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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – October 27, 2016

TODAY: NATO urges Russia to stop attacking civilans and focus on terror threat in Syria; Russia increases firepower in Baltics to combat NATO build-up, Britain and the US to lend support; Levada Center fined over ‘foreign agent’ label; Kremlin group accused of spying on potential dissenters; Ukraine hackers reveal Kremlin links to violence in eastern Ukraine; Navalny refutes Wikileaks comparisons; Gazprom close to  deal with EU on antitrust case; IKEA tax case begins.

As the rhetoric of nervousness about Russian aggression grows in the West, NATO’s US envoy urged Russia to focus on defeating Islamic State terrorism and put an end to the bombing of citizens in Aleppo.  This piece argues that it is the Kremlin that is ‘deliberately creating a sense of impending war by having its own media insist that NATO has put Russia under threat’.  To counter NATO’s build-up in the Baltics, Russia is upgrading the firepower of its fleet there.  Britain and the US have promised fighter jets to Romania and Poland respectively to contribute to NATO’s military build-up on the Russian border.  One in three Germans believe that war could break out between Russia and the European Union (but ‘fears of war traditionally run high in Germany’).  The Levada Center has been fined $4,700 for failing to register as a ‘foreign agent’.  A Kremlin-financed group has been accused of secretly assessing staff and students at Russian universities to discern the extent of their potential activism and dissent and report back to the government.

Ukrainian hackers released thousands of emails purportedly sent from an account belonging to the office of Vladislav Surkov, a senior Kremlin official and long-term Putin ally, which link Moscow financially and politically to separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.  Leonid Bershidsky picks apart the Kremlin’s subsequent swift denial and denunciation of the source.  Anti-Corruption activist Alexei Navalny refutes comparisons between his organisation and Wikileaks, pointing out the key difference that he relies on open sources and citizen researchers, as opposed to hacked data; and that, in fact, Wikileaks may have much higher level ties to Russia.

Gazprom has almost finished drafting its proposal to the European Union’s Competition Commissioner in a bid to end a 5-year-long antitrust case;  Gazprom will yield to certain of the EU’s demands on how it sells gas in order to avoid paying penalties.  Is Linkedin about to be banned by Roskomnadzor?  The Investigative Committee has started a court case against IKEA over $511 million in unpaid taxes.

PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, together with other participants of the Open Innovations forum, is evacuated from Skolkovo, Russia’s equivalent of Silicon Valley, on October 26, 2016, following a small fire. (Sergei Fadeichev / TASS)