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    MOSCOW, September 16 - RIA Novosti

    Vremya Novostei

    Shooting Resumes After Two Weeks of Quiet in Georgian-South Ossetian Conflict Zone

    Over the weekend the South Ossetian side fired on the Georgian villages of Eredvi and Tamarasheni, while yesterday it was the Georgians who made their mark. Irina Gagloeva, chair of the information committee of the self-proclaimed republic, told Vremya Novostei that mortar fire was opened at dawn against South Ossetian villages. "Tskhinvali views this as a continuation of Georgian aggression in the form of psychological pressure," she said.

    The information was confirmed by Colonel Andrei Pryakhin, an aide to the commander of the mixed peace-keeping force in the zone of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. He added that a few hours before the shooting started Georgia's Defence Minister Georgy Baramidze had been in the conflict zone. In the self-same village of Tamarasheni he had his first meeting with Major-General Marat Kulakhmetov, the new commander of the force.

    According to Anatoly Barankevich, South Ossetia's Defence Minister, someone had decided to use yesterday's fire to provoke the South Ossetian side to return in kind and to demonstrate to Baramidze that "we make violations and an additional Georgian contingent needs to be introduced".


    Samara Governor To Be Used As Human Guinea-Pig To Test New Scheme for Electing Regional Heads?

    Yesterday the Supreme Court postponed until September 27 examination of a supervisory complaint from the Central Election Committee challenging the calling by the local court for September 19 of the election of Samara regional governor Konstantin Titov. The official reason for putting off the consideration of the complaint was the illness of a CEC representative. Candidates for the post of governor consider that the election may not take place at all, and head of the region will be chosen by deputies of the regional parliament.

    Such a development of events did not surprise either analysts or potential candidates for governorship. "I knew beforehand that this may happen," State Duma deputy Viktor Kazakov told Kommersant. In his view, the election will take place next year under the scheme proposed a few days ago by President Vladimir Putin. "I believe matters point to a postponement of the election until the next year," was the suggestion made by Deputy Vladimir Mokry. "Looking at the situation that emerged in the country over the past two to three days, it can be supposed that the Central Election Committee deliberately took time out to sort things and decide which system of election it is going to back."

    A ranking source in the Samara regional government assumed that "a new governor of the region is most likely to be elected by deputies of the regional parliament". "The Samara region looks a very convenient place for the trial of the new scheme. The term for which Titov has been elected has already ran out, but no election date has been fixed. I do not rule out that a new governor will be recommended from above by way of experiment, without waiting for amendments to the law," the source summed up.


    Gazprom Management Will Have Difficulties in Absorbing Rosneft - Experts

    The principal details of Rosneft absorption will be examined by Gazprom's board of directors at their nearest meeting, on September 28. A working group for the second stage of Gazprom reform has been given two weeks to draft a detailed plan of the deal, which Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller proposes to complete by the start of 2005. But, Vedomosti says, experts and officials say in unison that the deal may not pass off as smoothly as the Gazprom management would like it to.

    To begin with, notes Viktor Topadze, a legal expert from Gide Loyrette Nouel, when selling its own shares - whatever the payment for them - Gazprom is certain to pay a hefty tax on profits. "When the question of absorbing Rosneft cameup for discussion, the tax schemes were not given a close study. But then it emerged that the tax may be as high as about $1 billion," the source close to the deal acknowledged.

    Second, there is a potential threat of default on the part of Rosneft creditors. Yelena Anankina, a Standard & Poor's analyst, explains that it is incomprehensible as yet what are the Rosneft liabilities that Gazprom will assume and whether Rosneft creditors will enjoy the same status as Gazprom creditors. A source close to one of the banks that is a Rosneft creditor explains that theoretically the lenders are entitled to demand an early redemption of the credit under the force majeure circumstances which also include actions by bodies of power.

    Finally, experts note, minority shareholders of Rosneft subsidiaries may forward claims. For example, they may protest the evaluation of the oil company required for the transfer of its shares into Gazprom ownership.

    Noviye Izvestia

    UN experts warn that Russia's Population May Shrink by 40 Million by 2050

    The United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA) presented its annual report in Moscow yesterday. The latest demographic measurements in Russia brought a quite expected sensation as they showed that men's average life span in Russia was 60 years, writes Noviye Izvestia. Russia is thereby dragging behind the industrialised countries, as well as many Third World countries.

    Entire Northern Africa, some countries in Eastern Africa, nearly the whole of the Asian region and entire Europe and America have approached the figure of 70 years. Only women reach the age of 70 in Russia. "Men's lives are by 10-15 years shorter than women's in Russia," said Anatoly Vishnevsky, Director of the Centre for Demography and Human Environment, who contributed to preparing the report. "Male mortality has kept growing here over the past 40 years," said Mr Vishnevsky.

    UN experts' general forecast for Russia is also alarming. The country's population will shrink to 100 million by 2050 compared to the current 140 million. Experts urge measures to resolve the problem. UN experts believe receiving immigrants in Russia en masse is the most appropriate solution. However, they admit that under the circumstances Russia will not open its doors to all immigrants without exception. This means that birth rate has to be promoted. This is not an easy solution either as twice as many children, compared to the current rate of 1.3 children, will have to be borne.

    Nezavisimaya Gazeta

    Igor Yurgens: oligarchs do not expect favours as the government steps up efforts against terrorism

    Igor Yurgens, Vice-President of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, offered his forecasts for the prospects of dialogue between the state and business in an interview with Nezavisiamaya Gazeta.

    Mr Yurgens said none of the countries fighting terrorism had succeeded in simultaneously promoting democracy. Therefore, until Russia has overcome the pinnacle of terrorism it will not return to the modernisation strategy based on purely liberal, free market principles.

    In comments on the YUKOS affair and the hints of the newspaper's Kremlin sources that there are lists of companies that are facing the oil major's plight, Mr Yurgens said that any company whatsoever is not immune to prosecution. The YUKOS affair is scandalous as the Audit Chamber, tax authorities and dozens of other bodies audited the company 5-6 times in the time periods for which it had been accused of underpaying taxes and revealed that the oil giant's activities fell in line with law that provided for some loopholes, something which is typical of every economy of the original accumulation period.

    When asked whether business might be interested in financing new political parties, Mr Yurgens said small and medium business might be interested in that. "Big business of the federal level, mega holdings will only fund the ruling parties, or rather they will be forced to as major businessmen remember what happened to Khodorkovsky," said Mr Yurgens.

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