Russian press digest (2 September 2015)

This morning, gerrymandering election boundaries ahead of 2016, Aeroflot swallows Transaero, and the state introduces a system of food cards. на русском языке

Editors of OpenDemocracy Russia
2 September 2015

Монастырь Оптина пустынь. Лариса Коробова / Flickr. Some rights reserved.

This morning, Kommersant reports on preparations for the 2016 State Duma elections. The newspaper has managed to find a potential scheme for re-drawing the boundaries of single member constituencies. This scheme is due to be confirmed at a meeting of the Central Election Commission later today.

As it happens, this re-drawing will affect most regional capitals, including Nizhnyi Novgorod, which will be divided into five districts. The only city to fit into a single member constituency whole is Belgorod, near Ukraine. 

Kommersant suggests that these new boundaries are, among other things, a means of combatting protest votes. ‘This kind of boundary marking has already been tried in Ufa, Penza and Tula, and it was successful. Cast your mind back to the 2011 Duma elections, when the phenomenon of the “angry city dwellers” emerged. Protest votes back then were concentrated in administrative centres, and the villages, for the most part, voted loyally.’ 

Meanwhile, Ella Pamfilova, Russia’s Human Rights ombudsman, has requested the Supreme Court to rescind the sentence against Taisyia Osipova, the Other Russia activist who was sentenced to 10 years in 2011 on charges of drug possession. Osipova had previously headed the list of political prisoners in the country, which had been handed personally to then-President Dmitry Medvedev during the wave of protests that swept Russia in 2011-2012. 

Medvedev had asked General Prosecutor Yury Chaika to investigate Osipova’s case, and the courts later sent the case for further examination. Medvedev’s interference did not help Osipova, however, and she was later sentenced to eight years of prison colony. Rights activists involved estimate the chances of Pamfilova’s appeal being granted as 50-50. The appeal itself, however, could affect the court’s decision regardless. 

RBK describes in detail the latest developments with Transaero. The second largest air carrier in Russia has built up some 159 billion roubles (£1.5 billion) of debt, and is still yet to receive state support. As a result, 75% of Transaero’s shares will now go to Aeroflot—for a rouble a share. RBK notes that the go-ahead for this deal was given at a meeting on 1st September overseen by Vice President Igor Shuvalov. 

RBK has also managed to find out who’s behind the Investigative Committee’s new building—Vladimir Evtushenkov and Samvel Karapetyan. The building, which will cost six billion roubles (£58m), will stretch to 60 thousand square metres, and has been designed by Evtushenkov’s Moskapstroi. It will be built by Karapetyan’s company Tashir. Though Evtushenkov was released from house arrest last December, the billionaire is still under investigation for money-laundering at Bashneft. In a comment to RBK, Evtushenkov said that he knew nothing of this project and refused to give further comments. 

Finally, Novye Izvestiya announces the return of food cards, due to enter circulation in 2016. The Ministry of Industry and Trade has initiated a National System of Targeted Food Aid, whereby the state will offer money to those in need via a system of points and bonuses. Once a month, the system will transfer state money to people via special bank cards, and its recipients will be able to spend this money at certain stores and certain times. The system will rely on goods near the end of their shelf-life.

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