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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 13, 2021

Today in Russia: US-Russia climate cooperation; Record mortality levels reported; Russians want foreign vaccines, but apparently only Chinese producers applied for approval so far; Moldova goes pro-EU; Putin’s Ukrainian history lesson; Oil and the Russian economy – Rosstat takes a look

Enemies saving the climate, together. US Climate envoy John Kerry was in Moscow this week, where he made a pledge with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to “move together” and forge “close co-operation” on climate change. As with the US-China relationship, the climate agenda is one of few areas where Moscow and Washington see eye to eye (and even there, competition is rife). Lavrov told Kerry on Monday, “Obviously we have some differences in the relationship between our two countries . . . We believe that there is space for us to co-operate in [combating climate change] and to perhaps open up better opportunities on other issues as we do.”

Deaths in excess. In May, Russia recorded the lowest number of excess deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Just two months later, it would report the highest mortality rates since the pandemic began, with 780 deaths being recorded across Russia on Monday. Kommersant also reported that clinical trials may begin in Russia as a start to the approval process for a Chinse vaccine.

Foreign vaccines: Demanded but not supplied. Kommersant wrote that despite a petition to the Kremlin for the admission of “all proven” foreign vaccines which gathered 40 thousand signatures in just two weeks, no foreign vaccines have yet been approved for use inside Russia. Kommersant cited sources inside the Ministry of Health who sugegsted that a relatively unknown Chinse vaccine from Livzon Mabpharm is currently the vaccine undergoing trials for approval, but this vaccine has not even been approved for use in China yet. The Russian government has refused to comment on the specific foreign vaccines currently undergoing trials, but spoke to experts who suggested that bringing in Western vaccines such as Pfizer or Moderna could help improve vaccination numbers as some Russians have more trust in foreign-manufactured vaccines.

Moldova leans West. Moldova held elections on Sunday which resulted in a strong win for President Maia Sandu’s pro-EU PAS party, which took 52.7 percent of the vote compared to her primary rival, Igor Dodon’s pro-Russia Communists and Socialists Bloc (BeCS) which took just 27.2 percent. Moscow’s influence in the country has long been felt, and Dodon was a frequent visitor to Moscow throughout the campaign.

Putinsplaining. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised during his marathon June 30 call-in event that he would pen an essay on Ukrainian history that demonstrates that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people.” That essay came on Monday: entitled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” it goes from the Middle Ages to the present day and suggests that Ukraine is the “brainchild” of the Soviet era. Putin adds that Ukraine became “anti-Russia” at the hands of the West and Ukrainian elites. Putin also insisted that Russian and Ukrainian are “almost identical,” but nevertheless the Kremlin published the essay in both Russian and Ukrainian (pro tip: Ukrainian and Russian are not the same; your Russia News Blast author can attest to their non-mutual intelligibility).

Crunching the numbers for the first time. Rosstat calculated the share of oil and gas in Russia’s GDP for the first time. The result was somewhat surprising: as a percentage of GDP, it made up just 15.2 percent at the end of 2020, but this figure fluctuates quite rapidly depending on the oil price. RBC noted that the percentage of oil and gas that makes up Russian exports is considerably larger, which explains why the GDP figure seems low.

PHOTO: Russia is seeing record deaths from COVID-19 during its brutal third wave (AP/TASS).