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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Aug 25, 2017

TODAY: Navalny’s Kazan campaign head detained and Moscow team evicted from headquarters; Udaltsov seeks to unite the left following release; final Bolotnaya Square prisoner released; capital flight equal to collective Russian wealth; Moscow investors looking to cannabis; Lithuania building a border fence; North Korea seeks Russian tourists.

The Moscow Times writes on opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s doomed campaign, noting that “even the most optimistic polls give Navalny no more than 2 percent support in the upcoming elections and Putin no less than 63 percent,” whilst acknowledging the impressive amount of ground he has covered in the last five years. The presidential election campaign staff coordinator of the Kazan branch of Navalny’s campaign has been jailed for 10 days for violating regulations on public gatherings, and his Moscow campaign team is being evicted from its headquarters. Sergei Udaltsov, the leader of the Left Front opposition movement, is already back in the political sphere following his release from prison earlier this month, with the position that “There cannot be a single [presidential] candidate [next year] from the leftists, liberals, and nationalists,” and his mission is to unite leftists in the country’s opposition. Ivan Nepomnyashchikh is the final Bolotnaya Square activist to be released from prison; he was placed in solitary confinement for the final part of his sentence. As a condition of his release, he must not take part in street protests.

Capital flight from Russia (held by the top 1% wealthiest of Russians) is likely now equal to the collective wealth of all Russian households, according to the US firm the National Bureau of Economic Research. Real income for Russian citizens is not likely to grow in the near future, according to a senior managing direct at Sberbank. Moscow investors are looking to the growing US cannabis industry for their next returns, says Bloomberg. Lithuania is building a 2-metre-high fence around its Ramoniškiai checkpoint, although it is more about “demarcation, control and red lines” than about creating a physical barrier to invasion. Tensions with Russia are nonetheless riding high in advance of its planned 100,000-strong military exercise next month. Hertz rental company is exiting the Russian market.

North Korea has opened a tourist office in Moscow to try to gather Russian interest in visiting, pushing it as “one of the safest countries of the world”. (Thanks to its nuclear weapons!) The New York Times notes that Russia’s ambassador to Sudan, Mirgayas Shirinsky, is at least the fourth senior Kremlin envoy to die prematurely overseas since December. Two National Guard members are being investigated for negligence after failing to intervene in a deadly attack on a powerlifting champion.

PHOTO: A man walks inside the museum-panorama “The Battle of Stalingrad” in Volgograd, Russia. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov August 23, 2017