Russian press digest (10 August 2015)

This Monday, the Russian press investigates fresh turns in a high-profile corruption case, the fallout from fresh sanctions on Gazprom and just how much a bureaucrat spends on a new watch. на русском языке

Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia
10 August 2015

Gazprom's Yuzhno-Kirinsk Field has now been added to the US sanctions list. Photo CC: Mitya Aleshkovsky.

This Monday, Kommersant opens its front page with an article about how sanctions are affecting Gazprom.

The Russian Federation’s largest gas company has managed to avoid US sanction lists since last year, but the US has now added the Yuzhno-Kirinsk Field on the Sea of Okhotsk to its energy sector list. As a result, American companies are now unable to supply Yuzhno-Kirinsk with personnel and hardware.

This latest addition doesn’t only leave the development of the field in doubt, but could provoke a chain reaction: if gas from Yuzhno-Kirinsk doesn’t find its way to the Sakhalin-2 factory, then the strategic partnership between the Russian state gas monopoly and Shell could be threatened.

Meanwhile, the case against Denis Sugrobov, the ex-head of Interior Ministry’s anti-corruption unit, has taken a new turn. Together with several other highly-placed colleagues, Sugrobov is accused of provoking an FSB officer, Igor Demin, into accepting a bribe.

Kommersant has since learned that the state prosecutor has requested six-year sentences for Sergei Pirozhkov and Ruslan Chukhlib, key figures in this case. Though both Pirozhkov and Chukhlib are voluntarily co-operating with the investigation, they have pleaded not guilty, asserting that, in handing $10,000 to Demin, they acted without premeditation, believing that they were assisting the police in fighting corruption.

Down in Crimea, Kommersant reports on how United Russia has had to step into the conflict between Sergei Menyailo, governor of Sevastopol and Aleksei Chalyi, head of the city council. The local United Russia party cell has stated that responsibility for ‘the critical socio-economic situation’ in the city, which Chalyi says is Menyailo’s responsibility, lies with both branches of power.

The party has called on Chalyi’s supporter to look for constructive solutions, criticising Chalyi for not wanting to do so previously. A demonstration criticising Menyailo organised by Chalyi’s group has now been cancelled.

RBK leads with a text on the Russian authorities’ total refusal to register the opposition for local elections later this year.

Democratic Coalition, headed by Alexei Navalny and Mikhail Kasyanov, has been denied registration in its target regions – first in Novosibirsk, where Navalny ally Leonid Volkov even started a hunger strike in protest at the local election commission’s decision, and last in Kostroma, where the local election commission’s working group declared 200 signatures collected in support of opposition registration ‘defective’. Coalition representatives have already stated their intention to appeal against these decisions.

RBK follows on from the scandal surrounding Dmitry Peskov’s watches by investigating other prominent chronophiles in the Russian establishment. Strangely enough, despite foreign sanctions, most Russian bureaucrats have remained loyal to foreign brands. The most expensive? Ramzan Kadyrov’s Greubel Forsey, which costs $280,000.

Finally, Vedomosti looks to the future of Russo-Chinese co-operation. According to Mikhail Overchenko, China is moving towards countries with an average GDP per capita, and its economy is slowing down.

As Li Keqiang announced in March, this is becoming the new norm. Now, however, it’s clear that this process is not one of stabilisation, but recession. Closed factories with abandoned equipment, new high-rises which fail to sell, cautious consumers – this is the new face of China’s ‘small towns’ (with populations between one and two million people).

Vedomosti continues with a story about Anonymous International’s latest victim - Dmitry Filimonov, a former Ministry of Defence official whose email correspondence was recently leaked online. Filimonov, it should be said, went some way in helping the hackers himself by discussing confidential subjects on free email services.

As a result, part of his correspondence was made available on the group’s website, which also mentions that the group has offered to sell the main bulk of correspondence to the FSB. While the published correspondence contains no state secrets, one can find traces of discussions on building infrastructure for Iskander missile bases.

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