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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – October 11, 2018

TODAY: Kudrin warns further sanctions could trigger recession; Russian businesses are insulating themselves, says FT; repatriation of assets part of Putin’s plan? Russia scores low in Oxfam poverty index; Slutsky recommends freezing Council of Europe membership; Putin consoles MMA fighter; Jehovah’s Witnesses detained for extremism; FOREX fraud scheme uncovered; police investigator assassinated; UK source Bellingcat, which has made several Skripal case revelations, faces scrutiny. 

Former finance minister Alexei Kudrin is warning that any further sanctions imposed on Russia by the US next year could cause the economy to enter recession. Measures taken by Russian businesses to protect them against sanctions (restructuring, reshoring assets, and diversifying away from western supply chains) mean that many are no longer concerned about becoming the targets of possible new measures, claims the FT. Leonid Bershidsky considers the possibility that President Vladimir Putin is baiting the West in order to force Russians to repatriate their money; last year, it was estimated that offshore wealth held by Russians amounted to $1 trillion – three times more than Russia’s official foreign reserves. Russia scored significantly lower than its eastern European neighbors on a new Oxfam ranking of countries’ commitments to reducing poverty. Leonid Slutsky, the head of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, says Russia should consider a temporary freeze on its Council of Europe membership, rather than “waiting for anti-Russian bureaucrats to initiate an expulsion procedure”. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says it rejects protests from Japan regarding its military deployments in the disputed Kuril Islands territory.

Putin met with Mixed Martial Arts fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov to congratulate him on his UFC 229 victory, and consoled him over his actions at the end of the fight, which involved jumping into the crowd to fight with one of his opponent’s trainers. “I will ask your father not to punish you too strictly,” he said. Five members of the Jehovah’s Witness religious group, all residents of Kirov, have been detained on weapons and extremism charges. Police have discovered a $15 million fraud scheme in one of the FOREX markets. Two Russian soccer players were detained and charged with hooliganism after attacking a government official who rebuked them in a Moscow cafe for behaving badly. A police investigator for a Moscow region was assassinated outside her home 

Mary Dejevsky finds its suspicious that Bellingcat – the source of much information regarding the Sergei Skripal GRU suspects – has “never reached any conclusion that is inconvenient to the US or UK authorities”, and wonders where its funding comes from.  Bellingcat has refuted similar accusations from Novaya Gazeta. Russian website Fontanka has named Sergey Fedotov as a third suspect in the Skripal case. Pavel Aptekar reflects on the end of jailed Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov’s hunger strike, citing “the cruelty and ruthlessness of a state system” that failed to acknowledge that it was happening.

PHOTO: Russian Orthodox Priest, Father Sergei, blesses members of the media after having blessed the Soyuz rocket at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad, October 10, 2018. (NASA/Bill Ingalls/Flickr)