Pedestrians walk past as activist of the United Russia party distributing promotional papers with a portrait of President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)
The Union of Right Forces (SPS) began direct criticism of President Vladimir Putin on learning that the Kremlin would break a promise to deliver seats in the next State Duma, according to a senior party official. “The party is angry, and now the only chance it has to get into the parliament is to gather the protest vote. This is why SPS’s stance has radically changed,” he said. Communist and Yabloko officials said their parties had also been promised Duma seats if they promised not to criticize Putin. Around 450,000 police officers trained in “election laws” will be mobilized across the country to ensure order during Sunday’s elections. A 40-person delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will arrive just days before the elections, and Japan has already dispatched its team, limited by Russia to just three officials. “When it comes to admitting independent monitors, only Britain has a worse record in the OSCE than the US, so Putin’s charge of double standards carries weight.” Inflation could come to exceed 11% for the year in Russia. Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has asked investigators for an “immediate” meeting with his deputy, Sergei Storchak, who has been charged with embezzlement. Kudrin says the arrest has had a negative impact on the ministry’s international negotiations. Will Putin resign from the Presidency in order to be eligible to run for a third term? Russia’s Interior Ministry is claiming that some members of the weekend’s March of Dissent were paid to protest. Russia’s oil refining sector is being held back because so much of its oil is sent abroad. Despite heavy government taxes on exports, the current high prices mean that it is more profitable to export oil than to refine it domestically. “A significant part of the Russian government’s foreign policy activities are in one way or another connected with the world energy market.” Oleg Deripaska’s holding company, Basic Element, has outlined ambitious plans to expand its already “sprawling business empire”, with infrastructure being one of its strategic areas of focus. Gazprom has agreed to buy gas from Turkmenistan at steeply raised prices next year and will pay even more in 2009, which could cause new tensions with Ukraine. Gazprom Neft, Gazprom’s oil arm has borrowed $2.2 billion from a group of foreign banks to boost production and refining. The BlackBerry will arrive in Russia for sale early next year, according to Mobile Telesystems. Alexander Medvedev implied that Gazprom may not open up its gas-rich Arctic regions to foreign investors, citing “psychological barriers”. Vladimir Potanin, the Russian oligarch, is reportedly trying to raise $15 billion from London investment banks to take control of Norilsk Nickel, currently also being eyed by Rusal. Volkswagen is opening a Russian factory to increase its share of the country’s automobile market. According to Estee Lauder, Russia’s cosmetics market is experiencing “exponential growth”. Chinese offshore-oil producer Cnooc Ltd. will avoid investing in Russia “because the risks are too high.” Poland’s new prime minister has surprised everyone by backing Russia’ bid to join the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has announced that the European Union will not have true global influence until it finds a way to achieve closer ties with Russia. Europe’s position as a power center “is important for the world balance, and if this doesn’t happen, global processes will be even more unpredictable,” he said. Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov and Finnish counterpart Matti Vanhanen met to discuss cooperation in energy, forestry and the high-tech sector. The United Nations’ annual Human Development Report included Russia, for the first time, in the group of countries with the most highly developed human potential. Any new nuclear pact between Russia and the US must set lower ceilings for nuclear arsenals and limit the development of new nuclear weapons, and current proposals are not constructive, says Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov also said that refusal to acknowledge Iran’s cooperation with the UN over its controversial nuclear program will reduce the possibility of finding an eventual solution to the dispute. Salavat Karimov, who advanced the criminal case against former Yukos shareholders Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, has appeared in a Cyprus court as a witness in another case involving two companies that the Russian prosecutor claims were used by Yukos to launder money. Russia has test fired two SS-21 Scarab short-range ballistic missiles during a tactical exercise.