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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 15, 2021

Today in Russia: Prosecutor wants 6-year suspended sentence for Calvey; Election monitor decries new restrictions on live polling feeds; Proekt and more declared undesirable foreign agents; Russian swimmers suspended from Tokyo games over doping allegations; Get out, stay out of Central Asia, Russia tells US to stay out of Central Asia post-Afghanistan withdrawal; Biden and Merkel to discuss Nord Stream 2

Suspended justice. Russian prosecutors asked that Michael Calvey, the detailed founder of private equity firm Baring Vostok, be handed a six-year suspended jail sentence on charges of embezzlement. Detained in 2019 and placed under house arrest, Calvey and six other associates were freed from total house arrest in November last year and their trial began in February. The Calvey saga has been politicized from the beginning, and it is understood that Artem Avetisyan, with whom Calvey had a business dispute, is very close to Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Beluosov.

Don’t watch us vote. Golos, Russia’s last independent election monitor decried a decision from Russia’s Central Election Committee (CEC) to restrict access to live video feeds of polling places for the all-important September Duma elections. The CEC said only members, candidates, and political parties will have access to the feed. Golos co-chairman Grigory Melkonyants said “The decision is nothing more than an attempt to hide from the public the events that will take place for three days and two nights at the polling stations.” The vote will be staggered over three days – officially as an anti-coronavirus measure to reduce crowding at the polls.

Undesirable foreign agents everywhere! Russia’s Prosecutor General named Proekt, an online media outlet as an “undesirable organization,” joining an increasingly large list of independent outlets that face restrictions to their operations in the country. The Prosecutor General also added eight journalists – from Open Media, Proekt, and Radio Liberty to the list of “foreign agents.”

More doping. Two Russian swimmers were suspended from the upcoming Tokyo Olympics over doping allegations, the International Swimming Federation (FINA) announced on Wednesday.

Get out, stay out. Russia said it is opposed to a US troop presence in Central Asia after the US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov remarked on Tuesday, “I would emphasize that the redeployment of the American permanent military presence to the countries neighboring Afghanistan is unacceptable.” Ryabkov also said Russia had “a frank talk on the subject with our Central Asian allies, neighbors and friends,” suggesting that any country in the region agreeing to host US troops would face consequences from their northern neighbor.

Nord Stream talks. US President Joe Biden is set to discuss the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline with his German counterpart, Chancellor Angela Merkel today as she visits Washington. CNBC wrote, “A senior Biden administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the U.S. agenda for Merkel’s visit, said that the president will reiterate concerns over the completion of the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline.”

PHOTO: Russia’s election authority will restrict the viewing of video feeds from polling stations during the September voting period (Vedomosti / TASS).