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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Oct. 29, 2007

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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is reflected on a glass panel at the Lisbon Oceanareum during his visit October 26, 2007. REUTERS/Pedro Santa Barbara/Lisbon Oceanarium

The Central Election Commission has completed the registration of federal lists of candidates from political parties at the forthcoming elections – eleven parties will run for the State Duma. Three parties, including the Party of Peace and Unity, will appeal their exclusion from the elections in the Supreme Court. President Vladimir Putin is now an official election candidate. The leader has released details of his income as part of the election run-up. Vice Premier Alexei Kudrin has unveiled new data on the “appallingly high” surge in inflation. State grain interventions have begun in order to stabilize farm produce prices. Putin told leaders at Friday’s European Union-Russia summit that he was planning to set up a think tank for freedom and democracy. The proposal caused some consternation when Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin’s senior aide, said that the Europeans would not be allowed to play any role in the institution. “This is not going to be a joint venture.” One European official called the move a “fairly predictable Putin ploy.” At the summit, Putin denounced proposals from Brussels that could prevent gas monopoly Gazprom from buying up power grids and pipelines while the 27-nation bloc revamps its gas and electricity markets. “When we hear from some European capitals that ‘the Russians are coming with their horrible money to buy everything,’ that makes me laugh,” he said. He also drew a parallel between US plans for a missile shield in Central Europe and the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. “Threats to our country are being created on our borders,” he said. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin believes that Russia does not want Iran to have a nuclear weapon and will support global efforts to convince Tehran to end its nuclear research, and Russia has made a joint declaration with the US urging all countries to destroy medium range nuclear-capable missiles. “We believe that renunciation of ground-launched intermediate- and shorter-range missiles and their complete elimination in the world would increase the role of the treaty as a model for strengthening international security.” Russian-Kazakh relations makes a stabilizing contribution to the regional and global security, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russia test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Kazakhstan Baikonur station this morning, and has begun large-scale military exercises in the Far East to practice interoperability between troops. Funds that lack transparency are “causing alarm” in the West. “Since the Russian state has already chalked up quite a record for using Gazprom as an instrument of Russian foreign policy, the Russian Oil Stability Fund can never be trusted to act as a normal, profit-driven investor.” Capital flows into Russia have resumed and stand at $6 billion over the last month and at $60 billion for the year to date, said Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin. “We have secured the financial stability of our economy.” Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller has been elected chairman of the board of Gazprom-Media, adding to his current responsibilities as chairman of both Gazprombank and Gazprom Neft. There is “no competition” in Russia’s gasoline market. The plan to divide the businesses of Vladimir Potanin and Mikhail Prokhorov by separating EnergoPolus and Norilsk Nickel could face problems as Prokhorov’s ONEXIM Group may vote against the reorganization. Joint venture TNK-BP has signed an oil exploration agreement with Venezuela for the Orinoco oil belt. Russia’s largest steel company, Severstal, has “turned up the heat” on Celtic Resources, its bid target, publishing an offer document that seeks to expose the gold miner’s recent “abysmal performance“. Novorossiysk, Russia’s biggest oil port on the Black Sea, is selling shares in Moscow and London this week at price that will value the company at as much as $4.9 billion. It is thought that Russian Railways will buy up to 20% of the shares. A new report from Standard & Poor’s says that restructuring of the Russian power generation market and moves toward deregulating power prices are likely to support credit quality in the sector. The recent discord between two of Russia’s security agencies is claimed to be about commerce, rather than politics or prestige. “The fight is primarily over control of smuggling and money-laundering operations, and Putin is merely a referee trying to prevent one group from prevailing over the other.” Fritz Ermarth, a retired Soviet and Russian affairs expert at the CIA, says the long-term trends in Russia favor an eventual democratization. Protesters from various human rights groups attended the “March Against Hatred’ rally in St Petersburg this weekend to commemorate the life and work of Nikolay Girenko who was murdered in 2004. Boris Nemtsov, a member of the federal political committee of The Union of Right Forces, has publicly accused Putin of putting his popularity above the safety of the hostages that were killed by Chechen militants at the Dubrovka theatre in 2002.