RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 15, 2015

TODAY: Analysts ponder Russia’s Iran moves; Yemen embargo vetoed; Time poll names Putin most influential; record number of questions for Putin call-in; state news reporter fired over FSB story; Navalny employee charged after giving painting to boss; Investigative Committee in arms over ‘twerk’ video.

Russia’s decision to lift its embargo on selling anti-aircraft systems to Iran is seen as an attempt to best place itself to benefit from Iran’s upcoming military upgrade.  Despite confirmation from officials that Russia is bartering oil for assets with Iran, traders and analysts say they have seen no signs of extra trade, with one calling the confirmation ‘a political trick’.  Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council vote to impose an arms embargo on Yemen’s Iran-allied Huthi rebels.  The Baltic states are seeking to integrate with Europe’s power grid, but the plan could cut off Kaliningrad, and is already fueling tension in the region.  More than 1 million people have submitted questions to President Vladimir Putin ahead of his call-in show later this week.  This year’s Time magazine poll named Putin the most influential person in the world.  Dmitry Peskov said he was unable to give a assessment of the ranking because, he says, it is so obvious that Putin is popular and respected.  (A South Korean rapper took second place.)  Time’s poll is still seen by Russian leaders as ‘the ultimate source of prestige and approval’, despite their ongoing confrontations with the West, says the Moscow Times.  Rosatom is in talks with Nigeria to build nuclear power plants.

Yekaterina Kholkina, a reporter for a Yekaterinburg state newspaper, was fired for reporting that the FSB closed down a photography exhibit co-organised by the U.S. consulate.  Activist Georgy Alburov has been convicted of theft for removing a ‘grimy piece of street art’ from a city wall and presenting it to his boss, Alexei Navalny; oddly, Alburov’s gifting of the piece was captured on video by pro-Kremlin news channel NTV, and the artist said he had been asked to file a complaint about the removal of the image.  The New York Times discusses the ‘political paybackof Ilya Ponomarev’s exile: ‘[W]hen a chamber of sycophantic “swindlers and thieves,” as Mr. Ponomarev called the Duma, noisily casts out the one member who defied Mr. Putin’s audacious land grab, the veil of legalism is pathetically transparent.’  Konstantin Sonin criticises the Kremlin for once again allowing government officials to sit on the boards of state-run companies.

The Federal Investigative Committee has launched an inquiry into ‘depraved acts’ following the posting of a video on YouTube of a ‘twerking’ performance by dance school students in Orenburg.

PHOTO: Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) speaks with Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (R) during a news conference at the Government House in Bangkok April 8, 2015. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha