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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Oct. 16, 2007

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin review an honor guard, during an official welcoming ceremony for Putin, who arrived to attend the Caspian Sea leaders summit in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

The Other Russia opposition coalition plans to hold rallies in a number of major Russian cities at the end of November. “The radically motivated who are determined to exercise their rights will participate,” said Denis Bilunov, one of the organization’s leaders. The Russian State Duma will consider the first reading of an amendment on preparations for the 2014 Olympics. Besides establishing the controversial rules for property seizure in Sochi, the amendment contains a list of tax benefits to be added to the Tax Code, which the government allegedly finds “excessive”. “All those tempted to believe, even fleetingly, that a Russia without Putin would be either safer or better, must be more careful about what they wish for.” Central Elections Commission data show that a number of its State Duma deputies have seen their incomes rise dramatically over the past four years, with that of Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democrat party increasing over five times since 2003. Political and security analysts suggested that weekend reports of Iranian plots to assassinate President Vladimir Putin might have been part of a foreign intelligence attempt to increase Russia’s willingness to back sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program. “Of course I am going to Iran. If I listened to all the various threats and the recommendations of the special services, I would never leave home,” Putin said. Ahead of talks in Tehran, Putin has already warned the US that peaceful dialogue is the only way to approach the situation. “Threatening someone, in this case the Iranian leadership and Iranian people, will lead nowhere. They are not afraid, believe me.” In Tehran, Putin will hold talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the leaders of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to try to come to a solution on a Caspian border dispute that has impeded the development of several potentially lucrative offshore energy fields. The issue “has clouded relations among the five countries since the Soviet breakup in 1991.” Putin also emphasized the need for all Caspian nations to prohibit the use of their territory by any outside countries for use of military force against any nation in the region — “a clear reference to long-standing rumors that the United States might be planning to use Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran.” Republican White House hopeful John McCain said that Russia should be barred from the G8 group of powerful nations for trying to “bully” its neighbors and cutting political freedoms. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who fears that Europe could be embroiled in the US-Russia missile row, has again called for the missile shield issue to be resolved within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). “We discussed the dialogue between the United States and Russia and I stressed once again that the relationship between Russia and NATO is the right forum to resolve this issue,” she said. During talks with Putin, Merkel made clear for the first time that the Nord Stream pipeline would definitely be constructed. The Indian Defense Minister A. K. Antony will arrive in Moscow this week to attend a session of a Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation. Mayor Yury Luzhkov said that he would seek action from the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service over concerns that lack of competition in the cement sector was stifling the country’s building boom. Singled out for particular criticism were acquisitions made in spring 2005 by leading market player Eurocement, which dramatically raised the company’s share of the market. The government has abandoned efforts to pass a new law regulating foreign investment in the strategic natural resources sector in a move that looks set to prolong uncertainty in the country’s business climate. “For now, there will be no law. We’re going with amendments,” said a spokesman for the Natural Resources Ministry. Foreign investors decried the move. “The revised law will fail to attract adequate investment,” said the president of ExxonMobil Development. E.ON, the German utility, has completed the €4.1 billion purchase of the generator OGK-4 and taken its first steps into the Russian power market. A $6bn energy development consortium led by U.S. oil producer Chevron in Kazakhstan is facing challenges from the Russian government over a pipeline that runs through Russian territory. OAO Gazprom Neft, the oil arm of Russia’s state-run natural-gas producer, has found an additional oil deposit at the Vorgensky license area in Siberia. Lukoil OAO president Vagit Alekperov said his company wants to participate in future oil exploration projects in Russia’s Arctic shelf territories. Travis Katz, head of international operations at MySpace: “We initially launched in countries where we could make money, as they had a developed online advertising market. We are now moving into countries that are at a much earlier stage of development. Russia, for example, does not have a huge online advertising market. But the time to go in is now, when we can capitalise on the growth in these markets.”