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Main news of February 19

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RUSSIA

* Russia imposed temporary restrictions on wheat exports to Belarus and Kazakhstan due to attempts to re-export its grain produce through these countries, the agriculture minister said

* A Moscow court found Russia's former nuclear energy minister, Yevgeny Adamov, guilty of fraud and abuse of authority

* Russia's largest independent gas producer Novatek is set to increase its share in Russian gas production to 40% in the next five years, Novatek's Chief Finance Officer Mark Gyetvay said

* Natalia Bessmertnova, the legendary Soviet prima ballerina, died at the age of 66, the Bolshoi theatre's press service said  

* Four and five star hotel rooms in the Russian capital are the most expensive on the planet, with a one-night stay costing an average of $483, according to the annual HRG Hotel Survey

WORLD

* Fidel Castro announced he will step down as Cuba's president after almost 50 years in power, the Granma daily said 

* Belgrade recalled its ambassador from the U.S. over Washington's recognition of Kosovo, as the rift among the international community deepened

* The Serbian foreign minister called on the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to condemn Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence

* Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisyan garnered 57.01% in presidential exit polls

* The Palestinian prime minister called for the pace of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to be stepped up if a deal is to be reached by the end of 2008 as planned

* Israel deployed Patriot air-defense missiles near Haifa following Hezbollah's threat to start an all-out war over the killing of terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyah, the Haaretz daily said

* Kazakhstan intends to double oil production by 2015 up to 120-130 million metric tons (about 880-950 million bbl) per year, a Kazakh energy and mineral resources vice minister said

BUSINESS 

* Gazprom reached an agreement with Iranian authorities for its crude producing arm to be involved in oil production in the Islamic Republic, the Russian energy giant said

* Russia's largest crude producer Rosneft is set to spend around $1 billion on hydrocarbon exploration of the western Kamchatka shelf in Far Eastern Russia, a company executive said

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