RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 6, 2016

TODAY: Putin announces new National Guard to replace special police forces, makes former personal security head the chief; Peskov still talking about Panama Papers as Yakunin allegations surface, Prosecutor General will look into the report; protesters detained for demanding Putin’s impeachment; report says Russia did not mainly bomb IS targets in Syria; Foreign Ministry blames US for current poor relations.

President Vladimir Putin yesterday announced a new National Guard service to replace a number of Interior Ministry forces, including the functions of special police forces like riot police and rapid response.  Putin says the purpose of the new guard is to combat terrorism and organised crime.  And the new guard’s chief? Viktor Zolotov, the former head of the President’s personal security service.  Dmitry Peskov made some further comments about the Panama Papers, this time saying that, given the papers provide information on so many politicians in so many different countries, it does not make sense that the press is concentrating so much on Vladimir Putin; he also mentioned Putinophobia again, this time classifying it as ‘a bacillus’.  One of the new Russia-related revelations emerging from the Panama Papers is that the son of a close associate of Vladimir Yakunin, the former head of Russian Railways, is the head of a business empire built on state railroad contracts worth millions.  The Prosecutor General’s Office says it will investigate the papers to ensure that ‘Russian nationals mentioned in the documents acted according to the norms of Russian law’.  Sberbank head German Gref says the bank has never conducted any questionable transactions.  Several people involved in one-man pickets demanding Putin’s impeachment following the Panama Papers leak have been detained.

A report by a Washington-based council which used aerial surveillance and crowdsourcing as sources says Russia’s claims to have bombed mostly Islamic State targets in Syria during its military campaign are completely inaccurate, and argues that the primary aim was to bolster the government of Bashar al Assad by weakening rebel groups.  Saudi Arabia has surpassed Russia’s military spending, pushing it out of the world’s top three for 2015.  The European Commission has voiced concerns about the impact of the Nord Stream-2 pipeline on the stability of gas supplies to the European Union.  Domestic banks were named yesterday to help with upcoming big state privatisations this year, but foreign banks may still be given secondary roles, according to Sberbank.  The Foreign Ministry has issued some harsh remarks regarding current relations with the US in the wake of the nuclear security summit in Washington, blaming its ‘destructive actions’ for deteriorated relations.

The fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh is proof that post-Soviet frozen conflicts (in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and eastern Ukraine) are not frozen at all, says Bloomberg.

PHOTO: The head of Russia’s Sberbank German Gref (Maxim Stulov / Vedomosti)