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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1516

No surprises on election day;
A growing Russian footprint in the Middle East

Edited by Jonas Bernstein
December 5, 2007

November 30:

Oleg Shvartsman, the head of a conglomerate called Finansgroup, has told Kommersant that his company manages the assets of relatives of presidential administration officials and members of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) through companies registered in Cyprus and other offshore havens. Shvartsman said his company is also creating an entity called “Social Investments” that will become a state corporation and carry out what he called “velvet re-privatization” in the interests of such state entities as Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state arms trader. According to Schvartsman, this project is being carried out at the behest of the “power bloc” headed by Kremlin deputy administration chief Igor Sechin.

Former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Mikhail Trepashkin has said an FSB official told him in 2002 that a group was being set up to “wipe out” dissident ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko and the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, Reuters reports. Litvinenko died of radiation poisoning in London last year. Trepashkin has been released from prison after serving four years for revealing state secrets and illegally possessing ammunition – charges he says were trumped up in revenge for his probe into allegations that the FSB was behind the 1999 apartment building bombings in Moscow and other cities that killed nearly 300 people.

December 2:

Russians have gone to the polls to vote in the State Duma election, reports. According to the Central Election Commission, with 85 percent of the ballots counted, the pro-Kremlin United Russia party is in first place, with 63.3 percent of the vote, followed the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (11.7 percent), Vladimir Zhirinvosky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (8.4 percent) and A Just Russia, the other main pro-Kremlin party (8.0 percent).

December 3:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has hailed United Russia’a landslide election victory as a validation of his leadership, the Associated Press reports. “Of course it’s a sign of trust,” Putin said in televised remarks. European monitoring groups, however, say the vote was not fair. “These elections failed to meet many of the commitments and standards we have in the OSCE and Council of Europe,” AFX News Limited quotes Goran Lennmarker, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as telling reporters in Moscow. “Merging of the state and a political party is an abuse of power and clear violation of international standards.”

December 4:

President Bush has said in a White House news conference that he told President Putin in a phone conversation that “we were sincere in our expressions of concern” about the State Duma election, Agence France-Presse reports. White House national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe said earlier that the White House had expressed concern about “the use of state administrative resources in support of United Russia,” as well as the bias of state-owned or influenced media in favor of United Russia, intimidation of political opposition and the lack of equal opportunity encountered by opposition candidates and parties.

December 5:

The BBC reports that Russia is planning naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in what it says is a bid to boost its presence and protect shipping. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said battleships, helicopters and aircraft would take part in a range of maneuvers, due to end in February. According to a Kremlin transcript, Serdyukov told President Putin that the “aim of the sorties is to ensure a naval presence in tactically important regions of the world’s oceans” and that Russia’s Black Sea fleet would monitor the Mediterranean while its Northern Fleet would operate in the Atlantic.

Related Categories: Russia; Military

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