Today in Russia: “Look, Blinken!” Kommersant looks at Biden’s foreign policy team; Putin’s not going anywhere; The “most critical” regions with COVID-19; Russia sets yet another daily death record; Space chief Rogozin’s thin skin; Russian peacekeeper injured in Nagorno-Karabakh
Kommersant took a look at [in Russian] US President-Elect Joe Biden’s rapidly forming foreign policy team, and did not entirely like what it saw. They note that Tony Blinken, Biden’s longtime associate and his pick for Secretary of State “previously publicly called Russian President Vladimir Putin a ‘liar’ and ‘kleptocrat,'” and his pick for National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan “is convinced that any concessions to Russia will weaken the United States.” Putin, his part, does not seem too concerned in Kommersant’s telling, because, in his words, “spoiled relations cannot be spoiled.”
Henry Foy wrote in the Financial Times that talk of Putin’s imminent retirement in some Western media is premature. Yes, the Duma just “rubber-stamped a law granting immunity from investigation or prosecution to former presidents and their families,” but over the summer a constitutional amendment was also passed allowing Putin to rule for 12 more years after his current term expires in 2024. Therefore, the most we should conclude about these legislative maneuvers is that the Russian president is simply keeping his options open while sowing confusion about his real intentions: “The two laws, protecting him outside the Kremlin and allowing him to remain in it, fit this approach. At present, making use of the second lever appears more likely than the first, according to analysts. Predicting when Mr Putin will step down or to whom he may transfer power has lost its fun as a Moscow parlour game. His supporters dismiss the discussion’s premise and his critics have been wrong too many times to continue guessing.”
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said [in Russian] that nationally, 78.2 percent of hospital beds are filled, and in several regions, less than 10 percent of beds are free. Those worst affected regions are the Oryol region, Mordovia, Ivanovskaya, the Komi Republic, and St Petersburg, all of which have less than 10 percent bed capacity remaining as they are hit with a new wave of COVID-19 infections.
Russia reported the highest daily death toll [in Russian] since the COVID-19 pandemic began, chalking up 491 deaths and 24,326 new infections.
The head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin is not known for his thin skin. He has launched a lawsuit [in Russian] to “protect his honor and reputation” against three media outlets for declaring that Rogozin is “burying astronautics,” and that “Under the leadership of Rogozin” the space industry will be destroyed. Roscosmos emphasized that the agency itself had nothing to do with the legal action.
A Russian peacekeeper has been injured in a mine explosion in Nagorno-Karabakh. An Azerbaijani soldier and four officers from the Nagorno-Karabakh Emergencies Ministry were also wounded. The mine exploded while [in Russian] “a joint group for the exchange of dead servicemen” were conducting a search for dead servicemembers.
PHOTO: Tony Blinken, US President-Elect Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of State (Fernando Vergara/AP).