RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 22, 2017

TODAY: Putin announces US-hardliner Anatoly Antonov to replace Kislyak as Deputy Foreign Minister; US slashes visa services for ordinary Russians in tit-for-tat move, Lavrov says Russia won’t reciprocate; Kostin sues Vedomosti for causing “moral suffering”; Yandex and Uber seeking to merge; Central Bank starting to mine “big data”; investigators look into huge fire.

President Vladimir Putin has appointed Anatoly Antonov as his new Deputy Foreign Minister, replacing Sergey Kislyak. Antonov is currently under sanction from the EU, and is a hard-line critic of the US. The US has responded to Russia’s move to cut two thirds of its embassy staff by drastically slashing visa services; all Russian non-immigrant visa applications (business travellers, tourists, and students) will now have to go through Moscow. A Duma member said Russia would have to impose mirrored restrictions, but Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia is “not going to take out our anger on American citizens”, and will not reciprocate the US setting such a “stupid example”. Independent Russian think-tank Peterburgskaya Politika has ranked Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny among Putin’s potential successors next year. Konstantin Kostin, a close adviser to President Putin, is suing Vedomosti newspaper over an article it posted about Putin’s presidential campaign which he says caused him “moral suffering” after it accused him of incompetence.

Yandex and Uber are seeking to merge their taxi services in Russia, according to an application sent to the Federal Antimonopoly Service. Financial News reports on Russia’s High Court battle against William Browder, the former head fund manager and employer of murdered lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. The Central Bank is mining “big data” from social media to get a more accurate gauge of economic activity, part of its wider shift towards data under Governor Elvira Nabiullina .

Investigators are looking into yesterday’s giant fire in Rostov-on-Don that affected roughly 100 buildings. The fire is thought to have been started by a gas explosion.

PHOTO: Russia’s prime minister Dmitry Medvedev and Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin (Yekaterina Shtukina/Russian presidential press service/TASS, via the Moscow Times)