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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 7, 2018

TODAY: Activists protest ahead of Putin inauguration, over 1,000 detained, beaten by police and Cossacks; allies urging US to stay in Iran deal for fear of deepening Russia ties; Rosneft China deal falls through, Qatar to step in; Pentagon announces extended NATO forces; soldiers preparing for Victory Day Parade.

Activists who gathered to protest President Vladimir Putin’s fourth inauguration over the weekend were treated aggressively by riot police, who were seen beating protesters with batons and making violent arrests. The Moscow police spokesman nonetheless said that the police and the National Guard all acted legally, competently, and calmly. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who called for the protests under the title “Down with the Tsar!“, was detained and then released, pending trial, along with thousands of others. Police numbers estimated 1,500 people at the Moscow protest, but 703 were also reportedly detained there. In Saratov, a 12-year-old boy was among those detained. Independent monitoring group OVD Info reported that 1,600 people were detained at the rallies (says the FT, although the Moscow Times’ numbers, quoting the same source, are smaller), which were held in 27 cities across the country. Navalny said that the demonstrations prove that Putin is not the uncontested leader he claims to be. As of last night, more than 100 were still being detained. Amnesty International qualified the arrests, the failure of the police to stop peaceful protesters from being beaten by people in Cossack uniforms brandishing leather whips, and the authorities’ refusal to authorise the protest in the first place as “outrageous”. The Cossak fighters will also be deployed to keep order in the capital during the World Cup. 

Officials in Germany and the UK are trying to persuade the US to remain part of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran, after Russia said it would develop closer ties with Iran if the US withdraws. Glencore and Qatar have abandoned their plan to sell a $9 billion stake in Rosneft to CEFC China Energy Co. Under a new version of the deal, Qatar Investment Authority will take control of almost 19% of Rosneft, making it the third largest shareholder after BP and the Kremlin. The Pentagon has announced the launch of a new naval command that will address “a resurgent Russia” by bolstering US and NATO presence in the Atlantic Ocean. 

13,000 soldiers took part in a rehearsal yesterday for the upcoming Victory Day Parade in Moscow. Russia’s obesity rate has risen almost 50% over the last five years. 

PHOTO: Protesters carry a poster depicting President Vladimir Putin as an elderly Soviet leader in St. Petersburg on May 5, 2018. (AP)