RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 17, 2020

Today in Russia: 7,840 new COVID-19 cases, lowest since April; Putin has a COVID-19 disinfection “tunnel”; Study “exposes” Russian disinformation campaign; Russia-Turkey video summit on Syria; Glitches in Moscow COVID-19 tracking app; Russia may soak the rich; Azeris languish at Russian border; Russian bombers intercepted off the coast of Alaska, escorted by U.S. jets; The Polish cost of eschewing Russian gas

Russia reported 7,840 new COVID-19 cases, the lowest number since April.

President Vladimir Putin has his own “disinfection tunnel” in his residence to protect him from COVID-19, RIA Novosti reported [in Russian].

A study has pieced together Russian disinformation efforts over the past six years. NPR wrote, “The operation, named “Secondary Infektion” by researchers, has sought to spread pro-Russian propaganda around the globe by sharing fake tweets from U.S. elected officials and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. And it attempted to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Researchers say it will likely try to spread falsehoods tied to the November election, too.”

Russia, Turkey, and Iran will hold a video summit to discuss Syria. Turkish official outlet Anadolu Agency wrote that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the summit announcement after meeting his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif in Moscow yesterday. Zarif said after his meeting with Lavrov, “We support the efforts that Russia and Turkey are making to end the conflict in Libya, and we hope that the legitimate government in Libya will be able to bring calm to the people of Libya.” 

Moscow’s COVID-19 app has led to thousands of appeals by angry citizens who say they were wrongly fined for quarantine violations. The Financial Times wrote,

Officials say the platform, which was rushed out in a matter of weeks and made compulsory for all people with respiratory disease symptoms, was a vital component of a draconian response that helped keep the city’s death rate from Covid-19 at 3.8 per cent, a fraction of the rate in most large cities worldwide….

But people who claim the app fined them without cause say it wrongly geolocated them outside their apartments, requested selfies to prove they were at home in the middle of the night, and required a certificate that could only be received in person at a hospital — which came at the risk of another fine — to shut it down.

Forbes Russia wrote [in Russian] that owing to the economic consequences of the pandemic and resulting self-isolation regime,“The government is discussing increasing tax revenues from the rich. As one of the options, the introduction of a progressive scale of personal income tax is considered: a tax for those whose incomes exceed 2-3 million rubles a year can raise up to 15%.”

Hundreds of Azerbaijani citizens are stuck at the border unable to return home. EurasiaNet wrote, “The labor migrants are trying to return home after losing their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic. Tensions are rising, and a protest on the border has been violently broken up by Russian police.” On Tuesday, hundreds blocked a highway in protest of the restrictions, which was forcibly broken up by police, AFP wrote.

U.S. fighter jets intercepted four Russian nuclear-capable bombers off the coast of Alaska for the second time in a week, the Russian military said Wednesday…The U.S. scrambled F-22 Raptors to escort the four Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers during their flight near the Bering Strait, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Poland is facing a cost for its efforts to diversity away from Russian gas. The Financial Times wrote, “On May 26, westward flows of natural gas via the Europol pipeline, one of the main transit routes for Russian gas to Europe via Poland, came to a complete halt for a day only to restart at much more volatile levels.” Nine days earlier, a long-term supply contract with Poland expired. Gazprom is enjoying increased bargaining power over transit fees for Poland, as Gazprom beings treating Europol as a “balancing route” amid a collapse in European demand.

PHOTO: A demonstration of President Vladimir Putin’s “disinfection tunnel” to protect the President from COVID-19 (RIA Novosti).