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

TODAY: Foreign Ministry sends out warning to West of consequences for Ukraine’s incursion into Crimea (which it denies making); Poroshenko puts troops on combat alert; first Russian charged under Yarovaya Laws; Pelosi refers to Russian web breach as ‘electronic Watergate’; Google fined under anti-monopoly law.

The Foreign Ministry sent a warning to Ukraine and the West that there will be consequences for the death of two Russian servicemen during clashes with allegedly Ukrainian forces near the border with Crimea.  The United States says it has no evidence corroborating Russian allegations of the incursion.  Ukraine’s military intelligence says the incident was caused by Russian soldiers and border guards in Crimea firing at each other (one of the five current ‘versions’ of events trawling the Internet). Ukraine says the current build-up of Russian troops along its shared border with Crimea could be a signal ofvery bad intentions’, and President Petro Poroshenko has put troops on combat alert along the Russian-Ukrainian border.  President Vladimir Putin has timed this current incident perfectly, says the Washington Post, given that the United States and Europe are distracted with the presidential campaign and Brexit respectively.  An ivy league Russia scholar says it is ‘highly unlikely that the Russians are truly planning some major offensive. We’re looking at a classic Russian strategy of building up tension.

The first Russian to be charged under the new anti-terror Yarovaya Laws had been handing out religious books on the street.  An activist from Krasnodar was denied early release from a sentence handed down to her in 2014 for Internet extremism (the first conviction of its kind in Russia).  US House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the recent Russian breach of the party’s servers an ‘electronic Watergate’.  The BBC observed that Turkish President Recep Erdogan was far more enthusiastic in his demeanor than Vladimir Putin in their bilateral meetings this week, marking ‘a lingering coolness emanating from Mr Putin’, and noting that Turkey needs the rapprochement far more than Russia does.  And in any case, asks Bloomberg, can Erdogan afford it?  Brian Whitmore discusses the current precarious status of the Russian elite, following the news that Putin may make another high-level purge of government officials following the elections this September.

Google will have to pay a $6.8 million fine for breaking Russia’s anti-monopoly laws about the pre-installation of applications on Android devices.  The ruble has rallied 14% this year, making it the third-best performer in the emerging markets.  Russian goods prices are finally falling again, not just due to seasonal fluctuations but declining consumer demand, analysts say.  Polyus Gold saw record highs for its first-half core profit margin.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council to discuss additional security measures for Crimea after clashes on the contested peninsula, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, August 11, 2016. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERS