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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov. 9, 2007

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Vladimir Putin speaks during his meeting with leaders of Russia’s Muslim community in Moscow’s Kremlin November 8, 2007. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/KREMLIN (RUSSIA)

Police have seized 14 million copies of the Union of Right Forces’ officially approved campaign booklet. Party leader Nikita Belykh said that the police justified the confiscations by saying it was “necessary to examine the campaign materials for content possibly violating extremism or anti-monopoly laws.” The government has delayed legislation that would define the country’s strategic economic sectors and set rules for foreign investment until next year, supposedly due to time constraints. The State Duma’s International Affairs Committee have unanimously approved the candidacy of Dmitry Rogozin as Russia’s permanent representative to NATO. “There has been wide speculation that a NATO posting for Rogozin would be a Kremlin attempt to send him into political exile.” Dissent is “still alive” in Russia, with popular magazines, television programs and radio shows providing “sometimes surprising outlets for contrary opinion” – Russia’s Esquire magazine reportedly published a recent political parable about a “Fish-Eyed King”. A special report on Valentina Matviyenko, the St Petersburg politician who “cannot stand any opposition”, can be found here. Russia’s Muslim leaders called on President Vladimir Putin to ensure that political parties do not resort to nationalism and xenophobia during election campaigning, “like it happened at the previous election in 2003.” A “new Russian history is being forged.” A round-up of Russian economic activity for October of this year can be found here. British-based company Timan Oil & Gas has signed the first step of a potential agreement with Zapsibgazprom, a subsidiary of Gazprom, under which Timan would receive investments of up to $500 million. Analysts believe that the deal would be a “guarantee against potential difficulties that the foreign companies apprehend for Russia’s activities.” Gazprom has denied key pipeline access to Arcticneftegaz, a unit of the Italian firms Eni and Enel, preventing it from starting gas production at two Siberian fields. Gazprom declined immediate comment. Enel will launch a bid on outstanding shares in Russian electricity company OGK-5, but “is not interested in further acquisitions in Russia.” According to Rosprom, Russia has so far eliminated 9,500 tons of chemical weapons – 24% of total stockpiles. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet with Putin next week for an annual summit, giving the countries an opportunity to “smooth over problems” with defense relations. According to one analyst, “Many in Russia still view India as the land of elephants and snake charmers.” Mutual hostility with Georgia “seems likely to deepen as long as the Mr Saakashvili remains in power and the Kremlin persists with pressure tactics.” The calling of a January election by the Georgian president is a “tactical victory” for Russia. Three Georgian diplomats have reportedly been expelled from the country. Russia and Bulgaria have signed a declaration to build a new gas pipe. Russia will deliver 6.2 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Romania this year, a 20% increase on last year’s figures. Russia’s highest court has refused to recognize the executed last czar Nicholas II and his family as victims of political repression. German tennis player Tommy Haas is investigating allegations that he was poisoned during September’s Davis Cup semi-final defeat against Russia in Moscow, and a Czech player, Jan Hernych, said he was offered bribes to throw two matches in Russia last season. Russia has dismissed the former claims as “complete rubbish”.