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

TODAY: CIA concludes that Russia intervened in US election; Trump’s expected US Secretary of State has a long history of Russia ties; UK Defence Ministry says Russia cannot be treated as an equal partner; OPEC deal sees oil price recovery; Lavrov slips up again; surprise terror drill terrifies students; 20,000 leave Aleppo.

The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the US presidential election this year to ensure a Donald Trump presidency, sending hacked emails from the DNC and Hillary Clinton to WikiLeaks. Russia’s aim was not just about having close ties with Trump, but with several of his advisers, says NYmag, which seems apt given the news of Rex Tillerson’s likely appointment as Trump’s Secretary of State: Tillerson was awarded an Order of Friendship (Russia’s highest honour for a foreigner) by Vladimir Putin in 2013, following years of work in Russia’s energy sector including a giant oil development in Moscow in the late 1990s. ‘Russia made his career.’  Tillerson’s appointment wouldconfirm Vladimir Putin as one of the strategic victors of the US presidential election‘. Trump speaking on Fox News yesterday dismissed the CIA report and blamed it on the Democrats; Russia has not yet commented. ‘Among the unanswered questions is whether anyone within Mr. Trump’s inner circle coordinated with the Kremlin,’ says this piece. The UK Minister of Defence says it is not possible to treat Russia as an equal partner.

OPEC and other oil producers including Russia and Saudi Arabia have reached a deal to cut output, prompting a boost to oil prices to their highest levels since last year.  The deal underscores a growing energy alliance between Saudi Arabia and Russia, says the FT, who have long been considered unlikely partners, and not just because Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was caught referring to Saudi officials as ‘fucking morons’ last year. Lavrov is drawing attention to himself again this week for profane language.  A surprise anti-terrorist training exercise at a medical college outside St. Petersburg, which included the appearance of a woman wearing a fake suicide bomb vest, terrified students. Yelena Isinbayeva, who was appointed chair of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency last week, is calling for Russia to be reinstated for competition with the International Association of Athletics Federations. State Duma lawmakers rejected draft legislation that would have forbidden transgender people from getting married.

The French Foreign Minister said that Russian support has been the main factor preventing a defeat of the Syrian military.  As over 20,000 residents leave Aleppo, the Guardian notes that[p]lenty have warned that Aleppo will be the Guernica of our generation, remembered among the greatest crimes against humanity.’  Former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovsky says he does not believe that Vladimir Putin will attempt to alter the Russian constitution to allow him to serve a third consecutive term as president, but that he will undoubtedly win the next election, expected in 2018. ‘After that, he’ll start thinking about a way out,’ he said.

PHOTO: Rex Tillerson, left, is seen with Russian president Vladimir Putin and Krasnodar governor Alexander Tkachev at the signing of an agreement between Rosneft and Exxon Mobil. Photograph: Mikhail Klimentyev/EPA