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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 16, 2020

Today in Russia: 8,248 new COVID-19 cases reported; Whelan case shows Kremlin’s transactional approach; “Orwell” facial recognition in schools; Transgender woman wins landmark case in St. Petersburg; Vedomosti editor speaks after resignation; Russia hosts Iranian FM Zarif; Russians race to buy homes overseas during pandemic; 1 billion rubles in pandemic-related fines tallied; Gazprom to reimburse Poland $1.5 billion

COVID-19 cases have gone up by 8,248 in the past 24 hours in Russia.

The conviction of Paul Whelan for espionage and other spy cases “[t]he recent spy scandals expose once again Russia’s transactional approach to international politics,” Mark Galeotti wrote.

More than 43,000 Russian schools will be equipped with facial recognition cameras ominously named “Orwell,” the Vedomosti business daily reported Tuesday.” The contract was awarded to state-owned firm Rostec for some 2 billion rubles ($28.9 million).

A transgender woman in St. Petersburg won a landmark case. “The St. Petersburg City Court has ruled in favor of a transgender woman, Anastasia Vasilyeva, who was fired from her job at a printing press after she changed the gender marker in her official identification documents. Vasilyeva’s former employer must now pay her more than 1.85 million rubles (approximately $26,500) in damages, reports the LGBTQ rights group “Vykhod” (Exit).

An editor at Vedomosti who was among those announcing they will leave the paper after its new owners confirmed Andrey Shmarov will be the business daily’s permanent editor-in-chief said in an interview with Meduza of the dismantling of the respected paper’s independence, “[f]rankly, what’s happening is a catastrophe.”

Russia hosted Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif in Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia will do “everything” it can to preserve the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement.

Russians have been snapping up property overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Russian investors decided to take advantage of the crisis in the real estate market: the demand for “reserve” housing abroad, especially in Europe, has grown by 20% since the pandemic, Knight Frank said. The key factor in the purchase is the ability to obtain a residence permit or citizenship in an uncertain situation with air traffic,” Forbes Russia wrote [in Russian].

Russian authorities have issued over 1 billion rubles in fines due to quarantine violations during the COVID-19 pandemic, Meduza wrote.

“Russian gas giant Gazprom will reimburse Poland’s PGNiG to the tune of $1.5 billion by July 1 for overcharging it for its supplies for years, the Polish company said on Monday following a court battle,” the Moscow Times wrote after a decision by an international arbitration tribunal in Stockholm.

PHOTO: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif meets his Russian counterpart in Moscow (Russian Foreign Ministry/AFP).