Weekly News #3
Have a very merry Christmas! But, before you do, check out the news from Russia…
- Sunday’s auction of Yukos subsidiary Yuganskneftegaz resulted in what is probably one of the biggest shocks to come out of Russia this year. Baikal Finance Group, a previously unknown company, bought Yugansk for a mere 260.75 billion roubles (thats around $9.37 billion to you and me). The figure doesn’t even come close to matching Yukos’ unpaid tax bills, which totalled almost $27 billion.
- Fevered speculation ensued about who was behind the mysterious Baikal Finance Group (from now on – Baikal), and their motives.
- So who does know who is behind Baikal? Putin, that’s who. He told German reporters that "the shareholders are individuals, they worked many years in the energy sphere."
- Gazprom has sold the subsidiary it used during the auction process. This is because it was in breach of a US court order not to take part in the auction and Gazprom fears US sanctions.
- Update: Late on Wednesday Baikal Finance Group was purchased by Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, in a move which effectively nationalises Yuganskneftegaz. It appears that the Yukos farce, this phase at least, is drawing to a close.
Putin has the wanderlust again. This week he’s been in Germany chatting with Gerhard Schroeder. He said that he was happy to co-operate with European countries to resolve the situation in Chechnya.
Putin is to meet US President George Bush in February.
China was thrilled when Russia reiterated its support for the one-China policy and its opposition to Taiwan’s independence.
Russia is to build a second nuclear reactor at Iran’s Bushehr power plant.
- Ukrainian Presidential candidates Victor Yushchenko and Victor Yanukovich met on Monday in a televised debate which. by all accounts, Yushchenko got the better of. Ukraine – Oh My has the transcript.
- Putin has confirmed that of course he will respect the result of the Ukrainian election. As if there was ever any doubt…
- Russians appear to be leaving Uzbekistan for the bright lights of Kazakhstan.
- Russia is, for the first time since 1991, rated as "not free" by Freedom House. The National Bolshevik Party discovered this the hard way – their offices were raided yesterday.
- The Russian MP leading the enquiry into the Beslan massacre has said in an interview that a lack of co-ordination from the Kremlin down was to blame. He also said that he considered the situation in Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria to be even more serious than that in Chechnya.
- Stromata blog discusses the declining population in Russia, which has an unsustainable death rate of 160 per 100 births. Despite net immigration of 5 1/2 million over the last 12 years, the population has still declined from 149 million in 1992 to 144 million today.
Not so happy Anniversaries
- Tuesday saw the 125th anniversary of Stalin’s birth. Communists marked the occasion by pointing out that Stalin was a far better leader than Putin.
- Russian troops rolled into Afghanistan twenty five years ago on 24 December 1979. The didn’t roll out again for more than a decade. The BBC, by the way, has an excellent collection of photographs taken by Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan.
- 30th December marks the 10th anniversary of the Russian assault of Grozny. The assault was a disaster for the Russian army, which lost up to 2,000 troops in just a few days.
The next weekly news roundup will come out on Wednesday 5th January.