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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 21, 2014

TODAY: Ukraine death count in the dozens, Obama blames Putin, Kremlin pressures Yanukovych with warnings, withheld funds; Russia to establish military command in the Arctic, faces economic stagnation and high economic crime; jail expected for Bolotnaya Square protesters; Pussy Riot use cossacks footage in new video; first gold medal.

After the death count in Ukraine hit at least five dozen yesterday,  U.S. President Barack Obama criticised President Vladimir Putin personally for failing to support Ukraine’s opposition in its pursuit of social and political values such as freedom of speech and assembly and freedom from corruption.  The Kremlin is putting the pressure on in various ways: it openly backed Viktor Yanukovych’s government by urging that the opposition must not be allowed to treat them ‘like a doormat’; and Dmitry Peskov says that, while Russia’s financial aid to Ukraine will not be cancelled, the situation must normalise.  The Times says Yanukovych will soon be able to stay in power ‘only at Mr. Putin’s whim’;  the Economist calls Putin the ‘architect of the current mayhem; and the FT reports that ‘many government officials say in private that Ukraine falls inside Russia’s sphere of influence’.  A state-backed public opinion poll indicates that the majority of Russians view their country as free, rich, and developed.

Russia says it will establish a new strategic military command in the Arctic before 2015.  News that investment by Russian companies fell 7% last month, year-on-year, is reinforcing fears of economic stagnation.  A survey by a foreign accounting firm working in Russia gives the country the accolade of being home to almost double the global average of economic crime.  The eight remaining Bolotnaya Square protesters will be given a verdict today, with many anticipating ‘vindictive and cruel’ jail sentences for the defendants.  Pussy Riot have already turned video footage of their bizarre beating at the hands of cossacks in Sochi yesterday into a music video for their song, ‘Putin Will Teach You How To Love’.

Russia’s first gold medal this year has been won by Adelina Sotnikova in women’s Olympic figure skating.

PHOTO: Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova captures gold in women’s figure skating at the Sochi Olympics. (Yahoo)