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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Oct. 30, 2007

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Teenagers cheer at rally of the pro-Kremlin youth group Young Guard outside Red Square in the center of Moscow, 03 October 2007. (AFP/File/Dmitry Kostyukov)

The forthcoming State Duma elections, to be held on December 2nd, “are not about political parties. […] Rather, the elections will be a referendum on President Vladimir Putin’s future.” Further measures are being taken to combat inflation, with the government planning to slash an import tariff on soy oil, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil for six months. Is Putin’s popularity with voters due to the success of his “personality cult”? What exactly is “Putin’s Plan”? Information released yesterday about Putin’s salary has surprised some journalists. “Low salaries among officials are often cited as one of the main reasons for the corruption endemic in Russia.” The authorities are reportedly cracking down on debtors, “barring thousands of people from leaving the country” who had not fulfilled court orders to repay debts, according to the Federal Court Marshals Service. Russia’s focus is switching from oil and natural gas to nuclear energy, with Rosatom, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency, calling for a significant increase in the share of nuclear power in electricity generation. The Russian economy is to become the fifth-biggest in the world by 2010, according to Deutsche Bank. TNK-BP is seeking to buy Moscow and St. Petersburg filling stations to increase control over its retail business and expand in the capital city. The joint venture will spend $500 million over five years in the country. Russia’s United Energy Systems has held an EGM unanimously approving the company’s reorganization ahead of its liquidation next year, saving the company the cost of having to buy out minority holders. Hyperion Resources of the US has urged Russia’s Tatneft to develop joint projects in Iraq. Russia will grant any country in the world the use of an international uranium enrichment center currently being constructed in east Siberia, says the Russian ambassador to the UN. Igor Scherbak, Russia’s UN representative, has opposed plans for a UN budget increase, saying that a significant increase on the previous budget was a “cause for concern”. Putin has announced that Moscow will sign a long-delayed pact to phase out fees charged to airlines flying over Siberia by 2013. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is due to hold talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran today. “A number of issues connected to the situation around Iran’s nuclear program, and a number of questions of bilateral cooperation, will be discussed,” Lavrov said. Putin’s comparison of US plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe with the Cuban missile crisis is “surprising […]. Putin drew this inappropriate analogy at the exact moment when Washington was making clear steps toward finding a compromise with Moscow.” The US “is prepared” to offer concessions over the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty to try and persuade Russia to “soften its positions on Kosovo and Iran”. Both Russia and the European Union are said to be ready to make concessions to improve energy relations. A new-generation fighter plane, currently being jointly developed with India, will be ready no later than 2012. Russian and US military experts have begun a two-day command-and-post exercise to practice joint peacekeeping operations. An official for Rosboronexport, the state arms exporting agency, has said that Russia’s weapon sales agreements with Venezuela, currently worth $4 billion, could double or treble in the next few years. Russia has sent two aid trucks to Palestine, and has attacked Israeli sanctions against the Gaza Strip. “The isolation and the reprisals which affect the most basic needs of the civilian population have little chance of being a method for fighting extremism.”