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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov. 14, 2007

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his meeting with road workers in Krasnoyarsk. Putin said he would have a “moral” mandate to influence Russian politics, even after leaving office in 2008, if his United Russia party wins next month’s parliamentary election.(AFP/RIA NOVOSTI/Mikhail Klimentyev)

President Vladimir Putin has rebuked United Russia for lacking any clear political ideology and attracting “all kinds of crooks”, saying he only chose to join it because there were no other realistic options. “As usual, the president said the right thing,” responded Oleg Kovalyov, a senior party leader. A fuller account of Putin’s discussion can be found here. The statements, made alongside the declaration that he has a “moral right” to maintain influence, are Putin’s “baldest affirmation yet that [he] has no real intention of resigning from politics.” It is also being reported that Putin could “become the speaker of the upper house of parliament” after his second presidential term ends. Activists from pro-Kremlin youth groups Nashi, Young Guard and Young Russia, backed by police, are in the final stages of training to prevent an Orange-style revolution in the lead-up to the Dec. 2 elections. Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, a general accused of human rights abuses in Chechnya will be appointed commander of the Defense Ministry’s department for combat training. The Central Bank says it could back down on its policy of preventing the ruble from appreciating, in a sign that it will shift its attention more seriously to battling inflation. It is being reported that Gazprom could build a power station in Britain as a joint venture with German power company E.ON. A lawyer for the Federal Customs Service has accused the Bank of New York of artificially delaying the hearing of a $22.5 billion case called by the service against it. A spokesman for the bank said, “We continue to believe the suit is without merit and will defend ourselves vigorously.” Russia’s dispute with Germany’s Lufthansa Cargo is “edging towards a compromise.” Russian Timber Group, the country’s second-largest wood harvester, has postponed its initial public offering due to the “difficult investment climate.” Magna International, the Canadian auto parts producer, has said that reports that it is planning to construct an automobile plant in Russia are “speculative”. Teorema, a St. Petersburg property developer, plans to hold an initial public offering in London to financehigh-end residential and commercial projects.” Italian oil company Eni SpA says that Algeria and Russia will become “key energy suppliers” to the European Union as it becomes more dependent on natural gas to meet its energy needs. Gaz de France is reportedly in talks to acquire Unified Energy System’s TGK-10 utility. Analysts say that Iran is likely to turn to Russia and China for the warplanes needed to replace its obsolete US jets as it seeks to bolster its air defence. Russia is reportedly “tightening its grip” on the seized Kurile islands off the north coast of Japan. Putin has honoured George Blake, a “notorious British traitor”, as one of Russia’s greatest spies, at a time when “Anglo-Russian relations have hit a post-Cold War low.” Ukraine and Russia have set up a joint working group to deal with the environmental disaster after the Kerch Strait oil spill. Russia’s State Duma has passed a bill authorizing religious universities to grant state certificate degrees. Video-sharing site YouTube has launched a Russia-based counterpart.