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RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – September 1, 2020

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Today in Russia: Data of millions of US voters found on Russian darknet; Russia’s COVID-19 cases hit 1 million; Schools open despite raging virus; 2020 may see largest population decline in 14 years; Russians’ payment data should be stored in Russia; Prosecutors hit a snag in their case against Furgal; Lukashenko, formerly accusing Russia of interference but now beleaguered, now says the fatherland stretches from “Brest to Vladivstok”; Belarus opposition forms new political party; Lavrov blames German doctors for Russia’s failure to open investigation into Navalny poisoning

The data of millions of US voters have appeared on Russia’s darknet. This includes 7.6 million voters from Michigan, and millions of other voters registered in other states. The holder of the data which was found on one of Russia’s hacker forums, a user named Gorka9, is hoping to use the US State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” program to profit off the stolen voter data, Kommersant reported [in Russian]. Kommersant wrote after reviewing the data, that it contains the name, date of birth, gender, date of registration, address, postal code, e-mail, voter identification number and polling station number of the affected voters and the information is current as of March 2020. Other voters on the database are from Connecticut, Arkansas, Florida and North Carolina. Kommersant noted that the user Gorka9 “specializes in hacking and selling American databases.”

Russia’s COVID-19 case count passed one million [in Russian], after the country added another 4,729 new cases yesterday. The total official death toll from the pandemic reached 17,299.

Russia is going back to school (despite the raging pandemic). The Moscow Times wrote, “It’s an uneasy Den Znanii, or Day of Knowledge as Sept. 1 is known in Russia, as the county continues to register nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases per day, and doctors have sounded the alarm that reopening schools could lead to an “explosion” of the virus.” Moscow tested all 180,000 employees of its , including teachers, canteen workers, cleaners and other staff. Some 3% — or 5,500 — tested positive and will be temporarily kept away from schools, while another 13.3% were found to have antibodies.

In 2020, the population of Russia will decline [in Russian] five times more than in the previous year, decreasing by an estimated 158,000 people. The poverty rate is also expected to tick up one percentage point, according to a draft Russian government development plan obtained by RBC. The report concludes that an increasing population rate will not be possible until 2022.

Vedomosti reported [in Russian] that “[t]he public organization Delovaya Rossiya, representing the interests of the non-resource business, sent a letter to the government with a proposal to oblige to store personal payment data of Russians in Russia, including for cross-border purchases on the Internet.” The proposals have been received by the government, and it is being studied by the central bank.

Prosecutors are having a tough time prosecuting Sergei Furgal, the former Governor of Khabarovsk Krai, with that pesky order in 2004 closing the investigation against Furgal due to lack of evidence of his involvement proving to be a sticking point. Meduza wrote, “Federal officials in Russia have been unable to launch a criminal investigation against Sergey Furgal regarding the key offense in their case against the former Khabarovsk governor: the murder of businessman Evgeny Zorya in 2004. According to the newspaper Kommersant [in Russian], the Investigative Committee has hit a snag because a detective in the Khabarovsk Prosecutor’s Office issued an order in October 2004 terminating all prosecution of Furgal in Zorya’s killing, citing a lack of evidence that he was involved. (Kommersant has not named the detective who filed this decision.)”

It was less than a month ago that Belarus’ strongman Alexander Lukashenko was arresting alleged Russian mercenaries and railing against Kremlin interference in his country’s affairs. Now, after the beleaguered president finds himself under existential attack as protests engulf Minsk in response to his regime’s stealing of elections last month, Lukashenko has altered his rhetoric [in Russian] vis-a-vis Russia. Now he speaks of a “common fatherland” which stretches from Brest (a city in Belarus) to Vladivstok, the far-Eastern Russian city.

Meanwhile, opposition coordinating council member Maria Kolesnikova and unregistered candidate Viktor Babariko, who is under arrest, will create their own party [in Russian], which they named the Together Party.

The Baltic states have announced [in Russian] they will cease purchasing electricity from Belarus after the opening of a new nuclear power plant, citing unfair competition and a threat to the environment.

Kremlin spokesman Sergei Lavrov insisted that the Kremlin is not trying to quash calls [in Russian] for an investigation into the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Speaking to students at Moscow’s prestigious Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Lavrov blamed German doctors for failing to convey “relevant information” for Russian authorities to launch an investigation:

We are accused of not investigating this situation. It is not true. Starting from the same day when all this happened, our Ministry of Internal Affairs launched a pre-investigation check. And the investigation can begin when it is established what happened. It is not yet clear, German doctors cannot convey the relevant information to us.

PHOTO: A voting booth in the United States. Kommersant uncovered millions of US voters’ data on a Russian hacker forum (Joe Raedle/Getty Images).