RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 30, 2018

TODAY: Tens of thousands protest pension reforms, some chanting anti-Putin slogans, United Russia deputy facing calls to resign after failing to support it; 100,000 gather for Navy Day parade; Putin attends ceremony marking adoption of Christianity; Sentsov hunger strike; Putin invites Trump to Moscow.

In some of Russia’s largest protests to date, tens of thousands gathered in rallies across the country on Saturday to protest the Kremlin’s unpopular plan to raise the retirement age (from 55 to 63 for women and from 60 to 65 for men). 12,000 gathered in Moscow alone. Activist Sergei Udaltsov is calling for a referendum on the matter if the government wants to avoid further protests. The WHO puts the current life expectancy for Russian men at 66. Several thousand people (6,000?) also gathered in Moscow on Sunday to continue the protests. Three opposition leaders were detained during the protests, two from the Libertarian Party, and Oleg Stepanov, an aide of Alexei Navalny. Stepanov claims he was detained for an anti-Putin slogan which did not correspond to the event’s specific subject (he shouted, “Thief Putin!”); many protesters were changing similar slogans. All were promptly released. Putin has tried to distance himself from the proposed reforms, saying earlier this month that he does not like any of the plans. The only United Russia deputy who voted against the measure is facing calls to resign, after the party allegedly tried to silence criticism from its members. 

Yesterday was Navy Day in Russia; 100,000 people gathered in the port of Sevastopol in the Black Sea to mark the occasion, where a naval parade and military festival were held. President Vladimir Putin presided over the event, with a patriotic speech praising the role of the country’s navy in fighting terrorism and guaranteeing national interests. “The whole history of our fleet is the history of courage, resolve and naval spirit,” he said. Putin also attended a Moscow ceremony marking the 1,030th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity in the region preceding the Russian state, joined by thousands of believers, at which he claimed the religion as the very foundation of the Russian state’s identity, culture, and education. Putin says Russia has no current plans to decrease its holdings of US currency. The Central Bank has no plans to lower interest rates this year. 

Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has now been on hunger strike for two and a half months to demand the release of political prisoners. This piece claims that Maria Butina is merely the tip of an iceberg of Russian influencers in the West. Putin has invited US President Donald Trump to Moscow.

PHOTO: Blood Moon nestled behind Kazan’s famous Qolsharif mosque, July 27, 2018. (Yegor Aleyev/TASS)