RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 24, 2016

TODAY: Syria says Russia has intensified air strikes following ceasefire, which Putin says does not apply to terrorist groups; Russia and Ukraine seeking $100 billion from each other in various claims; Amnesty cites Russia in global rights report; Navalny awarded damages by ECHR over KirovLev case; Yashin faces protesters, bomb threats at presentation of Kadyrov report.

The Syrian opposition council says that Russia has in fact intensified its air strikes since a ceasefire plan with the US was announced earlier this week, and that certain obscure terms of the deal could allow Russia to continue targeting more moderate factions.  By President Vladimir Putin’s own account of the agreement, the ceasefire does not apply to Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusrat, and other terrorist organisations.  ‘As [Putin] has already clearly demonstrated in Ukraine, a cease-fire to him is a tactic, even a smoke screen, not a goal,says the New York Times.  Russia is seeking $3 billion over Ukraine’s bond default, but Ukraine is seeking $63 billion over the annexation of Crimea; add to that Gazprom’s demands of $32 billion in unpaid bills, and you have a $100 billion tug-of-war.  The current bleak outlook for Russia’s economy doesn’t just hinge on pessimistic oil price forecasts, but also on its main export of raw materials to China, which is currently also suffering its own lackluster growth.  Russia’s reconfiguration of power in the Black Sea region over the past decade has been striking, and it plans to spend another $2.4 billion on its Black Sea Fleet by 2020.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the KirovLes embezzlement case against Alexei Navalny and Pyotr Ofitserov contained violations, and ordered Russia to pay compensation to both of them for moral damages, and cover their legal costs.  The ECHR also says Russia could be held responsible for rights violations in Trans-Dniester, ordering damage payments of $32,000 to a prisoner being held there.  The case of Rosneft against the EU Council has opened in the European General Court in Luxembourg.  Amnesty International cited Russia in its latest report about global human rights, mentioning curtailing of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, harassment of NGOs, and persecution of those who have spoken out against its involvement in Ukraine.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (who says he wants to join the army to go to war against Russia’s enemies) published PARNAS member Ilya Yashin’s report against him on his various social medial channels before it was presented officially in Moscow by Yashin himself. Yashin said that the evacuation of journalists from the venue during his presentation (over an alleged bomb scare) amounted to ‘a provocation’.  He was also pelted with fake dollars by one pro-Kadyrov protester, and accosted by another.  RFE/RL has a translation of the end of the report – 20 questions that Yashin would like Kadyrov to answer.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016. The Defenders of the Fatherland Day, celebrated in Russia on Feb. 23, honors the nation’s military and is a nationwide holiday. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)