RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 5, 2013

050713TODAY: Navalny could be jailed for six years; Putin discusses ‘foreign agent’ law; rights council says Urlashov charges seem legitimate; third case against Khodorkovsky likely; political case against Bolotnaya Square protester; Khimki attack mastermind jailed; homophobic comment to be investigated; IMF says Russia is rich; ‘horrific’ budget shortfall; Russia losing patience with Snowden.

Prosecutors are demanding a six-year jail sentence for opposition leader and corruption activist Alexei Navalny.  During a meeting with human rights activists, President Vladimir Putin defended the law requiring foreign-funded NGOs to register as ‘foreign agents’ on the grounds of transparency and public interest: ‘society has the right to know what that organization is and whose money is funding it’.  He said that the law should be changed to protect non-political groups from being harrassed.  The status of Shchit i Mech, an organisation which protects the victims of law enforcement agencies, has caused a high-level row between the Prosecutor Generals’ Office and the Justice Ministry, after the latter refused to let Shchit i Mech register as a foreign agent.  Members of the Kremlin’s human rights council say that the extortion charges against Yaroslavl Mayor Yevgeny Urlashov, initially denounced as politically motivated, look in fact to be legitimate.  A third criminal case against former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky is looking ‘increasingly likely’.  The Economist discusses the case against Bolotnaya Square protester Alexei Polikhovich, a case with ‘obvious political implications’ whose aim, it says, ‘is to frighten and splinter the opposition and its sympathisers’.

A former Moscow region official has been jailed for masterminding an attack on local Khimki environmentalist Konstantin Fetisov – a rare conviction, as organisers of such attacks are rarely identified.  Thanks to complaints made by a human rights group in Zabaikalsky, a homophobic comment by lawmaker Alexander Mikhailov, is being examined by prosecutors.  Mikhailov had suggested that Cossacks be allowed to flog gay people in public.  The International Monetary Fund has reclassified the Russian Federation as a high-income economy, with gross national income of $12,700 per capita.  Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says the Reserve Fund might be able to cover this year’s horrific’ $30 billion federal budget shortfall.

A comment by Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov indicates that Russia is losing patience with Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower stuck in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.  The Federal Space Program is ‘ineffective, according to the Audit Chamber.  Russia is concerned about its lack of progress with Iran on its nuclear programme.

PHOTO: Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny waves during a break in a court hearing in Kirov July 3, 2013. Navalny faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty of stealing 16 million roubles ($500,000) from a state timber firm in a trial he says is politically motivated. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin