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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 16, 2014

TODAY: Ukraine gas cut-off deadline arrives as pricing talks end without resolution; Kiev officials prepare for supplies to end; Russia accuses Ukraine of having third-party backing; Gazprom to sell Lithuanian assets following fine; violence worsens in eastern Ukraine, 49 killed in Luhansk; Poroshenko urged to sack aide who called Putin ‘dickhead’; Navalny sued; citizens want anti-gay lawmaker’s head examined.

6am GMT today was the natural gas cut-off deadline imposed upon Ukraine by Gazprom, which it had promised to honour if no debts had been paid and no agreement reached.  And indeed, after a weekend of talks including executives from Gazprom and Naftogaz and European energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger, Russia and Ukraine say they have failed to resolve their ongoing gas dispute; Gazprom said it would not extend the deadline any further, and that there would be no further attempts to negotiate: ‘We reached no agreement. The chances that we meet again are slim.’  All sides are making accusations of blame: prior to these last rounds of talks, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk had warned officials to prepare for the gas supply to be cut off, accusing Russia of deliberately avoiding a resolution; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Ukraine’s ‘arrogant and uncompromising position’ at the talks of having backing from ‘a third power; and the WSJ reports that Oettinger’s attempt to forge a compromise through a system of seasonal pricing was turned down by Russia.  The stalemate is somewhat of a diplomatic victory for Ukraine, says this piece, at least insofar as it has held its ground.  Gazprom has responded to a fine from the Lithuanian government by selling its stakes in two Lithuanian gas distribution companies.

Yesterday was declared a day of mourning in Ukraine after 49 military personnel were killed when pro-Russian separatists shot down a military transport plane outside Luhansk – the most deadly event of the Ukraine crisis thus far. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko promised an ‘adequate’ response.  Europe is urging a cease-fire.  Poroshenko is being urged to fire his foreign minister, Andriy Deshchytsia, for calling President Vladimir Putin ‘a dickhead at an impassioned anti-Russia protest outside the embassy in Kiev.  A member of Russia’s State Duma accused Deshchytsia of ‘going beyond the limits of decency’ with his comment.  Reports indicate that the minister was responding to a popular chant taken up by the crowd at the protest.

Opposition activist Alexei Navalny is being sued by a Moscow City Hall official  against whom he made allegations of illegal business activity.  An online petition is calling for one of the Duma’s ultra-conservative and anti-LGBT lawmakers to have her mental health assessed.  ‘On the whole, it’s a very positive thing that we now have sex coaching in Russia,’ says a Moscow-based sexologist.

PHOTO: Andriy Kobolev, chief executive of Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz, talks to journalists as he leaves after talks with members of the Russian delegation and European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger in Kiev June 16, 2014. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko