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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 29, 2021

Today in Russia: Germany and the Czech Republic ban Russia travel; Neutral athletes for Tokyo Olympics approved; More Crimea military maneuvers; Russian jet buzzed Dutch warship, say Dutch; Pilot banks for digital ruble; Minsk to Nur Sultan: oil, please.

Keep out. The Czech Republic and Germany banned travel from Russia as a result of surging coronavirus cases and fears of variants of the virus. Russia confirmed the appearance of the “Delta plus” strain of coronavirus.

Sacrifice the cafes! Moscow is rapidly unveiling a new QR code system which will grant entry to places such as restaurants hotels, and possibly soon, even the metro system only to those who are vaccinated or recently obtained a negative PCR test. Restaurants are feeling the most pain and say they are being “sacrificed” in an effort to reduce explosive COVID-19 numbers after nearly a year of Russia’s living in a “parallel reality” where “restaurants and bars remained packed though much of the pandemic.”

Tchaikovsky’s men. Russia’s Olympic Committee sent a finalized roster of 335 athletes who will compete in the Tokyo Olympics this summer to compete under a neutral flag and anthem as punishment for the state-backed doping program at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. Russian athletes will be accompanied by music by composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky after the IOC in April approved it to replace Russia’s national anthem.

Crimean drama. The US and Ukraine held Black Sea naval drills beginning on Monday. The two-week long Sea Breeze exercise has not gone over well with Russia which claims Crimea and the waters around it as Russian territory. Moscow called for the exercises to be cancelled, and deployed 20 warplanes and helicopters, including Su-24M bombers, as well as S-400 and Pantsir surface-to-air missile systems. The S-400 air defense system was tested today as part of the response to the joint exercises.

Buzz, buzz. A Russian jet buzzed a Dutch warship in the Black Sea, according to the Netherlands. The ship was part of a carrier strike group also including the British destroyer HMS Defender, which also came under warning fire (according to Moscow) days before.

Digital pioneers. 12 banks were named by the Central Bank to test the digital ruble, which will begin in January 2022. The banks will include Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, Alfa-Bank, Dom.RF Bank, Rosbank, Promsvyazbank, Tinkoff Bank, SKB-Bank, Ak Bars Bank, Transcapitalbank and Soyuz Bank.. “A prototype of the digital ruble will be created at the end of 2021. According to the leadership of the Central Bank, in 10-30 years it will replace cash. Clients will get access to their wallet, where the money will be stored, through the bank’s mobile application,” Kommersant wrote.

Oil pls. Kommersant wrote that Belarus is looking for oil from Kazakhstan: “Belarus, in search of alternative sources of oil to Russia for the sanctioned Naftan refinery, has advanced in long-standing negotiations with Kazakhstan. The countries have signed an agreement on the supply of oil and petroleum products, but the exact volumes and timing have yet to be discussed. It has also not been decided whether oil will be delivered without export duties, as Russia is doing. Taking into account transport restrictions and the higher cost of Kazakhstani oil, experts doubt that we can talk about significant volumes.

PHOTO: The digital ruble will be unveiled at the end of this year (Alexander Kazakov / Kommersant).