Digest of headline news as of 7:45 p.m. Moscow time on July 21:
BUSINESS & FINANCE
*** EUROCEMENT'S UZBEK PLANT UNDER THREAT OF NATIONALIZATION
Filaret Galchev's Eurocement has become the third Russian company to risk losing assets in Uzbekistan after Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods (WDB) and MTS.
The president of Eurocement, Mikhail Skorokhod, told Interfax that the Tashkent region's Economic Court on Monday granted a suit brought by Uzbekistan's State Competition Committee to invalidate the privatization of JSC Akhangarancement, which was based on a decree signed some 20 years ago.
*** POWER UNIT AT INDIA'S KUDANKULAM NUCLEAR PLANT SHUT DOWN FOR TESTING
Indian regulators have shut down the N1 power block of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant for tests of a number of systems, OJSC Atomstroyexport management company OJSC NIAEP said in a statement.
The full range of power testing has been completed at N1, including at 100% of capacity, after which the unit was shut down under normal procedures.
The duration of the shutdown period was not disclosed.
*** TRANSNEFT: NO ABILITY, RESOURCES FOR CONNECTING ESPO TO PLANNED AMUR OIL REFINERY
Russian pipeline operator Transneft has neither the technical ability nor available oil to connect the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline to the oil refinery that a Chinese company plans to build in Amur region, Transneft said in a press release.
"In the first half of July this year, several media outlets reported that China's National Development and Reform Commission had approved construction in Amur region of an oil refinery and infrastructure to deliver output (up to 90% of total production) to China by pipeline," Transneft said.
"This concerns the Amur Energy Company LLC (AEC) refinery. Simultaneously, they confirm that connection of this oil refinery to the ESPO pipeline has been approved," it said.
*** LUKOIL BUYS 7 PROPANE-BUTANE FILLING STATIONS IN MOSCOW
Lukoil has acquired seven filling stations from the Kontora AGNS state enterprise, Lukoil-Tsentrnefteprodukt LLC said in a statement.
Lukoil-Tsentrnefteprodukt submitted the highest bid for the properties in a privatization tender held by Moscow's competition department.
Under the sales agreement, the company is obligated to ensure supplies of LPG to the filling stations for at least 25 years.
*** GIDROINVEST SWAPS 25% IN KRASNOYARSK HYDROPOWER PLANT FOR EUROSIBENERGO'S RUSHYDRO STAKE
Gidroinvest, a wholly owned subsidiary of RusHydro, has closed a deal to receive EuroSibEnergo's 3.39% stake in RusHydro in exchange for a 25% stake in Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Station (KRSG), a RusHydro representative told Interfax.
The deal increases Gidroinvest's stake in the parent company to 4.3116% from 0.9245%.
In its turn RusHydro has reduced its stake in the Krasnoyarsk Hydroelectric Station from 25% to 0.1%, RusHydro said in materials.
*** SEVERSTAL ANNOUNCES SALE OF U.S. PLANTS SEVERSTAL COLUMBUS, SEVERSTAL DEARBORN
The board of directors of Severstal has approved the sale of 100% of the company's U.S. plants Severstal Columbus and Severstal Dearborn, the Russian steelmaker reported.
Severstal Columbus is being bought by Steel Dynamics and Severstal Dearborn will be sold to AK Steel Corporation.
*** RUSSIA TO SELL ROCKET ENGINES TO U.S. DESPITE SANCTIONS - DEPUTY PM
Russia will continue to export rocket engines to the United States despite the latter's anti-Russian sanctions, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Monday.
"We're not going to shoot ourselves in the foot. We'll keep doing what's good for us and will suspend what isn't. Today [sales of rocket engines] are good for Russian engine-manufacturing organizations in the sense that all this money, down to the kopeck, goes into technological re-equipment," Rogozin told reporters in Samara.
*** INTERNATIONAL EXPERTS NOTE RUSSIA'S RISE IN INNOVATION RATING
Russia improved its innovation rating by 13 points this year, The Global Innovation Index 2014 shows.
"The Global Innovation Index 2014 (GII) was presented in Sydney on July 18. Russia was in 49th place in this rating, having risen by 13 points compared to 2013. The compilers of the rating call the rapid improvement of Russia's position one of the most remarkable among 143 countries," the chief spokesman for the Higher School of Economics (HSE), Vadim Vorobyev told Interfax.
Three other BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) improved their standing in the index, with Brazil climbing three rungs to 61st, China six rungs to 29th and South Africa five rungs to 53rd. India, however, dropped ten rungs to 76th.
*** PHARMSYNTHEZ BUILDS BIOTECH PLANT IN BELARUS
OJSC Pharmsynthez and the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus constructed a biotechnological plant in Minsk, Belarus as part of the PrimeSynthez joint venture.
Dmitry Genkin, the chairman of Pharmsynthez's board of directors, told Interfax that the factory is preparing to be commissioned. He did not specify which medications and in what volume they would be produced, but mentioned that this is a "good and very necessary product for the domestic market." Products will be sold in Belarus and Russia.
*** GRAIN INTERVENTIONS MIGHT BE NEEDED, ESPECIALLY IN CRIMEA - DEPUTY PM
Grain prices have started to come down, and targeted interventions might be needed, especially where Crimea is concerned, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said.
"Grain prices have started to come down now the harvest is under way. We think interventions might be needed on this market, procurement interventions, especially where this concerns grain and other crops harvested in Crimea," Dvorkovich said at a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and other deputy prime ministers.
*** CENTRAL BANK LICENSES FOREIGN BANK SUBSIDIARY FOR FIRST TIME IN OVER A YEAR
The Central Bank of Russia has issued a banking license to a subsidiary of Korea Exchange Bank (KEB), the CB said in a statement.
This is the first time the CB has issued a license to a foreign bank subsidiary in more than a year.
The KEB subsidiary can conduct operations in rubles and foreign exchange but cannot accept retail deposits. Its charter capital is 840 million rubles.
*** SBERBANK PILOTS DEPOSITS IN GERMANY
Sberbank launched a pilot scheme in July accepting deposit products in Germany, the Russian bank told Interfax.
Deputy Chairman Sergei Gorkov spoke about Sberbank's plans to start working with retail customers in Germany. Sberbank already has a banking license from the Germany regulator.
"Deposit opening and maintenance services in Germany are currently offered in a pilot scheme," a Sberbank spokesman said.
POLITICS & SOCIETY
*** PUTIN BLAMES ARMED CONFRONTATION IN UKRAINE FOR BOEING CRASH
The ultimate cause of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crash in Ukraine was the armed confrontation in Ukraine, including the crash area, Russian President Vladimir Putin told British Prime Minister David Cameron on the phone on Sunday.
"The Russian side expressed its interest and preparedness to render the required assistance in the arrangement and holding of a thorough international ICAO investigation of every detail of that crash. Until it [the investigation] is over, it is important to abstain from making any hasty conclusions and politicized statements," the Kremlin press service said.
*** INTL EXPERTS COULD VISIT BOEING CRASH SITE MONDAY - RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY
International experts could arrive to the Malaysian Boeing crash site in Ukraine as early as Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
"There have been reports that a number of international experts could arrive at the crash site as early as today," the ministry said in a commentary posted on its website.
*** SWEDISH CITIZEN TAKEN CAPTIVE BY MILITIA NEAR LUHANSK - KYIV
Members of formations who are resisting the Ukrainian government have taken a Swedish citizen captive, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council representative Andriy Lysenko said at a briefing in Kyiv on Monday.
The incident occurred last Sunday, Lysenko said. According to the information of the National Security and Defense Council, the Swede was captured at a checkpoint near Perevalsk in the Luhansk region.
He is held in Horlivka now, Lysenko said.
*** OSCE MISSION TO BE DEPLOYED IN KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY IN EARLY AUGUST
The OSCE mission will open its office in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky in the Rostov region, a source in the Rostov regional government told Interfax on Monday.
"Russian Foreign Ministry officials said the OSCE permanent observers would arrive in the Don region on the first days of August 2014 and stay there for at least three months. The mission will have 19 members, including three administrators and 16 monitors. Eight mission members will be deployed at each of the two checkpoints, Donetsk and Gukovo," the regional government said.
*** DEPUTY FM GATILOV: RUSSIA READY TO SPEAK WITH SYRIAN OPPOSITION
Moscow confirms its preparedness for contacts with the new leaders of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces.
"We are open to contacts with the new leaders of the National Coalition and are ready to look for points of contact in every aspect of the Syrian crisis," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said in an interview with Interfax.
As to whether Russia planned to meet with Syrian opposition members, the diplomat said, "So far, no. But if the coalition expresses this wish we will be ready to talk, either in Moscow or in another place."
*** SECOND UKRAINIAN SERVICEMAN DIES AT RUSSIA'S GUKOVO HOSPITAL
The second Ukrainian serviceman hospitalized in Gukovo, Rostov region, died on Monday, the Rostov regional health ministry told Interfax. The hospital reported the first serviceman's death last week.
"One of the four Ukrainian servicemen admitted to the intensive care unit of the Gukovo hospital is dead," it said.
At present three Ukrainian servicemen are staying at the intensive care unit of the Gukovo hospital, and another six are receiving treatment at the hospital's surgery department.
*** KYIV READY TO SEND AIR CRASH VICTIMS' BODIES TO NETHERLANDS FOR TESTS - YATSENYUK
Ukraine is ready to take upon itself the transportation of the bodies of the Malaysian jet crash victims to the Netherlands for necessary tests to be conducted.
"As regards autopsy and forensic tests of all the persons who died, Amsterdam has one of the world's most advanced clinics and the Ukrainian government is ready to transport all the bodies to Amsterdam for all necessary and independent tests to be carried out," Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said at a briefing in Kyiv on Monday.
*** UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT ORDERS CEASEFIRE IN 40-KM RADIUS OF MALAYSIAN BOEING CRASH SITE
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has ordered Ukrainian forces to stop military actions and operations within a 40-km radius of the Malaysian plane crash site.
"I have given the order: right away, Ukrainian servicemen must not hold operations and must not open fire within the 40-km radius of the site of the tragedy," Poroshenko told reporters while visiting the Malaysian embassy in Kyiv.
*** ICAO DELEGATION ARRIVES IN KYIV TO INVESTIGATE AIR CRASH
Three experts from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have arrived in Kyiv to investigate the Malaysian jet crash that occurred in the Donetsk region on July 17, the head of the Ukrainian State Aviation Service Denis Antonyuk told Interfax.
One of the experts will travel to the crash site as early as today.
*** DPR AUTHORITIES PLAN TO SEND BODIES TO KHARKIV ACCOMPANIED BY INTL MEDIATORS
The leaders of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) are going to arrange for the bodies of the victims of the Malaysian Boeing crash to be sent to Kharkiv, DPR first deputy prime minister Andriy Purgin told Interfax on Monday.
"So far the victims' bodies remain in the railcars of the refrigerator train at the Torez station. They will be sent to Kharkiv only after international experts - Dutch, Malaysian or the Red Cross representatives - arrive at the scene. They are to accompany the train with the bodies, we are ready to add a separate railcar for them," Purgin said.
*** DONETSK MILITIA CLAIM THEIR WEAPONS TROPHIES, NOT SUPPLIED BY RUSSIA
The first deputy prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic ((DPR), Andriy Purgin, has denied the allegations that militiamen are being supplied with military hardware from Russia.
"I have not seen this hardware. Not one of the 150 items that are being attributed to us. Had we had this hardware, the military situation would have been completely different. What we are seeing now is, on the contrary, the Ukrainians have more hardware, whereas we are catastrophically short of it. Of course, we did not get anything," Purgin told Interfax on Monday.
*** BODIES OF 282 BOEING CRASH VICTIMS FOUND - UKRAINIAN OFFICIAL DATA
The bodies of 282 victims of the Malaysian Airlines Boeing jet crash near Donetsk have been found by Monday noon, according to a spokesperson for the Ukrainian government.
"In all, the bodies of 282 victims and 87 body fragments have been found by 12 p.m. on July 21. Two hundred fifty-one bodies and 66 fragments have been loaded into refrigerator railcars," the statement said.
Meanwhile, militias in the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) have been preventing the refrigerators from leaving the train station in Torez despite numerous appeals on the part of the Ukrainian government, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and international community, the statement said.
*** GREENPEACE CASE INVESTIGATION EXTENDED FOR TWO MONTHS
The Russian Investigative Commission has extended an inquiry into the Greenpeace protest on the Prirazlomnaya platform until September 24, Greenpeace said.
"The Investigative Committee has extended the inquiry into the protest on the Prirazlomnaya (platform) until September 24. Part of the equipment removed from the ship has yet to be returned," Greenpeace wrote on Twitter.
In early June the Committee canceled the arrest of the activists' Arctic Sunrise vessel. The inquiry was initially extended until July 24.
*** GEORGIAN PM SACKS SEVERAL MINISTERS
Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili has sacked two ministers from his Cabinet: Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance Sozar Subari and Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Khatuna Gogoladze.
Five more ministers are due to step down in the very near future, the premier said at a Monday briefing.
*** TAJIKISTAN BLOCKS USER ACCESS TO RUSSIAN SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE
The Tajik government's communications service has ordered blocking user access to the Russian social networking site odnoklassniki.ru, representatives of the management of two large Tajik Internet providers told Interfax.
The reason for this decision is unknown.
"We have received a verbal order from the communications service to block user access to the site odnoklassniki.ru, which we did in the morning of July 19," the head of one of the Tajik Internet providers told Interfax.
*** CHINA LEADER TO VISIT TAJIKISTAN IN SEPTEMBER
Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to pay an official visit to Tajikistan in the first half of September, the Tajik government said on Monday.
"A wide range of bilateral relations will be discussed at negotiations between Xi Jinping and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon," the government said in a statement.
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Russian Paralympic Committee president never been pressured by govt bodies - Paralympic Committee president