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

TODAY: Russians celebrate International Women’s Day, with varying sensitivity; U.S. military official and German Foreign Minister speak out against Russian missiles; Hungary says it will not veto anti-Russian sanctions; China randomly praises relations with Russia; RT gears up to begin broadcasting in France; Russia may boycott Eurovision this year.

International Women’s Day is a holiday in Russia, and was celebrated with enthusiasm in the Soviet Union; March 8 was the first day of the Russian Revolution in 1917. President Vladimir Putin marked the occasion by praising Russian women for their ‘beauty’, ‘consolation’, and for ‘always being on time’. (As the Independent points out, the President ‘is not known for his progressive attitude towards women’.) Female prisoners are made to perform dances and take part in beauty contests to celebrate the holiday. Russia’s floral market benefits significantly from the event, with flower shops typically selling $400,000 worth of roses this month as people buy flowers to celebrate the women in their life. To mark the holiday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a new national strategy of actions in the interests of women, which will identify and carry out the work needed to be done in order to strengthen the position of women in politics, economy, society and culture. But if a recent Burger King advertisement using the image of a rape victim is anything to go by, ‘Russian society supports the myth that the victim is responsible for sexual assault’. A few other sources from across the board got their International Women’s Day messages wrong. In Moscow, police detained four female activists for trying to hang a banner on the Kremlin wall reading ‘Men in power for 200 years! Down with that!’ A photo journalist from Novaya Gazeta was also detained, for trying to cover the event.

Russia’s deployment of a land-based cruise missile violates a nuclear arms control treaty from the Cold War era, says a high-ranking U.S. military officer, and is designed to ‘pose a threat to NATO’. The German Foreign Minister says it would be a setback for European security if Russia were to permanently station Iksander missiles in Kaliningrad, and a German MEP is calling for the E.U. to be more visible in the Balkans to prevent Russian destabilisation of the region. Hungary rejected criticisms that it is acting like a Trojan Horse for Russia in the European Union, and promised not to veto the extension of anti-Russian sanctions as a sole objector. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has declared, ‘Apropos of nothing at all,’ that relations with Russia are at ‘a historic maximum’.

Russian power is brittle,says the Washington Times, and should not be seen as a real rising threat. Its reserve fund has shrunk to a fifth of its value three years ago, fertility is lower than required to maintain population, and military spending will have to take a back seat. In contrast, the FT says investors are attracted to Russia right now on hopes that the economy is turning a corner.  The New York Times has a special piece on RT, noting its complex nature as ‘both a slick modern television network, dressed up with great visuals and stylish presenters, and a content farm that helps feed the European far right.’  RT’s budget for 2017 is roughly $343 million; it will begin broadcasting in France this year. Russia may follow calls from politicians and prominent public figures to boycott this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, because it will be staged in Kiev, in Ukraine.

PHOTO: Vladimir Putin visits a newly opened maternity center in Bryansk on March 8, 2017. (Alexei Druzhinin / Pool Photo via AP)