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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 4, 2015

TODAY: Thousands pay last respects to Boris Nemtsov; E.U. ministers barred from attending; investigators have nothing on Nemtsov killer; Novak says Kiev should pay for gas to crisis-hit eastern Ukraine; Fridman outraged over gas field deal block; oil output expected to drop 8%.

Thousands gathered to pay their final respects to Boris Nemtsov in Moscow yesterday, where his body lay in an open coffin before being taken to the funeral (RFE/RL has video of the procession and images from the memorial).  Many attendees saw the funeral as a burial not just of a beloved public figure and friend, but also of the hope for a better Russia.  ‘[I]t is impossible to replace him,’ said Vladimir Ryzhkov.  Yulia Latynina called it the beginning of a new era: ‘the era of physical annihilation of political opponents of the regime’.  Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova agreed, and urged public opposition figures to remain brave.  Two European Union politicians from Latvia and Poland were barred from entering Russia to attend the funeral.  Four days have passed since Nemtsov’s death, but investigators have not produced any concrete results.  The Investigative Committee is blaming the lack of progress on ‘a great deal of disinformation’.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel added her voice to the international chorus calling for answers: ‘We expect everything to be done to clear up this murder.

Energy Minister Alexander Novak says Russia believes that Kiev should pay for gas supplies to regions of eastern Ukraine currently controlled by Moscow-backed rebels, signalling a u-turn from Gazprom’s previous statement that those regions could be exempted.  Mikhail Fridman says the U.K. government’s attempt to block his gas field acquisition deal is ‘irrational’, though it is hardly the first time that a Western government has publicly intervened in a proposed Russia deal over fears about sanctions, notes the Independent.  Vladimir Putin met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko yesterday to discuss the future of the Union State, which Putin described as a ‘more advanced’ version of the Eurasian Economic Union.  Russia’s oil output is expected to fall by 8% over the next two years as lower prices force companies to cut back on drilling in Siberia.

Russians’ average monthly salary dropped to just $500 in January – an 8% decrease, year-on-year.  A Bloomberg misery index ranks Russia as the seventh most miserable economy in the world (if misery = inflation + unemployment).

PHOTO: Relatives and friends pay their last respects while passing the coffin of Boris Nemtsov, a charismatic Russian opposition leader and sharp critic of President Vladimir Putin, during a farewell ceremony inside the Sakhavov’s center in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. (Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press)