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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Oct 18, 2013

TODAY: Nobel laureates appeal over Greenpeace activists; hopes for visa-free EU travel; diplomatic power play; Canada makes infrastructure promise; tycoons buy Tele2; Biryulyovo vs. Bolotnaya; new limousines; Snowden says Russia doesn’t have secret documents.

Eleven Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Tawakkol Karman have written to Vladimir Putin to demand that charges against the Greenpeace environmental activists be dropped.  ‘We, like millions of people around the world, are watching this case, eager to see Russian authorities drop the piracy charges, treat the ‘Arctic 30’ in accordance with international law, reaffirm the right to nonviolent protest and rededicate its efforts to protecting the Arctic.’  Russia wants to begin drafting a deal with the European Union next year to implement visa-free travel.  The Kremlin of late has been ‘boss[ing] its back yard’, says The Guardian, who asked a number of foreign policy experts from all over the globe to comment on Russia’s current global position.  A new infrastructure deal with Canada (worth $2.5 billon) is in the pipelines, and Russia plans to sell military aircraft to Peru and Brazilin the near future’.  A consortium of tycoons including St. Petersburg banker Yuri Kovalchuck and Severstal owner Alexei Mordashov has bought a controlling stake in mobile telephone operator Tele2 from bank VTB, which ‘turn[ed] a quick profit on the deal.

Should Russia be worried about the recent increase in hate crimes against migrants? Riots in Biryulyovo were ‘an outpouring of built-up anger’, says the Washington Times.  ‘Xenophobia remains a potent force in Russia,’ says The Economist, noting in particular the riots’ confirming the political identity of Alexei Navalny as a ‘reactionary nationalist’.  RFE/RL notes that the riots on Bolotnaya Square last year led to far many more arrests than this week’s in Biryulyovo, proposing that ‘officials fear the nationalists much more than the opposition street movement’.  The Investigative Committee is searching for the head of a vegetable warehouse in the latter district that allegedly employs ‘scores of illegal immigrants.  The Kremlin is getting new limousines for its highest ranking officials.

Russia insists that Sochi will be ready to host next Winter’s Olympics as scheduled.  Edward Snowden says there is a ‘zero percent chance’ that Russia received copies of secret NSA documents.

PHOTO: Brazilian activist Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel holding up a sign at a bail hearing in the Murmansk Regional Court. (Dmitri Sharomov / Greenpeace)