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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Looking Forward ... Dec. 13 to 19

  • President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday will land in Havana for his first trip to Latin America and the first official visit to Cuba by a Russian leader in nearly a dozen years. Putin?s trip will bring attention to Cuba?s attempt to end the U.S. embargo on the Caribbean island, which was imposed in 1960 after President Fidel Castro confiscated U.S.-owned oil refineries without compensation. Ahead of the visit, Putin called the embargo "groundless from any standpoint ? that of international law, or that of general reasonableness, or that of justice and democratic principles of the search for peace." On Sunday, Putin is scheduled to fly over the United States to Canada, a willing trade partner of Havana.

  • The 2001 federal budget is expected to pass its fourth and final reading in the State Duma on Thursday. The 1.19 trillion-ruble ($42.7 billion) bill, the country?s first balanced budget since the 1991 Soviet collapse, passed its third reading Dec. 1 after a marathon debate in which the lower house had to consider some 5,000 proposed amendments.

  • Also Thursday, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and other key members of Putin?s administration are set to decide on a much-anticipated strategy to transform national power grid Unified Energy Systems. While it is unclear whether the program will come in the form of a decree or a presidential resolution, Unified Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais said last week not to expect any surprises ? meaning that if something "unexpected" happens, the government is not serious about the restructuring plan. The first stage of Chubais? three-stage plan calls for forming from the 72 energos and UES about 15 generating companies that will be big enough to attract investment, but not so big that they will be able to dominate the market.

  • At midday Friday, an inconspicuous button will be pressed by a duty engineer at Ukraine?s Chernobyl nuclear power station ? shutting down the plant that caused the world?s worst civil nuclear disaster. After years of talks between Ukraine and Western countries, President Leonid Kuchma promised in June to close Chernobyl on Dec. 15, pledging never to turn it back on. The No. 4 reactor at Chernobyl exploded in April 1986, eventually leading to the emission of a huge, highly radioactive cloud across Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and much of Europe. Officially, 31 people were killed, mostly firemen who died immediately after the explosion, but Independent experts say several thousand emergency workers and local residents died of diseases caused by radioactivity. Chernobyl?s only working reactor, No. 3, accounts for between 4 percent and 6 percent of the country?s total electricity supply.