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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept 22, 2015

TODAY: Putin reassures Netanyahu over Syria; Pugachev seeks $10bn in damages from Kremlin; radio engineer jailed for 14 years in treason case; Gazprom seeks out-of-court settlement with E.U.; state media post doctored picture of U.S. ambassador “at” protest; environmental NGO listed as foreign agent; NATO calls on Russia to withdraw heavy weapons from Ukraine. 

President Vladimir Putin has reassured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Russia will take only ‘responsible’ actions in the Middle East, and that Syria has no interest in attacking Israel because ‘they need to save their own state’.  The two sides met in order to prevent an accidental confrontation between Israel and Syria.  Sergei Pugachev, once referred to as ‘Putin’s banker’, has filed a $10 billion claim against the Kremlin that will likely be heard in the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, in retaliation for his business empire being carved up when he fell out of favour with Kremlin officials after the 2008 financial crisis (the Kremlin is currently seeking Pugachev’s arrest for embezzlement).  Investigators are saying that the damage caused by the Komi administration’s governor and accomplices amounts to billions of rubles. Gennady Kravtsov, a radio engineer who once worked for Russia’s military intelligence, was sentenced to 14 years in a high-security prison for applying to a job in Sweden in 2010. His lawyer called the proceedings the most cruel he had ever seen; the Moscow Times notes an increase in treason cases ‘since Moscow’s international isolation began to deepen over the Ukraine crisis‘.  Gazprom is seeking an out-of-court settlement with the European Commission over its antitrust case.

Pro-Kremlin media sources incorrectly reported that U.S. Ambassador John Tefft attended an opposition rally in Moscow on the weekend, complete with a photoshopped image.  Roskomnadzor, the media watchdog, has added five Vkontakte groups to its banned pages registry for allegedly containing ‘gay propaganda’ which ‘clearly target children and teenagers’.  Arkady Ostrovsky, the Russia Editor of the Economist, talks about Russia’s media and how it has influenced the country’s development in recent decades.  The German publisher of Russian Playboy is seeking options to comply with the new law restricting foreign ownership of media, in a bid to stay in the country.  A Sakhalin-based environmental NGO will be added to the Kremlin’s list of ‘foreign agents’ over a donation from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, during a visit to Ukraine, called on Russia to withdraw heavy weapons from the country’s eastern regions.  It is looking unlikely that Vladimir Putin will meet with Donald Trump on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York next week.  A U.K. inquest into the death of whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny is drawing parallels with the case of Sergei Magnitsky, with lawyers speculating that the FSB was involved in the former’s death.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, during their meeting in Novo-Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow, Russia, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, Pool)