RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 17, 2015

TODAY: Putin promises retaliation against Nato threats, announces 40 new intercontinental missiles; Nato Secretary-General accuses Putin of ‘sabre-rattling’; new data law to cost $6bn; blogger goes after Kremlin trolls.

Speaking at Patriot Park, a new ‘military Disneyland’ theme park an hour outside of Moscow, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would be forced to aim its armed forces at any country that threatens it. ‘It is NATO that is moving towards our border and we aren’t moving anywhere.’  He also announced Russia’s plans to put more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles into service this year, prompting Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg to respond that such a measure is a violation of the nuclear Start agreement: ‘This nuclear saber-rattling [is] unjustified, it’s destabilising and it’s dangerous’.  Has the Kremlin miscalculated its military expenses?  Nato’s Founding Act with Russia, signed in 1997, is ‘all but dead’ thanks to Moscow’s actions in eastern Ukraine, according to a former ambassador.  The Kremlin’s economic team is reportedly concerned that Putin’s upcoming address to investors at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will not contain any initiatives to pull the country out of recession, describing the president as being uninterested in the economy. Wired says the Sunday Times piece alleging that Russia and China had copies of documents stolen by Edward Snowden is ‘a terrible article, filled with factual inaccuracies and unsubstantiated claims’.

A new law requiring companies to store user’s data domestically, set to come into force this September, could end up costing Russia $5.7 billion in GDP, says a study.  According to a new survey, many European businesses in Russia are settling for a ‘new normal’ of lowered economic expectations.  Veteran rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva says Russia’s human rights organisations currently face two unappealing options: remain powerless outside the system or agree to play on the Kremlin’s turf.  The Kremlin will not comment on the fact that a group of activists, bloggers, and journalists are appealing in the Supreme Court Vladimir Putin’s decree to make troop losses a state secret: ‘The court will make a decision. If such appeals are subject to consideration, then again it will be decided by the court.

Journalist and blogger Ostap Karmodi started a petition on change.org asking for Facebook’s support in unblocking all of the ‘Russian and Ukrainian user accounts which were blocked during the last several weeks’, allegedly by ‘Kremlin trolls’ – bots which monitor sites for anti-Kremlin sentiment.  U.S. Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Ukraine in a telephone call.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, arrive for the opening of the Army-2015 international military show in Kubinka, outside Moscow, on Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (Vasily Maximov/ pool photo via AP)