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In the Guardian in a comment posted by opposition leader and blogger http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/11/vladimir-putin-alaexei-navalny-corruption, Alexei Navalny points out how he has been targeted for his opposition to President Vladimir Putin. Some people comment that he deserves this treatment for opposing Putin, for holding what would appear to be nationalist views. However, the commentators fail to justify the onslaught on members of his family, who have been arrested or subject to other forms of pressure. Why are they being pressurised? What crime have they committed?

Have they been siphoning off state assets abroad, embezzling state assets? No. The Kremlin elite has. However, they are not sanctioned in the world of hypocrisy typifying the Russian oligarchs and bureaucrats, from the servile State Duma and Council of the Federation to the  obedient police, military, KGB, regional authorities.

Whatever his views, if Navalny does go to jail, this will provide further proof that this regime has lost its bearings and has put self-interest before society and common sense.

 

Observer journalist Anita Sethi posted an excellent review on one of my favourite works of literature, Notes from the Underground – Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky – review. This has always been an underappreciated and little-known novella penned by Fyodor Dostoevsky before he wrote the classics – Crime and Punishment, Idiot and Brothers Karamazov. The review concerns a new English translation of the novella and erudite introduction from DBC Pierre.

It is a pity that the work has been ignored so much by both Western and Russian audiences, as Dostoevsky not only lays down the framework for the ideas in subsequent novels, but also goes further in exploring the mind.

The novella also manages to cover such a wide range of issues – the desire for a utopia and the simultaneous desire to destroy this utopia, as man finds perfection unbearable to hold (example of Crystal Palace) ; the endless possibilities of technology and the way they can be used to cause more havoc – the better the technology, the greater the death caused through military action; the yearning for independence and freedom contrasted with the desire for some kind of security and state support; free will and existentialism; and many other ideas, including enlightened self-interest.

As reported in the Russian business daily Kommersant on 14 November 2012, the AAR Consortium (Alfa Group, Access and Renova) has reached an out-of-court settlement with former TNK-BP partner BP over the later’s breach of the shareholder agreement when it talked to Rosneft about a possible partnership, bypassing TNK-BP. At one stage, it had looked as if BP might be forced to pay out billions to its former partner AAR, or at least spend considerable amounts on expensive law firms to defer such payments. Now AAR has agreed the payment of USD 325 million, which looks like a bargain by comparison.

At the same time, in the end BP has ended up getting what it wants – creating a partnership with Rosneft separately from TNK-BP and by association AAR. BP has also made a significant amount from its exit from TNK-BP. This deal with AAR provides closure on an eventful partnership with AAR which will for the time being partner Rosneft at TNK-BP, presumably once AAR and BP have taken out dividends from the company.

 

According to the Russian business daily Kommersant (12 November 2012) citing data from the Association of European Businesses, new car sales were up 5 per cent on average in October 2012 compared to the same period in 2011 to 253,732 units, 12,804 units more than in October 2011. This represents a slowdown compared to the first nine months of the year, where sales were up 14 per cent compared to the same period in 2011.

Chairman of the Automobile Manufacturers Committee Jorg Schreiber attributes the slowdown to a “cool down in consumer appetite.” Dealers also anticipate a slowdown.  Although prices may rise in the run-up to the New Year and various sales, the slowdown is likely to continue in the future, due to a reduction in purchasing power, rising interest rates and uncertainty in the economy.

According to Reuters (11 November 2012), Uralkali has sold convertible bonds to Chengdong Investment Corporation and VTB Group worth an estimated USD 3 billion. The bonds, which mature in 2014,may subsequently be converted into shares, equivalent to 14.5 per cent of the potash producer.

Chengdong Investment Corporation is a subsidiary of Chinese Investment Corporation, a sovereign wealth fund. If converted into shares, Chinese Investment Corporation could end up owning 12.5 percent of Uralkali, with VTB receiving a 2 per cent interest.

The bonds were sold by four of Uralkali’s main shareholders owing over 45 per cent of the potash producer – Suleiman Kerimov (18 per cent), Filaret Galtchev (10.83 percent) and Zelikhman Mutsoev (8.3 per cent) and Anatoly Skurov (8.01 per cent).

Alexander Nesis, who owns 9.94 per cent of the potash producer, did not participate in the bond transaction.

Uralkali merged with another Russian potash producer Silvinit in 2011.

As reported in The Guardian on 9 November 2012, opposition activist Maxim Luzyanin has been sentenced by a Moscow court to a four and a half year prison term for participating in “mass unrest” in the Bolotnaya Square protest on 6 May 2012 against the election of Vladimir Putin as Russian President for an unprecedented third term.

This is the first time that an opposition activist has been handed down a severe prison sentence. Opposition leaders fear that this could mark the start of a new trend to any challenges to the current regime.

 

According to Russian business daily Kommersant (8 November 2012), it would appear that the longstanding conflict between the Moscow authorities and Shalva Chigirinsky is close to resolution. The Federal Antimonopoly Service has granted the petition of GAO Moskva owned by the Moscow authorities relating to the purchase of the company ST Development, which had been reconstructing Hotel Rossiya since 2004.

ST Development, owned by Chigirinsky, had won the tender to reconstruct Hotel Rossiya, only to subsequently lose out to a competitor, which successfully contested in court the company’s right to carry out the reconstruction. Since then Chigirinsky has sought to recover losses form the Moscow authorities amounting to an estimated RUB 4.8 billion.

The acquisition of ST Development would appear to a solution aimed at resolving outstanding litigation once and for all.