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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 29, 2015

TODAY: New law prevents all written or spoken discussion of soldier deaths; Kara-Murza’s wife urges he be sent out of Russia for independent evaluation after not responding to treatment for poisoning; Lithuania calls for pressure on Moscow; Kiev reporting up to 80 Russian ceasefire violations per day; capital flight to reach $110bn this year. 

Under a new decree signed by President Vladimir Putin, it is now a crime to speak, write or broadcast about Russian troop losses in times of war and peace. ‘It appears that the position of just denying there are Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine cannot last any longer,’ commented a lawyer with the rights group Memorial.  The move is widely seen as an attempt to shut down all reporting about soldiers’ deaths in Ukraine.  Sources speaking to the Moscow Times described the legal amendments as confirmation of Russia’s direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict. ‘Even a death notification sent to parents or other relatives [of a soldier] can be considered a secret under this decree.’  Prosecutors in Chelyabinsk have found extremism in a test designed to detect extremism in teenagers – in other words, they found that the test itself could lead to the incitement of hatred.  Putin’s approval rating remains high at 86%.  Masha Gessen writes for the New Yorker about the dangers of dissent in modern Russia, citing this week’s hospitalisation of opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was poisoned – a common fate for Russia’s dissenters.  Kara-Mirza’s wife, who fears that the poisoning was deliberate, is urging that he be evacuated to an Israeli or European hospital for an independent medical assessment, as his condition has not improved, despite treatment.

Alexei Navalny says Vladimir Putin will stop at nothing to keep hold of power, and accused him of starting a war with Ukraine with the aim of further enriching and empowering himself and his close associates.  Lithuania’s foreign minister called for pressure on Moscow to stop supporting rebels in Ukraine.  Russian ‘proxies’ shelled a town in eastern Ukraine on Saturday, says the WSJ, and reports that Kiev is currently documenting 50-80 Russian ceasefire violations per day.  The Times says new satellite imagery reveals that Russia has built new military training camps near the border with Ukraine.  Brian Whitmore says Putin misjudged the political situation in Ukraine before the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych and has misread relations with Germany.

Visa and MasterCard now process all Russian transactions through a state-run system that protects them from suspensions connected to Western sanctions. Gazprom’s four-year forecast shows profit cuts and low European prices.  Gazprom says Ukraine’s total gas debt currently stands at almost $29.5 billion.  The Economic Development Ministry’s capital flight forecasts are around $110 billion for this year.

PHOTO: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) speaks with South Sudan’s Ambassador to Russia Telar Ring Deng (L) after receiving a diplomatic credential from him during a ceremony at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 28, 2015. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin