RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 28, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 12.00.27 AMTODAY: Day of Mourning declared for Kemerovo mall fire victims, Putin visiting region; Russia and OPEC could extend alliance 20 more years; Russia using UN to weaken human rights? Germany issues Nord Stream permit. 

President Vladimir Putin declared today a day of mourning for those killed in the Kemerovo shopping mall fire, offering his condolences to families and friends of the victims. Thousands gathered in the town yesterday to demand a full investigation into the fire, which killed at least 64 people (85 people are unofficially listed as missing), after Putin that morning had echoed angry residents, blaming criminal negligence and “slovenliess” for the fire, the specific cause of which remains unknown. Putin flew to the scene of the fire yesterday, promising to punish those responsible, as activists in Kemerova vowed, “We can’t stop protesting until the landfill is shut down”. This piece likens the fire to the Kursk submarine disaster, and notes that in the wake of the latter, the Kremlin cracked down on media organisations that were overly sympathetic to widows of those killed. Russia and OPEC are working on a long-term alliance that could see them controlling world oil supplies for two more decades. Naftogaz and Gazprom will attempt to hold talks again next month to resolve their existing disagreement over the billions owed by Gazprom under an international court ruling.

Activists and diplomats say Russia and China are leading an increasingly successful attempt at the United Nations to weaken the organisation’s efforts to protect global human rights. In retaliation for the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal in the UK earlier this month, NATO announced its reduction in the staff of Russia’s mission from 30 to 20. Russia is now claiming that the UK had to divulgeunprecedented levels of intelligence” in order to convince other countries of Russia’s culpability for the attack. UK Prime Minister Theresa May is urging the west to develop a longer-term response.

Germany has issued a permit for the construction of the offshore segment of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, which is expected to come into service at the end of next year. Four more permits are needed from other countries in order to complete the route. Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the site of fire, that killed at least 64 people at a busy shopping mall, in Kemerovo, Russia March 27, 2018. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS