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March 2, 2004

Abramovich Gets "Sibneft" Back

The Moscow Arbitration Court on Monday returned control of the Sibneft oil company to Roman Abramovich by ruling that a share issue used by "Yukos" to acquire "Sibneft" was illegal. "Yukos" said it would appeal the decision. If it is upheld, "Yukos" stake in "Sibneft" would fall from 92 percent to 35 percent, enough under Russian law to block major corporate decisions.

"Sibneft" spokesman John Mann said that the ruling does not contradict the two companies' agreement last month to reverse their merger. The ruling "is in line with the terms agreed upon by core shareholders of "Yukos" and "Sibneft". We'll continue to work with the shareholders and management of both companies to complete the demerger expeditiously," Mann said.

But analysts said that Abramovich is now in a strong position to buy back "Yukos" remaining 35 percent of "Sibneft", for which he and his partners received $3 billion in cash last year. Abramovich could even make a bid for control of "Yukos".

"The main thing is that the conditions for the demerger, which previously had been clear, are now unknown," said Lev Snykov, oil and gas analyst at "NIKoil".

After falling 3 percent on the news "Yukos" share price finished the day up 2.79 percent on the RTS exchange; "Sibneft" stocks soared 5.15 percent, Troika Dialog reported.

The $13.9 billion acquisition, announced Oct. 3, would have been the largest deal in Russia's corporate history, creating one of the world's largest oil companies.

In the deal "Yukos" acquired 92 percent of "Sibneft" in exchange for $3 billion cash and a 26 percent stake in "Yukos". After the arrest of "Yukos" core shareholder Mikhail Khodorkovsky on fraud and tax charges "Sibneft" said it wanted out of the merger. At the beginning of February the two sides formally agreed to a divorce.

Monday's decision satisfied a lawsuit against "Yukos" and the Federal Securities Commission filed by two "Sibneft"-connected offshore companies, Nimegan Trading Limited and N.P. Gemini Holdings Ltd.

The companies argued that "Yukos" had violated conditions for registering the shares.

Last week the court froze "Yukos" 57.5 percent stake in "Sibneft" pending its ruling on Monday.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Securities Commission said it had not received a copy of the court decision and could not comment. Analysts agreed that "Yukos" would now be in a weak position at the negotiating table, assuming the decision is upheld.

"Yukos" will lose a controlling stake in "Sibneft" and control in this environment is very important," said Kaha Kiknavelidze of Troika Dialog.

"NIKoil's" Snykov said it was uncertain whether the "Yukos" shares would be returned for their old price and the "Sibneft" shares for theirs.

Renaissance Capital's Adam Landes said it was likely that "Sibneft" would seek to buy back its stake from "Yukos" with the aim of subsequently selling it on.

"It must be their goal to line up a buyer and buy the stock of "Yukos" as cheap as possible before they sell it on as high as possible." The "Yukos" board on Friday had rejected a request by minority owners for a shareholders meeting to approve the sale of "Sibneft" shares. The next board meeting is expected in two to three weeks, a source in "Yukos" said.

James Fenkner, head of research at Troika Dialog, said that Abramovich could even turn his sights on "Yukos" next.

"Abramovich is in a beautiful situation. He doesn't need to push for divorce. He can keep the cash. He's got a chunk of "Yukos" shares. He won. This could be a way in for him to take over "Yukos". If tax liabilities come up again for "Yukos" in the future, who has $3 billion? Not "Yukos"."

Moscow Times


March 1, 2004

Guantanamo Russians return home

Seven Russian citizens who were being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have returned to Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry says.

They are now reported to be in a pre-trial detention centre. The men have been charged with illegally crossing borders, mercenary activity and participating in a criminal group, prosecutors say. The men, who returned on Saturday, were all detained in Afghanistan, but have not been identified. They were handed over after lengthy talks between Washington and Moscow.

"The decision to transfer or release a detainee is based on many factors, including whether the detainee is of further intelligence value to the United States and whether he poses a threat to the United States," the Pentagon said.

The Russian prosecutor's office has said the detainees include residents of Russia's Muslim-majority republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, the city of Chelyabinsk in western Siberia, and the Caucasus region.



February 26, 2004

$1.5 billion turnover of Russian books in 2003

In 2003, the turnover of retail books was no less than 45 billion rubles ($1.5 billion). The Ministry of Press said that 80,290 books and pamphlets with a general print run of 720 million were published in Russia.

In comparison with 2002, the number of registered books and pamphlets grew by 15.1% and the print run increased by 21.8%.

According to the data of the Press Ministry, Russia produces the fifth largest amount of books in the world and the third largest in Europe. Russia is approaching the 100,000 title boundary which is overcome only by three China, the United States and Great Britain.


February 26, 2004

Runnners in the international supermarathon race around the globe will cross Russia's border on Tursday

On Thursday, the runners taking part in the international supermarathon race around the Globe will cross the border of Russia. A spokesman for the action's organising committee said that on March 16, Jesper Kenn Olsen, 32, from Denmark and Alexander Korotkov, 45, from Russia plan to reach Moscow, running through Saint Petersburg, Veliky Novgorod, Vyshny Volochek and Torzhok. Then, they will run to Vladivostok. This cross through Russia will take them about seven months.

The supermarathon started on the first day of January, this year, in London. In the course of five years the sportsmen will have to cover 42,000 kilometres through all the continents, except the Antarctic. Their speed will range from 20 to 60 kilometres a day.

Kenn Olsen and Alexander Korotkov have already covered 2,200 kilometres having left behind them Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Finland. In Saint Petersburg, a third participant in the race, Kaihata Kazuko, 50, from Japan will join them.

The aim of the project, as its organisers explained it, is to carry out the world's first continuous group documented race of a total length of no less than the length of the equator - 42,000 kilometres; to study man's possibilities to overcome super-heavy loads and to adapt himself to them in the course of a long period of time; to popularise a sound way of life and to strengthen friendship and mutual understanding between nations.

The participants in the international supermarathon race will run through Japan, Australia, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Argentina, the Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Greece and France. It has been planned that the supermarathon will finish on December 31, 2008 at the Greenwich Meridian.


February 25, 2004

Language debate rages in Russia

Russians often feel slightly embarrassed when trying to cope with their mother tongue's notoriously complicated spelling rules, and recent debates on language reform may well have confused them even more.The controversy around the proposed changes is so huge that Russia's First Lady has become involved in the heated rhetoric. President Vladimir Putin's wife Lyudmila said that the proposals - by a commission of the Russian Academy of Science - were "untimely and totally-self-serving". "Our country's economy is being rebuilt, so the language is still developing and has not yet settled down - therefore it is not yet ready for reform," she told a conference on the Russian Government's linguistic policy in St Petersburg. "So right now is not the time for reforming the language." Her words must have signalled trouble for the orthographic commission which has been trying to simplify Russian spelling and accommodate foreign words that have flooded the language After six years of work, the commission - under the Russian Academy of Science - has come up with specific proposals which it hopes will become acceptable for all. "It's not reform. We're just trying to put things in order," Lyudmila Cheltsova, the commission's secretary, told the New York Times. She said that nobody except the commission has looked closely at Russian orthography for decades, and that the proposals would trim antiquated spelling rules. One of the proposals is aimed at simplifying the spelling of certain words - like the Russian equivalents of "wounded" or "fried" - which can be different depending on whether they are participles or adjectives. Other proposals are aimed at putting in order hyphenation for foreign prefixes like "mini" and "maxi", which have long been in common usage. The commission also wants to standardise the capitalisation of certain religious terms, like "God" and "Easter", which are already frequently upper-cased.In any case, the proposals are still only a draft, after a government language committee decided to shelve them.


February 24, 2004

The world's longest highway to be constructed in Russia

Once the newly designed route "Chita-Khabarovsk" is set into operation, the "Moscow-Vladivostok" highway (10 000 km) will be the longest in the world.

Government Commission has finished its inspections January 25th, stated official representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the Far East federal district Konstantin Pulikovski. "Two years ago, it took us entire day to get from Skovorodino to Erofei Pavlovicha (Northern settlement in Amur region). Today, this trip takes us no more than two hours. In 2004 we plan to bring the road to perfection and set 280 km of hard asphalt into operation " said Pulikovski.

The "Chita-Khabarovsk" highway constitutes a part of the transcontinental route which enables a round-the-clock across the entire country-from western borders to the Pacific Ocean. In addition, while being a part of the Eurasian traffic corridor "East-West", the highway will enable Russian companies to increase efficiency of International cargo transportations as well as to attract new foreign carriers. The highway will connect the entire route map of the Far East region with those base routes of the country, thus creating a new stimulus for further socio-economic development of the Eastern territories.

Nowadays, nearly 30 000 Russian settlements, with its population of 12 million people, are deprived access to the country's main roads. At the same time, a number of Russian drivers rapidly increases. According to the estimates, every 10 families will have eight vehicles by 2010. Taking into account this fact, it becomes of utmost importance to continue developing road networks. Nowadays, Russia existing road networks occupy 900 000 kilometers. However, it is in need of 1,5 million kilometers.


October 13, 2003

Dollar falls sharply against ruble

MOSCOW - The weighted average exchange rate of the US dollar with "tomorrow" clearings dropped to 30.06 RUR/USD at the Unified Trading Session as of 11:30 Moscow time on Monday. So, the official exchange rate of the American currency for Tuesday, October 14, has fallen by RUR 0.18. This has been the most significant strengthening of the ruble against the dollar in one day this year.

According to commercial bank analysts, in addition to the sales of large amounts of export proceeds, sentiment on Russia's dollar market is bearish. In particular, a bank dealer pointed to the huge trading volume for dollars with "tomorrow" clearings at the Unified Trading Session on Monday, which reached $1.276bn in the first hour and a half of trading. The expert stressed that, thanks to its massive ruble intervention, the Central Bank had purchased about $1.2bn, almost all hard currency that commercial banks offered for sale. According to him, the Central Bank was buying dollars at 30.055 RUR/USD, thus making it the dollar's weighted average exchange rate in the first hour and a half of trading.

The previous record trading volume of $1.638bn was reported on October 9, 2003, of which $1.265bn was the trading volume for dollars with "tomorrow" clearings.

The weakening of the dollar against the ruble became a natural reaction of the market to the raising of Russia's sovereign credit rating to investment grade by Moody's last week. This is expected to boost foreign investment in Russia and lead to an increase in the supply of hard currency. Coupled with an increase in export proceeds, due to high oil prices (now at more than $28 per barrel), this strengthens the Russian currency. Traders on the financial market are very active, as the investment grade decision makes Russian assets more attractive.


October 03, 2003

Top 10 Places For Sandwiches

If you're like me, then you get a craving for a big and tasty sandwich once in a while… Or, everyday. Yep, when the clock hits about 1 p.m., there's nothing better than sitting down at a cool cafe and biting into fresh bread stuffed with all your favorite ingredients. But where can you get good sandwiches in Moscow? We've got answers…

  1. Cafe Maner

    We wrote a glorious and fabulous review of this cafe and LifeStyle's staff frequents this place at least once a week, which, in itself is another reason to drop by! No, really, LifeStyle's staff is hot… Anyway, the sandwiches here are close to a foot long and come in many varieties like vegetarian with avocado, smoked chicken and foie gras for the classy folks. And the prices? Except for the foie gras, you can expect to drop only 110-150 rubles.

  2. Shokolodnitsa by Taganskaya

    I must reiterate here, that the only place to get the best eggplant and mozzarella sandwich in Moscow is at the Shokolatnitsa by metro Taganskaya. Unfortunately the other branches only carry chicken and salami. The prices run at about 120 rubles. By the way, these sandwiches are called "panini." How exotic.

  3. Phlegmatic Dog

    A deal at roughly 150 rubles, you can enjoy a tuna salad or tomato and mozzarella cheese sandwich with French fries in this high-tech Internet pub/cafe. Not a bad deal considering these sandwiches will keep you feeling stuffed all day.

  4. Cafe Kortilye

    After reading a fabulous review of this place, LifeStyle decided to go down and give it a try. The verdict is in and the sandwiches here are exceptional. The tuna sandwich garnered rave reviews and at only about 100 rubles? Well, we'll be coming back.

  5. Correa's

    This place is for the true epicureans among us. They only use the best ingredients, which also happen to be the most expensive (around 200 rubles). But you'll find the prices worth it when the friendly staff serves you home-baked bread stuffed with French cheeses and crisp veggies.

  6. My Place

    Situated just a hop, skip and a jump from Paveletskaya metro in the newly constructed Riverside Towers office complex is a small cafe that serves a range of quick meals, but the stars of the show are the sandwiches, which cost anywhere from 100-140 rubles. Warning: If you order the "medium" size, beware that you may not finish it all in one sitting.

  7. Canadian Bagel

    The sandwiches here are of the simple, no-frills variety. Actually, the vegetarian is just vegetables stuck between a bagel. But think of the calories you save without the cheese, mayo or mustard. And, by the way, it's only 100 rubles, so don't complain!

  8. Deli France

    The name says it all - Deli France. Of course, they only stack the tastiest ingredients on fresh-baked French bread, but they're pre-made so don't count on much variety past 4 p.m. The prices are hardly French at all. Sandwiches here only average about 80 rubles.

  9. Pir.O.G.I.

    This cute cafe boasts the cheapest sandwiches on our list coming in at under 80 rubles. However, keep in mind that quality may vary. But really, it's a pretty good option for a quick snack with friends.

  10. Subway

    You may come here expecting a classic Italian meatball sub, but don't. These are Russian variations. Jared Fogle wouldn't have lost that 245 pounds here. However, that doesn't mean these sandwiches aren't tasty in their own right and the prices are truly reasonable.


Cafe Maner
5 Petrovka Ul. First Floor in Berlin House
Metro: Teatralnaya
Tel: 775-1959

28 Nokoloyamskaya Ul., Bldg. 60
Metro: Taganskaya
Tel: 502-9924

Phlegmatic Dog Pub
1 Manezhnaya Ploshchad (in the Okhotny Ryad shopping center)
Metro: Okhotny Ryad

Cafe Kortilye
6 Pokrovka Ul.
Metro: Smolenskaya
Tel: 928-4775

32 Bol. Gruzinskaya
Metro: Mayakovskaya/Belorusskaya
Tel: 933-6157
My Place 52/5 Kosmodamianskaya Nab.
(In the Riverside Towers Complex)
Metro: Paveletskaya

Canadian Bagel
27 Teverskaya Ul., Bldg. 2
Metro: Mayakovskaya
Tel: 299-9702

Deli France
4/31 Triumfalnaya Ploshchad
Metro: Mayakovskaya
Tel: 299-4284

12 Bol. Dmitrovka Ul.
Metro: Teatralnaya
Tel: 229-3453

1 Leningradsky Prospekt
Metro: Belorusskaya
Tel: 973-8642


October 02, 2003

Russia may introduce fingerprinting of foreigners - top migration official

The head of Russia's Federal Migration Service Aleksander Tchekalin has said in a radio interview that he did not exclude the possibility of introducing fingerprinting of those foreigners whose professions are connected with extreme risk and those who apply for political asylum in Russia. The law allows introducing such measure, the official said. He also said that there are about 5 million foreign citizens with unspecified legal status currently residing in Russia. Many of them take part in ethnic criminal groups.