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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov. 8, 2007

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Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the presentation of the City of Military Glory certificates in Moscow’s Kremlin. Russia’s parliament voted Wednesday to suspend compliance with a key Cold War treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe as Moscow signalled it was weighing new force deployments on its western flank. (AFP/Natasha Kolensikova)

Abdul-Khakim Sultygov, who coordinates the pro-Kremlin party’s policies on interethnic and interreligious relations, is calling for a nationwide Civil Council to formalize Putin’s role as National Leader after he leaves office. He proposes that, following the December elections, all political parties, officials, government bodies and public groups pledge allegiance to Putin in a so-called Pact of Civil Unity. The first televised debates of the parliamentary election campaign have been aired on Russian TV. Talks between BP and Gazprom on the possibility of Gazprom buying into BP’s Russian venture, TNK-BP, have intensified. Shell has announced an initiative in Russia to build a “huge-scale long-term liquid gas and oil project” in Yamal, in the country’s Arctic north. The project will involve five other companies. Microsoft aims to become the country’s third-largest online advertiser in the next three years by providing localized services through its Msn.ru portal. “Our strategy is to take a leading position in Russia’s online market.” Russia is currently demonstrating strong growth in internet usage, with its internet community growing by 23% in the last year. Auto giant Daimler has become the first non-Russian carmaker to launch its own financial operations to cash in on the car sales boom, having set up a banking services unit in Russia. Baltic Beverages, the Russian joint venture owned by Carlsberg and Scottish & Newcastle, has unveiled a 31.7% rise in 9-month 2007 profit, putting Carlsberg under pressure to increase its offer for S&N. Enel, the Italian electricity giant is pouring up to $6 billion into Russia “in an attempt to make money in the last vast untapped power market on the continent.” Russian investor Alexei Mordashov, who owns Severstal, is in talks to acquire a controlling stake in German travel and tourism company TUI. Experts estimate that German E.ON holds gas and electricity assets in Russia worth $25-26 billion. Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, called the current unrest in Georgia, where a state of emergency has been called, “a domestic issue for Georgia and its people.” Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that Russia sponsored and instructed protesters as part of a plan to “overthrow the government.” In turn, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said that Georgian allegations were “dictated by US secret services.” There has been further coverage of yesterday’s report from the European Council on Foreign Relations. Joschka Fischer, who jointly chairs the council, said “Today it is the Kremlin that sets the agenda for EU-Russia relations.” Western policy should focus on “the transparency and deregulation of state-dominated monopolies such as Gazprom,” rather than on Russia’s sovereign wealth fund. Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey will make a two-day visit to Moscow this week to discuss “bilateral political ties and practical cooperation.” Thousands of payment terminals, used by Russians to pay utility bills, could be shut down due to a new Central Bank directive stating that all payments must be processed through commercial banks.