RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – September 23, 2020

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Today in Russia: Yandex to buy Tinkoff bank; Navalny discharged from hospital, Kremlin says he is free to return to Russia and wishes him speedy recovery; Lukashenko inaugurated for new term in closed-door ceremony, Tikhanovskaya and 5 EU countries reject Lukashenko as legitimate president; Putin “cannot believe” that Paris leaked an audio recording of the Putin-Macron discussion about Navalny; CIA reportedly reduces Russia reporting to the White House, fearing Trump anger about negative reports; Putin says salaries below the minimum wage are unacceptable

Russian internet giant Yandex will buy online bank Tinkoff Bank for $5.5 billion. It sent Yandex’s stock soaring, hitting an all-time high [in Russian] and should the deal go through, it “would become one of the most high-profile Russian tie-ups in recent corporate history.” Yandex will buy Tinkoff shares for $27.64 each — a 6% premium on the bank’s current share price.

Poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny was discharged from hospital in Berlin, after spending 32 days in inpatient care. Navalny thanked the medical staff who helped him on his road to recovery, and said he wanted to go somewhere “with trees” to continue his recovery. He wrote [in Russian] on Instagram, “There are several funny things going on. For example I can’t throw a ball with my left hand. I can catch it, but not throw it, my brain doesn’t want to make this movement.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Navalny was free to return to Russian at any time and wished “the patient” a speedy recovery without actually naming the opposition leader.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, like any Russian, can enter Russia at any time [in Russian], said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, without naming the politician. “It’s great if the patient is really recovering, we wish him a speedy recovery. As for his return to Moscow, like any citizen of the Russian Federation, he is free to do this at any time,” Peskov said.

Alexander Lukashenko was officially inaugurated for a new presidential term in Belarus in a closed-door ceremony [in Russian]. The strongman declared, “I can’t, I don’t have the right to leave the Belarusians, who linked not only political preferences to the state course, but also their fate, the future of their children, everyone who remained loyal to the country and people in such a difficult period for Belarus. Civil servants and people in uniform showed steadfastness, courage and solidity.

Vladimir Putin was not in attendance. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained [in Russian] that it was an “absolutely sovereign internal issue” and refused to comment on the inauguration. Peskov also declined [in Russian] to say whether Putin would congratulate Lukashenko.

Svetlana Tikahnovskaya declared [in Russian] that Lukashenko’s inauguration was illegitimate. “This so-called inauguration is, of course, a farce. In fact, today Lukashenka just retired,” she remarked.

“We cannot believe that the Elysee Palace deliberately leaked the recording of the conversation between the two presidents to the press” Vladimir Putin proclaimed [in Russian]. The conversation was between Putin and Macron where Alexei Navalny was discussed.

Politico reported that “The CIA has made it harder for intelligence about Russia to reach the White House, stoking fears among current and former officials that information is being suppressed to please a president known to erupt in anger whenever he is confronted with bad news about Moscow.” Speaking to nine current or former officials, Politico wrote that CIA director Gina Haspel has deliberately reduced the flow of reports about Russia to the White House, over fear that it would anger the US president. “Haspel also has been keeping a close eye on the agency’s fabled “Russia House,” whose analysts she often disagrees with and sometimes accuses of purposefully misleading her,” and has instructed the agency’s general counsel to review everything coming out of “Russia House” before dissemination.

Vladimir Putin said [in Russian] that salaries below the minimum wage are unconstitutional. He stated, “Let me remind you that, in accordance with the new amendments to the constitution, paying below the minimum wage is a violation of the law, and the country’s Basic Law is simply unacceptable.”

PHOTO: Yandex agreed in principle to buy Tinkoff Bank, an online banking competitor. Russia’s most prominent internet company, Yandex’s share price reached a record high and the tie-up is one of the largest in Russian tech (EPA).