RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – August 10, 2020

Today in Russia: Putin congratulates Belarus’ Lukashenko for his (highly improbable) landslide victory; Russian media reacts to the events in Minsk; Russia and China “ditch dollar” in bilateral trade; Alcohol sales fall; Cyprus agrees to hike capital taxes from Russia following threats to end tax agreement

Aleksander Lukashenko emerged with an improbably high 80.23 percent of the vote to win a presidential election which saw most of his most prominent opponents disqualified or arrested. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old former English teacher and the wife of a prominent online blogger disqualified from running, officially took just 9.9 percent of the vote. Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his Belorussian counterpart for his victory.

Protests had rocked Minsk and other cities across the country in support of the opposition in the run-up to the election, and even Tikhanovskaya said herself that the vote was likely to be rigged. Police responded to large demonstrations late last night after the results were announced with lethal force. Some precincts in Minsk reported voter turnout above 100 percent, raising questions about ballot stuffing and other nefarious methods employed by the election authorities, a practice that would not be unusual in Belarus. Tikhanovskaya said after the vote, “The authorities should think about how to peacefully hand over power to us. I consider myself the winner of this election.”

Queues outside the Belorussian embassy in Moscow for citizens living in Russia to cast ballots were astonishingly large, stretching for many blocks.

TASS, Russia’s state-run outlet, appeared very accommodating to the official government line in its coverage of the Belarus elections despite severe tension between the two former very close nations. Kremlin-funded Rossiya 24 and Russia Today condemned the opposition and supported Lukashenko’s line. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the right-wing leader of the LDPR party which saw its own governor removed in the Russian city of Khabarovsk said, “The voters have already withdrawn their confidence in Lukashenko. The fate of [former Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovych awaits Alexander Grigoryevich.” Kommersant presented more balanced coverage, and in a piece analyzing western media reporting of the election, noted that [in Russian] references to Lukashenko as a “dictator,” “which was not observed during the period of thaw in relations between Minsk and the Western capitals.”

Russia and China have seemingly “ditched” the US dollar in their bilateral trading. For the first time, USD transactions made up less than half of trade between the two countries. “The greenback was used for only 46% of settlements between the two countries. At the same time, the euro made up an all-time high of 30%, while their national currencies accounted for 24%, also a new high.” As late as 2015, over 90 percent of China-Russia trade was conducted in dollars.

Alcohol sales in Russia fell by 15 percent in July compared to the same period the previous year, Kommersant wrote [in Russian]

Cyprus has finally accepted the proposal of the Ministry of Finance to raise the tax rate on interest and dividends from Russia to 15%. Earlier, Moscow threatened to break the tax agreement with Cyprus in case of disagreement with the revision,” RBC reported [in Russian].

PHOTO: Protests continue in Belarus in response to elections the opposition says are fraudulent (Tut.by).