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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov. 20, 2007

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President Vladimir Putin, center, meeting Russian Orthodox Church top priests in the Moscow Kremlin on Monday, Nov. 19, 2007, with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II. (AP Photo/Pool)

Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Duma’s international affairs committee, says Russia will increase the number of invitations to monitors from the Parliamentary Assemblies of the European Council, the OSCE and CIS. Elsewhere it was reported that the OSCE may not be invited to monitor Russia’s presidential poll in March unless it adopts proposals that would weaken observation missions. At a meeting to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the restoration of the Moscow Patriarchate, President Vladimir Putin said he hoped that Orthodox Christians would vote in the upcoming State Duma elections. At least 5,000 supporters of President Vladimir Putin will attend a demonstration in his honor at Luzhniki Stadium, according to the leader of the “For Putin” movement, Pavel Astakhov. Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, one of three deputies to Alexei Kudrin, will be charged by next week with attempting to embezzle $43.4 million from the federal budget, according to the Investigative Committee. The Union of Right Forces offers Russians the possibility of voting “against Putin retaining his authority.” Russian foreign direct investment reached $19.6 billion by the end of September, almost double the figure for the previous year. Prime Minister Victor Zubkov has announced that Russia’s business community is currently refusing to co-fund state investments in research and development. A Ford motor plant in Leningrad has been shut down in response to a planned workers’ strike. A new report from the World Bank says that Russia must control inflation and allow for appreciation of the ruble if it wishes to see a continuation of its robust economic performance. The report described the surge in inflation as “the most notable monetary development in 2007.” Yugraneft, an affiliate of Sibir Energy, is seeking billions of dollars in damages in a London lawsuit against billionaire Roman Abramovich and his company Millhouse Capital, arguing that it was cheated out of its Russian assets when its interest in Sibneft was “illegally diluted”. The board of Moscow utility Mosenergo has decided to prepare for the sale of global depositary receipts representing shares now owned by the state. Through state-controlled Unified Energy Systems, the government owns 21.16% of Mosenergo. Severstal has extended its offer for gold and molybdenum miner Celtic Resources. It already holds 45.6% of the company. General Motors says the Russian auto market will soon be the largest in Europe. Executives at the Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project are almost ready to open up the vast new energy source. The Urals Mining Company won an auction for the right to develop the Sverdlovsk emerald deposit with a bid of 12 million roubles, double the starting price. Russian Railways (RZD) will build a high-speed rail link with Finland to boost passenger and cargo traffic with the European Union country. With its own health service, its own doctors and its own clinics, RZD is known as “a state with a state”. Putin has defended Russia’s decision to suspend its participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, saying that it was a necessary response to NATO’s “muscle-flexing” near its borders. Russia, he said, would rethink the moratorium if other countries ratify an amended version. Iran is in talks to buy 30 Tupolev passenger aircraft worth more than $1 billion. Putin has grouped companies like Tupolev and Sukhoi into one giant, state-controlled holding called the United Aviation Corporation. The Russian Federal Military Technology Cooperation Service will permit China to re-export Russian RD-93 fighter jet engines. Turkmenistan will press ahead with a planned gas pipeline through Russia despite reports the project has been put on hold due to a pricing dispute. A Russian journalist has died in the Chinese border town of Heihe after falling from the sixth floor of his hotel.