RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 22, 2016

TODAY: Moscow NGO training refugee children evicted; Duma amends ‘foreign agent’ law, to criticism; Sochi Olympics cost $19bn, says bank head; Nabiullina calls for bank loans to be in rubles; Domodedovo business as usual despite owner arrest; Kamaev was planning to expose three decades of doping before his death; Ukraine Eurovision entry to protest Stalin; Kerry and Lavrov still discussing ceasefire plans.

A training and adaptation center for refugee children in Moscow has been evicted from its premises after the organisation was declared a ‘foreign agent’.  The State Duma has amended the law on NGOs that requires them to register as foreign agents for engaging in ‘political activity’; the Human Rights Council’s representative, Mikhail Fedotov, says the amendment will allowevery activity of NGOs’ to be defined as political.  This is all part of a wider plan, says the Moscow Times, to ensure that independent activists ‘do not get in the way of important State Duma and gubernatorial votes’ during election year.  The head of major bank VTB24 said that the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 did not cost $2.9 billion, as was officially reported, but $19 billion.  Elvira Nabiullina believes that the majority of Russia’s banking loans should be in rubles in order to minimise risks stemming form currency fluctuations.  As officials discuss the sale of Kremlin shares, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin says the company should not be privatised until the oil price is back up to $100 per barrel.  Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport will continue running as normal in spite of the arrest of its owner.

Nikita Kamaev, the former executive director of the Russian anti-doping agency had revealed shortly before his death that he was planning to write a book on doping, and was in possession of information covering the past three decades of drug use in sports, which he offered to share with the Sunday Times.  Ukraine’s entry for the Eurovision song contest will be about the mass deportation of Tatars under Josef Stalin, sung by a Crimean Tatar.  Patriarch Kirill expressed hope that his meeting with Pope Francis last weekend would improve relations between Russia and NATO.  Over half of Russians believe that those who ordered the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov will never be found.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said he and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had reached a ‘provisional agreement’ on the Syria ceasefire, but that the work has not yet been completed.  Vladimir Putin says Russia is aiming to resolve the crisissolely via political, diplomatic tools’.  Russia is backing out of engaging with the US in Afghanistan, with the Russian envoy to Afghanistan citing ‘useless events’ and quipping, ‘we’re already tired of joining anything Washington starts’ and accusing US politicians of using Afghanistan for ‘their own pre-election interests’.

PHOTO: A model presents a creation by Russian stylists during an art show at the international beauty festival ‘Nevskie Berega’ (Banks of the Neva River) in St Petersburg, Russia, 20 February 2016. EFE/EPA/ANATOLY MALTSEV