Russian Press - Behind the Headlines, October 24

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Russian Press - Behind the Headlines - Sputnik International
Russian Riot Police Gets Personalized Domain Name / Three Ways to Effect Regime Change in Russia / TNK-BP Minority Shareholders Invited to Join Rosneft


Russian Riot Police Gets Personalized Domain Name

The Moscow OMON riot police received an unusual present for its 25th anniversary, the personalized domain name The squad plans to use it to create its own social network to discuss various issues, play educational games and leave comments about the police service or the squad’s operations. There are plans to connect the websites of the regional OMON units to the new domain.

The name was registered back in 2000 by a private individual. Representatives of domain name registrar bought it recently and re-registered it to the Moscow OMON squad on October 23.

“We need to increase the prestige of police work, including through social sites,” co-owner of Filipp Gross-Dneprov told Izvestia. “We must show that these guys are risking their lives and demonstrate how tough their training is: mastering hand-to-hand combat skills, storming buildings and holding tactical drills.”

Gross-Dneprov said OMON should find interesting content for its website, post its own materials about the squad and create memorial pages for their deceased colleagues.

The squad likes its present and is discussing its possible uses, according to the Special Purpose Center for Rapid Deployment Forces of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Moscow,.

“We plan to create a multifunctional website,” the OMON policemen told Izvestia. “It will probably have a forum for OMON members and educational games for other visitors. Muscovites will be able to play at being an OMON policeman, learning hand-to-hand combat skills and the legal aspects of our work, or trying to detain a criminal.”

Experts and policemen are discussing the new website. One of the favored options is to create an OMON social network.

“A Facebook or Twitter analogue can be created on any site,” Gross-Dneprov said.

The OMON site could also be used to poll policemen.

“Some Interior Ministry units recently discussed the idea of creating corporate websites for polling policemen, asking them what they dislike about their work and what problems they have,” said Yaroslav Svintsov, member of the public council of the Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for the Central Federal District. “I think that this function could be also added to the website.”

Svintsov said any poll should be anonymous to preclude any pressure being put on policemen and their results should be forwarded directly to departmental or unit superiors.

According to Izvestia, third-level domain names are likely to be registered for all OMON units, where the name of the region will come before

OMON policemen told Izvestia that they want to create their own social network and cited the examples of Twitter and LiveJournal groups, which they regularly visit. Many of them are registered with the VKontakte and Odnoklassniki sites, but under assumed names because their superiors have warned them against registering under their own names. For the same reason, they never discuss service issues or post their photographs on social sites.


Three Ways to Effect Regime Change in Russia

Many Russians are unhappy with the current government but see no legitimate ways to change it, the nonprofit Center for Strategic Research reported.

The decline in protest activity is temporary, as increasing loss of confidence in the government and annoyance with President Vladimir Putin can be sensed in all sections of the population, the CSR concluded as a result of a large-scale socio-psychological study ordered by the Committee of Civil Initiatives led by Alexei Kudrin. Although this activity can be suppressed for a time, it is unlikely to change people’s underlying beliefs.

Most respondents believe there have been no significant achievements during Putin’s rule – only repeated promises. PR stunts cannot boost Putin’s popularity anymore; the Internet is becoming the main source of information for many, while TV propaganda is lost on the middle class, the CSR said. Other official agencies are losing public confidence too, as is the United Russia party. However, the opposition does not enjoy public confidence either, with its lack of a clear policy agenda. Experts predict a delineation of ideologies along with a new wave of protest.

There is a growing sentiment that there is no legitimate way of replacing the government because the electoral process has been discredited. Focus group participants discussed revolution – something which was not observed last spring – but said that an armed uprising remains unlikely.

Of the three options left, the most likely scenario is mass civil disobedience, which would have unpredictable consequences. The second is a voluntary government reshuffle – not necessarily the president’s resignation, but possibly a replacement of the unpopular Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The third is a rapid degradation of the population, extinction of the nation, something the existing government is leading the country to, the CSR experts conclude.

CSR President Mikhail Dmitriyev said he cannot predict when new protests will arise or what form they will take, but they could be triggered by the worsening economic situation.

For Alexei Kudrin, the flagging confidence in the electoral process means this is a bad time to form a political party: his committee should focus instead on lobbying for “more adequate policies,” interaction between government and society and the replacement of ineffective officials.

A social explosion is possible if there are no channels for venting public discontent, said Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin. People won’t commit acts of civil disobedience – they’ll just go and smash up the local administrations.

The surveys only suggest Russia has emerged from a big electoral cycle and is heading for political demobilization and stabilization of the government’s popularity ratings, said Dmitry Badovsky, head of the Institute for Social Systems, the official think tank of Putin’s Popular Front. Further developments will depend on the global economic situation. In the worst-case scenario, the middle class might realize that they need to work harder and support the government, he added.

There are obvious destructive trends within the protest movement, so there is no reason to worry, a Kremlin official said.


TNK-BP Minority Shareholders Invited to Join Rosneft

Their securities can be converted into shares of the state-owned oil company.

Uncertainty about the future of TNK-BP dividends after the sale of the company to Rosneft has sent its shares plunging. Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin announced that all TNK-BP funds will be used to repay the company’s debts. This could also be done through dividends, in which case TNK-BP minority shareholders would be able to receive them in full. But there is an alternative scheme whereby Rosneft would receive money through loans and shareholders would be left with nothing. The buying out of their stakes is not under consideration yet, but Kommersant sources say the securities of minority shareholders could be converted into Rosneft shares.

Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin yesterday held a conference call where he outlined the company’s next steps in the acquisition of TNK-BP (its stock is being bought out from BP and AAR for $55 billion in cash plus Rosneft stock). To finance the deal, he said, Rosneft could sell its non-core assets. The company has all but abandoned plans to build an oil refinery in the Moscow Region.

But the issue of TNK-BP dividends remains the key one. Sechin said only that the dividends “will be directed towards easing the debt burden,” adding that Rosneft will be guided by the interests of its shareholders (Rosneftegaz owns a 75 percent stake in the company) and leave its own dividends at their old level – 25 percent of net profits according to International Financial Reporting Standards.

As a result, in yesterday’s trading TNK-BP shares fell by 16.6 percent (ordinary stock) and by 17.6 percent (preferred).

In purchasing 100 percent of TNK-BP Ltd, Rosneft is also, through its subsidiary, acquiring 95 percent of TNK-BP Holding, the owner of the company’s Russian assets. The rest is owned by minority shareholders or is freely traded on the stock exchange. TNK-BP dividends have until now been among the highest in the sector.

Theoretically, Rosneft could obtain the money to meet TNK-BP debts through dividends, as former shareholders did. In that case, minority shareholders would receive their shares. However, Rosneft could transfer profits from TNK-BP Holding to TNK-BP Ltd via loans, bypassing minority shareholders, says Vitaly Kryukov from IFD-Kapital. The buying out of their shares is out of the question for now, Sechin said yesterday. “We have not discussed the issue with anyone,” he explained.

He also suggested that TNK-BP minority shareholders should become Rosneft shareholders. “We will do our best to keep you happy,” he said.

A source close to one minority shareholder told Kommersant that Rosneft has already offered minority shareholders the option of converting their shares into Rosneft shares. The conversion factor will be made public at the beginning of 2013, he said, and will be based on the average weighted trading price over the last six months, while the conversion will take place in May, six months after the acquisition deal was announced. Yet compared with the deal price, the proposal to exchange shares at market prices looks unprofitable.

RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.


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