Digest of headline news as of 3:30 p.m. Moscow time on August 20:
BUSINESS & FINANCE
*** SURKOV TO RETURN TO KREMLIN - NEWSPAPER
Former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vladislav Surkov has agreed to take the position of presidential aide for innovations, the Izvestia daily reported on Tuesday citing its sources with the Russian government.
"Surkov has lately been interested in these issues: innovations, modernization and so on. These are the tasks he will tackle as a presidential aide. Probably, his previous position as deputy prime minister was higher but the new position better suits both Vladislav and the country's leadership," one source with the Russian government said.
*** OVER 100 BUSINESSMEN RELEASED UNDER ECONOMIC AMNESTY
A total of 107 people have been released under the so-called economic amnesty in Russia, the press service of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) told Interfax.
"In conjunction with the State Duma resolution on an amnesty dated July 2, 2013, 58 probationers and 11 people from prisons were released. Moreover, 38 people kept in pretrial detention centers were released in line with decisions made by either the investigators or judges," the press service reported.
*** RUSSIAN CONSOLIDATED BUDGET SURPLUS 535.3 BLN RUBLES IN H1 - TREASURY
Russia posted a consolidated budget surplus of 535.3 billion rubles in the first half of this year, according to the Federal Treasury website.
*** SAYANO-SHUSHENSKAYA HPP TO INCREASE WATER DISCHARGE, NO THREAT OF FLOODS - MINISTRY
The Sayano-Shushenskaya Hydro-electric Power Plant (HPP) might step up water discharge to 5,000 cubic meters per second because of rising inflows of water, the regional Emergency Situations Ministry reported.
"There's no threat or forecast of flooding in populated areas," the statement said.
The heightened inflow of water is connected with heavy rainfall in Tuva.
*** GAZPROM NEFT BUYS BUNKER COMPANY IN ESTONIA
Gazprom Neft Marine Bunker, which operates Gazprom Neft's bunker business, has purchased Estonian bunker company AS Baltic Marine Bunker from AS NT Marine, Gazprom Neft reported.
AS Baltic Marine Bunker owns a refueling ship with total deadweight of 2,786 tonnes designed to bunker both dark and light types of ship fuel.
*** RUSSIAN GRIDS TO STEP UP FLOOD PROTECTION FOR SUBSTATIONS IN FAR EAST
Russian Grids chief executive Oleg Budargin has given orders to strengthen flood protection for substations in the Far East, the press service of Main Power Grids of the East (MES Vostoka), a branch of Federal Grid Company (FGC), reported.
Budargin, speaking at an expanded company headquarters meeting, noted the stability of the company's power grid infrastructure in regions hit by flooding, but said it was necessary to constantly monitor the reliability of systems and conduct regular inspections of power lines and other infrastructure despite the fact that flood waters are beginning to recede in a number of areas.
*** EVRAZ TO INVEST OVER $70 MLN TO DEVELOP TWO YUZHKUZBASSUGOL MINES BY 2016
The Evraz Group will invest over $70 million in the development of the Uskovskaya and Alardinskaya Mines, which are part of Kemerovo region-based OJSC Yuzhkuzbassugol United Coal Company, until 2016, the group's Siberian regional corporate relations center reported.
"These investment projects will help develop the enterprises through the use of new blocks, as well as raise the efficiency of coal production," the center said in a statement.
In particular, these projects will ensure that the Uskovskaya Mine operates without interruption by 2026 and that the Alardinskaya Mine does so by 2030. Evraz plans to finish the projects and commission the first longwalls in 2015.
*** EVRAZ TO SUSPEND PRODUCTION AT ITALIAN PLANT
Evraz plc, one of Russia's biggest steelmakers, is suspending production at its Italian plant Palini e Bertoli as of August 20.
The shutdown is due to the unfavorable market environment, the company said earlier.
The shutdown will last at least until the end of October. The company said that all deliveries under the plant's existing order book will be made on time.
*** ALROSA SELLS OVER $750,000 IN DIAMONDS AT FIRST TENDER IN SHANGHAI
Alrosa sold rough diamonds worth $505,362 and polished diamonds worth $245,389 in its first tender on the Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDE), the company said on Tuesday.
The trading is being conducted under a memorandum of cooperation Alrosa and SDE concluded in April 2013.
Thirty-five companies took part in the inspection session for the tender.
*** POWER MACHINES TO BEGIN MANUFACTURING EQUIPMENT FOR NUCLEAR PLANT IN BELARUS
Power Machines plans to begin manufacturing the first turbine for a nuclear power plant being built in Belarus, Igor Koshcheev, the head of a subsidiary, Leningradsky Metallichesky Zavod (LMZ), told journalists on Tuesday.
"We are completing preparations for production before the end of December this year and will begin manufacturing the first machine this September," he said, adding that the two processes would proceed in parallel.
Power Machines won the contract, worth more than $750 million, to deliver turbines for the nuclear plant in Belarus.
*** ROSTELECOM TO SELECT MNP EQUIPMENT SUPPLIERS BY MID-SEPT, TO SPEND UP TO 944 MLN RUBLES
Rostelecom, Russia's national telecommunications provider, has called a tender for contractors for the technical implementation of mobile number portability (MNP) services on its mobile phone networks.
The tender includes two lots totalling a maximum of 944 million rubles, one worth up to 826 million rubles and the other 118 million rubles, company materials show.
The winner of the first lot will supply SRF signal routing equipment, a number portability database (NPDB) and a local service management system (LSMS). The supplier will also install, set up and test the equipment, and providing servicing.
*** GAZPROM MULLS STRATEGY FOR GAZPROM AVIA, CONSIDERS SELLING ASSETS
Russian gas giant Gazprom is reviewing the development strategy for its aviation assets.
The study the company is conducting could result in the sale of some of these assets and outsourcing of some roles, as has already been done with businesses in the areas of finance, construction and drilling.
*** RAZGULAY CO-OWNER TO OPEN FIVE PIG FARMS IN BASHKORTOSTAN FOR 12.5 BLN RUBLES IN 2015
Investment fund AVG Capital Partners, which was created by investment company Avangard Asset Management, will open five pig farming complexes in Bashkortostan in 2015 with combined capacity to produce and process 70,000 tonnes per year at a cost of 12.5 billion rubles, Tavros Managing Company, the operator of the project, said in a press release.
More than 3.7 billion rubles have been spent on the project so far, and investments will top 5 billion rubles by the end of this year. Russia's Vnesheconombank (VEB) is offering financial support in three sets.
*** ROSSIYSKIY KREDIT ACQUIRES STAKE IN PENSION FUND, INSURANCE COMPANY FROM BORIS JORDAN
Rossiyskiy Kredit Bank has acquired stakes in two enterprises from Boris Jordan's Sputnik Group: the nongovernmental pension fund Renaissance Life and Pension and insurance company Renaissance Life.
Prior to the deal, Sputnik had purchased the 30% stakes in the two companies held by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Jordan told the business daily Vedomosti.
Sputnik remains the majority shareholder and managing partner for both businesses, Sputnik Managing Director Sergei Ryabtsov told Vedomosti.
*** TURKMENISTAN, JAPAN LOOK TO STEP UP COOPERATION IN OIL, GAS SECTOR
During a visit to Japan, a Turkmen governmental delegation is looking to sign a series of documents concerning cooperation in the oil and gas sector.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was briefed on the preparation of these documents by Deputy Prime Minister Baimyrat Khodzhamukhammedov, who oversees the sector, at a working selector meeting. This meeting was broadcast on local television Monday evening.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
*** LAVROV TO MEET WITH CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR THURSDAY
MOSCOW. Aug 20 (Interfax) - Head of the Palestinian delegation to the negotiations with Israel, Saeb Erekat, will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on August 22 to discuss the peace talks' progress.
"Mr. Erekat will be visiting Moscow on Thursday. He will hold negotiations with Mr. Lavrov," Palestinian Ambassador in Moscow Fayed Mustafa told Interfax on Tuesday.
He said the interlocutors "would concentrate on the latest developments in the Middle East peace process."
*** PEACE BETWEEN AFGHAN AUTHORITIES, TALIBAN UNLIKELY IN NEAR FUTURE - RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR
Russia does not expect quick achievement of peace between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban and suspects the possibility of a civil war after the coalition pullout in 2014, Russian Ambassador in Kabul Andrei Avetisian said.
"I do not think peace accords may be attained shortly but if the dialogue starts and the process develops that would be a great achievement," he told Interfax on Tuesday.
As to whether or not a civil war may break out in Afghanistan after 2014, the diplomat said, "It would be extremely difficult to make any forecast now. We are considering a scenario of national reconciliation, which would be the best possible scenario, and we also have to consider the worst-case scenario, especially as such things have happened in the history of Afghanistan before."
*** MIG-35 PURCHASES FOR RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DELAYED OVER INDUSTRY'S UNPREPAREDNESS - DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yury Borisov has blamed the industry's unpreparedness for the decision to reschedule the acquisition of 37 MiG-35 fighter jets for the Russian Armed Forces from 2013 until 2016.
"We have decided to postpone the acquisitions of MiG-35 planes until 2016. So far, we will buy 16 MiG-29SMT planes," Borisov said, denying reports that the MiG-35 purchases were postponed by three years at the Russian Finance Ministry's request.
"The Finance Ministry has nothing to do with this issue. It is the industry that is still not ready for it," he said.
*** RUSSIAN PROSECUTORS HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY SNOWDEN-RELATED REQUESTS FROM UNITED STATES
The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has not received any documents from the United States requesting the extradition of former CIA employee Edward Snowden, Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev said.
"As far as Snowden is concerned, we have not received any requests from the United States. They only informed us that his American passport was cancelled," he told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday.
The U.S. authorities are currently considering five requests seeking the extradition of suspects to Russia, Zvyagintsev said.
*** BELGRADE COURT SEIZES 7 BEREZOVSKY'S ENTERPRISES VALUED AT APPROX. 9 BILLION RUBLES
A Belgrade court has seized seven enterprises of late businessman Boris Berezovsky by request of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev said.
"I was informed yesterday that the High Court in Belgrade seized seven enterprises of Berezovsky valued at approximately 9 billion rubles at our request," he told reporters on Tuesday.
A lawyer representing Berezovsky said he had no information about the seizure of the enterprises. "I know nothing about the Belgrade court and have heard nothing about those enterprises," lawyer Andrei Borovkov told Interfax on Tuesday.
*** FRANCE REQUESTED TO EXTRADITE FORMER MOSCOW REGION FINANCE MINISTER KUZNETSOV
The Russian Prosecutor General's Office has filed an official request for the extradition of former Moscow Region Finance Minister Alexei Kuznetsov from France.
"We submitted an extradition request concerning this suspect several days ago," Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev told reporters in Moscow on Tuesday.
*** PROSECUTORS FROM 90 COUNTRIES TO ATTEND MOSCOW CONFERENCE IN SEPTEMBER
Nearly 1,000 prosecutors and Prosecutor's Office employees from 90 countries will take part in a conference of the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) in Moscow on September 8-12, Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Alexander Zvyagintsev told reporters on Tuesday.
"The choice of Moscow as the host of such a representative forum comes as recognition of the international authority of our country and Russian prosecutors," he said.
*** FIVE MILITANTS KILLED IN DAGESTAN - SOURCE
Five militants are believed to have been killed during a police operation in the town of Buinaksk, Dagestan, a source in the republic's law enforcement agencies told Interfax.
The main phase of the operation has been completed, he said.
"The preliminary information available indicates that five militants have been killed, including the owner of the house where they were hiding. There is a gang leader among them," the source said.
*** OVER 130 POPULATED LOCALITIES FLOODED IN RUSSIAN FAR EAST
As of Monday morning 137 populated localities were flooded in the Russian Far East. The number reduced by three in the past 24 hours, the press service of the Presidential Representative to the Far Eastern Federal District reports.
Presidential Representative and Far Eastern Development Minister Viktor Ishayev chaired a meeting of the staff supervising the cleanup of the flood emergency on Tuesday.
It was said at the meeting that floodwaters had inundated 6,321 homes (213 more than the day before) and 545,798 hectares of cropland. A total of 23,313 people were evacuated.
*** FAMILY OF FIVE KILLED ON TAJIK-KYRGYZ BORDER - SOURCE
Five family members were shot dead in northern Tajikistan, a high-ranking source in the republic's law enforcement agencies told Interfax.
The mass murder, the second in northern Tajikistan this summer, took place near the border with Kyrgyzstan in the town of Isfara, located 440 kilometers northeast of the Tajik capital Dushanbe.
"A camp field guard, his wife, their two young grandchildren and a young man, the married couple's nephew, were killed," the source said.
*** TAJIKISTAN CLOSES BORDER WITH AFGHAN BADAKHSHAN DUE TO CHOLERA OUTBREAK
The Tajik Main Border Department has closed three checkpoints on the border with Afghan Badakhshan, department spokesman Khushnud Rakhmatullayev told reporters on Tuesday.
"All the three checkpoints in the Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous district of the Republic of Tajikistan have been closed for passenger and cargo traffic by request of the Tajik Health Ministry due to the cholera outbreak in the Badakhshan province of the Islamic State of Afghanistan," he said.
Extremists wearing police uniforms plan to fake beating of demonstrators in Kyiv - parliamentarians
Ukrainian opposition will agree to negotiate with authorities only after its demands met - Klitschko
OSCE Ministerial Council fails to adopt document on protection of journalists' rights - Ukrainian foreign minister
Yanukovych, Putin discuss preparations for strategic partnership agreement - Azarov
Ukraine does not need intl assistance to normalize domestic crisis - foreign minister
Ukrainian foreign minister hopes partnership deal with Russia will help settle trade, gas price issues