RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept 13, 2013

TODAY: White House and Pentagon respond to Putin’s Syria op-ed; Assad says he will comply on chemical weapons, but not because of U.S.; Sobyanin inaugurated; authorities’ homes searched in Yekaterinburg; doughnuts, fire, Mussolini literature ban.

Vladimir Putin’s peacemaker’ New York Times op-ed is making ripples, with the White House noting the ‘great irony in the placement of an op-ed like this because it reflects the truly exceptional tradition in this country of freedom of expression’.  The Pentagon says Putin is ‘isolated and alone for suggesting in the article that Syrian rebels were responsible for the chemical attacks on civilians near Damascus; the Washington Post went through it line by line; Nancy Pelosi used the piece to take a swipe at Russia’s anti-gay laws.  The Moscow Times profiles seven of Russia’s ‘most outspoken opponents of gay rights’.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ‘served to illustrate the level of distrust’ between the two countries’ when the pair joked about trust and translators, says the Washington Post.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says that his country will cede control of its chemical weapons to the international community, but made it clear that it was doing it ‘because of Russia.  The U.S. threats did not influence the decision’.  Garry Kasparov ranted to the BBC that Putin should not be referred to as a ‘democrat’, and saying that he uses ‘banks’ instead of ‘tanks’.

Sergei Sobyanin has been inaugurated as Moscow Mayor, giving a speech in which he spoke about the challenges of the role, with a supportive speech from Putin, who hailed the elections as fair and transparent, commenting, ‘I’m sure that nobody would’ve voted against Sobyanin’.  The new mayor of Yekaterinburg says that the searching of the residences of three top municipal officials could be politically motivated.  VTB Group missed its profit estimates for the second quarter, but nonetheless saw a 25% increase in income, year-on-year.  The Kremlin has been unfazed by billions of dollars worth of energy deals with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan tied up by Chinese President Xi Jinping, says RFE/RL.

Krispy Kreme’s arrival in Russia indicates that ‘calories trump foreign policy’.  Thirty-seven people are reportedly missing after a fire at a psychiatric hospital in Novgorod.  Prosecutors in Moscow want to prohibit sales of Benito Mussolini’s ‘The Third Way.  Human rights lawyer Masha Bast speaks to the Moscow Times about coming out as transgender in Russia.  As part of an eight-day conception holiday, couples in Ulyanovsk are being urged ‘to stay at home to procreate’.

PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, during a press conference before their meeting to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria, in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday Sept. 12, 2013. (Larry Downing, Pool/Associated Press)