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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – July 7, 2021

Today in Russia: USA to Russia: the Black Sea is for everybody; Biden’s Russian hacking ‘moment or reckoning’; 19 bodies found from Kamchatka plane crash; Russia ready to activate Tajik military base as spillover from Afghanistan looms; American lawyer detained in Russia; Labor shortage in Moscow hurts construction industry

For everybody, right? The US is leading military drills in the Black Sea in an attempt to demonstrate that the Black Sea “is for everybody.” Already, a British warship has (apparently) been subject to warning shots from Russian vessels, and Russia has tested missile systems and taken other measures in response to the war games.

Hacked, but what to do? US President Joe Biden faces a “moment of reckoning” over alleged Russian hacking, Most recently, the Republican National Committee said that its web contractor Synnex had been hacked in an effort to gain access to its systems, an effort blamed on Russia. The ransomware attack that has affected some 1,500 companies last Friday has also proven to be a vexing issue for the White House as it tried to formulate a response. Politico wrote that “Russian cybercriminals’ latest massive ransomware attack is placing new pressure on President Joe Biden to follow through on his promise to make Moscow pay for turning a blind eye to digital assaults emanating from within its borders.”

Kamchatka plane crash. 19 bodies were found in Kamchatka near the crash site of a passenger plane that crashed on Tuesday. 28 people in total were on board when it was believed to have flown into a cliff. All passengers are now presumed dead. Officials have said the plane — built in 1982 — was in good condition and passed safety checks, but Russia’s Investigative Committee is looking into potential causes for the accident, which are believed to be poor weather conditions, technical malfunction, or pilot error.

Activate the base. Russia said it is ready to activate a military base in Tajikistan as the spillover from Afghanistan becomes an increasing threat. Over 1,000 Afghan soldiers have already fled to Tajikistan after being driven out by the Taliban as the US ramps up its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. The Moscow times wrote, “Tajikistan is host to more than 6,000 Russian servicemen deployed to the Russian Ground Forces’ 201st military base, one of Russia’s few military sites on foreign soil. More than 1,000 Afghan government troops were reported to have fled north into Tajikistan this week as hardline Islamist group the Taliban seized dozens of districts in the past two months.

Abucted. Youras Ziankovich, a lawyer and US citizen was abducted by four men in plain clothes in Moscow after leaving a restaurant and ferried across the Russian border to Belarus where he is now languishing in prison, according to his wife and reported by CNN on Tuesday. CNN added that Ziankovich is a well-known “Ziankovich’s lunch companion, Alexander Feduta, was detained at the same time. He, too, was driven to Minsk. Feduta served as spokesman for Alexander Lukashenko, in 1994, before falling out with the Belarusian leader. He went on to join the country’s opposition.

No migrants no labor. Moscow has a severe shortage of migrant labor and the cost of building materials is also skyrocketing, according to Moscow’s head of construction, Rafik Zagrutdinov. This is having a negative impact on budgets for new metro stations and public housing (the cost of hiring building contractors is rising rapidly). Zagrutdinov said that before the pandemic, some 40 to 50 percent of workers are migrants, mostly from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

PHOTO: Russia said it is prepared to activate a Soviet-era base in Tajikistan as the threat of a spillover of violence from Afghanistan looms amid the US withdrawal of troops from the country (Artur Lebedev / TASS)