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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 22, 2018

TODAY: Putin portrayed as national saviour in apolitical environment; Constitutional Court refuses Navalny registration complaint, campaign manager documents assaults; Twitter updates Russian bot number; Russia to stay with OPEC deal through 2018; IOC further reduces Russian athletes pool; Peskov blames Internet for school attacks; Putin meeting Poroshenko in secret? Lavrov slams West, defends Trump.

This piece looks at some of the narratives delivered by state television about Vladimir Putin in the run-up to his inevitable presidential election win this March, noting recurring themes of “Putin [leading] Russia back to faith” and portrayals of him as a national saviour. (Witness himplunging bare-chested into icy waters” for Epiphany, his first public partaking in this annual Orthodox event.) This piece collects various responses to the question of how much support Putin has in Russia; Boris Kagarlitsky said it is impossible to say how much public support Vladimir Putin currently has because “there is no political life or political competition” in Russia. The Constitutional Court has refused to review a complaint from former opposition presidential candidate Alexei Navalny about the election laws used to ban his candidacy, citing “legal problems”. Navalny’s local campaign manager in Cherniack describes his experience of a brick coming through his window at night and landing on his pillow, part of a campaign of harassment in response to his work that has included at least six raids from local police. Twitter has revised its initial number of automated Russian Twitter bots that were apparently used to post automated material about the US election last year, to more than 50,000. This piece investigates Russia’s first steps towards the legalisation of cryptocurrency trading.

Energy Minister Alexander Novak says Russia will remain part of the OPEC oil production cut deal until the end of this year, with the possibility of extension, thanks to its effects on oil price. Both Russia and Saudi Arabia are satisfied with the rebalancing of the oil market so far. The International Olympic Committee has reduced the number of Russian athletes eligible to compete at the Winter Olympics next month by 111, following pre-Games tests. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov is attributing some of the blame for two violent school attacks last week on the Internet. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that the Internet carries evil,he said. Dmitry Peskov says the Minsk Agreement is the only possible means of resolving the conflict in Ukraine, and confirmed that Putin has been meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in secret.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says US President Donald Trump wants good relations with Russia, but is forced to make anti-Russian decisions by current American political conditions (such as the defeat of Hillary Clinton). Lavrov also accused the Western media’s repeated reference to Russian interference in elections of being nothing but “dumb propaganda”, repeated so often as to “burn into [the] mind,” and said that current Russophobia is worse than it was during the Cold War.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin takes a dip in the water during Orthodox Epiphany celebrations at lake Seliger, Tver region, Russia, January 19, 2018. (REUTERS)