RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 2, 2018

TODAY: 28 athletes’ IOC lifetime doping bans overturned, may compete this year; Nord Stream 2 approved; Foreign Ministry warns traveling Russians of US hunt; Tillerson warns Latin America of growing Russian presence; CIA director says intelligence meetings were routine; Putin popularity falls below 70%; Belykh gets 8 years; Moldova’s Russian media ban comes into force. 

The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned 28 of the life bans imposed by the International Olympic Committee on Russian athletes, with a further 11 having their bans shortened just to include this year’s Games. Dr Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower and former anti-doping official, pronounced, “Clean sport is dead.” Russia will ask the IOC to allow those whose bans have been overturned to participate in this winter’s Games in Pyeongchang. President Vladimir Putin responded to the news with “joy […] It confirms our position on the fact that the vast majority of our athletes are clean.” The Sports Ministry said the decision means that “justice has finally triumphed”; the New York Times said the decision shows the IOC’s “lack of spine”; and the IOC said the decision could seriously impact future attempts to prevent doping. Gazprom is welcoming Germany’s approval of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project.

The Foreign Ministry is warning its citizens against traveling abroad because the US intelligence services are “hunting for Russians all over the world”. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned Latin American countries to be wary of Russia’s “alarming” growing presence in the region. At the OSCE, the US issued a statement against Russia’s aggression and violation of international law in Ukraine. The director of the CIA says his meetings with chiefs of Russian intelligence agencies, held just days before the US announced it would not issue new sanctions, were merely routine. President Vladimir Putin’s popularity has fallen below 70% for the first time in a year, according to state-run pollster VTsIOM. Former Kirov governor Nikita Belykh has been sentenced to 8 years in prison on charges of accepting a bribe; he says he was the victim of a set-up.

Taking its cute from CEPA’s 2016 study of Russian disinformation, Moldova has banned Russian media, following a similar decisions made by Ukraine, Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. “Russian media is not just media. It is an extension of Russian foreign policy.” Russia’s Orthodox Chuch “has become a guardian of state ideology”, says The Economist, leading to resentment from the two thirds of the Russian population who do not want to see the Church influencing state decisions. Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad.

PHOTO: A view shows a monument to Kazakh poet Abai Kunanbayev after a heavy snowfall, with illumination lights seen in the foreground, in Moscow, Russia January 31, 2018. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva