RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 12, 2016

TODAY: Kremlin sells Alrosa stake, plans more privatisations for this year; Sharapova will not compete in Rio, sole athlete allowed to take part branded a traitor; Vanity Fair on Mikhail Khodorkovsky; Navalny will not run in elections; pro-Kremlin movement wants Levada Center investigated; Novosibirsk loves Stalin.

Kicking off what it promises will be a year of privatisations, the Kremlin sold a 10.9% stake in diamond producer Alrosa to mostly foreign buyers yesterday (though a mere 5% of them were American; and 35% of the shares went to a state-backed investor), generating $818 million.  Further major sales planned for this year include Bashneft and Sovcomflot.  Tennis star Maria Sharapova will not be allowed to compete in the Rio Olympics, as her appeal against the earlier two-year ban is still pending.  Long jumper Darya Klishina is the only Russian athlete allowed to take part in Rio this summer, leading to accusations that she is a traitor for not showing solidarity with other Russians who are banned from competing.  Dmitry Peskov says Russia will not boycott the Games.  President Vladimir Putin took communion in the Valaam Monastery in Karelia with Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill over the weekend, drawing ire from commentators because he canceled days of engagements to do so.

Vanity Fair is running a special piece on Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his Open Russia foundation, which it describes as ‘an attempt to build an entire new leadership for Russian society that would exist and function parallel to the current one—until the current one implodes’.  The accompanying interview questions Khodorkovsky’s plans, noting that ‘he has not walked a Russian street since October 2003’ and therefore has no firsthand experience of its new ‘post-ideological’ society, dubbed by the Kremlin ‘a traditional-values civilization’. Alexei Navalny notes the stasis of Russian electoral politics, as quoted by the National Post in a piece claiming that the current political climate will make it ‘unnecessary [for Vladimir Putin] to rig the [upcoming] election’.  ‘Anti-Maidan’, the pro-Kremlin movement, has written to the Justice Ministry demanding that the Levada Center, an independent pollster, be investigated as a ‘foreign agent’, alleging that it has received over $120,000 from the US government in the past four years.

In response to a question about whether or not Canada would supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau avoided a direct answer, saying only that Russia has not been a ‘positive partner’ with regard to the Minsk ceasefire.  Stalin supporters in the particularly gung-ho Novosibirsk think the Soviet dictator didn’t kill enough people.

PHOTO: Yelena Isinbayeva greets spectators. Russian track and field championship, Women’s pole vault, Cheboksary, Russia, June 21, 2016. (REUTERS/SERGEI KARPUKHIN)