RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 10, 2016

TODAY: Relations with Turkey at their worst in decades, Merkel caught in the middle; Putin’s former bodyguard given governor appointment; formal claim made at UN for Arctic sea bed; NATO wants constructive talks with Russia, not conflict; demonstrators removed before extensive Moscow commercial building demolition; opposition leader Kasyanov attacked.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says relations with Turkey are at the worst they have been in several decades; Russia’s ambassador to Turkey says contact between the two will not be restored unless Ankara changes its position.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel understands this perfectly well, says Foreign Affairs committee member Alexey Pushkov, arguing that her statement about being horrified by Russia and Syria’s actions in Syria was very pointedly made during a visit to Turkey. Bloomberg argues that the chaos created by Russian bombing along Turkey’s shared border with Syria will further Vladimir Putin’s goals in Turkey and Europe, and destabilise his ‘two foes’, Erdogan and Merkel, who are currently working together to divert the flow of refugees away from Germany.  Alexei Dyumin, Vladimir Putin’s former bodyguard of several years, has been appointed acting governor of the Tula region, sparking speculation that he is being groomed for a quick ascent into a more powerful position.  The Russian Minister of Natural Resources made a formal presentation to the United Nations of Russia’s claim to the Arctic Ocean seabed yesterday, which if accepted would give Moscow reign over the area for oil drilling.  NATO wants ‘constructive talks’ with Russia, not confrontation, according to Secretary-General Jens Stolgenberg.  Russian armaments deployed in Kaliningrad currently are limiting NATO’s capabilities in the Baltic.  Russia’s representative to the EU says there is an accumulation of a critical mass in favour of lifting anti-Russian sanctions, due to the economic damage inflicted on other EU economies in their wake.

Moscow enacted a large-scale demolition of small shopping centers and kiosks on Monday night (click for video), with authorities saying that the buildings were all constructed illegally; the owners and tenants all opposed the demolition, and protesters were escorted out of the buildings by police before the buildings were destroyed. One shopping center director said an arbitration court had confirmed his building’s legal status.  There was another small protest on Monday night outside the Central Bank, by foreign currency mortgage holders demanding debt relief.  Opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov, who was recently targeted online by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was attacked last night in a Moscow restaurant by a gang of men who smeared him with cake and shouted death threats.

A US-funded report on censorship in Russia quotes various Russian artists and publishers on Roskomnadzor’s tactics for suppressingextremist’ materials.  Moscow’s airports have lost $76 million from the ban on flights to Turkey, Egypt and Ukraine.  Putin says there are no financial catastrophes, and that Russia is overcoming current problemswith good or satisfactory results’.  Russia has begun its appeal against an international arbitration order that it pay $50 billion in damages to former shareholders of the now defunct oil giant Yukos.

PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, right, examines a tram while visiting Tver railway plant in the city of Tver, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (Alexander Astafyev/Sputnik, Government Pool Photo via AP)