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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 26, 2018

TODAY: Putin thanks voters, promises various improvements for new term; Putin relative appointed to Gazprom board; US tariffs could cost Russian metals producers $3bn; ethics committee failure to indict Slutsky leads to media boycott; protests over Volokolamsk landfill lead to firing of local deputy; Kremlin denies claims that Skripal begged for a pardon; Deripaska escort lawsuit to return to court this week in a district that favours him; Yekaterinburg prepares for World Cup by destroying most famous monument. 

President Vladimir Putin thanked voters for re-electing him, after renewing his presidency with 77% of the vote last weekend, and said that his new term would be focused on creating jobs, raising incomes, and improving healthcare and infrastructure. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the new President Putin is a symbiosis of the old Putin “whom we all know”, plus a new one, who has “a vision” of the future. Following a public vote organised by the military, Russia’s new “super weapons” have been given quirky new names; 7 million people reportedly voted. A distant relative of Putin’s has been appointed deputy chair of Gazprom’s board. New import tariffs announced by the US could cause Russian metals manufacturers to lose $3 billion. The failure of the State Duma’s ethics committee to find fault with Leonid Slutsky last week in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him has led to a boycott of the Duma by 12 private media outlets in Russia. A United Russia party member is also under fire for referring to Slutsky’s accusers as “servants” because of their work as journalists.

A 10-year-old girl has become an “internet hero” after making a cut-throat gesture to a Moscow politician in charge of Volokolamsk, the region where landfill gases allegedly sent 57 children to hospital last week, during a protest yesterday in which around 1,000 people gathered in the region to demand that the landfill be closed. In the wake of the protest, district head Yevgey Gavrilov, was dismissed. The Kremlin says it feels “discomfortat Europe’s reaction to the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in the UK, accusing its counterparts of being “unpredictable and aggressive” in blaming Russia for the attack. The Kremlin is denying claims that Skripal had begged Putin for a pardon and to be granted permission to visit family in Russia.

Billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s lawsuit against escort Nastya Rybka, filed in Ust-Labinsk, Krasnodar, where Deripaska is popular, returns to court this week. “In Ust-Labinsk, officials do not hide their admiration for their most famous son”; his initial filing won a preliminary order in just 29 minutes. Yekaterinburg blew up its most famous landmark over the weekend – an unfinished, Soviet-era television tower – as part of beautification efforts in advance of the World Cup. At least 40 people have died in a fire at a shopping mall in Kemerovo.

PHOTO: This photo taken on Thursday, March 8, 2018, shows an aerial view of “Yadrovo” landfill site where a leak is reported to have originated, near the town of Volokolamsk, 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Moscow, Russia. A gas poisoning linked to a toxic landfill in a town outside Moscow left dozens hospitalized, prompting the regional governor to promise to evacuate local children from the area. (Dmitry Serebryakov/Associated Press)