After two months of consideration, the Anti-Trust Ministry has given the green light to the Yukos-Sibneft merger. Investors see this decision as a sign of a coming truce between the two companies' owners and state bodies. "I didn't have any doubt that we would receive approval for the deal," Yukos President Mikhail Khodorkovsky told the paper. He added that had been concerns that the ministry would uncover unidentified problems, especially in the regions. However, in the end, this did not happen. The news led to both companies' shares surging. Yesterday Sibneft shares gained 1.9% and Yukos 1.5%.
The new Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, granted the paper an interview. The following question was posed, "You have received the post from the hands of your father (Geidar Aliyev). Do you think this decision was correct?" The answer was, "Excuse me, but why should I be treated differently? Only because my father is the president? The president took the decision and I agreed. If you like, I shall say that I bowed to the will of the head of state.
Saparmurat Niyazov, who was declared president of Turkmenistan for life in 1999, has made a sensational announcement: "The fate of the state and the nation should not depend on one person. In 2006 or, possibly, 2007, we shall hold presidential elections." According to him, "the president needs to be re-elected, as the Constitution of Turkmenistan sets the age limit for the head of state at 70 years." However, in reality, the paper notes, the current Constitution does not contain anything about any age limits for the head of state. Accordingly, either Mr Niyazov is a bit rusty on his country's laws, or he is trying to introduce new amendments.
Chechnya's Press Minister Bislan Gantamirov has gone public over his disagreement with acting head of the republic Akhmad Kadyrov. Gantamirov is intending to support Moscow-based businessman Khusein Dzhabrailov in the first round of voting and believes that he can win. One of the potential favourites, former speaker of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) Supreme Soviet Ruslan Khasbulatov, could be faced with making up lost ground in the election campaign. "I kept quiet for a whole year," Gantamirov said. "Now I think it is time to speak out. Kadyrov has not justified the hopes of the Chechen people and he has no chance of getting the electorate's support. Therefore, I shall not be supporting him in the elections."
A hideout has been found in Chechnya containing Aslan Maskhadov's archives. A video cassette featuring wounded separatists appealing to their president has created quite a stir. They complain about their life in Turkey and claim that the money given to them for treatment by "sponsors" is being stolen. The militants demand that order be imposed on medical establishments under Maskhadov's control in Istanbul. According to the paper's information, Turkish doctors charge $350 a day in their clinics. If operations are involved, then the whole course of treatment could reach between $50-80,000. Care for serious cardio-vascular conditions, as well as infarctions and insults and the ensuing convalescence period, can cost up to $100,000.
More than 3,500 people were detained during unprecedented mass protests that swept across all of Russia in support of Alexey Navalny on January 23