RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 24, 2020

Today in Russia: WWII parade; 7176 new COVID-19 cases; IMF worsens Russia’s economic outlook; Chinese returning from Russia faking COVID-19 tests; Unseen photos of Putin’s daughters; Yandex “divorces” Uber, splits from Sberbank; Russia says US not offering short-term extension of START; 150k Eastern Ukraine residents will vote in referendum

Russia held its massive World War II commemoration parade, traditionally held on the 9th of May, but postponed due to the pandemic. President Vladimir Putin remarked, “It is impossible even to imagine what the world would be if the Red Army hadn’t come to defend it.” The Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan left Russia early and did not attend the parade after some members of his delegation tested positive for the virus.

Russia reported [in Russian] 7176 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. Coronavirus cases passed 600,000 in Russia.

RBC reported [in Russian] that “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has worsened its forecast for the Russian economy for 2020. The organization believes that the country’s GDP will decrease by 6.6%, against the estimate of 5.5%, which the IMF voiced in April. This is stated in the updated forecast of the International Monetary Fund.”

Some Chinese nationals attempting to return home from Russia have been caught using false COVID-19 negative test results. The Chinese Embassy in Moscow “issued nearly identical warnings on May 29 and again on Sunday after discovering people had forged negative nucleic acid test results that the government requires passengers to take within five days of flying from Russia to China.”

Yandex is looking to increase its stake in its ride hailing business, which swallowed up Uber’s Russia operations in 2017 and gave Uber a 36.6 percent minority stake. This could lead to a “divorce” between Yandex and Uber, RBC reported [in Russian]. At the same time, Sberbank and Yandex are furtherig their split. The banking and internet giants announced previously they were ending their joint efforts in Yandex.Money and Yandex.Market, and Yandex will issue new shares. Kommersant wrote [in Russian],

The Internet company will redeem the bank’s stake in Yandex.Market for 42 billion rubles. and sell a stake in Yandex.Money for 2.4 billion rubles. In parallel, Yandex will issue shares for $ 800 million, three quarters of which will be sold in equal shares to VTB Capital, as well as to structures of Roman Abramovich and his partners in the Evraz Group, Alexander Abramov and Alexander Frolov. Together, this will be about 5% of the economic and 2.5% of the voting share in the company.

Unseen photos of Vladimir Putin’s daughters have been released by fugitive oligarch Sergei Pugachev. Moscow Times wrote, “Sergei Pugachev, 57, is credited with helping Putin ascend to the presidency in 1999. He became a French citizen a decade later and left Russia in 2011 after falling out with some of Putin’s powerful allies in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Several photographs on Pugachev’s website depicted two teenage girls identified as “Katerina and Mariya Putina.” Several media outlets have identified Katerina, who now goes by the last name Tikhonova, and Maria, formerly Faassen and now Vorontsova, as Putin’s younger and older daughters.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Kommersant [in Russian] that during the strategic stability talks in Vienna on June 22, the American delegation did not offer Russia to consider a short-term extension of the Treaty on Measures to Further Reduce and Limit Strategic Offensive Arms. Previously, Politico had reported that a short-term extension was under consideration in Washington.

150,000 residents of Eastern Ukraine will vote in Russia’s July 1 constitutional referendum. Moscow Times wrote, “Nearly 150,000 residents of separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine with Russian passports will join Russians in voting on a set of constitutional reforms that would allow President Vladimir Putin to extend his rule, a Russian official has said.

PHOTO: The delayed 9th of May Victory Day parade was held in the midst of a continuing coronavirus pandemic and as early voting opens for the all-important July 1 referendum.