Skip to main content

The Real Russia. Today. Moscow says Trump is trying to force more expensive U.S. gas on Europe, and Russia's FEMA is dangerously understaffed


Thursday, July 12, 2018

This day in history. On July 12, 2013, officials in Moscow formally registered the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a religious group. Really more of a social movement, “Pastafarianism” promotes a light-hearted view of religion and opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools. Within a year, Russian officials had registered another two dozen Pastafarian religious groups.
  • Moscow fires back at Trump over Nord Stream 2 criticism
  • A demographer breaks down elderly Russians' survival odds once the retirement age goes up
  • Sverdlovsk regional officials have rejected 80 permit requests by leftists who want to protest Russia's proposed pension reforms
  • Russian lawmakers will reportedly wait a whole year before returning to controversial legislation that would criminalize observing or facilitating foreign sanctions
  • The Tretyakov Gallery makes peace with touring educators
  • A new study finds that Russia’s Federal Emergency Management Agency is dangerously understaffed
  • Russia’s Federal Tax Service reportedly freezes two bank accounts held by the publisher of Forbes Russia
  • Russia's supposed ‘Romanian spy’ was allegedly working for the Moldovans
  • Oleg Sentsov's hunger strike hits day 60

It's all fun and games until you mention gas, Donnie ⛽

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has fired back at Donald Trump over his criticism of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in Brussels on Wednesday. Putin’s press secretary says the U.S. president is trying to bully Europeans into buying more expensive liquefied natural gas from the United States. “This is nothing more than an attempt to force European buyers to purchase more expensive liquefied gas that can be supplied from alternative places,” Peskov said, arguing that consumers should have the right to choose their own gas suppliers.

On Wednesday, President Trump slammed Germany for its energy dependence on Russia, saying the country is “totally controlled by Russia” because of gas supplies. The U.S. is a major producer of liquefied natural gas.

Living to see the Valley Beyond 🧓

In June, the Russian government submitted draft legislation to the State Duma, establishing a plan to raise the country’s retirement age from 60 to 65 for men by 2028, and from 55 to 63 for women by 2034. Public opinion polls show that Russians largely oppose this proposal, and one of the most common objections is that people fear they won’t live to collect their pensions under the new system.

Ilya Kashnitsky, a doctoral student at the University of Groningen and the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, has crunched the numbers and helped Meduza create a series of maps showing the probability that Russian men and women already at their respective retirement ages will live to reach the proposed pension ages.

The likelihood that women will live from 55 to 63
The likelihood that women will live from 55 to 63
Compiled by Ilya Kashnitsky, 2018 (; Data from the Russian Database on Fertility and Mortality 2016
The likelihood that men will live from 60 to 65
The likelihood that men will live from 60 to 65
Compiled by Ilya Kashnitsky, 2018 (; Data from the Russian Database on Fertility and Mortality 2016

✊ 81st time is the charm?

Eighty times in the past two and a half weeks, the Sverdlovsk region’s Public Security Ministry has denied requests from the “Left Front” movement for a permit to stage a protest against Russia’s planned pension reforms. The activists say they have tried to get permission to hold a demonstration at one of the four venues where officials have said they will allow political rallies during the FIFA World Cup. Last year, Vladimir Putin signed an executive order suspending most public assembly rights in host cities during the soccer tournament.

Left Front members say they’ve repeatedly requested permits for times and venues that are vacant, only to be told by officials that the spaces are already occupied. The activists have even lined up outside the ministry early in the morning, to be certain that they were the first ones who could possibly request a permit for a given time and location. The authorities still turned them down.

Waiting on that whole sanctions legislation thing ⏳

Russian lawmakers won’t vote on the second reading of legislation against observing or facilitating foreign sanctions until at least July 2019, according to the newspaper Kommersant. On July 10, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the bill could come up for consideration in late July. Apparently he was talking about next year.

The law would make it illegal to refuse cooperation with Russian entities because of sanctions imposed by another country. Such actions could result in fines as high as 600,000 rubles ($9,655) or up to four years in prison. People who “provide recommendations” or “supply information” “that has led or could lead” to new anti-Russian sanctions would face fines as high as 500,000 rubles ($8,045) or up to three years in prison with a 200,000-ruble ($3,220) fine. The State Duma adopted a first reading of this legislation on May 15, 2018, and deputies planned to vote on a second reading on May 17, but it was postponed, in order to conduct “additional consultations with business and expert communities.”

Russian business groups have warned that foreign countries could target Russian business owners with “secondary sanctions” for obeying the government’s proposed ban on observing Western sanctions, which would limit their access to global markets and ultimately hurt the Russian economy. Organizations have also criticized the criminalization of sharing information that could facilitate new foreign sanctions, arguing that this could apply to business people who disclose information about the activities of their business partners.

Museum tour crisis averted 🖼️

All’s well that ends well at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The museum announced on Thursday that teachers employed at any educational institution will be allowed to lead their students on guided tours for free, starting in September. Currently, this privilege extends only to groups of students from specialized art schools and universities, who still have to register with the gallery to get guest-guide badges, but don’t have to pay the 5,310-ruble ($85) fee.

In mid-June, Moscow’s art world weathered a small scandal, when a group of historians from Moscow State University was asked to leave the Tretyakov Gallery after staff accused them of leading an unaccredited tour. The scholars said they were only talking casually, but the university ultimately apologized to the museum for their behavior.

Woefully understaffed 👨‍🚒

A new report carried out on orders from the new head of Russia’s Federal Emergency Management Agency found that the it is dangerously understaffed. The country apparently needs 23,100 more firefighters and 10,800 more on-call officers. There are also serious shortages of fire safety inspectors and first responders. According to the report, understaffing is one of the agency’s key problems.

Russia’s Federal Emergency Management Agency has faced criticism since a fire in March killed 60 people (including dozens of children) at a shopping mall in Kemerovo. Investigators have charged nearly a dozen people — including two firefighters and the Emergency Management Agency’s local director — with criminal negligence.

In May, Vladimir Putin appointed Evgeny Zinichev, his own former security guard, to replace Vladimir Puchkov as the agency’s head. Almost immediately, Zinichev announced major reforms and revoked several of the regulations introduced under his predecessor.

More problems for Forbes Russia 📰

Russia’s Federal Tax Service has reportedly frozen the funds on accounts held by the “AC Media” publishing house at two banks, Otkritie and SMP Bank, according to the TV network Dozhd. A part of the ACMG Group, AC Media is the publisher of Forbes Russia, which has been engulfed in scandal recently. Public banking records show eight rulings, dated June 28, ordering the suspension of operations on the company’s accounts.

Recently ousted Forbes Russia chief editor Nikolai Uskov previously claimed on air at Ekho Moskvy that the magazine’s bank accounts had been frozen. Uskov says Forbes Russia faces several lawsuits from the media research company Mediascope. In March 2017, the Federal Tax Service blocked AC Media’s bank accounts because of unpaid taxes.

So she was spying for the Moldovans? 🕵️‍♀️

Karina Tsurkan, the former top manager at the energy company “Inter,” is being charged with transferring a Russian Energy Ministry draft report to Moldovan intelligence agents, her lawyer wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday, citing case materials. According to prosecutors, Tsurkan shared an electronic copy of an “Energy Ministry draft report on certain aspects of Russian energy companies’ activities involving international cooperation.” Specialists reportedly told the Federal Security Service in December 2016 that the information contained in this report constitutes state secrets.

Tsurkan was born and raised in Moldova. She traded her Moldovan citizenship for Romanian citizenship in 2016. On July 19, federal agents arrested her on espionage charges. Sources previously told journalists that she is suspected of spying for the Romanian government. Tsurkan maintains her innocence.

Day 60 🍽️

The Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, imprisoned in Russia for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Crimea, has now been on a hunger strike for 60 days. Sentsov demands the release of 64 Ukrainian political prisoners held across Russia. Here are 10 reasons you should give a damn about his case.

Yours, Meduza