Digest of headline news as of 3:30 p.m. Moscow time on December 30:
BUSINESS & FINANCE
*** TOKYO TO DISCUSS RUSSIA-JAPAN ENERGY BRIDGE PROJECT IN JAN 2014
Japan will hold a conference in January 2014 on the construction of a Russia-Japan energy bridge via Sakhalin.
"The Japanese side has taken a keen interest in the Sakhalin-Japan energy project. Japan will hold a conference regarding this project in Tokyo in late January 2014. I have been asked to deliver a report. There is no doubt we will attend this forum," Sakhalin Region Governor Alexander Khoroshavin told reporters on Saturday.
In his words, Inter RAO UES deals with the project on behalf of Russia. The Sakhalin regional government has handed over energy bridge project documents to Inter RAO UES, which will delegate its representatives to the forum.
*** POLYUS GOLD POSTPONES LAUNCH OF NATALKA PLANT UNTIL SUMMER 2015
Polyus Gold International Ltd (PGIL), which controls leading Russian gold miner OJSC Polyus Gold (MOEX: PLZL), has decided to postpone the launch of the plant for the Natalka project until the summer of 2015 due to "challenging market conditions," the company said in a press release.
Polyus Gold had initially considered launching the first phase of the Natalka operation in December 2013, but later the company revised the timetable for starting gold production at the Natalka deposit and planned to use an incomplete production cycle and an existing pilot plant in the winter of 2013-2014, and launch full cycle production in the summer of 2014.
*** RZD CAN CUT FREIGHT TARIFFS 22% FOR DISTANCES UP TO 1,100 KM
Russia's Federal Tariff Service (FTS) has given the okay for OJSC Russian Railways (RZD) (MOEX: RZHD) to lower tariffs 22% for the transportation of freight for up to 1,100 kilometers.
"To stimulate growth in the hauling of cargoes by railway transport and to increase competitiveness, the possibility of lowering the upper boundary of the tariff corridor to 22% on distances of up to 1,100 kilometers is provided," the FTS said in a statement.
*** GLOBAL PORTS CLOSES DEAL TO BUY 100% OF NATIONAL CONTAINER COMPANY
The Global Ports group completed the acquisition of 100% of the National Container Company Group (NCC Group), one of the largest container terminal operators in Russia, on December 27, Global Ports said in a press release.
As a result of the deal, the enlarged Global Ports group will operate nine container terminals with total marine container handling capacity of about 4 million TEU in the Baltic Sea and Far East basins, which are key gateways for Russian container cargo.
*** MOODY'S EXPECTS UKRAINIAN GDP TO GROW 1.5% IN 2014
Moody's Investors Service anticipates that Ukraine's gross domestic product will expand 1.5% next year after contracting 1% this year, the rating agency said.
Moody's estimates in a credit analysis of the Ukrainian government that this GDP growth will be accompanied by some acceleration of inflation from 0.8% this year to 2.3% next year - December-to-December - and a little weakening of the Ukrainian currency from UAH8.3/$1 at end -2013 to UAH8.5/$1 at end-2014.
*** EURASEC POSTPONES FINAL BELARUS STABILIZATION LOAN TRANCHE FOR 6 MTHS
The board of EurAsEC's Anti-crisis Fund has postponed for six-months disbursement of the final, sixth tranche of the $3-billion stabilization loan for Belarus, a member of Russia's representation at the Eurasian Development Bank, which manages the fund, told Interfax, citing the results of voting at a December 27 meeting.
"The Anti-crisis Fund's board approved a six-month postponement for examining the issue of disbursing the final tranche of Belarus' stabilization loan due to the failure to attain 10 of the indicators in the current stabilization program," the bank representative said.
*** UZBEKISTAN JOINS CIS FREE TRADE AREA TREATY
Uzbekistan has ratified the treaty on a CIS free trade area.
The law on the ratification of a protocol on the application of the October 18, 2011 treaty on a free trade area between its parties and the Republic of Uzbekistan (Minsk May 31, 2013) signed by President Islam Karimov on Friday was published in the national media outlets on Saturday.
The law was passed by the Legislative (lower) Chamber of the Uzbek parliament on November 29 and was approved by the Senate on December 13. Hence, all national procedures necessary for the law to take effect have been carried out.
*** UZBEK CENTRAL BANK TO LOWER REFINANCING RATE TO 10% FROM 12% ON JAN 1
Uzbekistan's Central Bank has decided to lower its refinancing rate starting on January 1, 2014 to 10% per annum from the current 12%, the bank said in a statement.
"Given the forecast level of inflation for 2014 and with the aim of stimulating rapid economic growth, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan has decided to lower the refinancing rate starting on January 1, 2014 to 10% p.a. from 12%," the bank said.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
*** EXPERTS OF IRAN, P5+1 GROUP NEGOTIATING IN GENEVA
The current round of the Geneva negotiations of experts from Iran and the P5+1 group will last for one day, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on Monday.
Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) resumed in Geneva on Monday after a weeklong Christmas break.
The experts are pondering mechanisms of the implementation of the intermediate agreement on the Iranian nuclear problem, which was signed in Geneva on November 24. Iran undertook to limit its nuclear activities and the EU and the U.S. pledged to ease unilateral sanctions against Tehran for the period of six months.
*** NUMBER OF VOLGOGRAD TROLLEY BUS BLAST VICTIMS REACHES 41 - HEALTH MINISTRY
According to the Russian Health Ministry, 41 people were hurt in the Volgograd trolley bus explosion on Monday.
"There is information that 41 people were hurt by the explosion, of which 27 have been hospitalized, the ministry press service told Interfax.
The terrorist attack killed 14 people, of which 11 died at the scene and three died on their way to the hospital, the Health Ministry said.
*** MARKIN: VOLGOGRAD TROLLEY-BUS EXPLOSION WAS STAGED BY MALE SUICIDE BOMBER
The trolley-bus in Volgograd was blasted by a male suicide bomber, his remains have been sent for a DNA study, official spokesman for the Investigative Committee Vladimir Markin has told Interfax.
"One can tentatively say now that the explosive device was activated by a man. Fragments of his body have been retrieved and sent for a DNA study for identification," he said.
*** EMERGENCY SITUATIONS MINISTRY ORGANIZERS REGULAR AIRLINE CONNECTION TO TAKE VICTIMS OF VOLGOGRAD TERRORIST ATTACKS TO MOSCOW HOSPITALS
The Emergency Situations Ministry is organizing regular airline communication with Volgograd to take the people hurt in the two terrorist attacks there and their relatives to Moscow and St. Petersburg, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said.
"We are organizing permanent airline communication to take all victims to specialized clinics in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other regions," Puchkov told a meeting in Moscow on Monday.
Puchkov also ordered the development of an additional scheme to take the relatives of the victims of the terrorist attacks to the Volgograd region.
*** DUE TO TERRORIST ATTACKS IN VOLGOGRAD ADDITIONAL SECURITY MEASURES BEING TAKEN - INTERIOR MINISTRY
The Russian Interior Ministry is taking additional security measures upon the decisions of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee made following the terrorist attacks in Volgograd.
"In accordance with the decisions of the National Anti-Terrorist Committee, on top of the upgrade measures, which were taken amid the New Year holidays, the Interior Ministry is introducing additional measures to enhance security," the Interior Ministry press office told Interfax on Monday.
*** PUTIN ORDERS NAC TO TIGHTEN SECURITY THROUGHOUT COUNTRY
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered to tighten security throughout the country and gave specific instructions as regards Volgograd, the National Antiterrorism Committee reported.
"Russian President Vladimir Putin has given a number of instructions to the National Antiterrorism Committee with the purpose of building up security across Russia," a committee representative said.
In his words, some of the instructions were about the security in Volgograd.
"The president will receive daily reports from the National Antiterrorism Committee about the measures it has taken, as well as situation reports," he said.
*** VOLGOGRAD REGION GOES INTO MOURNING UNTIL JANUARY 3 - GOVERNOR BOZHENOV
Governor of Volgograd region Sergei Bozhenov has declared a period of mourning for the victims of terrorist acts starting with Monday and through January 3.
"As of today I declare a five-day period of mourning in Volgograd region ending on January 3," he said on Russia-24 channel on Monday.
*** FAMILIES OF VOLGOGRAD TERRORIST ATTACKS TO GET 1 MILLION RUBLES, MONEY FOR FUNERALS - EMERGENCY SITUATIONS MINISTRY
The families of the people who were killed in the terrorist attacks in Volgograd will receive 1 million rubles each from the federal budget and the people hurt in the attacks will receive 200,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles, Russian Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said on Monday.
"A decision has been made to provide 1 million rubles from the federal budget to the family of each victim, and funding for funerals will also be provided. People who were hurt in the attacks will be paid from 200,000 rubles to 400,000 rubles," the minister said.
*** SUNDAY TERROR ATTACK IN VOLGOGRAD KILLED 17, INJURED 45 MORE - HEALTH MINISTRY
The latest reports of the Health Ministry say 45 people were injured in the Sunday act of terrorism in Volgograd.
"A total of 62 people were afflicted by the explosion, 14 of them died at the scene and three died later in hospital," Interfax was told at the Health Ministry press service on Monday.
"Thirty people are receiving hospital treatment at medical institutions in Volgograd, eight - are getting out-patient treatment," a press officer said.
Seven wounded were flown to federal medical institutions in Moscow, the official said.
*** MARI EL NATIVE SUSPECTED OF VOLGOGRAD RAILROAD TERMINAL BOMBING - SOURCE
Pavel Pechenkin, a member of the Buinaksk ring operating in Dagestan who was born in the town of Volzhsk in the Republic of Mari El, is suspected of the Volgograd railroad terminal bombing, a source from the law enforcement authorities told Interfax.
He said Pechenkin joined the Dagestani militants in spring 2012. "Pavel's parents - Nikolai and Fanaziya - came to Dagestan in September 2013 and searched for him in the town of Buinaksk and the suburbs. The search was unsuccessful and they made a video address to their son, who had adopted the Islamic name of Ansar ar-Rusi. The parents failed to find their son and returned home," the source said.
*** VOLGOGRAD RAILWAY STATION WORKS IN NORMAL MODE
Passengers of long-distance trains were given access to the platforms of the railway station Volgograd 1 on Monday, the press service of JSC Russian Railways reported.
The railway building is now being cleaned up, the report says.
"There are no delays of passenger and local trains due to the terrorist attack at the railway station Volgograd 1," the press release says.
According to earlier reports, an explosion occurred in front of the security inspection zone at the entrance to the railway station Volgograd 1 on Sunday. According to the Health Ministry, 45 people were hurt and 17 people were died in the Sunday terrorist attack in Volgograd.
*** SECURITY TIGHTENED IN MOSCOW - OFFICIAL
Security has been tightened in Moscow following two acts of terrorism in Volgograd, head of the regional security department of the Moscow city administration Alexei Mayorov has told Interfax.
"Corresponding instructions have been given, measures are taken," he said.
"Concrete measures to guarantee security in the city have been taken today following the developments in Volgograd along the line of the Moscow transport department and along the line of services preventing and mitigating emergencies," Mayorov said.
"The deployment of forces and means has been updated, of course. Once again attention will be drawn to approaches to venues of public events, the routes of ground and underground transport," he said.
*** RUSSIAN COMMUNIST PARTY LEADER SUPPORTS INTRODUCING DEATH PENALTY FOR TERRORISM
Leadership of the Russian Communist Party said that it was necessary to introduce death penalty for terrorism and to monitor movements of militants' family members.
"It is necessary to limit the movements of militants' family members or, at least, monitor them," Communist Party Central Committee Deputy Chairman, First Deputy Head of the State Duma committee for ethnic affairs Valery Rashkin said on Monday following terrorist attacks in Volgograd.
*** NAC: 3 MILITANTS KILLED IN KABARDINO-BALKARIA, 2 IN DAGESTAN
Five militants have been eliminated in efforts of special services in the North Caucasus, Interfax was told at the National Antiterrorist Committee (NAC) on Monday.
NAC reports that three militants were eliminated by a special force of the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry in Chegem, Kabardino-Balkaria.
"Three federally wanted militants, including the head of a militant group, were killed," the NAC reported.
"With the purpose of undermining stability in the republic the militants were preparing terrorist acts for the time of New Year and Christmas holidays," it said.
Ukrainian military attack village in northwest of Donetsk - local administration (Part 3)
Ukrainian military attack village in northwest of Donetsk - local administration (Part 2)
Armenian parliament offers president new constitution draft envisaging transition to parliamentary regime
Labor Ministry not considering scrapping pensions for working pensioners in 2016 - Topilin
Iraq doesn't send request to Russia to deliver strikes at terrorists on its territory - Peskov
Russian military fighting against terrorists in Syria at new technological level - Peskov
PESKOV DISMISSES RUMORS OF PUTIN'S MEETING WITH IRANIAN GENERAL SULEIMANI FOR DISCUSION OF JOINT RUSSIAN-IRANIAN OPERATION IN SYRIA
AGREED-UPON ITINERARIES OF ANTI-ISIL STRIKES FROM CASPIAN FLOTILLA SHIPS RESULT OF EFFORTS BY COORDINATION CENTER IN BAGHDAD - PESKOV