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Weekly News #3

Have a very merry Christmas!  But, before you do, check out the news from Russia…

Yukos

  • 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.
    • Would Baikal buy time for Gazprom to resolve the court injuction that Yukos has taken out against them in Texas?
    • Will Gazprim simply buy Baikal.
    • Are Surgutneftegaz behind Baikal?
    • And too many more to print here. 
  • 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. 

Foreign Affairs

CIS

  • 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.

Domestic news

  • 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

The next weekly news roundup will come out on Wednesday 5th January. 

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