RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 12, 2015

TODAY: Journalist dropped by state television network for contradicting Kremlin line; Maxim magazine could face closure after printing swear words; Medvedev says Russia will not tit-for-tat bar foreign journalists; Guriev notes government’s lack of long-term plans; 3m fall below poverty line; Putin late for Pope; E.U. votes to continue anti-Russia sanctions; Sorokin lashes out against FIFA investigation.

Journalist Konstantin Goldenzweig has left his job at pro-Kremlin television channel NTV, with an apology for being part of a ‘general propaganda madness’.  A correspondent for the channel says Goldenzweig was dropped by the network before he could resign, after giving an interview describing President Putin as cynical and suggesting that he has ‘a great interest’ in an unstable Ukraine.  Men’s magazine Maxim will pay a $456 fine for printing curse words – this is the second punitive measure taken against the magazine in a year, which means that Roskomnadzor can now legally request to have it shut down.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says the barring of Russian journalists from Russia is ‘a disgrace’, and insists that Russia will not create a blacklist of its own (although a number of Western journalists have been barred from working in Russia in the past).  It is thought that the recent hacking of French station TV5Monde may be linked to Russian hackers with Kremlin ties.  Writing in the Washington Post, Sergei Guriev points out that the Kremlin has not implemented a long-term development strategy since 2012. ‘The Kremlin has no credible financial plan beyond 2016 except for hoping for oil prices to recover.’  More than three million Russians fell below the poverty line in the first three months of 2015, says state statistics service Rosstat, bringing the total number living below the line to 22.9 million.

President Vladimir Putin had an hour-long private meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican earlier this week to discuss the Ukraine crisis, with the pontiff calling for him to make ‘a sincere and great effort to achieve peace’.  Putin was over an hour late for the meeting, prompting a Guardian analysis: ‘His lateness varies from leader to leader, and in Putin’s terms, an hour’s wait is a sign of respect.’  During his visit with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Putin pointed out that Italy stood to lose €1 billion in contracts if it continued its involvement with anti-Russian sanctions.  The European Parliament yesterday passed a resolution to maintain E.U. sanctions against Russia for its actions in Ukraine.  Over a dozen groups in Russia are using crowdfunding websites to raise money for separatists fighting in Ukraine.  The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations says Russia is fully supporting pro-Moscow rebel forces in eastern Ukraine and spreading ‘outright lies’.  The Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing the United States of preferring a ‘propagandistic approach’ in its discussion of arms control treaties, and again stated that it is not in violation of any agreements.

Alexei Sorokin, the head of the organising committee for Russia’s 2018 World Cup hosting, says corruption investigations into the legality of Russia’s bid are politically motivated and ‘ridiculous’.

PHOTO: Russia President Vladimir Putin leaves the Vatican at the end of a private audience with Pope Francis, Wednesday, June 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)