RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 9, 2017

TODAY: Navalny convicted of embezzlement, given five-year suspended sentence, says verdict will not block his presidential bid; Putin looks forward to Russia’s future as Amnesty slams Kremlin over domestic violence decriminalisation; watchdog says porn sites damage human psyche; Putin offers help to Volkswagen; weaker ruble helping exports to China.

Opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny has been found guilty of embezzlement at his retrial, and given a five-year suspended sentence, thereby formally disqualifying him as a candidate for the presidential elections next year (as was widely predicted, not least by Navalny himself). Navalny says the sentence will not impact his plans to run however, because the Constitution currently only bars from competition those who are ‘kept in places of detention’ – a matter he intends to take to the Constitutional Court, to urge them not to contest his bid.  For his last word at the trial, Navalny said, ‘The dock is a strange place from which to make political statements, but perhaps there is no other place for an honest person in today’s Russia,’ drawing a rebuke from the judge. Navalny described the verdict asa sort of telegram sent from the Kremlin, saying that they believe that I, my team, and the people whose views I voice, are too dangerous to allow us to take part in the election campaign.’  This analyst agreed, saying Navalny’s danger to Putin is that, ‘If allowed to run, he will disseminate his corruption findings more widely than ever — and this disturbs very much Mr. Putin and his gang.

President Vladimir Putin says Russia is headinginevitably’ towards a bright future.  Amnesty International has responded to this week’s decriminalisation of domestic violence in Russia, urging the Kremlin to scrap it in favor of new measures, and calling it ‘a sickening attempt to further trivialize domestic violence’.  This accusation seemed to be confirmed by a popular newspaper responding to the news by suggesting that women be ‘proud of their bruises’.  The reason Roskomnadzor gave for blocking porn site Brazzers is that it is damaging to the human psyche, having a ‘negative impact’, and ‘violating citizens’ rights’.

Vladimir Putin extended an offer of help to Volkswagen, saying Russia wanted to support the company to overcome the current challenges of weak demand.  Russia has been able to expand and diversify its exports to China, after oil price volatility and the weakening of the Russian rouble made it possible for them to compete with the Chinese market.

PHOTO: Russian anti-corruption campaigner and opposition figure Alexei Navalny attends a hearing at the Lublinsky district court in Moscow, February 08, 2017. (Maxim Shemetov / Reuters)