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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 31, 2020

Today in Russia: EU sanctions for hacking; US ex-marine sentenced, could be part of prisoner swap; 5.5 thousand more COVID-19 cases; Russia reacts furiously to Belarus arrests, ambassador claims the men were en-route to third country; Nine deaths in Crimea minibus accident; Russia to allow people to identify themselves as elves and other fantastic creatures on census; Construction companies and their “Leninist” methods; Ex-press secretary for Prosecutor General’s office to join United Russia and help with campaigning

The European Union imposed on Thursday travel and financial sanctions on a department of Russia’s military intelligence service and on firms from North Korea and China over their suspected participation in major cyberattacks across the world,” Reuters wrote. It was the first time the bloc has imposed sanctions for cybercrimes. The move was applauded by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Ex-US Marine Trevor Reed was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court for assaulting police officers while drunk last year. The 29 year old has been in prison since the incident. His family claims the charges are politically motivated, and some believe Reed could be part of a prisoner swap along with Paul Whelan, who was convicted last month on espionage charges and sentenced to 16 years in prison. The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, condemned the sentencing of 29-year-old Reed as “theatre of the absurd.”

Russia added another 5.5 thousand [in Russian] COVID-19 cases yesterday.

Russia demanded an explanation from Belarus on Thursday over what it called Minsk’s wrongful arrest of a group of alleged Russian mercenaries accused of plotting acts of terrorism,” Reuters wrote. Russia’s ambassador to Belarus, Dmitry Mezentsev, admitted that the men “may be employees of a private security company,” but claimed that they were transiting Belarus en route to Istanbul and to a third country from there. Mezentsev added that the Russian private security men were “commissioned to guard energy infrastructure and resources abroad but certainly not in Belarus.”

Yesterday, Belarus saw some 60,000 people take to the streets in the largest demonstration in more than a decade.

Nine people have died and ten injured in a traffic accident involving a minibus in Crimea. The driver of the bus is believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel.

Russia will allow “jokesters” to declare [in Russian] themselves as fantastic creatures such as elves on the All-Russia census. Pavel Smelov, deputy head of Rosstat said “If a person feels like an elf, let him be an elf,” adding “We will not fight them. There were only 1,024 such jokers in the previous census in the whole country. For a population of 147 million this is a very small number.”

Kommersant wrote [in Russian] that some construction companies doing renovation works in apartments in Moscow are showing their estimated costs on contracts using ink that disappears with the heat of a lighter, calling these shenanigans “Leninist methods.” They wrote, A video clip showing a contract for renovation works in an apartment building was published by the municipal deputy of the Basmanny District Lyudmila Stein. ..After the deputy brings a lighter to the sheet, the amount [the estimated cost] on the document disappears.”

Kommersant wrote [in Russian], “the former head of the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Tatyana Zakharova, may soon go to the central executive committee of United Russia. Kommersant’s interlocutors assume that she will take the position of deputy head of the political department or deputy head of the party’s information department. At the same time, there is still no chief in the political department – sources of Kommersant say that party members have not been able to find a suitable candidate for this position for several months.

PHOTO: Trevor Reed, a 29-year old ex-Marine was sentenced to nine years in prison for assaulting police officers while drunk at a party last year in Moscow. The sentence was condemned by the US ambassador and Reed’s family (Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP).