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The Real Russia. Today. Trump and Putin meet in Helsinki, the ‘Deep State’ consensus, and Pussy Riot's heart-to-heart with the police

Meduza

Monday, July 16, 2018

This day in history. On July 16, 1990, the newly elected parliament of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted its Declaration of State Sovereignty, stating that the Ukrainians SSR took precedence over the laws of the USSR, and that the Ukrainian SSR would maintain its own army and national bank.
  • Trump and Putin sit down in Helsinki, as protesters hit Finland's streets
  • Moscow and Trump are on the same page about ‘the Deep State’
  • British investigators working the Skripal poisoning are reportedly looking at the GRU
  • Here's what the police told Pussy Riot after dragging them off the World Cup soccer field on Sunday
  • Heavy rain floods Volgograd's brand new sports stadium
  • A young man gets two weeks in jail for pouring beer on State Duma deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky
  • Russia is planning import restrictions and new procurement deals to help Oleg Deripaska's beleaguered aluminum business
  • The Labor Ministry is planning a ‘retraining program’ for ‘pre-retirement-age’ Russians, but nobody knows what that means
  • New draft legislation would help Russia's police geolocate missing children
  • ‘Natalie Tours’ is under federal investigation
  • Meet Russia's answer to The Onion

T&P sit down in Finland 🕊️

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Ahead of the July 16 summit between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Helsinki, mass demonstrations (mostly protests) took place across the city. On July 15, a march in support of human rights attracted roughly 2,500 activists. Projected onto a wall near the presidential palace, a message demanded, “Trump and Putin: stop the crimes against humanity in Chechnya.”

See all the pics: “‘Trump and Putin, stop the crimes against humanity in Chechnya’: Photos of the thousands of demonstrators taking to Helsinki's streets during the U.S.-Russia summit”

🕵️ Moscow and Trump both loathe the American “Deep State”

The American Deep State tried to derail Donald Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin and “spoil the atmosphere ahead of the Russian-American summit,” according to officials in Moscow. Responding to the U.S. Justice Department’s indictment of 12 suspected GRU officers in the hacking of the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party in 2016, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday: “It’s still a question how long they [in Washington] will continue to act out this shameful farce that disgraces the United States.”

The GRU link to the Skripals 💉

Three sources told The New York Times that British investigators believe the March 4 attack on the former spy, Sergey Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, was likely carried out by current or former members of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, better known as the “GRU” (Glavnoe Razvedyvatelnoe Upravlenie) — the same organization that hacked emails and computer networks belonging to the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

The World Cup ends

✊ A revealing exchange

During the final game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, four members of the activist group Pussy Riot (the same one that infamously protested inside a church) stormed the soccer field. The four individuals — Pyotr Verzilov, Olga Kuracheva, Olga Pakhtusova, and Nika Nikulshina — are calling their demonstration “The Police Officer Comes Into Play,” and they say it’s part of the group’s demands for the release of Russia’s political prisoners.

Law enforcement detained all four Pussy Riot members and booked them at the Luzhniki police station. Almost immediately after they were taken into custody, the Twitter account @nalog399 published a video that appears to show two of the activists being interrogated by officers.

⛈️ Downpour in Volgograd

In a few hours on Sunday, the city of Volgograd saw as much rain as it typically gets in a month and a half. The downpour even damaged roads and sidewalks leading to the new “Volgograd Arena,” built for this summer’s FIFA World Cup. According to local journalists, the stadium itself suffered some flooding, though the extent of the water damage is still unknown. Two of the city’s biggest shopping malls, the “Komsomoll” and the “Voroshilovsky,” were also reportedly hit with flooding. City officials have declared a state of emergency. Watch footage of flooding at the stadium here.

Finished in early April and built to hold 45,000 spectators, the “Volgograd Arena” hosted four games during the group stage of the 2018 World Cup.

🍺 Don't mess with Zhirinovsky

A court in Moscow has sentenced Gleb Strunnikov to 14 days in jail for pouring beer on State Duma deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky during Sunday’s World Cup final celebration on Nikolsky Street. He was convicted of disorderly conduct for splashing a cup of beer on the outspoken, controversial lawmaker. After police grabbed Strunnikov but before they shoved him up against a wall, Zhirinovsky hit the young man twice in the face.

An aluminum bailout 💰

To help Oleg Deripaska’s sanctioned business, Rusal, the Russian government is reportedly planning to limit aluminum imports and stimulate domestic demand with new government procurement orders. According to the newspaper Kommersant, this is part of the government’s five-year “road map” for developing Russia’s aluminum industry, which Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak announced in late June. The state procurement orders are reportedly intended to boost demand for aluminum at home by 2.5 times.

In early April, the U.S. Treasury Department placed Oleg Deripaska under sanctions in response to “a range of malign activity around the globe” conducted by the Russian government, which operates “for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites.” Washington also sanctioned Deripaska’s assets, including En+ and Rusal, whose international market values promptly collapsed. In late May, En+ Group reportedly asked the Russian government for special privileges, including permission to raise utilities and housing fees in the Irkutsk region.

In early May, the Renova Group conglomerate (owned by Viktor Vekselberg, another sanctioned “oligarch”) reportedly asked the Russian government for a federal bailout, including a ban on imported mineral waters and sodas, in order to help its Baikal holding company.

State Duma dealings

🧓 Russia's mysterious “pre-retirement age”

Labor Minister Maxim Topilin told the State Duma’s Budget and Taxes Committee on Monday that the government will launch a program to retrain people of “pre-retirement age,” though nobody is quite sure what “pre-retirement age” is. Topilin says the government is planning to allocate about 5 billion rubles ($80.4 million) a year to the project.

The country’s ruling political party, United Russia, previously introduced the concept of “pre-retirement age,” proposing “additional social guarantees” for this group. But party officials haven’t actually specified what age group should be considered “pre-retirement.”

📍 Tracking missing youths

State Duma Deputy Speaker Irina Yarovaya has authored new draft legislation that would allow law enforcement agencies to geolocate the mobile devices of missing children. Police would need to get permission from at least one parent or legal guardian, and a court would need to be notified within 24 hours. A court would need to issue a warrant within 48 hours.

The legislation’s explanatory note says children who go missing are often carrying mobile devices that remain powered on for the first hours or even days after they disappear. Allowing police to track these devices would arguably allow law enforcement to take emergency measures, when possible.

Why have you heard this name before? Irina Yarovaya has drafted several major bills in recent years, including so-called anti-terrorism reforms that require Russian telecoms and Internet companies to store all telephone and online correspondence, and make that data accessible to law enforcement.

Under audit 👮

Federal officials are investigating “Natalie Tours,” one of Russia’s oldest and biggest tourism agencies, for failing to honor purchased travel vouchers, spokespeople for the Russian Travel Industry Union told the news agency Interfax on Monday. Investigators reportedly raided the company’s headquarters on Friday, July 13, and may have seized certain documents. On July 4, the company announced that it was canceling all purchased tours and halting the sale of new travel packages, citing “financial difficulties.”

Russia's The Onion, kinda 🗞️

In late June and early July, the Russian media started buzzing with an unusual number of especially bizarre stories. One day, foreigners were being lured into a fake Lenin mausoleum. Another day, a pharmacist was caught poking holes in the condoms sold to tourists. The source of these wild tales turned out to be a fake news website that calls itself the Panorama news agency. Over the past six months, it’s established itself as Russia's very own The Onion.

Yours, Meduza