RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 3, 2016

TODAY: Lavrov and Kerry discuss Syria chaos; Russian fighter jets continue to taunt US navy in Baltic Sea; US weighs in on Reznik case; how will Putin deal with second round of more severe economic problems? Political satire is still alive, but underground; Putin approves new laws to help refugees and the Far East; Global Magnitsky Act still under construction.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with his US counterpart John Kerry yesterday about the current ‘chaos’ in Syria; Russia and the US have agreed on adding additional personnel to work on the problem from Geneva.  The Financial Times is optimistic that close cooperation between Russia and the US will defeat Isis in Syria. And yet, Russian Air Force fighter jets are continuing to play dangerous games in the Baltic Sea, with four encounters recorded in the past month with the US navy.  A US navy chief says the incidents are ‘raising overall tension’ in the region and increasing the risk of ‘tactical miscalculations’.  NATO is working on new measures to guard against potentially aggressive behaviour from Russia.  The US State Department wants Russia to free its own jailed journalist Sergei Reznik, who says his charges are politically motivated and connected with his work about corruption.

The New York Times discusses the return of the very economic problems that ‘Putin came here to make a big show of solving’, except now they are worse and ‘far more intractable’ than they were seven years ago.  Newsweek looks at the recent history of political satire in Russia, beginning with President Vladimir Putin coming to power in 2000 and taking over independent television channel NTV in order to destroy a political satire show featuring grotesque puppets of high-profile figures. Satire has since gone underground, notes the piece, citing Twitter accounts and, most recently, graffiti.  Putin approved two new laws – one to help refugees receive Russian residency more quickly, ‘(‘largely aimed at Ukrainian refugees within Russia’), and another that will grant citizens free plots of land in the Far East, with the sole requirement that they put it to use.

The Washington Post reports on the progress of the US bill the Global Magnitsky Act, inspired by the case of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, which seeks to create a process for imposing sanctions on foreigners who abuse human rights activists.

PHOTO: Russian police officers stand near a poster depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and reading “What Panama?” in reference to the leaked Panama Papers, at a bus stop in Moscow, Russia on April 6. (SERGEI KARPUKHIN/REUTERS)