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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Sept 25, 2013

TODAY: Greenpeace activists to be charged with piracy; Russia and U.S. at odds over Syria; ‘gas wars’ with Ukraine ‘over’; Tolokonnikova placed in solitary confinement; Russians satisfied with recent elections; gay rights protests continue.

Russia has opened a criminal case against 30 Greenpeace activists found on board a Gazprom-owned oil rig in the Arctic, saying it plans to charge them all with piracy (which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years), regardless of their nationality.  Amnesty International is demanding that Russia drop the charges, calling them ‘manifestly unfounded’.  Russia and the U.S. are at odds over the Syrian nerve gas massacre last month, with U.S. President Barack Obama insisting that there was ‘overwhelming’ evidence to show that his Syrian counterpart was behind the attack.  Though he did not directly name his Russian counterpart, Obama’s speech ‘reflected tensions with the Russian leader’.  The Ukrainian foreign minister says that gas wars’ with Russia are no longer a possibility, thanks to the recent push for diversification.  Now is not the time for deeper austerity measures, says Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, as economic growth is still slowing.  Rosneft is acquiring an indirect stake in SeverEnergia from Enel – valued at $1.8 billion – as part of its bid to take over 20% of the domestic gas market by 2020.

Jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been moved to solitary confinement following the publication of her open letter revealing the grim details of her prison life.  Prison authorities say the move is for her own safety.  The Spectator praises Tolokonnikova and her fellow band mate, Maria Alyokhina, for ‘illuminat[ing] some of the reality of life in modern Russia’.  According to a state-run pollster, nearly half of Russians are satisfied that the recent regional elections were fair.

Prosecutors in Chelyabinsk have been forced to declare that a rainbow-painted lamppost was not in violation of new anti-gay laws banning ‘homosexual propaganda’.  Gay rights activists disrupted the gala opening of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ at the Metropolitan Opera in New York to protest the new ban; a committee of parents in the Ural region is asking President Vladimir Putin to cancel a planned concert by Elton John, on grounds that he will violate the law.

PHOTO: The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise enters the Northern Sea Route off Russia’s coastline to protest against Arctic oil drilling, in defiance of Russian authorities who this week refused the ship permission to enter the area. (Will Rose / Greenpeace)