RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Nov 22, 2013

TODAY: Ukraine turns its back on Europe and resumes dialog with Russia; Moldova to follow? Sechin is Russia’s highest-paid executive; further financial organisations may lose licenses; Ikea under fire over ‘homosexual propaganda’ issue; A Just Russia deputy attacked.

In ‘a major victory for Russia’, Ukraine has abandoned its plans to forge closer ties with the European Union, with cabinet officials urging ministries to resume active dialog with the Russian government.  A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said that Russia welcomed the news; the leader of Ukraine’s opposition said that failure to sign the planned deal with Europe would be ‘state treason and grounds for impeachment’ of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.  The Swedish Foreign Minister blamed Russia’s tactics: ‘Ukraine government suddenly bows deeply to the Kremlin.  Politics of brutal pressure evidently works’; and the U.S. State Department says it is ‘disappointed with the news.  But the Deputy Prime Minister says good relations with Russia are crucial for production.  Will Ukraine’s retreat from the E.U. make it harder for Moldova to resist the same pressure?  The country, says the BBC, is reeling’ from Russia’s wine import ban.

Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, is Russia’s highest-paid executive, earning $50 million last year, with heads of other state giants VTB and Gazprom coming in second and third place on a newly-published Forbes list.  Templeton, the investment fund, has sold its stake in TNK-BP to Rosneft.  The Central Bank may revoke the licenses of financial organisations other than Master Bank in connection with ‘suspicious transitions’, says Elvira Nabiullina.  Michael Bohm tries to find a reasonable excuse for the homophobia he encountered on a Russian talk show last week, as Ikea comes under fire for removing a story about a lesbian couple from the Russian edition of its magazine over fears that it would be breaking the new ‘homosexual propaganda’ law.  Eleven out of the 30 people arrested in connection with a Greenpeace protest in September have now been released, as Putin praised the organisation’s ‘noble’ goals whilst denigrating its actions.

Oleg Shein, a deputy with A Just Russia, was stabbed in Moscow yesterday, with fellow opposition members saying the attack must have been orchestrated.  An American artist has spoken out after being denied a visa to visit Russia – part of what he calls ‘a worrying trend’.

PHOTO: In this Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013 file photo, an activist of the Ukrainian Opposition Party holds a poster with a photo of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko outside the Kiev City council building, during a protest rally demanding a re-election of the city council, in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/ Sergei Chuzavkov, File)