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

TODAY: Navalny associate attacked over ‘Chaika’ film; Kremlin will not investigate accusations against the Prosecutor General; activist sentenced for separatism; Khodorkovsky employees’ homes raided; Ukraine free trade agreement with EU to go ahead, Russia will retaliate with food embargo; downed jet black box too damaged to give evidence. Journalist deaths, Soviet space race.

An associate of anti-corruption figure Alexei Navalny was attacked in the streets of Krasnodar after attempting to organise a screening of the FBK film ‘Chaika’, which exposes alleged criminal and corrupt activity by Prosecutor General Yury Chaika’s son, Artem Chaika, and his deputies.  In the wake of the film’s release, the Kremlin has said that it will not investigate Chaika, with Dmitry Medvedev arguing that such an investigation would mark ‘a return to […] the 1930s’, and Dmitry Peskov saying that the film ‘has not provoked our interest’. This Reuters analysis of Vladimir Putin’s news conference last week and his stumbling over a question about Chaika concludes that ‘the enrichment of the ruling clique is becoming one of Putin’s biggest vulnerabilities’.  Daria Poludova, an activist in Krasnodar, has become the first person ever to be charged with separatism in Russia and sentenced to two years in prison, after she called for a socialist revolution on social media.  Seven employees at Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia, an opposition-oriented community platform, have had their apartments searched by law enforcement agencies as part of the 2003 case against Yukos.  The Orthodox Church has been the biggest beneficiary of presidential grants to NGOs in Russia for the past several years.

Three-way talks between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union have ended with the EU-Ukraine free trade agreement intact, and due to come into force on January 1.  Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree to introduce a food embargo against Ukraine in retaliation, and is preparing legal action against Ukraine if it does not repay its $3 billion debt.  Sky News says Russia is concealing the true number of military deaths in Syria.  Moscow investigators say they will not be able to retrieve information from the black box of a Russian warplane shot down by Turkey last month, because it was too damaged.  Russia’s latest angle on the Nord Stream gas pipeline is that it would be ‘a shot in the foot’ for Europe to cancel it, as it safeguards security of supply.

The Washington Post discusses the case of Russia’s murdered journalists: ‘Putin may set the tone for everything that happens in the country, but he doesn’t necessarily order every politically charged murder.’  The Guardian has collected some stunning Soviet space propaganda.

PHOTO: Mikhail Fradkov, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, left, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Federal Security Service Chief Alexander Bortnikov, right, attend an annual meeting marking a professional holiday for Russian security service employees in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)