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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept. 10, 2007

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President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan (R) presents Russia’s President Vladimir Putin with the country’s highest award in the Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi September 10, 2007. (Photo: Reuters)

In response to last week’s British interception of Russian aircraft, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has said that the alliance wants “a solid, trustful” relationship with Russia, and that it was up to Moscow to clarify whether it wanted the same. The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, has called for a tougher EU line on Russia, with emphasis on “responsibility,” saying that the approach should be “firm but not macho”. This is perhaps a veiled allusion to recent photographs in which Putin appeared bare-chested on a fishing trip, which British journalists have not taken kindly to. The Times referred to Putin’s look as “less Cossack and more cowboy.” The Independent today has run a profile piece accusing Putin of orchestrating “the recent and audacious acts of Russian belligerence.” The big story in the UK today is that Israeli police have uncovered a neo-Nazi ring of Russian immigrants responsible for carrying out attacks on Jews and foreign workers. The story made The Guardian’s front page. Other startling news today is that Gazprom was revealed to have held talks over mounting a rival $5bn-plus offer for Dow Jones. A reported 4,000 activists from Yabloko and the Other Russia coalition, including Garry Kasparov, marched against a skyscraper in St. Petersburg planned by Gazprom. “This skyscraper is ugly. It is absolutely clear it is an absurd, shameless and a disgraceful idea,” Grigory Yavlinsky said. UNESCO also recently voiced concern about the project. Kasparov’s Other Russia meanwhile continues to struggle to come up with a single opposition candidate to challenge an expected Kremlin-backed candidate in the March presidential vote. Reuters today has said that the next election “promises to be a carefully orchestrated succession to President Vladimir Putin next year”. Putin has announced that Russia’s policy towards key partners in Asia will not change when he leaves office, congratulating Chinese President Hu Jintao at the APEC Summit that “You and I have achieved the highest level of Russian-Chinese relations.” The Russian President has just arrived in the United Arab Emirates to discuss “the development of trade and economic investment cooperation.” He told journalists on arrival in UAE that he still hoped to reach a compromise with the United States over its plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe. Russia’s Economic Development Ministry will submit a draft ruling this week to speed up the promulgation of new export duties on crude oil and petroleum in an attempt to prevent oil firms exploiting a loophole that currently saves millions for oil firms. The Duma has reportedly completed its energy reforms, and Russia’s Industry and Energy Ministry has approved an Eastern Gas Program to create a unified system for gas supply and production in Eastern Siberia and the Far East, although the deal still needs China’s approval to seal the program’s export component. Approval seems certain, however, given that LUKoil and China National Petroleum Corporation have just signed a cooperation agreement. LUKoil has also announced that it will invest $1bn in a new plastic and petrochemicals facility at Ukraine’s Karpatnaftokhim. In other business news, Severstal is expected to more than double first-half profits for the year, with results to be released tomorrow. Electricity and thermal power group OGK-2 plans to raise $1.1bn through a secondary listing on the London Stock Exchange. The company is owned by UES, of which Gazprom holds a 10% stake. Rusal has announced the signing of a Letter of Intent with the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation to jointly explore opportunities to develop raw material and aluminum projects in Venezuela. Russia’s Alfa Group is in talks to buy Turkish supermarket chain Migros, and Rosneft has announced that it paid $42m for a Cyprus-registered company that owns filling stations in the Moscow region. A senior central banker has said that Russia’s oil and metals firms hold the key to current liquidity problems in the banking system. Anna Politkovskaya has been posthumously nominated for the European Union’s top human rights award.