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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 20, 2014

TODAY: Putin makes third call for Ukraine border troop withdrawal; Lavrov wants Odessa tragedy investigated; Russia accused of intimidation ahead of Ukraine elections; Putin arrives in China to seal several deals; Rogozin announces China space cooperation; Rosneft privatisation may happen early; oligarch has dubious honour of world’s most expensive divorce.

Vladimir Putin has ordered the withdrawal of troops from the Ukrainian border again. NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen pointed out that this is the third time such a call has been made, and that the organisation has seen no evidence of a withrdrawal.  The Defence Ministry defended and explained the action however, saying that ‘decisions like these are taken sequentially […] you cannot expect troops to vanish overnight.’  The news saw a slight rise in the MICEX, but Western banks are steering clear of Russia’s syndicated loan market this year due to fears about current sanctions and the threats that more will be implemented.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov wants an international investigation launched into the deadly clashes in Odessa earlier this month, and is accusing Kiev of ‘hid[ing] the truth.  Russian forces are being accused of intimidating election commission members in Ukraine ahead of the presidential vote their this weekend. ‘No one is going to vote because no one wants to get a bullet in their forehead.’  This piece argues against the Moscow vs. Washington binary that colours most Western reporting on the subject of the Ukraine crisis.  Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev says Russia has effectively invested $200 billion in Ukraine over the past two decades by ‘undercharging them’ for natural resources.

President Vladimir Putin arrived in China this morning to finalise an anticipated raft of economic deals, including a landmark long-term gas supply deal potentially worth $400 billion.  Putin will also meet with leaders of Mongolia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during the visit. The Foreign Ministry anticipates that trade ties with China will surpass current levels between Russia and the European Union.  Bloomberg says that the E.U. has enough un-extracted shale gas to make it self-reliant for 28 years.  Dmitry Rogozin has already announced increased cooperation with China in the realm of space exploration, just days after cutting space ties with the U.S.  Visa and MasterCard are leaning towards rejection of an offer for them to continue operations in Russia; Visa says that the country’s demands ‘just go beyond what we’d be willing to do’.  Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says the Kremlin may go ahead with its planned privatisation of Rosneft earlier than planned.

Oligarch Dmitry Ryvolovlev’s six-year divorce may be the most expensive in history.

PHOTO: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, right, and China’s President Xi Jinping review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Xijiao State Guesthouse ahead of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) summit, in Shanghai, China, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Barria, Pool)