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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Oct 28, 2015

TODAY: First Russian military casualty reported as a suicide, to family’s surprise; is Russia’s strategy to create unending, ’frozen conflicts’? Serbia and Russia to stay on friendly terms; North Korea’s nuclear status unacceptable, says Ambassador; Turkey taking Gazprom to court; Russia could be out of reserves by end of 2016; Shoigu mansion accusations.

The first Russian military casualty has been reported in Syria and confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defence, although the young man’s family say they disbelieve the ministry’s report, which alleged that the death of their son, Vadim Kostenko, was a suicide. ‘I will never believe this version,said Kostenko’s mother.  Is Russia’s offer, to provide support to Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State, worth seizing?  The Times says Russia’s deliberate strategy at the moment is to create ‘frozen conflicts’ – wars that cannot be finished – in countries of importance to Russian national interest.  Following a meeting between their Prime Ministers, Serbia and Russia said they would remain on friendly terms for ‘rational’ reasons, such as their imminent gas storage agreement.  Russia’s Ambassador to South Korea described North Korea’s nuclear status as ‘unaccaptable’ for Russia.  A local official in Karelia has been brought to trial on charges of inciting separatism for criticising the local government and the Kremlin.  Turkey is taking Gazprom to court over gas prices.

Russia could entirely deplete its current reserve funds by the end of 2016 in an effort to rescue its economy from recession if the oil price does not recover.  Finance Minister Anton Siluanov estimates that total reserves this year will decrease by almost $41 billion – leaving roughly the same amount of reserves to carry Russia through next year.  President Vladimir Putin is calling on greater usage of the rouble in oil deals to give the currency a boost.  Yandex raised its growth target for the year to 14-16% thanks to quarterly sales topping estimates.  The All-Russian People’s Front could be granted more decision-making power, and could take on a bigger role in influencing the State Duma elections, from next year onwards.

Anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny’s real estate investigator, Georgy Alburov, has made accusations against Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, alleging that he controls an $18 million mansion which he has registered in the names of family members, including his 18-year-old daughter.  RFE/RL reports on the ways in which Vladimir Putin’s statecraft ‘often acts like an organized crime group’ through, it says, deploying corrupt elite networks throughout former Soviet territory, such as in Georgia and Ukraine.  Russia says it believes the case against convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout has been fabricated by U.S. special services.  Champion boxer Roy Jones Junior has become a Russian citizen.

PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, right, shake hands with Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015. (Alexander Astafyev, RIA-Novosti, Government Pool Photo via AP)