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

TODAY: Russia must push for political resolution in Syria, says E.U., Kremlin wants broader dialogue ahead of international talks; Dagestan feeding Islamic State? Levada poll says Russians approve of their country’s policies; Kremlin dismisses Montenegro accusations; FIFA president says Russia hosting was decided before vote; new bill to complicate matters for ‘foreign agent’ NGOs; gallerist evicted after fundraiser; Ukraine must pay, says Russia.

The E.U.’s foreign policy chief says Russia needs to help orchestrate a political transition in Syria if it doesn’t want to get trapped in an unending war.  The Kremlin is calling for broader dialogue on ending the Syria conflict before international talks start later this week in Vienna.  This piece says commanders of Western-backed rebel groups in Syria are considering calling Russia’s bluff on its pledge for support and cooperation on a joint effort aimed at finding political resolution.  The director of the FSB, Russia’s intelligence agency, is now warning that Islamic State could invade Central Asia.  This piece argues that hundreds of Islamic State fighters in Syria come from Dagestan.  The parents of Vadim Kostenko, the first Russian soldier confirmed dead in Syria, are demanding a repeat autopsy following reports that their son killed himself.  A new Levada Center poll says Putin’s approval rating is at 88%, up 4% from September, and down one point from June; a majority of respondents say Russia is ‘heading in the right direction’.  Three days after the initial allegation, the Kremlin has dismissed Montenegro’s claims that Russia is supporting opposition protests there, with Federation Council Chairman Valentina Matviyenko calling them ‘sheer nonsense’.

Sepp Blatter, the outgoing president of the Football Association, made a surprise admission that the decision to award Russia the 2018 World Cup was made before the vote had taken place.  A new legal amendment proposed by the Justice Ministry would allow the government to shut down NGOs labeled as ‘foreign agents’, and grant them the power to demand full accounts of projects and events.  Art gallery owner Marat Guelman is being evicted from his Moscow exhibition space after hosting a charity auction to benefit political prisoners.  Assets of the former Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik have been frozen by Swiss authorities.

Russia will not take part in restructuring talks for Ukraine’s $3 billion debt, which is due in December, because the sum is ‘official’, it says, and must be paid on time.  An all-female space flight may be taking off from Russia in 2029.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel during their meeting in Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/RIA Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)