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

TODAY: Head of prisoner rights group flees Russia; Pichugin life sentence upheld; Navalny lawsuit rejected; Polonsky announces presidential bid; Sechin will appear as witness in Ulyukayev case; UN wants renewed mandate for Syria chemical weapons investigation; former Yahoo head blames Russia for data breaches; bailout mechanism causing Central Bank headaches; Russia to Venezuela’s rescue again.

Olga Romanova, the head of prisoner rights group Russia Behind Bars has fled to Germany after police searched her group’s offices, claiming that criminal charges of embezzlement filed against her are false. The Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence of Alexei Pichugin, a former security chief of former oil giant Yukos. A Moscow court has rejected opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s lawsuit against President Vladimir Putin which accused his administration of obstructing is 2018 presidential campaign, which officials say is null and void due to his conviction. Property developer Sergei Polonsky, who has been convicted of defrauding investors, says he plans to run in next year’s election. Former regional governor Andrei Turchak, who was accused of ordering the 2010 attack on journalist Oleg Kashin, has been made a deputy chairman of the upper State Duma. It has been confirmed that Rosneft head Igor Sechin will appear as a witness in the embezzlement trial against former Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, facing 15 years in prison on accusations of taking a $2 million bribe from Sechin.

UN Security Council members are demanding the renewal of the mandate for an international inquiry into chemical weapons attacks in Syria (opposed by Russia, a key backer of the Syrian government which stands accused of using deadly toxic gas on its citizens). The former CEO of Yahoo blamed Russian agents for at least one of two massive data breaches at the company during her tenure. Roskomnadzor says it will be checking up on Facebook to see whether it is in compliance with Russian law with “a series of supervisory activities”. Russia’s political influence campaign in the US last year is surprising because of its incoherence, says this piece: “[T]he trolls didn’t seem to care very much about pushing one political side over another. They were happy to push all sides.

With so much Russian oil production in a year of rising crude prices, why aren’t Russian stocks performing better? The Central Bank’s new bailout mechanism is creating some headaches for officials in dealing with businesses that it is not used to handling, such as chicken plants and lumber yards, assets used to plug holes in the balance sheets of failing banks. In the wake of Moscow’s 2014 import ban, the Agriculture Ministry says it is aiming to produce enough cheese for the domestic market within 5 years. Russia and Venezuela have agreed on the restructuring of $3 billion of the latter’s debt; this is the third time that Russia has come to Venezuela’s financial aid over the last year.

PHOTO: A rainbow above the bank of the Yenisei River in the Siberian Taiga area outside Krasnoyarsk, Russia. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin November 08, 2017