What the Russian papers say


MOSCOW, December 11 (RIA Novosti) Medvedev's nomination has clarified nothing, not even Russia's near future / Executives hope for no changes as Medvedev takes over / Russia will not ally with the West on Kosovo / Algeria refuses to cooperate with Gazprom / Russian oil companies to finance ESPO pipeline / 2008 will beat records for Russians buying real estate in Britain


Medvedev's nomination has clarified nothing, not even Russia's near future

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has been nominated as the joint presidential candidate of four parties, including the pro-Kremlin United Russia. However, it is part of President Vladimir Putin's management style to use a distraction when making crucial personnel decisions.
President Boris Yeltsin used the method before him, when he proposed a series of promising candidates to confuse the people.
Anyway, it would be premature to say that the future system of power has been chosen in Russia.
It would be likewise useless to try to determine if Medvedev will be a true successor or merely a figurehead, with Putin as prime minister relying on a parliamentary majority and his high rating to settle disputes between power groups. There is not enough information to choose either of the two options.
It is also not clear why Putin has chosen Medvedev in the first place. Maybe Putin, who postponed a decision on his own future for too long and has become confused in his clever schemes, had no other option. The West and the Kremlin's 'siloviki' have increased the pressure on Putin, although with different goals in mind.
His supporters may have to admit that the appointment of Medvedev is proof of Putin's flexibility, rather than his strength.
Life can begin anew at 55 (Putin celebrated his 55th birthday on October 7 this year), but if you have spent eight dramatic years in the country's top office, you want guarantees that your life will be long and untroubled.
Medvedev is the best possible man to issue such guarantees. Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov is an old hat, while First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov is a poser and has troubled relations with the Kremlin's 'siloviki'.
An amorphous successor would give Putin more leeway. By leaving the Kremlin to Medvedev, Putin has postponed his final decision. Now he can either leave quietly or remain in power with a flourish. Or he could even take back his seat.
Medvedev will free Putin from making the final decision here and now.


Executives hope for no changes as Medvedev takes over

Nothing will really change in Russia, hopefully, if First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev takes over as president - and Russian business owners and chief executives view this as the potential presidential successor's key asset.
"We expect the next president to continue pursuing Putin's policies," said Vladimir Yevtushenkov, the owner of Russian consumer services company AFK Sistema.
"Medvedev will carry on Putin's endeavors. This means economic and political stability, which is good for business," echoed Alexander Ponomarenko, chairman of the board of the Novorossiisk Commercial Sea Port (NMTP).
Fortunately, he is not another security service agent, a major Russian investment banker said. It is important that military and security agencies are not involved in resolving business issues.
A source in the management of one of the state monopolies agreed that Medvedev's election would be good for large businesses, as he would bring no repressions. He even expressed doubt in late 2003 about the "legal effectiveness" of arresting the shares of embattled oil major Yukos and cautioned the law-enforcement authorities: "The consequences of immature decisions could affect the economy."
Medvedev's nomination will also put an end to the talk of a "velvet re-privatization," said Alexander Shokhin, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.
Surgutneftegaz chairman Nikolai Zakharchenko said hardly anything would change for his company if Medvedev became president. On the other hand, he expects a different candidate to emerge right before the vote.
Medvedev's taking over will contribute to the capitalization of sectors which depend on reform and liberalization - power generation, natural gas production, banking and telecommunications, said the managing director of Aton Brokerage, Steven Dashevsky.
Medvedev, [who has headed Gazprom's board for the past five years], has kept his distance from business for a long time and has never been noticed lobbying anyone but Gazprom, he went on.
He seems on good terms with everyone, and has never openly lobbied against anyone's interests, a Kremlin source told Vedomosti.


Russia will not ally with the West on Kosovo

Following the United States, the European Union has finally made up its mind on the status of Kosovo. The further course of events is not difficult to forecast - Pristina will declare its "state sovereignty" and separation from Serbia. The U.S., EU and some non-allied Balkan countries will recognize its sovereignty immediately. But then Russia will step forward. It is down to Russia whether or not the UN Security Council endorses Kosovo's independence, just as it is in the issue of the rebel province being recognized "in an individual manner."
All the West's attempts to influence Moscow and persuade it to join the common viewpoint have failed. In private conversations, the usually restrained European diplomats are not hiding their irritation: what sense is there in resisting when everything is decided, and Kosovo's independence is a foregone conclusion?
But these arguments do not embarrass Russia. You have decided everything for yourselves and are trying to convince us of your truth. But you cannot, because you lack arguments.
Why should Russia unreservedly accept the strange formula saying that Kosovo is a unique case and Serbs in Bosnia, or Abkhazia, or Transdnestr, or Nagorny Karabakh not unique?
Why should Russia follow the West in shutting its eyes to the danger posed by Albanian nationalism to the region and the whole of Europe. Today we have Kosovo. Tomorrow it could be Albanian-populated areas in southern Serbia (Presevo, Medvedja, or Bujanovac). The day after tomorrow it could be Macedonia, where the Albanian "liberation army" has already once brought matters to a civil war. Montenegro, too, has Albanian pockets - where is the guarantee that they will never determine to uphold their "sovereignty" with weapons in their hands?
Why, lastly, is it possible to dismember Serbia and never Kosovo? Why not discuss quite a logical option - separation from the province of the part of Mitrovica populated by Serbs and adjoining Serbia?
There are too many questions without answers. You do not want to pause and think? You need not. You prefer to indulge in illusions? You are welcome. But do not make Russia rubberstamp resolutions it considers mistaken and unjust.
Russia need not be courted as an ally. It will not carry out a mercy strike on Serbia. But nor will it encourage aggressive separatism.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Algeria refuses to cooperate with Gazprom

Sonatrach, the largest Algerian state-controlled energy corporation, has announced that it has cancelled its agreements with the Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom. Experts are convinced that the idea of establishing a gas OPEC that Russia has tried to scare Europe with has proved unfeasible.
The memorandum of understanding signed by the two companies in early March 2006 envisaged an asset swap in gas exploration and production, the establishment of a joint venture, participation in tenders for oil and gas exploration and production, exchange of information on projects, etc.
The memorandum alarmed the European Union, which regarded it as a step towards establishing a gas OPEC. Experts painted gloomy pictures whereby Gazprom and Sonatrach, accounting for up to 40% of the EU's total gas consumption, would dictate their prices.
Experts say that the sides expected different results from their cooperation: Gazprom was captivated by ambitious ideas of creating a "South European gas ring" and a gas OPEC, while Sonatrach wanted concrete results from cooperation on the liquefied natural gas market.
"What is not clear is whether Moscow really believed that this project could be implemented, or it used it as a 'horror story' for the European Union in order to exert pressure on it and get access to the European energy sector," said Alexander Shtok, head of the Due Diligence department at the 2K Audit - Business Consultations company. "Judging by all the signs, Sonatrach does not want to tease the EU any longer."
"The fact that Algeria has cancelled the memorandum shows that the country wants to publicly give up both Gazprom and the very idea of a gas cartel," Shtok said.
Last week, Algeria signed a new agreement with the major French oil company Total, assuming an obligation to supply liquefied natural gas to it until 2019. In addition, Sonatrach is building two new gas pipelines across the Mediterranean seabed, which will allow Algeria to increase its piped gas supplies to Europe by 50%.


Russian oil companies to finance ESPO pipeline

The construction of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline will have to be financed by all of Russia's oil companies, including those operating in other regions.
A working group of the national Industry and Energy Ministry has started calculating cost-effective oil export tariffs for western and eastern routes.
Industry experts said all the oil companies would have to spend more on fuel transportation, but that pipeline monopoly Transneft would recoup construction expenses.
Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said the projected ESPO pipeline would turn Transneft into a diversified oil exporter. He said oil export tariffs would guarantee equal expenses for companies transporting oil to Kozmino on the Pacific coast, Primorsk (Leningrad Region) or Novorossiysk on the Black Sea coast.
The Industry and Energy Ministry said the afore-mentioned tariffs would subsidize some export routes at the expense of others.
Industry experts were not surprised by such plans.
Troika Dialog analyst Valery Nesterov said all the oil companies, including those operating in other regions, would have to finance the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline because of exorbitant tariffs needed to recoup the project.
Alfa Bank analyst Konstantin Batunin said projected tariffs would increase the expenses of oil companies in other regions, but that Transneft would recoup project expenses.
Nesterov said Rosneft, the largest state-owned oil company, could save money as a result. This June, former Transneft CEO Semyon Vainshtok said the company would provide 25 million out of 30 million metric tons, due to be pumped by the new pipeline.
It appears that Rosneft would spend less under the new tariff than it does today.

Vremya Novostei

2008 will beat records for Russians buying real estate in Britain

A real ancient Anglican church was put on sale in London not so long ago, after having been converted to an 'elite estate'. According to realtors, some big-time Moscow businessmen made tentative bids.
The developers have divided the interior space of the architectural monument, which is on the protected list, into ten levels. The house has three bedrooms, and as many bathrooms and drawing rooms.
The building is provided with an elevator which takes guests up to a remarkable observation platform. The price of the new elite piece of real estate is 4.5 million pounds sterling (more than $9 million).
"It is one of the rare offers on the market that interest Russian clients," said Vasily Myadlets, general director of a realtor agency catering to buyers from CIS countries.
While for millions of Britons mortgages are becoming an unbearable burden, rich foreigners are rubbing their hands.
Halcyon days are beginning for those arriving in London with fat wallets and paying for real estate in cash. And first in the queue are wealthy Russians whose flow to Albion's shores never slackens.
According to leading British realtor agencies, more than a thousand Russian passport-holders purchased upmarket real estate in the country in 2007. But there is also downmarket real estate, costing less than 750,000 pounds (under $1.5 million). It also sometimes passes into the hands of those hailing from Russia.
Pete Crawford, a spokesman for Remax, a large realtor agency, expects 2008-2009 to be record years for Russian purchasers. The uncertainty surrounding a new figure in the Kremlin, he said, and falling prices on British real estate were a fine breeding ground for deals with Russians.

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