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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Oct. 12, 2007

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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin meet in the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow October 12, 2007. REUTERS/RIA Novosti/KREMLIN (RUSSIA)

A bill to put the country’s nuclear industry under a tightly controlled state corporation, labelled “dangerous” by the Communist party, has received overwhelming backing in its first reading in the State Duma. The corporation will help control a national champion, Atomenergoprom, that will incorporate 86 other state companies and run all stages of nuclear power generation. Control over money supply and demand must become a “major instrument in the fight against the sharp increase in consumer prices“, said Alexei Kudrin, the finance minister. Tensions are currently high in the Duma due to a sharp surge of inflation. Measures have been approved to tighten rules protecting consumers’ rights and regulate the retail sector. Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov appears to have “won few friends” at the White House due to his “brusque style and tough demeanor”. Increasingly close relations between Russia and China draw attention to the fact that the US is out of the loop. “Sino-Russian rapprochement has reached such a point that the two huge countries’ relations with each other are far warmer than either US-Russian or US-Chinese relations.” Ahead of talks with Russia, Condoleezza Rice said that the US will go ahead with its missile defence program as planned. ”We’ve been very clear that we need the Czech and Polish sites,” but she wants to seek Russian suggestions for cooperation to address Moscow’s opposition to the program. “I think we ought to look at all the possible elements of what President [Bush] and President Putin called a kind of regional architecture for missile defense. […] There is considerable interest in both Azerbaijan and some of the possibilities in Russia itself.” The US could offer to bring Russia into the proposed system. “I don’t think this is a good time for progress,” commented one analyst. “The relations between the two countries are at an all-time low, and going down, at times more slowly, at times faster. But I don’t think we’ve reached the bottom yet.” At the outset of the talks, President Putin said Russia may have to withdraw from a treaty with the US limiting short-range nuclear weapons in Europe if it is not extended to include other countries. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has assured Europe that his government would meet its obligations to ensure Russian oil and gas exports flow across its soil on schedule and in full. But how did Ukraine manage to amass such a large debt on gas supplies? Russian newspapers allegedly poked fun at French President Nicolas Sarkozy following the French-Russian summit that “offered plenty of smiles but little in the way of progress on serious issues.” The CIS Electric Energy Council will consider establishing in three stages a common electricity market at its 32nd session in Tajikistan. Putin will travel to Germany for his last official visit before he steps down as president next year. Luxadvor, the company controlled by billionaire Sergei Pugachyov, a banker and Federation Council member close to the Kremlin, has bought French luxury food chain Hediard. A block stake in Inter RAO UES will be probably sold to a foreign investor, and is reportedly being eyed by Electricite de France. Analysts value the company from $2 billion to $3.5 billion. Russia’s Uralkali, a potash fertiliser producing giant, has priced a secondary offering of shares at the upper end of the price range. Oil & Natural Gas Corp, India’s biggest explorer, will seek a stake in an exploration area in Russia’s Sakhalin Island. A work of art by a Russian art collective depicting two policemen kissing has proved too much for Russia’s culture minister, Alexander Sokolov, who has pulled the work from a planned exhibition in Paris. “If this exhibition appears, it will bring shame on Russia.”