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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept. 27, 2007

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Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov holds a child during a visit to a children’s home in Penza, some 650 km (405 miles) southeast of Moscow, September 26, 2007. (Photo: Reuters)

In a bid to boost his popularity, Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov visited the Russian city of Penza, presenting gifts of chocolate to children and pensioners. Elvira Nabiullina, the new Economic Development and Trade Minister, said that Russia’s membership of the World Trade Organization is essential to future economic expansion. “Our priority is to continue policies aimed at diversifying Russia’s economy to ensure its stable and long-term growth.” Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Naryshkin doesn’t think familial relationships between cabinet members will affect the overall performance of the government. Vladimir Putin’s new government is a family of his “old buddies”. Has his removal of German Gref put the the country’s economic stability at risk? And will Putin choose a successor at all? The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade made minor adjustments to the way it measures socio-economic development in the country, but has not yet published its inflation prediction. Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov said that parties running for election tend to “base their ideology and rhetoric on opposition to United Russia”. Basmanny Arbitration Court ordered RusRating, an independent ratings agency, to pay damages to Russky Standart bank for harming its reputation with an analyst’s comment. The state oil company Zarubezhneft has increased its share capital by tenfold to $1.5bn in a settlement for the government’s share in the Vietsovpetro venture. The Russian government spent $200 million raising its stake in OAO RusHydro, the country’s largest hydropower producer, to 1.9%. Severstal, Russia’s largest steelmaker, has begun building a $100 million welded-pipe factory and says it plans to add a $60 million plant that will produce light-steel structures used in construction. Avtodor will complete construction on its upgrades to Russian highways by 2012, in a project worth over $160 billion. Novatek, Russia’s second-largest natural-gas producer, bought a 50% stake in the Egyptian El-Arish oil and gas project. Oil producer Surgutneftegaz will build a $6 billion refinery in the Leningrad region by 2011 to meet growing demands. Russian conglomerate Sistema has entered the booming Indian telecom industry, buying a 10% stake in Shyam Telelink for $11.4m. Rostekhnadzor, the federal body that supervises ecological issues, has submitted proposed amendments to the law on ecological evaluation, which would make state ecological evaluation a requirement for anything built in ecologically protected territories. Alexander Losyukov, a deputy Russian foreign minister, has denied reports that Russia sold North Korea aluminum pipes that the media said could be used to produce uranium enrichment centrifuges. “I can state absolutely that no deals have been concluded lately.” Turkmen leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov said that his country’s talks with Russia on energy have been tense, and hinted that he was ready to discuss new gas export options. Georgia’s president, Mikhail Saakashvili, told world leaders that Russia interferes in its domestic politics and engages in “reckless and dangerous behaviour”. Russia, together with China, has blocked UN proposals that would impose further sanctions on Burma in light of this week’s bloody protests. Vladimir Popovkin, the chief of Russia’s space forces, said Moscow would have to retaliate if others deploy weapons in space. The regional director for Europe and Central Asia at Transparency International says that corruption is worsening in most former Soviet Union countries partly due to Russia’s growing influence. The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, plans to visit Russia in November. A report commissioned by the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative cited significant progress safeguarding and removing vulnerable nuclear stockpiles globally, but said that dangerous gaps persisted in Russia. The Prosecutor General’s Office has declined to declare Nicholas II, the last emperor of Russia, and his wife and five children, victims of political repression.