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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 31, 2015

TODAY: Russia buying E.U. influence? Saudi Arabia raps Russia for hypocrisy over Syria weapons; Lavrov leaves early from Iran nuclear talks; Yakunin wins main goal of NYT lawsuit; prices rise but dissent remains under control; Peskov says don’t politicize Nemtsov memorial clearing; football to get racism inspector.

Russia’s Victory Day celebrations on May 9th are likely to be snubbed by Germany, Poland, Britain, the U.S., and most other E.U. member states, due to anger over Putin’s aggressions, says the New York Times.  Critics claim that Russia’s €10 billion loan to Hungary is an attempt to buy influence in the European Union.  Greece may be turning to Russia for help as its deal to secure European aid falters.  Is Russia nowsupplying far more jihadis than any country outside the Middle East and North Africa’?  It has emerged that Russia is currently supplying weapons to Syria under contracts signed after conflicts began in 2011, contradicting Moscow’s insistence that arms supply deals had all been agreed beforehand.  Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister criticized President Vladimir Putin for supplying arms to Syria whilst claiming to support peaceful resolutions of ‘all the problems the Arab world faces’.  Forbes has compiled an interesting selection of roughly 20 years of data covering various issues in Russia including life expectancy, abortion, GDP, unemployment, and public opinion.  Today is the final day for negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons capability, as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was reported to have left negotiations early yesterday.

Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin partially won his lawsuit against the New York Times, in that information in the article in question, which accused Bakunin of making ‘sizable cash payments to Putin’, was declared to be false.  The cost of cabbage has risen 66% in just three months this year, and Russian banks have lost nearly $500 million, but current economic dissatisfaction is unlikely to transform into political discontent for another one or two years, analysts say; a Levada Center poll found that 86% of Russians are against taking part in local demonstrations.  Cash reserves at Surgutneftegaz jumped 80% last year, year-on year.  EasyJet is the latest airline to cut flights to Russia amid falling demand.  Spain has frozen hundreds of bank accounts belonging to its Russian inhabitants for failing to explain the sources of their money.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the Kremlin has given no orders related to the ‘utility issue’ of the removal of flowers from Moscow’s Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, the scene of Boris Nemtsov’s murder and make-shift memorial, and urged that the issue not be ‘politicized’.  The Guardian speaks to Peter Greenaway about his depiction of homosexual Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein in his feature film Eisenstein in Guanajuato, and Russia’s backlash against the film.  The Russian Football Union has created a new post for an anti-racism inspector.

PHOTO: Russian president Vladimir Putin speaks with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban before a joint news conference in Budapest, March 31, 2015. (Getty Images)