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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – November 16, 2020

Today in Russia: Yet another new daily COVID-19 record; Pashinyan says he is responsible for the outcome in Nagorno-Karabakh, but also says military should quell protesters; Azerbaijan extends Armenia pull-out deadline outlined in ceasefire agreement as 18 more planes of Russian peacekeepers arrive; Moldova elections: Between East and West; Obama re Putin: “Physically unremarkable”; Kommersant on Trump’s frivolous election legal battles; Echoes of Khabarovsk: “Tomsk may be next to explode” as mayor’s arrest already sees local push-back

Russia again set a record for the number of new daily COVID-19 cases, reporting 22, 778 cases [in Russian] over the past 24 hours.

Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that the outcome in Nagorno-Karabakh was entirely his responsibility, remarking [in Russian], “Of course, I understand that I am the main [person] responsible for this situation.” But there’s no love lost between Pashinyan and protesters who are furious with a cease-fire agreement they view as a capitulation: The Prime Minister said the military should return from the front lines in Nagorno-Karabakh to deal with the “whining” protesters [in Russian] in Yerevan. Armenian Ombudsman Arman Tatoyan condemned Pashinyan’s statement, and the head of the office of the Deputy Prime Minister Varag Siseryan announced his resignation.

Azerbaijan extended the deadline for Armenia to pull troops out of the disputed Kalbajar district – part of Azerbaijan but occupied by Armenian separatists since the aftermath of the war in the 1990s. Hikmet Hajiyev, a foreign policy adviser to President Ilham Aliyev said that they will extend the deadline on humanitarian grounds, following “an appeal from Armenia and mediation with Russian president Vladimir Putin.” The cease-fire agreement has led to a mass-exodus of Armenians from the area. Prior to the war in the 1990s, Kalbajar was almost exclusively populated by Azerbaijanis before being expelled by Armenian separatists, AFP wrote.

18 more Russian IL-76 military transport aircraft arrived with peacekeepers in Armenia, TASS reported [in Russian], as Russia assumes its role as the mediator and peacekeeper at the line of control in Nagorno-Karabakh. The planes arrived in Yerevan en-route to the disputed area, and the command post for the mission is to be in Stepanakert, the de-facto capital of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Moldova headed to the polls on Sunday “for the second round of a tightly-contested presidential election pitting a pro-European challenger against the country’s Moscow-backed incumbent.” Pro-European Maia Sandu won a surprise victory in the first round, leading pro-Russian incumbent Prime Minister Igor Dodon to call on his supporters to take to the streets to “protect our victory.” Sandu was declared the winner early on Monday with 57.7 percent of the vote and nearly all ballots counted.

Former US President Barack Obama wrote in the first volume of his memoir that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin is a “tough” but “physically unremarkable” man. Obama also compared Putin to “the tough, street-smart ward bosses who used to run the Chicago machine.” Last year Putin accused Obama of “not keeping his promises,” while his spokesman Dmitry Peskov traced the deterioration of US-Russia relations to disagreements with Obama in an interview on Friday.

Kommersant wrote [in Russian] that US President Donald Trump is finding his efforts to delegitimize this month’s presidential elections increasingly difficult through the courts: “Lawsuits are scattered one after another. Against the background of these defeats, the owner of the White House admitted that his administration might not survive after January 20, 2021, but he did it very carefully and did not recognize the collapse of his presidential campaign.” Kommersant noted that many American publications latched onto Trump’s statement that he doesn’t know what the next presidential election will be on January 20, suggesting that even the President himself is coming to the realization that his fight may be nearing an end.

Ivan Klein, the mayor of the Siberian city of Tomsk was jailed for two months. He was charged with abusing his power [in Russian] after being detained [in Russian] by Federal Security Service (FSB) officers on November 13. Klein’s membership in the ruling United Russia party was also suspended [in Russian] last week. However, Kommersant wrote [in Russian] that the mayor’s arrest could lead the city to be “the next to explode,” writing that “several deputies of the city duma and dozens of sympathetic citizens came to the courthouse to express support for the detained mayor. The participants held in their hands posters [reading], ‘Freedom for Ivan Klein,’ ‘Hands off the honest mayor’…” Kommersant also wrote that deputies, key industry executives, and the editor-in-chief of a local newspaper personally vouched for Klein, while State Duma Deputy Vera Ganzya, who represents Tomsk and Novosibirsk, drew parallels to Khabarovsk, where the region’s popular governor’s removal and arrest led to months of mass-demonstrations:

So, Tomsk might be the next one. The puppeteers started playing. Khabarovsk is not enough for them. We decided to try Tomsk for strength. And Tomsk is a smart city. And the schemes for cleaning up the political field are understandable to its inhabitants, like a multiplication table. My personal opinion: the detention of the mayor of Tomsk is a classic political order. As proof – the mask shows on this detention. After all, it could be like this: there were questions for a person – call the agenda. If you are guilty, let him answer.”

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin and former US President Barack Obama. In the first volume of his upcoming memoir, Obama said Putin was a “tough” but “physically unremarkable” man and compared him to the Chicago political bosses “who used to run the Chicago machine.” (Kremlin.ru).