RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 23, 2021

Today in Russia: Russia-UK naval encounter; Ban on Navalny groups clarified by Moscow City Court; Putin invites Kadyrov to run again in Chechen elections; Moscow region hotels to restrict non-vaccinated guests; Europe’s winter gas supply may depend on Russia

Russia said it fired warning shots at UK naval vessel HMS Defender and a warplane dropped bombs Wednesday to force the warship from an area near Crimea that Moscow claims as its own territorial waters. The UK denied the claim that warning shots were fired, saying instead that the shots were part of exercises being carried out by the Russian Navy and denied that the HMS Defender was in Russian waters.

The decision to ban Alexei Navalny-connected organizations including the Anti-Corruption Fund (FBK) and the Fund for the Protection of Citizens’ Rights (FZPG) was banned by the Moscow City Court on June 9 for being “extremist.” A document from the court released today focused on videos published by FBK, claiming that they contain “information of an extremist nature” while also accusing the organizations of being responsible for “extremist activity,” such as organizing protests on July 14, 2019 and January 23, 2021. The court believed the groups were engaged in extremist activity due to the fact that they “discredited the authorities, called for uncoordinated actions,” and also claimed that Nazi symbols were re-posted by supporters.

President Vladimir Putin “invited” Chechen strongman leader to run again for head of the Chechen Republic. Putin remarked, “A lot has been done, there is still more to be done. You are in the material, you work effectively, you know the situation from the inside, so I believe that you need to go to the polls, continue your work.” Kadyrov has been head of Chechnya since August 2005.

The Moscow region declared that guests wishing to stays in hotels more than 3 nights in a hotel must present proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test, or proof of recovery from COVID-19.

Bloomberg reported that Europe’s gas inventories are “already at the lowest in more than a decade for this time of year, and they are likely to start the heating season at the bottom end of the five-year range” according to Citibank estimates. Asia has been buying up liquefied natural gas cargoes and facilities in Norway are undergoing maintenance. As a result, Europe is more dependent than ever on Russian gas. Bloomberg added, “Easing tightness in the European market, already faced with the highest prices since 2008, may therefore hang on Nord Stream 2, a pipeline connecting Russia to Germany that’s faced delays because of U.S. sanctions.”