Digest of headline news as of 7:00 p.m. Moscow time on October 23:
BUSINESS & FINANCE
*** WEEKLY INFLATION IN RUSSIA ACCELERATES TO 0.2% OCT 15-21 - ROSSTAT
Weekly inflation in Russia quickened to 0.2% in the period October 15-21 for the first time since mid-July, on the first of which month tariffs on gas, power, and housing services were indexed, the Federal State Statistics Service (Rosstat) reported on Wednesday.
*** RUSSIAN CENTRAL BANK EXPECTS 5.8-5.9% INFLATION IN 2013 - YUDAYEVA
The Central Bank of Russia expects 5.8-5.9% inflation this year, the bank's first deputy head, Ksenia Yudayeva, said at a meeting of the State Duma Financial Markets Committee working group.
The Central Bank has set a target band of 5%-6% inflation this year.
*** RUSSIA IS READY TO WORK WITH IRAQ ON ENERGY, MILITARY-TECHNICAL COOPERATION - PUTIN
Russia intends to develop its energy and military-technical cooperation with Iraq, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"We are ready to promote the strengthening of the defense and security forces of Iraq and develop energy and military-technical cooperation in accordance with the agreements reached during the Moscow visit of [Iraqi] Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki," Putin said while receiving credentials from foreign ambassadors, including the new head of the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow, in the Kremlin on Wednesday.
*** RUSSIA SEEKING TO IMPLEMENT MAJOR ENERGY PROJECTS WITH PAKISTAN - PUTIN
Russia is determined to implement a number of major energy projects together with Pakistan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.
"Our joint plans include the implementation of major energy and metallurgy projects," Putin said during a ceremony of a presentation of credentials by foreign ambassadors, including the Pakistani one, in Moscow on Wednesday.
Russia will have to maintain closer antiterrorist and antidrug cooperation with Pakistan, he said.
*** GAZPROM BEGINS SEARCHING FOR PRIMORYE SITE FOR FUTURE LNG PLANT - AUTHORITIES
Russian gas giant Gazprom has begun preparatory work on finding a site for the building of a future liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Primorye, the regional administration's press service said after a Tuesday presentation of the LNG plant project for potential buyers and partners from Japan at the Far East Federal University on Russky Island.
*** ROSNEFT IN TALKS WITH SINOPEC ON FINANCING FOR SAKHALIN
Rosneft is holding negotiations with China's Sinopec on financing for the development of the North Veninskoye field of the Sakhalin-3 project, a protocol from a meeting of the Russia-China intergovernmental commission on energy cooperation that was held in Beijing on October 15 states.
The document states that the Russian oil major has already submitted an application to the Federal Subsurface Resources Agency for a production license for this field. The company currently holds an exploration license for the Veninsky block that expires this year.
*** BASHNEFT TO START EXPLORATION IN IRAQ IN 2014
Bashneft plans to begin exploration work at Block 12 in Iraq in 2014, the Russian oil company's vice president, Mikhail Stavsky said at a conference on the future of Russia's oil sector.
"We're the operator of Block 12, where we plan to begin exploration work next year already," Stavsky said.
*** DUMA PASSES BILL ON ELIMINATING 'LAST MILE' IN ELECTRICITY SECTOR IN SECOND READING
Russia's State Duma passed a bill concerning the problem of the 'last mile' in the electricity sector in the second reading on Tuesday, voting information posted on the lower house of parliament's website shows.
*** RUSSIA, CHINA TO DEVELOP DESIGN FOR LONG-HAUL AIRCRAFT BY YEAR'S END
Russia and China are supposed to complete the development of a design for a new wide-body, long-haul aircraft by the end of this year, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin told reporters during a visit to the Irkutsk aviation hub on Wednesday.
"By the end of this year we should have a high degree of readiness to already have a conversation with manufacturers. The development of the design for this aircraft should be completed by the end of 2013. The business plan is now being prepared," Rogozin said.
*** FORMER AVTOVAZ HEAD KOMAROV TAPPED FOR DEPUTY ROSCOSMOS CHIEF
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a resolution appointing the former general director at Russia's biggest automaker Avtovaz (MOEX: AVAZ), Igor Komarov, to the post of deputy chief at federal space agency Roscosmos, the cabinet of ministers press service said.
*** ROCKET AND SPACE CORP PRODUCTION TO BE SET UP IN EASTERN RUSSIA
The production facilities of the United Rocket and Space Corporation will be located in Siberia and the Far East, First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said at a meeting with students from the Irkutsk State Technology University on Wednesday.
"We will optimize the production facilities and move them to Siberia and the Far East," he said.
All companies that were involved in the rocket and space sector will join the corporation.
*** MARSHALL CAPITAL COMPLETES ACQUISITION OF INFRA ENGINEERING
Konstantin Malofeyev's Marshall Capital (MarCap) has closed a deal to acquire the assets of Infra Engineering, a company that designs and builds telecommunications infrastructure, a spokesman for the investment fund told Interfax.
*** RUSSIA, AFGHANISTAN SIGN AIR TRANSPORT DEAL
The Russian government and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed an agreement on air transport in September 2013, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency Rosaviatsia said on its website.
Airlines appointed by Russia will have the right to run scheduled flights from Russia to Kabul and other Afghan cities.
*** UCL HIRED FORMER ACCESS INDUSTRIES EXEC AS CFO
The management company of Vladimir Lisin's UCL Holding, T.A. Management has appointed former Access Industries economics director in the CIS and Skolkovo Foundation expert Oleg Belushkin as chief financial officer, a spokesman for UCL told Interfax.
He said the appointment was made about two-three months ago.
*** UNITED GRAIN CO RECEIVES RIGHT TO GRAIN INTERVENTION IN 2014
OJSC United Grain Company (UGC) this week officially received the right to act as an agent for the government's grain intervention fund.
UGC has signed a contract with the Russian Agriculture Ministry to carry out intervention, dispose of fund reserves and organize qualitative and quantitative preservation of grain in 2014, UGC told Interfax.
*** GAZPROMBANK PLACING $1 BLN IN 5-YR NOTES AT 280 BPS AGAINST SWAPS - SOURCE
Gazprombank (MOEX: GZPR) is placing 1 billion euro in five-year notes at 280 basis points against mid-market euro swaps, a financial market source told Interfax.
Guidance was initially 300 bps against swaps, then lowered to 287.5 bps.
*** CREDIT SUISSE, UBS, URALSIB FUND HOLD SHARES IN BANK SAINT PETERSBURG
Foreign banks and investment funds own more than 23% of shares in Bank Saint Petersburg, the Russian lender disclosed in a prospectus for a Eurobond issue.
The bank has previously disclosed information about most of its foreign shareholders before under the requirements of the deposit insurance law. The largest are East Capital with 8.54% of votes, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development with 5.49%, JP Morgan with 2.86%, Norges Bank with 1.48%, OP-Pohjola Group with 1.34% and FIM Asset Management with 1.1%.
*** BELARUS PAYS BACK ANOTHER $84.4 MLN OF IMF STAND-BY LOAN
Belarus on Wednesday made a scheduled payment of $84.4 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in repayment of the stand-by facility.
"The republic is meeting its commitments under the IMF stand-by facility and has made a scheduled payment of 54.7 million SDR (the equivalent of $84.4 million)," the Finance Ministry said in a statement.
*** BELARUSIAN POTASH RECOVERS FROM COLLAPSE OF "POTASH CARTEL", KEEPS PRESENCE IN SINGAPORE
Belarusian Potash Company (BPC) has managed to recover from the collapse of its "potash cartel" with Russia's Uralkali, BPC's press service said, citing first deputy CEO Alexander Polyakov.
*** NATIONAL BANK OF KAZAKHSTAN EXPECTS INFLATION AT 6% IN 2013
The National Bank of Kazakhstan expects inflation for this year to be at the lower end of the 6%-8% range.
*** ESTONIA, FINLAND START TESTING SECOND PHASE OF UNDERWATER POWER LINK
The power system operators of Estonia and Finland, Elering and Fingrid, began testing the second phase of the Estlink 2 link that runs under the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, Elering chief executive Taavi Veskimagi told reporters.
The cost of the project is 320 million euros, of which the European Union has provided 100 million euros.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
*** PUTIN EXPECTS DUTCH KING TO VISIT MOSCOW
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he expects Dutch King Willem-Alexander to visit Russia.
"We are expecting King Willem-Alexander to visit," Putin said in the Kremlin on Wednesday while receiving credentials from Ronald Van Dartel, the new Dutch ambassador to Russia.
*** PUTIN, YANUKOVYCH TO DISCUSS UKRAINE-EU ASSOCIATION AGREEMENT ON OCT 24 - USHAKOV
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych will discuss the expected signing of the Ukraine-EU association agreement on the sidelines of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council summit in Minsk on Thursday, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said.
"I think that this issue [Ukraine's signing of the agreement] is hanging over the entire range of our relations and the president will naturally touch upon it one way or another," Ushakov told a press briefing on Tuesday.
*** HIGH-LEVEL REPS OF RUSSIA, US, UN TO DISCUSS PROSPECTS OF CALLING GENEVA II ON NOV 5 - BOGDANOV
High-level representatives of Russia, the United States and the UN will meet to discuss the prospects of convening the Geneva II international conference on Syria on November 5, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said.
"The date of the meeting in the format of Russia-UN-US has been set for November 5," Bogdanov told Interfax on Wednesday.
*** DAMASCUS CONFIRMS INTENTION TO TAKE PART IN GENEVA II - RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT
The Syrian authorities have confirmed their intention to take part in the Geneva II conference in November and hold negotiations with the opposition, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and special presidential envoy for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov said on Wednesday.
"Yes, we met with Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad yesterday. Yes, everything has been confirmed," Bogdanov said when asked by Interfax whether Russia had received the relevant assurances during the meeting.
*** RUSSIA CALLS NATO TO WORK TOGETHER TO COMBAT WMD USE BY TERRORISTS - SHOIGU
The situation in Syria clearly shows the consequences of chemical weapons falling into the hands of terrorists, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
"Unfortunately, the situation in Syria shows what happens when chemical weapons fall into the hands of terrorists," Shoigu told reporters on Wednesday after the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of defense ministers.
*** SHOIGU: RUSSIA-NATO JOINT WORK ON MISSILE DEFENSE GOES WRONG
Joint work on missile defense with NATO is moving ahead poorly, Russia lacks the predictability of its colleagues on this track, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said to reporters in Brussels on Wednesday following a session of the Russia-NATO Council at the level of defense ministers.
"Naturally, the question of missile defense was raised separately [at the session]. Joint work in this sphere is not progressing. Missile defense programs in Europe are evolving, our concerns are not taken into account," Shoigu said.
*** RUSSIA REJECTS ARBITRATION IN ARCTIC SUNRISE CASE - FOREIGN MINISTRY
Russia has informed the Netherlands and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea that it does not accept arbitration in the Arctic Sunrise case and will not get involved in the Tribunal's deliberations on provisional measures, a source from the Russian Foreign Ministry told Interfax.
"At the same time, Russia is open for the settlement of this situation," the ministry said in a commentary.
*** KOLOKOLTSEV: MIGRATION WON'T STOP AS LONG AS MIGRANTS ARE IN DEMAND
Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev has suggested fighting the economic causes of illegal migration.
"Obviously, illegal migrant workers are economically feasible. As long as this situation persists, the demand for them will not cease and migration into our country will not stop," Kolokoltsev said during the "Government's Hour" at the State Duma.
*** DETECTIVES SUSPECT SUICIDE BOMBER'S HUSBAND OF CONNECTION TO VOLGOGRAD BOMBING
The Russian Investigative Committee has asked citizens for information about Naida Asiyalova, a suicide bomber who blew herself up in Volgograd, and about her common-law husband, Dmitry Sokolov, who is suspected of being involved in the terrorist attack, Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.
"Detectives have reasons to suspect that the common-law husband of Asiyalova, 21-year-old Dmitry Sokolov who is believed missing, might have helped organize the attack," Markin told Interfax on Wednesday.
*** VOLGOGRAD BUS BOMBING INJURED 55 PEOPLE - RUSSIAN HEALTH MINISTRY
The Monday bus bombing in Volgograd injured a total of 55 people, including 20 children, the Russian Health Ministry said.
"The updated information indicates that 55 people, including 20 children, were injured in an explosion on a passenger bus in Volgograd, and six people were killed," the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
*** RUSSIAN SUPREME COURT DOES NOT ORDER REVISION OF YUKOS' PICHUGIN FIRST CASE
The Russian Supreme Court Presidium has declined to revisit the first criminal case against former Yukos security chief Alexei Pichugin sentenced to 20 years in prison for orchestrating attacks and murders.
The court made the decision despite the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)'s opinion that the principle of fair trial was breached in the hearing of the Pichugin case, an Interfax correspondent reports.
*** TOLOKONNIKOVA TRANSFERRED TO CHUVASHIA - HUSBAND
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, convicted member of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot, has been transferred to a penal colony in Chuvashia, her husband Pyotr Verzilov told Interfax on Wednesday.
"The Federal Service for the Enforcement of Punishments has chosen to transfer Tolokonnikova to Chuvashia. She is now in Chuvashia and is being transferred to Penal Colony 2 in the city of Alatyr," Verzilov said.
*** UN TO PLAY MINOR PART IN AFGHAN SETTLEMENT - SPOKESMAN
The UN involvement in the Afghan settlement after the coalition's pullout in 2014 will be fairly small, head of the UN Information Center in Russia Alexander Gorelik said.
"The UN will play a minor part," he told a press conference.
The officer predicted that the level of security in Afghanistan would fall after the foreign forces' departure.
Local councils urge Ukraine president to take immediate action to restore law and order
Ryabkov, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Nuland discuss issue between Russia, U.S.
AMNESTY INITIATED BY THE PRESIDENT WILL BE APPLIED TO 25,000 PEOPLE - STATE DUMA DEPUTY SPEAKER VASILYEV