 10-11%. The risks of doing business in the country “are now increasingly understood,” but Russian banks, particularly those with a regional reach, “remain extremely attractive.” Shares in French steel-tube producer Vallourec rose sharply after a report that Alisher Usmanov’s Metalloinvest had agreed to buy French investor Vincent Bollore’s 3.97% stake in the firm, even though the story was denied by both parties. The Moscow Arbitration Court has completed bankruptcy proceedings against Yukos and the RTS stock exchange has stopped trading in the company’s stock; the corporate case is still likely to be heard by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, however, according to legal experts. Billionaire Oleg Deripaska says Canadian auto-parts giant Magna International Inc. is bound to double in size as it drives into Russia. “Magna is going to be a $50 billion company and I want to be there when that happens.” Russian regional power producer TGK-12 has launched its secondary offering of shares in Moscow, intending to raise $351.2 million. The Russian government is to have a controlling interest in the diamond mining giant Alrosa after its share issue. Gazprom will produce enough natural gas to supply “everyone‘” and has a “significant” capacity of reserves, according to Alexander Medvedev. Russia’s highest military official, Yury Baluevsky, says that the US is certain to aim its planned anti-missile shield at Russia eventually, addingwe can easily prove it.” He also said he does not believethat the Russian military is obliged to defend the world from the evil Americans.” President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a positive meeting this week. “We agreed that there are enormous opportunities for cooperation.” Singh said. Joint projects are to include a military transport aircraft and a join mission to the moon. The US attitude toward Georgia “too easily falls into the tired Cold War paradigm of “what is bad for Russia is good for the United States.“” Russia’s Energy Minister, Viktor Khristenko, is using the World Energy Forum, an international gathering being held in Rome, to push the country’s reliability as an energy partner. Putin has “surprised historians” by bestowing a posthumous title of Hero of the Russian Federation on George Koval, a deep-cover agent of Soviet Military Intelligence. New weapons based on nanotechnology will be designed in Russia “within 15 years” with the aim of combating radiation, chemical and biological terrorism. Local authorities have already placed the blame for the Strait of Kerch disasters on the captains of the ships who, in turn, claim that they did not receive the first storm warnings until their ships were already sinking. “Hundreds of dying birds covered in oil” have been washed up close to where the Russian tanker broke up. The spill “could pollute the Black Sea for 15 years.”