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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 21, 2017

TODAY: US fines ExxonMobil $2m for violating Russia sanctions under Tillerson, company sues in response; Putin visits veteran rights activist Alekseyeva on her 90th birthday, hints at pardon for Izmestyev; anti-corruption protester sentenced to 2.5 years; Navalny debates with nationalist; Kremlin looking to restrict use of instant messengers. 

ExxonMobil has been fined $2 million by the US Treasury for showing “reckless disregard” by violating anti-Russian sanctions in 2014, whilst US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was its CEO. The company was found to have conducted business with Rosneft-head Igor Sechin during that time (one of the top officials to be blacklisted over the annexation of Crimea). In response, Exxon has sued the US Treasury in a bid to stop the fine, and has angrily rejected the allegations as “fundamentally unfair”. President Vladimir Putin made a personal visit to veteran human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva to celebrate her 90th birthday, congratulating and thanking her “for everything that you’ve done over many, many years for a huge number of people in our country who love you very much and are thankful to you for the life you have lived for the sake of people”. RFE/RL points out that Alekseyeva was born in Crimea, and that his speech may at least partly have been attempting “to make a geopolitical point”. During this meeting, Putin promised to pardon former Federation Council member Igor Izmestyev, but the Kremlin says that it will take time. In tribute to Alekseyeva, the Moscow Times has republished a five-year-old interview with her, in which she discusses the “foreign agents” law, and her childhood in Crimea.

Stanislav Zimovets has been convicted of throwing a rock at an officer of the National Guard during anti-corruption protests in Moscow in March, and subsequently sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who organised the protest, called the prosecutors “beasts” and defended Zimovets as innocent. Navalny engaged in a debate (video is here, in Russian) with nationalist Igor Girkin, who was heavily involved in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in a bid to boost his support base. The FT says Navalnyoften appeared helpless in the discussion” as his opponent kept accusing him of being unpatriotic as he tried to defend himself. “For me, patriotism is that Russian people should live better, right now. Helping people now means not war but fighting corruption.” Response to the international arbitration court’s decision that it must pay $6 million to the Netherlands for its seizure of the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise vessel, Russia said the ruling would encourage deliberately unlawful protest actions.

The Kremlin is working with Roskomnadzor on a proposal to regulate the use of instant messengers, potentially blocking individuals from using them for unspecified illegal activities. Comedian Stephen Colbert met billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov at his mansion to exchange jokes.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulates head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseyeva on her 90th birthday. (Aleksei Nikolsky / TASS)