RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 30, 2021

Today in Russia: Putin’s marathon Q+A (yes, it’s that time of year again); Putin receives Nazarbayev; Safronov jail sentence extended to October; No more US visas in Moscow from Aug 1; Khodorkovsky Foundation named undesirable organization

Marathon Q+A, again and again. Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual marathon Q+A on Wednesday. It was his 18th Direct Line event and the first one since the pandemic began. The focus was on domestic issues, especially the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and Putin urged Russians to get vaccinated.

Kommersant neatly summarized key statements from Putin at the Direct Line event, and the name of the game for the Russian President appears to be to shift responsibility to the regions. For example – Putin is opposed to mandatory vaccinations, but said regions have the right to introduce compulsory vaccination for certain groups of citizens on the recommendation of doctors, which according to Putin is within the framework of a 1998 law on the immune protection of the population.

Putin also finally lifted the mysterious veil on which vaccine was bequeathed to the Russian leader – the Kremlin had been mum on the topic until now. Putin remarked, at the Direct Line event, “I was asked not to say which vaccine I am vaccinated in order to avoid competition. When I was vaccinated, there were two of them in circulation, both good. Especially with doctors before vaccination did not consult. I made a decision for myself to be vaccinated with “Sputnik” , having looked at the experience of my acquaintances.”

On the topic of social media blocks, Putin insisted, “We are not going to block anyone, we are going to work with them. The problem is that they send us away when they demand to comply with the law. “

On the transfer of power, (and who knows when that might be), Putin said, “Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin did not transfer power to me. The decision about who should head the state is ultimately always up to the citizens of Russia. Only this way is possible. Of course, my responsibility is also to give recommendations to those people who apply for this. The time will come, and, I hope, I will be able to say that some person is worthy to lead such a wonderful country as our homeland – Russia.

On sanctions, Putin said that “Russia will not respond to sanctions if it means shooting itself in the foot: “If they [the West] cross some boundaries, we will find asymmetric ways of answering.”

Nazarbayev comes to the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin received the first President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev in the Kremlin. The two countries discussed bilateral cooperation and the coronavirus.

Go back to jail. Ivan Safronov, the jailed ex-Kommersant and Vedomosti journalist charged with treason will have his jailing extended until October 7, a Moscow court ordered. On July 7, it will be one year since Safronov is in pre-trial detention and the specific charges against him are yet to be laid out. Kommersant wrote, “For more than ten years, Mr. Safronov covered the work of the defense and space industries in Kommersant, and then in Vedomosti, and in May 2020 became an advisor to the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin. According to the FSB, in 2012 he was recruited, and in 2017 he passed on secret information to the Czech special services.”

No more visas. US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan told Dozhd TV that from August 1, US Embassy Moscow (the last US mission in Russia still standing) would cease to issue visas due to the hiring ban that has been imposed on the US Embassy since Moscow labeled the US an “undesirable country.”

Not desired. Russia named the Khodorkovsky Foundation, the Oxford Russian Foundation, and the European Choice organization as undesirable organizations. Russia’s Ministry of Justice said in a statement that “Information about the decision was sent to the Ministry of Justice of Russia for entering information into the list of foreign and international non-governmental organizations, whose activities are recognized as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation, and making it public.”

PHOTO: Putin held his annual marathon Q+A dial-in extravaganza, his 18th (Russian Presidential Administration).