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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov. 26, 2007

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Former chess champion Garry Kasparov is detained by police during an opposition rally in Moscow, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007. Riot police on Saturday broke up an anti-Kremlin rally of several thousand people, detaining some of the protesters, including former chess champion Garry Kasparov and other opposition leaders. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

Russia has been gearing up for its next election with “protests, rallies and arrests.” Of the few hundred protesters who marched on Sunday against the rule of Vladimir Putin, 100-200 were detained. Nikita Belykh and Boris Nemtsov, both leaders of the Union of Right Forces party, were both arrested. Garry Kasparov, of the Yabloko party, was arrested during similar protests, by 2,000-3,000 people according to differing reports, on Saturday. Kasparov has since been imprisoned by a court for five days for organising an “unsanctioned” rally. His speech, delivered prior to his arrest, thanked everybody for “overcoming their fears” in turning up. Police said activists had moved into “a place of great historical and architectural significance” near the Hermitage and were “provoking disturbances“. Farid Babayev, a candidate on the Yabloko party’s State Duma ticket, has died from wounds inflicted by unidentified gunmen last week. “Farid Babayev became one more victim of the authoritarian regime of Putin, where the physical destruction of your political opponents has become the norm,” said party leader Grigory Yavlinsky. The State Duma is losing its power as a venue for arguments. “The next Duma will be just a bunch of voting robots, a faceless crowd without ideas,” says independent Duma deputy Viktor Alksnis. A pre-recorded, pre-vote speech by Putin will be delivered on national television this week. March 2 has been set as the date for the next presidential elections. The Chairman of the Central Election Commission has ruled out the possibility that Putin might run for presidency. Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister, Sergei Storchak, has been charged with fraud and attempted embezzlement. Boris Berezovsky, the Russian billionaire currently living in the UK, says he is funding opponents of Putin in the run-up to elections. A report on Nashi, the 100,000-strong, Kremlin-backed youth movement, can be found here. Russian stocks “suffered a battering across the board last week,” challenging the perception that the country is a safe haven from the storm in the United States and indicating that it is very much connected to the world economy. Telenor of Norway and Altimo of Russia’s Alfa Group, both international telecoms companies, are fighting over control of Kyvistar, a Ukrainian mobile-phone company, with Telenor accusing Altimo of using underhand tactics. Turkmenistan is hoping to raise the price of gas it sells to Gazprom by at least 30% next year, which could contribute to rising costs already predicted for next year by Gazprom. Gazprom’s Sakhalin-2 will cease production for this year following weather damage. Mikhail Prokhorov has agreed to sell a strategic stake in Norilsk Nickel to Oleg Deripaska’s United Company Rusal. Russia’s “high scientific potential” is sharply contrasted by the “technical backwardness of the Russian economy”. The Industry and Energy Ministry has explained the expected delay on the first stage of the Eastern Siberia–Pacific Ocean Pipeline. He also announced that Russia will start supplies of up to 36.7 million barrels of oil per year to China via Kazakhstan from 2008. The prospective shortfall in Russian gas production “represents an urgent energy security concern for the European Union,” according to a report by the UK Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee. The threat “is a greater one than the risk of Russia disrupting supplies for political reasons.” The report also urged the UK government to meet with their Russian counterparts to thrash out judicial issues. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend a Middle East peace forum in the US this week. Rosboronexport says that Russia may set a new record in sales of military equipment to foreign states, with exports estimated at over $5.5 billion in 2007. It has been reported that five armed men wearing masks and camouflage burst into a hotel in Ingushetia early Saturday morning, dragged away and attacked three Moscow journalists from the Ren-TV station, and a human rights activist. Putin is behind ambitious plans to stage a “megabucks” Tour of Russia race that he hopes could rival the Tour de France. An article in the British press claiming that Andrei Lugovoi is “feted as a hero” in Russia contradicts this report from a Russian newspaper. Moscow’s Millionaire Fair of high-priced luxury goods has just finished. The city is the world’s fourth most expensive, according to a new survey.