RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – June 9, 2020

Today in Russia: Moscow opens up; Crimea to open July 1 to tourists; Pandemic brings challenge to attempts to raise birth rate; BBC “edits” article about Putin’s daughter; Arkhangelsk says no to Moscow’s trash; Sberbank expects 4.2-4.5 percent contraction in GDP; Putin approves nomination of Rostov governor for third term; MH-17 trial resumes; Poland-Norway gas pipeline moving forward

Moscow began its first big steps to open up today, with people on the streets and traffic as awful as usual on a typical day in Moscow. Some restrictions remain, such as the requirement to wear a mask and gloves in shops and on public transport.

However, some have noted that Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin was until recently saying publicly that Moscow was not yet ready to open up as the city continues to add thousands of new cases. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed those worrying the opening is too fast, saying “Why too fast? Some restrictions remain. Some will only be lifted in a week or two. That’s not a total exit.” However, many point to the recently rescheduled constitutional referendum now set for July 1 as the driver of early re-openings. “This appears to be a politically motivated decision to create an illusion that everything is safe,” said Vasily Vlassov, an epidemiologist with Moscow’s Higher School of Economics. The Kremlin has vociferously denied [in Russian] that it played a role in forcing Sobyanin to open the city earlier than planned.

Crimea will open to tourists on July 1, Kommersant reported [in Russian].

COVID-19 has complicated efforts by the Kremlin to increase the country’s notoriously low birth rate. The Wall Street Journal wrote, “President Vladimir Putin has been trying for years to push Russia’s birthrate higher, but the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is undermining his efforts.”

Meduza reported that BBC has edited its article about Putin’s daughter heading a genetic research lab funded by Rosneft, writing:

The BBC Russian Service has edited its article on Putin’s alleged eldest daughter, pediatric endocrinologist Maria Vorontsova, partnering with Russian energy giant “Rosneft” to create a new genetic research center in Moscow. 

The new version of the article — now under the headline “Rosneft became a partner in a large-scale Russian genetic project” — removes claims that Maria Vorontsova and Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin will sit on the new center’s board of directors. Mention of Rosneft investing between $500 million and $1 billion in the project has also been removed. 

Arkhangelsk has terminated [in Russian] an agreement with Moscow for a landfill that caused an uproar in the region last year and was a major contributor to Governor Ivan Orlov’s downfall.

The trial in the Netherlands over the MH-17 disaster has resumed, however “Lawyers defending four former pro-Russia militia members, who are not present in court, claim coronavirus travel restrictions have hampered their case and are requesting more time to prepare,” DW reported.

The Baltic Pipe linking Poland with Norway’s gas fields is close to being fully financed despite the coronavirus pandemic. The Financial Times wrote, “The €1.6bn project, a joint enterprise between Gaz System and its Danish counterpart Energinet, will shake up the energy market in one of the most geopolitically sensitive parts of Europe, helping Warsaw cut its decades-long dependence on Russian gas and giving it a chance of becoming a central European hub for the fuel.

PHOTO: Moscow is opening up faster than expected (Yevgenia Novozhenina / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA).