* Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected allegations on Thursday that he had constructed an “authoritarian regime” during his time in power, praising the country’s stability and adding that he had not made any major mistakes he would want to fix.
* Moscow City Court on Thursday slashed prison sentences for former Yukos bosses Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, who are now set to walk free in 2014, not 2016.
(Kommersant, Rossiiskaya Gazeta)
* Russian President Vladimir Putin has given the green light on the "anti-Magnitsky bill" that would ban Americans from adopting Russian children, although he confessed that he has not yet “seen the text.” If the law is approved, it will take effect on January 1, 2013, but the Russian-US adoption agreement will remain in force until the end of the year.
ECONOMY & BUSINESS
* Russia's largest carmaker AvtoVAZ dismissed information published in the media on Thursday about payback of the plant's stock, calling it “either provocative or manipulative.” The rumors sparked a craze over trading of the company’s stock on the Russian bourse.
* The total amount of mergers and acquisitions around the world in 2012 fell 4%, year-on-year. Experts believe that 2012 should be dubbed the year of stagnation as investors doubt the global economy's short-term prospects.
* Russian energy giant Gazprom has cut its investment program for 2013 to 705 billion rubles ($23 billion) in response to the difficulties it faces in the current economic downturn. However, experts expect that in 2013 Gazprom will increase its investment program to 1 trillion rubles.
* The upcoming a summit of the G8 group of leading economies in 2014 will be held at a different venue. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Skolkovo hi-tech hub near Moscow will not host the meeting, as previously announced.
* The Russian Defense Ministry has decided to abandon plans for the construction of two Mistral class amphibious assault ships under French license in Russia.
* Russia may introduce conscription for women. Russian lawmaker Tatyana Moskalkova said she is preparing a bill encouraging Russian women to serve in the Russian armed forces.
* According to an opinion poll by national pollsters VTsIOM, 42% of respondents say they “have never heard” of the US Magnitsky Act, which imposes visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials deemed guilty of human rights abuses.
* Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest news conference lasted for four and a half hours, during which time the Russian leader fielded 63 questions, told one joke, drank four cups of tea, and received six rounds of applause.
* Russians have no idea who the ancient Mayans were and where they lived, but they do know they predicted that the world would end on December 21, 2012.
* Over 40% of Russian children in state care in Moscow were adopted by foreigners in the past two years, the head of the social security department, Varvara Sekhonya said.
* Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has threatened to dismiss the government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili following the arrest of several members of Saakashvili’s inner circle. Under the constitution, Saakashvili can not only sack the government, but also dismiss the parliament, currently controlled by the Georgian Dream bloc.
* Curbing gun violence will be a top priority for President Barack Obama's second term. However, the idea has been criticized by the Republicans.