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

TODAY: Antimonopoly agency finds Google guilty of abusing market position, company could face fine; boost for Yandex; U.S. says Russia planning an airbase in Syria, Russian news links Syria with Islamic State; E.U. extends anti-Russia sanctions; Deutsche Bank to leave Russia; easyJet suspends flights to Moscow; anti-gay laws leaving LGBT population vulnerable; Corbyn win generates zero Russian interest.

An antitrust probe by the Federal Antimonopoly Service has found Google guilty of anticompetitive practices in connection with its app bundles, and of ‘abusing its dominant market position’; Google says it has not yet received the ruling, which could make it liable to pay 1-15% of its 2014 Russian revenue.  Yandex said it thought that the ruling would restore market competition; the news boosted Yandex shares 7.9% on the NASDAQ yesterday.  The U.S. says recent evidence suggests that Russia is planning to establish a ‘forward air operating base’ in Syria, and has positioned tanks at the Latakia airfield.  A U.S. Air Force general called the new developmentsalarming’.  A tabloid-style Russian news site apparently ‘set the scene’ for these developments by linking Chechen militants and Islamic State to the Syrian port of Latakia.  This ties in with the Washington Post’s argument that Russia may be gambling on the West’s willingness to ‘tolerate’ Syrian President Bashar al-Assad due to its ‘horror’ of Islamic State.  The New York Times paints the West’s position as similarly difficult, having few other routes available for combating I.S. – but also says that Putin cannot be trusted.  The Moscow Times says the Assad regime is one of Russia’s main assets, and as such, will be protected as a priority.

The European Union has extended its visa ban and asset freeze on Kremlin officials for another six months.  The chairman of Deutsche Bank’s Russian unit is leaving Moscow for Germany, prompting an announcement that DB will close all of its Russian operations apart from transaction banking services.  The Bank of Moscow’s name is to slowly disappear through a rebranding by VTB. British low-cost airline easyJet is suspending flights between London and Moscow, due to a ‘significant and sustained reduction in demand’ which it attributes to a weak Russian economy and an increasingly difficult visa approval process.

Reuters reports on how the ‘gay propaganda’ law is isolating Russia’s vulnerable LGBT community.  Vitaly Milonov, the lawmaker responsible for the new measure, has been awarded a state honourfor Service to the Fatherland’.  The election of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour Party in the U.K. ‘generate[d] almost no interest in Russia’, says the Moscow Times.

PHOTO: In this March 4, 2012 file photo, a Syrian woman kisses a poster of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a pro-Syrian government protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman, File)