RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 16, 2016

TODAY: UN estimates 50 Syrian civilians killed in strikes attributed to Russia; France, Germany, and Turkey all call on Russia to cease its attacks, but majority of Russians support involvement in Syria; Turkey and Russia relations at new low; Venezuela still seeking joint action with OPEC and Russia on oil prices; Nord Stream 2 a political play, say critics; Kadyrov to be investigated over opposition comments; a peek at what life is like for Afro-Russians.

By United Nations estimates, over 50 people are believed to be wounded or dead after suspected Russian missile strikes hit three hospitals in northern Syria yesterday, just three days after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev denied that Russia was hitting civilian targets, and four days ahead of the scheduled ceasefire – not that Russia has pledged to stop its offensive once the ceasefire comes into force.  Western powers condemned the air strikes; Germany wants Russia to reduce attacks around Aleppo; France and Turkey said they amounted to ‘war crimes’.  A Levada Centre poll indicates that the majority of Russians back the attacks on Syria.  The Deputy Foreign Minister is blaming the inaction of the US-led coalition for Russia’s current involvement in Syria.  Tensions between Russia and Turkey are at a new peak, with one EU official claiming that Russia is furious with Turkey and trying to destabilise its rule.  Russia has asked the United Nations Security Council to discuss Turkey’s shelling of Russian-backed targets in Syria.

Venezuela is in talks with Russia and OPEC about joint action to shore up oil prices, although Russia has already refused to cooperate with OPEC.  Critics say the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is pointless given that Nord Stream 1 currently operates well below full capacity, and that it must therefore be a Russian ploy for more political dominance over Europe’s gas supply.  Russia will soon begin delivering S-300 air defence missiles to Iran.  Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is to be investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office for his comments against opposition activists.

The Guardian looks at life for Russians of colour. ‘Those who grew up and live in Russia still have to justify on a daily basis the fact that they are Russians too.’  The New Statesman wonders whether Russia will be able to find the buyers required to carry out its privatisation plans, or whether oligarchs will be forced to invest under the banner of ‘de-offshorisation’ of their wealth.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to President of Russia’s Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) Alexander Shokhin in the Novo-Ogaryov residence, outside Moscow on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)