RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 15, 2013

TODAY: Russia and Egypt poised to make military deal; Gazprom increases pressure on Ukraine; Khodorkosky appeal; Politkovskaya jury dismissed; Pavlensky investigated; Tolokonnikova in hospital; emotional Putin; Beatle demands freedom for Arctic 30.

Relations with Egypt are on the verge of a dramatic shift: Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Cairo for high level and potentially ‘historic’ talks, aiming to develop military cooperation and a possible $2 billion arms deal.  Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy denied that his country is looking for an alternative to U.S. support and that Russia is too important to be a substitute, despite the talks following hot on the heels of America’s decision to suspend most of a billion-dollar military aid package.  One analyst commented, ‘It is clear that Russia is trying to capitalize — politically, militarily and economically — on the United States’ disengagement with Egypt.’  Another suggested that any deals brokered will only be able to go so far: ‘The only thing Russia really has to offer Egypt […] will be weapons.’  The BBC looks at Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East, country-by-country.  Gazprom says Ukraine will not have enough gas in its reservoirs to guarantee supplies to Europe this winter, calling the situation a ‘catastrophe’.  The Times says Ukraine may be forced to cancel its planned trade deal with Europe and fall back under the Kremlin’s influence, partly because it has not been able to secure the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The Supreme Court will not consider Mikahil Khodorkovsky’s appeal.  In yet another setback to the case, a Moscow judge dismissed the jury in the Anna Politkovskaya murder trial after three jurors failed to show up.  Police are making a second attempt to prosecute artist Pyotr Pavlensky for his shocking performance in Red Square last week; Pavlensky is being investigated for hooliganism and under orders not to leave Moscow.  Jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has reportedly been moved to a prison hospital in Siberia to diagnose complications arising from her hunger strike last month.  Fellow band member Yekaterina Samutsevich is calling for a boycott of next winter’s Sochi Olympics.  Deputies in Samara have submitted a bill that would ban free abortions.

President Vladimir Putin appeared to become emotional whilst listening to a soft rock tribute to the police force yesterday – or was he scratching an itch?  Watch the video to judge for yourself.  Former Beatle Paul McCartney has written an open letter asking Putin to release the ‘Arctic 30’, as Greenpeace insists that it will not be silenced by ‘acts of intimidation’.

PHOTO: Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Fahmy, right, accompanies his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov following their meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)