President Vladimir Putin, seen here in St Petersburg, accused the United States of trying to “discredit” Russia’s parliamentary elections by pressuring foreign observers to abandon their monitoring mission. (AFP/Natalia Kolesnikova)
President Vladimir Putin is trying to blame the United States for the controversial refusal by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s human rights and democracy watchdog to send observers to monitor the Dec. 2 State Duma elections, calling it “another indication that many structures, including the OSCE, are in need of reform.” The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights dismissed Putin’s allegation as “nonsense“. A US State Department spokesman said US officials had talked to OSCE representatives, telling them “this is your decision,” although the OSCE says they “do not take instructions from any government, and certainly not from the US government.” One journalist says the run-up to the election makes Putin look “increasingly desperate and threatened”; another says the recent speeches are redolent of “a psychiatric patient’s medical history of phobias.” Kasparov has also implied that “Putin is far less secure than he appears to be.” The deputy leader of the Union of Right Forces says that negative attention by the Kremlin on the party “means that support for the party is higher than opinion polls indicate”. A senior election official says that election officials have been ordered to make sure that United Russia collects double the number of votes it is expected to win in State Duma elections, even if they have to falsify the results. The European Commission, France, Britain and the US have all criticized the police crackdown on opposition rallies over the weekend. Inter RAO, the import and export firm of Unified Energy Systems has announced plans for an IPO in 2009. Sergei Chemezov, a Putin ally and head of state arms trader Rosoboronexport, has been appointed head of the state corporation Russian Technologies, formed by Putin in the last week. The Natural Resources Ministry’s environmental safety watchdog has launched an inspection of subsidiaries of Russneft, following admissions of license violations. A new report from Rosstat suggests that the growth of profit for Russian business slowed in the third quarter of the year. Vimpelcom, Russia’s second-largest mobile phone operator, has offered to buy the Nasdaq-listed fixed-line operator Golden Telecom for $100 per share. Gazprom will study joint ventures with Dow Chemical at the US company’s new facilities in Germany as well as in Siberia. The UK supermarket chain Tesco is reportedly planning to enter Indian and Russian markets. Oleg Deripaska has reportedly withdrawn his offer to buy a 25% blocking stake in Power Machines from electricity giant Unified Energy System. The head of EastWest, one of America’s foremost national-security think tanks, says that the US now has a “window of opportunity” to join with Russia and China to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Belarus is to receive a $1.5-billion stabilization credit from Russia. The loan could have political implications as it “will put off the inevitability of reform there.” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists that recent suggestions made by the US on the anti-missile defense systems have lowered Moscow and Washington’s chances of reaching a compromise. Separately, Lavrov has announced that Russia is ready to host a conference on Middle East affairs. The Foreign Ministries of Russia and Kazakhstan have signed a cooperation agreement on aircraft safety. Energy deals between Indian and Russian oil and gas majors in upstream and downstream sectors could be firmed up by February, and Moscow is reportedly seeking new contracts to continue civil nuclear construction work in India. A collection of Russian artworks have sold for a record £25.7 million pounds ($51.4 million) at Sotherby’s auction house in London, and a Fabergé egg owned by the Rothschild banking family is set to become the most expensive Russian decorative artwork ever auctioned, as Christie’s in London holds a similar sale this week.