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.