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

Today in Russia: 8,404 new cases today as Russia plows ahead with reopening plans; Rogozin hurt by jokes after SpaceX success; EU again accuses Russia and China of COVID-19 misinformation; Lavrov fighting “harsh new Iranian sanctions”; Alcohol producers ask to freeze excise tax rate through 2022; Putin and Erdogan chat about Libya

Russia added 8,404 new COVID-19 cases today, but the government is pressing ahead with the reopening, which Meduza confirmed is very much linked to the July 1 constitutional referendum.

Dmitry Rogozin, head of space agency Rostatom, has not taken SpaceX’s successful launch and Elon Musk’s taunts well. He wrote an article in Forbes Russia [in Russian] which was later posted in English which blasted SpaceX, defended Russian Soyuz rockets, and appeared to admit that Rosatom had been price gouging NASA astronauts (charging $90 million per seat; SpaceX’s rocket cost $55 million per seat), writing, “The sirs seem to confuse launch cost price and launch service price that is formed by the market.” Rogozin also declared the Soyuz to be Russia’s “space Kalashnikov rifle.”

The European Commission said it is assessing new ways to tackle disinformation about COVID-19, writing, “Foreign actors and certain third countries, in particular Russia and China, have engaged in targeted influence operations and disinformation campaigns in the EU, its neighbourhood, and globally.

“Russia and China have started making the case at the United Nations against Washington’s claim that it can trigger a return of all sanctions on Iran at the Security Council, with Moscow invoking a 50-year-old international legal opinion to argue against the move,” Reuters wrote. Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers Wang Yi and Sergei Lavrov wrote a letter to the UN Security Council and to the Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Lavrov wrote that the United States was being “ridiculous and irresponsible.”

The issue surrounds UN Resolution 2231, passed in 2015 in connection with the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). China and Russia have argued that the US cannot legally impose “snapback sanctions” on Iran under the guise of resolution 2231, because, as both Wang and Lavrov wrote, the US is no longer a party to the JCPOA after unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement two years ago. Kommersant wrote [in Russian] that while Russia will block the UN resolution, “It will not be easy to prevent the United States from implementing its plan for Russia, as well as for the rest of the JCPOA members (Great Britain, Germany, China and France).

Alcohol producers have asked the government to freeze any excise tax increases through 2022, and warned that failure to do so could result in consumers switching to illegal alcohol, which already represents 30 percent of the market, Kommersant wrote [in Russian].

Russian President Vladmir Putin and his Turkish ccounterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a telephone conversation about the situation in Libya. Putin stressed the importance of a ceasefire in Libya, TASS wrote. Russia finds itself on the back foot in Libya after their man in Libya Khalifa Haftar looks to be on the way out. Turkey has already rejected Egypt’s proposal for a ceasefire, firing back that it is a desperate attempt to save Haftar. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also proclaimed, “As the support behind him is withdrawn, lifted, Haftar “will certainly disappear there [in Libya].” The Libya situation also appears to be improving US-Turkey relations. Erdogan and Trump had a productive call yesterday that may lead to “a new era in their relationship.”

PHOTO: Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin in 2019 (Yegor Aleyev/TASS via Getty Images).