RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 16, 2017

TODAY: Lavrov swipes at US for foreign agents media law as Duma passes retaliatory law, to criticism and condemnation; RUSADA awaits WADA decision; US to allocate $4.6bn towards containing Moscow, Germany declares Russia a threat in Europe; Russia and Venezuela agree on debt restructuring; more than 1 in 3 paid bribes this year; HRW documents harassment of Navalny employee. 

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the west of “having nothing better to do” than force Russian media units to declare themselves as “foreign agents”. But the State Duma swiftly passed a new law yesterday allowing Russian authorities to immediately and symmetrically respond and designate all foreign media outlets to be foreign agents if they are funded from abroad. RFE/RL spoke to some Russian citizens about the new law. “Foreign agents are our friends,said one. Amnesty International condemned the Duma’s measures as “repressive legislation” designed to put a negative spin on independently funded media, and accused the Kremlin of having a “stranglehold” on the press. It was ridiculous of the US to force RT to register as a foreign agent in the first place, argues Leonid Bershidsky, pointing out that the media company’s US budget is “laughably tiny”, and that it has triggered a disproportionate response. Human rights ombudsman Mikhail Fedotov says Russia’s retaliatory law is poorly written andwon’t even work”. Russia has done everything in its power to have RUSADA, its anti-doping agency, reinstated; WADA will review the case this week.

Washington’s decision to allocate $4.6 billion of next year’s defence budget towards dealing with Moscow’s alleged expansion towards Europe is the peak of anti-Russian hysteria, according to Duma lawmaker Leonid Slutsky. The head of German foreign intelligence says Russia should be seen as a potential danger in Europe, and not a partner. Russia and Venezuela have agreed on the restructuring of $3.15 billion of the latter’s foreign debt, spreading out repayments over a decade, which will allow it “to sidestep major western creditors”; Russia has been providing debt relief to Venezuela for some years. The percentage of Russia’s oil produced in the Arctic will be around 26% by 2035. Transparency International found that at least 1 in 3 Russians has paid a bribe for public services in the past year.

Human Rights Watch reports on how 23-year-old Ksenia Pakhomova, who was the head of Alexei Navalny’s regional campaign office in Kemerovo, was treated as a result of her professional involvement with the opposition leader, including the harassment of her family and boyfriend. Native Komi language classes will no longer be cut following a reversal of the earlier decision by the region’s leader. Stalingrad, 75 years on.

PHOTO: Leaders pose during the family photo session at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam November 11, 2017. (JORGE SILVA via REUTERS)