RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 3, 2015

5664-peskov-weddingTODAY: Gay rights protest in St Petersburg ends in detentions; Kremlin dislikes gay emojis; luxury watch clocked at Peskov wedding; Orthodox Church’s sway in heritage sector causing concern; majority of citizens favor censoring Internet should circumstances require it; food prices stabilise. 

A number of gay rights activists have been detained by police in St. Petersburg while holding protests in front of the Hermitage Museum on the weekend’s military holiday, Paratroopers Day.  The Kremlin is apparently hoping to ban ‘gay emojis’, if they are found to violate the gay propaganda law and is considering blocking Facebook entirely for its use of the same sex emoticons.  The Moscow Times examines how the authorities are trying to oust the independent mayor of Petrozavodsk, Galina Shirshina, one of the few elected mayors remaining in Russia.  Photos from the lavish nuptials of Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov have drawn media attention, not least because the groom was sporting a $620,000 watch, an item which, according to Alexei Navalny, he would not have been able to afford on his official salary.  The amount of the average bribe in Russia has nearly doubled this year, reaching $3,485.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s bid to secure the restitution of the renowned St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, seen as an indicator of its increasing influence in society, has provoked concern among heritage workers.  The appointment of a priest to manage Chersonesus, a revered site of ancient Greek ruins in Crimea, has proved similarly controversial.  Moscow plans to introduce tougher measures to thwart ‘extremist propaganda’ on the Internet in the battle against Islamic State.  A new poll has found that 58% of Russians would back ‘shutting off the Internet’ in the event of a national emergency.

The Central Bank’s plans for dealing with the ongoing recession remain shrouded in mystery, some say intentionally.  The cost of many food stuffs has finally begun to stabilize or drop after a year of rapid escalation.  The lawyer for the widow of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko has called President Putin a ‘tin pot despot’ at the inquiry into his murder in London.

PHOTO: Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov kisses his bride, Olympic figure skating champion Tatyana Navka, at their wedding in Sochi, August 1, 2015. (instagram.com/mitvoltv)