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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept. 7, 2007

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Maria Sharapova of Russia reacts during her match against Casey Dellacqua of Australia at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in Flushing Meadows, New York, August 30, 2007. (Photo: Reuters)

After Australian Prime Minister John Howard made it clear that he would be cautious regarding any sale of uranium to Moscow, it has been revealed that Australia will indeed be supplying uranium to Russia for processing and for use in the country’s nuclear reactors. Vladimir Putin said that there was no question of the uranium being put to military use, and that such an idea was “intentionally injected […] to prevent cooperation.” According to Putin, Russia intends to continue its talks with the United States regarding the ongoing dispute about US plans to deploy missile defense elements in Central Europe, and US President George Bush has called on Russia to engage with attempts to encourage Myanmar to take “concrete steps toward democracy.” India has suspended the payments on its $150m contract with Russia’s Rosoboronexport, saying that the new Sea Dragon systems installed into five II-38 patrol aircraft “failed to correspond to the technical design assignment.” UK newspapers are continuing to discuss yesterday’s RAF interception of eight Russian bombers, noting the cost of the exercise (estimated at over £160,000) and calling it “the biggest aerial confrontation between the two countries since the end of the Cold War.” The Times says that the exercise is “the latest example of Mr Putin’s ability to irritate the West with bold strokes that cost the Kremlin little and delight many ordinary Russians, who enjoy seeing Nato discomfited.” The BBC meanwhile is helping to promote Russia’s Lake Baikal as a tourist destination, running a story on “the Pearl of Siberia”. The fiasco behind the rigged auctions of stolen Yukos assets took a few more turns for the worse, as former management have told the FT that they were approached by the American buyers Bob Foresman, vice-chairman of Renaissance Capital and Richard Deitz, president of US hedge fund VR Capital a few days before the sale and were offered a deal to drop their attachments to the assets. David Godfrey, a co-director of Yukos Finance BV, said that Mr. Deitz “sought my assurance that, if he did buy these assets, that we would participate and hand over the keys to him to all the underlying subsidiaries. … He pressed me to articulate what it was we would accept [in exchange for dropping the lawsuits]. I declined to enter into that debate. … He kept saying wouldn’t you rather be dealing with us rather than Rosneft.” As the main political parties in the country compose their federal and regional party lists, speculation is mounting that Putin himself could head the list for the United Russia party. A political analyst said that “Putin’s appointment at the head of the list would create two centers of power: The Kremlin and the State Duma,” with the Moscow Times referring to the Duma a “redundant body”. In business news, Russia’s metal giant Severstal is buying up the country’s gold-bearing deposits, winning the tender for the Uryakhskoe deposit, outbidding competitors after increasing the starting price by over five times. Russia is to spend $5.15bn closing several of its old nuclear reactors in the hope that it will spark “a change of perception from Western companies, and Gazprom has announced that it will set up OOO Gaznadzor, its own environmental inspectorate, to coordinate with Russian agencies, after meeting with a flurry of ecological complaints regarding its involvement in the Sakhalin-2 project.