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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 18, 2017

TODAY: Supreme Court rejects Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal; Foreign Ministry demands return of US compounds; Danish NATO troops to receive fake news training; tens of thousands march for Tsar Nicholas; judge under fire after lavish wedding party; Navalny’s popularity not affected by anti-corruption protests; Kremlin defends Kadyrov.

Russia’s Supreme Court has rejected the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ appeal of an earlier ruling that classifies them as extremist, effectively banning them from the country entirely; their headquarters and roughly 400 chapters across Russia will be shut down, and its properties handed to the Kremlin. The New York Times has a special report on the two Russian diplomatic compounds (“spy nests”, the US calls them; “mansions”, says the BBC) that were shut down by the US government. Russia is demanding the return of the properties, saying it has means of retaliation and plans to use them if they are not returned. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the US’ moverobbery in broad daylight”. Denmark is to begin training its 200 NATO soldiers on how to deal with Russian misinformation. “It is easy to imagine they will become exposed to intimidation and fake rumours.” This Guardian piece says the fallout from the MH17 tragedy is evidence of Vladimir Putin’s “globalised authoritarianism”, and that the West – the UK in particular – is complicit because Russia “uses [it] to launder its dirty money”.

60,000 people apparently marched behind the Orthodox Church in Yekaterinburg in the early hours of Monday morning to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II. Yelena Khakhaleva, a judge in Krasnodar, has come under fire after video footage emerged of her daughter’s $2 million wedding party. “Your colleagues who attempt to fight for justice in the Krasnodar regional court eat dust. This is a spit in the face!” Khakhaleva’s income declaration last year was $43,000. Is the ongoing conflict between Sistema and Rosneft a sign of Russia’s investment climate declining even further? Rosoboronexport’s weapons and military equipment exports have already brought in $2 billion this year. Citing the Levada Center, the RBC news outlet reported that the highly-publicised and well-attended anti-corruption protests organised by Alexei Navalny earlier this summer did nothing to increase his popularity.

The Kremlin has spoken out in defence of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s statements about gay men, saying that his claim that gay people should be removed to “purify” the region were “taken out of context”.

PHOTO: Russian State Duma member Natalya Poklonskaya (C) takes part in a religious procession commemorating Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, in Yekaterinburg. (Donat Sorokin / TASS)