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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov. 21, 2007

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin stands before a meeting at the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow in this April 2007 (File photo. REUTERS/ITAR-TASS/PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE)

The Supreme Court has rejected a request from the Union of Right Forces party to remove President Vladimir Putin from United Russia’s candidate list for the elections. “We never expected a positive outcome,” said party leader Boris Nemtsov. “All we wanted was to register the fact that Putin uses the special services and the courts to repress the opposition, like in Belarus and Turkmenistan.” The opposition party has become a target of attack by state television channels. United Russia representative Andrey Isaev appeared in a news story directed against the party, blaming it for the 1998 financial crisis in the country and calling URF campaigning “a shameless deception and the dirtiest politics”. Russia’s scuffle with the OSCE should not come as a surprise because “the thought would never even enter the minds of US politicians or voters that their elections need to be monitored by outside organizations.” Despite uncertainty on election monitoring, the European watchdog will send at least 40 parliamentarians to observe the proceedings. “Putinism, as it is now evolving, fundamentally challenges American assumptions that the 21st century will see the inevitable triumph of western values.” While Putin’s anti-Nato comments contain “a clear element of sabre-rattling for domestic purposes,” the Kremlin is genuinely “alarmed by what it regards as a Nato plot to contain Russia.” Prime Minister Victor Zubkov has announced that Russia has all the prerequisites for developing its chemicals and petrochemicals industry, outlining a new program to attract investment to the sector. Russia’s Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, together with chiefs of Russia’s biggest oil companies, have discussed freezing retail prices for petrol. According to a Deutsche Bank research note, Gazprom deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev says the price of gas to Europe will rise to $300 to $400 per 1,000 cubic meters next year. Petro-Canada is urging Gazprom, as its potential partner, to approve a plan to build a $3.5 billion liquefied natural gas plant on the Baltic Sea to capitalize on the decline of the product’s supply in North America. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin says that, if strong growth continues, direct foreign investments could account for 2.7% of the country’s GDP this year. The Russian Federal Financial Markets Service, however, has expressed concern over a lack of major investors in Russia’s financial market. Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors Corp will announce plans to build a factory in Russia, with production set to begin in 2010. The company signed a letter of intent with the Russian government last December to consider local assembly. Japan’s Sumitomo Corp aims to take a stake in Russia’s Elga coal mine. Russia and the US have agreed on a plan to dispose of 34 tonnes of surplus plutonium from Russia’s weapons program. The US will contribute $400m to the project. Royal Dutch Shell has set the price of developing Russia’s Arctic gas fields at “several hundred billion dollars”. Vietnam and Russia have held an Economic Co-operation Forum, during which Vietnam’s position as as an attractive destination for Russian direct and indirect investment in Asia was confirmed. Lebanon’s Parliamentary Majority leader, Saad Hariri, is urging Russia to help the country overcome its current political crisis. Sotheby’s, the world’s second-largest art seller, will offer as much as $75 million of 19th- and 20th- century Russian works next week in London, the auction house’s biggest Russian sale to date.