RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 3, 2017

TODAY: Putin extends counter-sanctions against EU, Russia suspends payments to Council of Europe; Putin in discussions with Arab leaders; Kudrin says Russia cannot develop economically without the West; nuclear clean-up begins at Andreyeva Bay; Ukraine blames cyber attack on Russia; Foreign Ministry denies nerve gas report; Putin authorises Moscow demolition.

As expected, President Vladimir Putin extended counter-sections on the European Union until the end of 2018, in retaliation for last week’s formal extension of the EU’s economic sanctions against Russia. Russia has also suspended its payments to the Council of Europe for the rest of the year, in retaliation for its delegation being stripped of its voting rights (as a result of its annexation of Crimea). Putin has been in conversation with the leaders of Qatar and Bahrain in a bid to mediate in their ongoing dispute with other Arab states. Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin says Russia will not be able to achieve strong economic growth unless ties with the West improve, not just because sanctions are crippling the economy, but because Western countries have technology and resources that Russia needs in order to succeed. Nuclear clean-up operations have begun at Andreyeva Bay, thought to have the largest reserves of spent nuclear fuel in the world. Former shareholders in Yukos are claiming that the US law firm working for Rosneft in the case against them interfered with judicial proceedings in Armenia.

Ukraine is blaming last week’s global cyber attack on Russia. Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko offered to perform a Russian dance for reporters if they agree to stop asking about football doping. The Foreign Ministry has rubbished claims by the world’s chemical watchdog that it used the banned nerve gas sarin during April attacks in Syria, calling them politically biased and based on “extremely doubtful evidence”. Vladimir Putin signed the controversial law authorising the demolition of thousands of Soviet-era Moscow apartment buildings, a plan which has brought thousands to the streets in protests this summer. Britain and the US urged Russian authorities to ensure that all those involved in the murder of Boris Nemtsov be brought to justice, following last weeks’ conviction of five men but no idea of who masterminded it.

The Guardian publishes an excerpt from Angus Roxburgh’s memoir in which describes his experience of being held by police and questioned for 7 hours for having taken part in a study tour in Nizhny Novgorod, and then a chilling appearance on a stage-managed Russian television show. This piece remembers Russia and China coming near to war in 1969.

PHOTO: Sketch for a set design, by Aristarkh Lentulov. (Bakhrushin State Central Theater Museum)