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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept. 21, 2007

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov seen at the investment forum in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, southern Russia, Friday, Sept. 21, 2007. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Vladimir Rodionov, Presidential Press Service).

Despite promises not to adjust the power structure in his favour, Vladimir Putin sees his influence surviving after the 2008 Presidential Elections. Viktor Zubkov has handed Putin his list of proposed members for the new government, which is due to be finalised later today. Sergei Markov, a Kremlin-connected political analyst, plans to run for the State Duma with United Russia. Andrei Sychyov, the Russian army conscript who came to international attention last year as the victim of a brutal military hazing, also intended to run, but has been rejected on grounds of poor health. Sergei Ivanov says that the Russian government is planning to privatize the largest possible amount of companies supplying services to natural monopolies, saying that state investment in the economy could account for 4.5% of the country’s GDP in the next eight years. A poll by the Public Opinion Foundation found that two-thirds of Russians believe that it is “impossible” to root out corruption in the political system. Presidential candidate Vladimir Bukovsky said that Russia is currently witnessing “the return of the Soviet system”. Putin has compared US meddling in the affairs of Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union’s occupation during the Cold War, and has opposed the plans to create an oil and gas monster by merging Rosneft and Gazprom, saying that such a behemoth would “dominate the economy.” Aluminium giant Rusal has pulled its plans for a 2007 IPO, originally scheduled for November. According to one analyst, the delay is not due to market conditions. Deripaska’s Basic Element is to construct a cargo port in the Imeretin bay, near Sochi, that will be capable of handling roughly 5 million tonnes a year in a project worth $3bn. His Russian Machines company will borrow as much as $1.23 billion from BNP Paribas to finance his acquisition of a stake in Magna International, Canada’s largest auto-parts maker. A new report by ING Bank says that expectation of slower world economic growth in 2008 is reducing investment interest in developing countries, including Russia. The Russian Manager’s Association and Kommersant newspaper have released a list of Russia’s 1,000 Top Managers. Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov is in talks to increase his 15% stake in OAO Telecominvest to tap growth in the telecommunications market. A Saratov newspaper was issued with a formal warning after local officials ruled that an altered photograph it published depicting President Vladimir Putin as fictional spy Otto von Stirlitz was extremist. Reacting to new EU regulations to curb gas monopolies, Alexander Shokhin, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, said, “Such limits are against the free market spirit of the European Union and amount to state protectionism.” Russia’s abstention in the vote on the extension of the mandate for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan could be related to Kremlin worries about the Taliban. Putin has said that the US should set a firm date for withdrawal from Iraq. Russia’s preferred candidate for the head of International Monetary Fund, Josef Tosovsky, is unlikely to win the post – it has been revealed that Washington continues to support the EU candidate, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Russia and Cambodia signed a bilateral agreement on Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov says that North Korea is not ready to close down its nuclear facilities. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called on Estonia to avoid politicizing the Nord Stream pipeline after its government refused to approve surveys in Estonian waters. In an attempt to claim Russia’s territorial right to Arctic, scientists are arguing that samples from a vast mountain range under the ocean prove that it is part of Russia’s continental shelf.