RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 8, 2020

Today in Russia: Moscow announces rapid opening up; Zakharova given highest diplomatic rank; OPEC+ deal success; Some trips abroad allowed; Russia and China should be viewed as “one alliance” in Arctic; Russia and Lebanon’s gas fields; US stepping up pressure in Libya as Russia-backed Haftar will seek “political solution“; Lots of new Russians; Docs apparently show Russians sowing discord in US

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced [in Russian] that Moscow would be opening up faster than expected, starting on June 9, despite the city still adding some 2,000 cases every day. Starting June 9, hairdressers will open and car sharing services will be allowed. On June 16, summer cafes, museums, and dentists will open, and on June 23, restaurants and fitness centers will be allowed to open. Sobyanin said, “Each of us, like before, must abide by the regime of personal safety and respect for those around us. And open enterprises must strictly comply with sanitary requirements.”

Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was promoted [in Russian] to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, the highest diplomatic rank.

Bloomberg tells the tale of Russia and Saudi Arabia’s bluff to OPEC’s smaller producers who were caught cheating on output cuts. They write, “What followed was a week-long drama that pitted Riyadh and Moscow against fellow oil nations, according to officials involved in the talks, consultants and oil traders, who asked not to be named. Everyone had an excuse, from technical problems to errors of measurement. But Moscow and Riyadh took a hard line.” The cheaters – Iraq at the top of the list, as well as Angola, Kazakhstan, and Nigera – were told that they would have to compensate for previous cheating by further cuts later in the summer – a painful punishment as oil prices should be rising by then. Russia and the Saudis threatened to call off any meetings and the expected extension in output cuts, and secured a deal.

However, Oil tumbled this morning. Bloomberg wrote, “Oil extended losses after Saudi Arabia said it wouldn’t continue its additional, deeper output curbs after June and Libya said it would resume exports from its largest fields.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced that borders will open for special circumstances, permitting Russians to travel abroad and return. Vedomosti wrote [in Russian], “The government allowed the Russians to leave the country to take care of sick relatives living in other states, as well as to work or study.” Foreigners with a need to travel to Russia for family or medical reasons will be allowed to enter the country as well, the Prime Minister announced.

Tobias Ellwood, the U.K.’s chair of the Defense Select Committee in the House of Commons said that China and Russia should be seen as a single unified actor in the Arctic. He said, “We cannot distinguish much, as you have arguably two power competitors there, in the American perspective, they should be treated as one alliance…You can see this alliance developing, getting strong and stronger, and like I say, I really worry that there is this split, this schism, between the way that China and Russia will do international business, versus the West.”

What does Russia want from Lebanon’s gas fields? The Jerusalem Post noted that “Despite the modest signs for actual gas finds, Russia’s involvement in the Lebanese energy market spans much wider interests than natural gas – some of which directly concern Israel.

Government of National Accord (GNA) forces will retake territory held by Russia-backed Khalifa Haftar “and prevent Russia from establishing a base before accepting negotiations” after Haftar’s announcement that he was “ceasing his year-long offensive on the capital, and would be seeking a political process to resolve the war.” The United States had increasingly shown signs of upping the pressure.

Russia added 256,000 new Russian citizens this year, more than double the number during the same period last year, Vedomosti wrote [in Russian]. The majority of new citizens were Ukrainian, after President Vladimir Putin signed a new law in July of last year granting citizenship to residents of the unrecognized Donetsk and Lugansk “Republics” in Eastern Ukraine. Citizenship procedures were also simplified for citizens of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova, and Ukrainians from elsewhere in the country.

NBC reported that new evidence has emerged of Russians attempting to sow discord over race relations in the US in the midst of protests against police violence and discrimination. The report said,

Russians who were linked to interference in the 2016 U.S. election discussed ambitious plans to stoke unrest and even violence inside the U.S. as recently as 2018, according to documents reviewed by NBC News.

The documents — communications between associates of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Kremlin-linked oligarch indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for previous influence operations against the U.S. — laid out a new plot to manipulate and radicalize African Americans. The plans show that Prigozhin’s circle has sought to exploit racial tensions well beyond Russia’s social media and misinformation efforts tied to the 2016 election.

PHOTO: An OPEC video conference on June 6 (OPEC).