RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 29, 2014

TODAY: Hague tribunal orders $50bn Yukos payout, Lavrov hints at appeal; U.S. accuses Russia of violating Cold War nuclear arms treaty; Pussy Riot seek compensation; West expected to issue further sanctions in wake of MH17 crash; British lawyers preparing to sue Putin; geckos found in space.

As expected, a tribunal in the Hague ordered Russia to make a $50 billion payout to former shareholders of oil company Yukos, having ruled that the state had purposefully sought to bankrupt it. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the company’s former CEO, welcomed the ruling as ‘fantastic, but said he hoped the money would come from the state, and not from ‘the pockets of mafiosi linked to the powers that be’.  The ruling saw a decline in Russia’s RTS index; oil major Rosneft says the case will not affect it or its assets.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow may launch an appeal of the decision.  A legal academic in the UK told RFE/RL that there is no appeal mechanism for the decision, only a possibility to challenge the final sum; he also said that ruling could take at least ten years to enforce.  The U.S. has accused Russia of violating a 1988 Cold War treaty regulating nuclear weapons, and is calling for Russia to ‘eliminate any prohibited items’ and engage in immediate bilateral talks. It remains unclear which terms of the treaty have been violated.  Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are seeking damages from Russia in their case before the European Court of Human Rights – in the sum of €120,000 each, plus legal fees – in compensation for their two year imprisonment.

Regarding Western sanctions, Lavrov insisted that Russia will not impose tit-for-tat measures, nor ‘fall into hysterics’, although more extreme sanctions are likely to be imposed this week after numerous E.U. leaders called for tougher action in response to the MH17 airline crash; Sberbank and VTB could be the next targets.  British lawyers are reportedly preparing a class action lawsuit against President Vladimir Putin for causing the crash, on behalf of relatives of those killed.  Putin says the defence industry is now self-sufficient.

Russia’s space agency has re-established the link to its Foton-M4 satellite carrying gecko lizards.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Head of the Jewish autonomous region Alexander Vinnikov in the Kremlin in Moscow, Friday, July 25, 2014. (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)