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News Feed Brief summaries of major developments throughout the week (July 11–15, 2022): Deadly Russian missile strike on Vinnytsia, oligarch seeks felony case against Meduza journalists, and a rare acquittal
In the digest below, Meduza condenses the latest news stories in and around Russia and Ukraine. You can find last week’s news feed here.
🤝 Partners in the East: Since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, China has been supplying Russia with more and more microchips, other electronic components, and raw materials, “some with military applications,” reports The Wall Street Journal. The growing trade is “complicating efforts by the U.S. and Western allies to isolate [Russia’s] economy and cripple its military.”
🪖 Aliyev has words for Moscow: Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has accused Russia of violating the guarantees made under peace agreements in Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory claimed by both Azerbaijan and the unrecognized, Armenian-backed Republic of Artsakh. The most recent major fighting in the region ended in November 2020 with a Moscow-brokered ceasefire, leading to the deployment of roughly 2,000 Russian soldiers along the Lachin corridor connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. On Friday, Aliyev accused Russian troops of condoning Armenia’s refusal withdraw its forces from Karabakh.
⛓️ Captured British fighter sings Russian anthem in new video: According to footage shared on Telegram by Russia Today correspondent Roman Kosarev, American conspiracy theorist and fugitive John Dougan has interviewed Aiden Aslin, one of the British nationals captured while fighting as a Ukrainian Marine in Mariupol. In the video, Aslin sings the Russian national anthem for Dougan.
Aslin was sentenced to death by a court in the Russian-backed “Donetsk People’s Republic” in June, along with British citizen Shaun Pinner and Brahim Saadoune of Morocco. Aslin and Saadoune appealed their sentences in late June. Another British citizen named Paul Urey, who served as an aid worker alongside Ukrainian troops, reportedly died in DNR captivity due to “illness and stress” on July 15.
👮 Criminal charges against another liberal politician: The Russian authorities have charged liberal politician Leonid Gozman with failing to report his second citizenship. Gozman’s lawyer says his client obtained Israeli citizenship in 2018 but waited to report it in Russia until after the required deadline. In April 2022, the Russian government later made this offense a felony. Gozman says he believes the criminal case is an attempt to force him into exile, though he told The Insider that he still plans to remain in Russia.
🏢 LNR annexation preparations move forward: The self-proclaimed “Luhansk People’s Republic” has created an office dedicated to preparing for a referendum on joining Russia, LNR advisor Marina Filippova told Interfax.
Meduza reported earlier that the Kremlin is planning to annex Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia regions after conducting referendums in the regions. The referendums are tentatively scheduled for September 11.
☄️ Rogozin out at Roscosmos: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov has replaced Dmitry Rogozin as head of Russia's state space corporation, Roscosmos. Rogozin will be given a new position “in due time,” according to Russian Presidential Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov.
Sources close to the Kremlin recently told Meduza that the Russian authorities have plans for Rogozin to join the presidential administration in the near future, possibly as Putin’s chief of staff.
🕯️ British citizen dies in DNR captivity: Paul Urey, a British citizen who served as an aid worker alongside Ukrainian troops, has died in captivity, according to Darya Morozova, a representative of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic.” Morozova reported that Urey was captured by DNR forces in April 2022, during an attempt to pass through a DNR checkpoint. “During his first medical examination, Paul Urey was determined to have a number of chronic illnesses, including Type 1 diabetes, damage to his respiratory system and kidneys, and multiple cardiovascular diseases,” she said.
The British Interior Ministry reported on Friday that it was “urgently seeking clarification” from the Russian government about Urey’s death. Urey’s family has accused Russia and the DNR of causing his death, saying they are certain that Urey had the medical supplies he needed to survive at the time of his capture.
⚖️ Four years for “undesirable” collaboration: A court in Krasnodar has sentenced activist Andrey Pivovarov to four years in prison for collaborating with an “undesirable organization.” The ex-executive director of Open Russia (an anti-Kremlin movement sponsored by the former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky) has already been jailed for more than a year for posting messages on social media endorsing various opposition candidates and causes. Open Russia dissolved a few days before Pivovarov’s arrest last year, hoping to protect workers against felony liability for working with an “undesirable organization.”
🪖Ukraine to keep military death toll under wraps: Kyiv will not officially disclose its total number of military casualties until the end of the war, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a statement on Thursday. According to Maliar, this is due to concerns that Russian forces could use casualty numbers in their analysis and planning. In an interview with BBC Ukraine published on Friday, Defense Minister Oleskii Reznikov said that Ukraine’s combat losses peaked in May, with up to 100 Ukrainian soldiers killed and another 300–400 wounded per day.
🛢️ Plans for a Russian pricing benchmark: Journalists at Bloomberg News obtained a document laying out a plan by government ministries, domestic oil producers, and Russia’s Central Bank to “launch oil trading on a national platform” as soon as October. “Russia will work to attract foreign partners to buy oil, with the aim of achieving sufficient trading volumes to establish a pricing benchmark between March and July of 2023,” says Bloomberg. (Washington and its G7 allies have tentatively agreed a “buyers’ cartel” to try to force Russia to accept below-market prices for oil.)
💰 Moody’s declares Belarus in default: Minsk’s repayment of foreign-currency-denominated state debt with rubles “constitutes a default,” the Moody’s financial services company announced on July 14. The $22.9 million coupon payment miss was the result of “sanctions that effectively cut off both [Belarus and Russia] from international financial markets,” explained Bloomberg.
☕ It’s not just coffee — it’s [rebranding pending]: A deal to sell off the 130 Starbucks coffee shops in Russia is nearly complete, according to the news outlets Forbes and Vedomosti. The new owners will reportedly be restaurateur Anton Pinsky, rapper Timati (Timur Yunusov), and Senator Arsen Kanokov’s Sindika holding company. The sale reportedly stipulates that the buyers cannot use Starbucks’s products or technologies and must rebrand before reopening.
⚖️ Wow — an acquittal in Russia: In a rare court ruling for Russia, a judge in Komsomolsk-on-Amur has acquitted artist and LGBT rights activist Yulia Tsvetkova of distributing pornography for publishing drawings of vulvas as the administrator of a group on social media. Tsvetkova’s mother said on Friday that the family is now waiting to see if prosecutors utilize the 10-day window to appeal the verdict. Officials had asked the court to sentence Tsvetkova to three years in prison.
Yulia Tsvetkova was charged in November 2019 and placed under house arrest until March 2020. She’s been under travel restrictions ever since. Tsvetkova says her online community shared the vulva drawings to challenge taboos on women’s physiology.
🚫 Russia bans Bellingcat and The Insider: The Russian Attorney General’s Office has outlawed another four foreign-registered NGOs as “undesirable organizations,” banning the investigative news outlets Bellingcat and The Insider, which have collaborated numerous times to uncover the actions of Russian spy agencies. Anyone in Russia convicted of aiding either publication could now face felony charges. (As of July 15, 2022, the Russian authorities have banned 56 “undesirable organizations,” including other investigative projects like Proekt, iStories, and OCCRP.)
🪖 Moscow comments on Vinnytsia attack, calling it a military target: Russia’s Defense Ministry has acknowledged that it fired Kalibr cruise missiles at a target in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia. During a press briefing on Friday, a spokesman for the military stated that the airstrike was carried out while “Ukrainian air force commanders” were meeting with “foreign arms suppliers” supposedly to discuss “transferring the next batch of aircraft and weapons” to Ukraine and repairing Ukraine’s existing air force.
Journalist Max Seddon pointed out that the Defense Ministry said it targeted the “Garrison Officers’ House” in Vinnytsia — apparently an effort to justify the attack militarily. In fact, the Russian bombs fell on the House of Officers, a concert venue. At least 23 civilians died, including three children. Ukrainian President Zelensky has denounced the attack as an act of terrorism, demanding that Western allies designate Russia as a “terrorist state.”
✍️ Putin signs off on more than 100 new laws: Russian President Vladimir Putin enacted more than 100 new laws on Thursday, including legislation regulating “foreign agents” and increasing punishments for war-related crimes, as well as torture. Meduza summed up the most important pieces of legislation here.
🚑 Missile strike on Vinnytsia: A Russian missile strike in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia killed at least 20 people on Thursday, including three children, and injured dozens more, according to Ukrainian presidential deputy chief of staff Kyrylo Tymoshenko. Ukraine’s National Police reported that over 90 people sought medical treatment.
The Ukrainian President's Office reported that the strike was carried out by Kalibr cruise missiles fired from a submarine in the Black Sea. According to Vinnytsia regional governor Serhiy Borzov, four additional missiles were shot down over the city by anti-aircraft defenses.
Update: Ukraine's State Emergency Service has reported that at least 23 people died, 42 are missing, 91 have sought medical treatment, and 52 have been hospitalized — 34 of them in critical condition. 55 buildings and 40 vehicles were damaged.
🔐 Ilya Yashin arrested on felony charges: Opposition politician Ilya Yashin has been arrested for allegedly spreading “fake news” about the Russian military, Mediazona reported. Yashin's "crime" was discussing the murders of civilians by Russian troops in the Ukrainian city of Bucha during one of his YouTube livestreams. A judge at Moscow's Basmanny District Court granted prosecutors’ request for Yashin to be put in a remand prison until September 12.
🌾 Ukraine and Russia reach grain export deal: Delegations from Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, and the UN have reached an agreement to create a grain export coordination center, according to Turkish news agency Anadolu. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar reportedly announced the decision after the four parties met in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss ways to export Ukrainian grain currently stuck in Odesa.
According to Akar, the delegations also agreed on several key logistical issues such as joint control of departure and arrival sites and how to ensure the grain’s security while it’s in transit. He said Ukrainian and Russian representatives will hold another meeting in Turkey next week to discuss outstanding details and sign the necessary documents.
🗣️ Moscow man denounces his own wife for opposing the war: A man in the Moscow region reported his own wife to the authorities for criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported. According to the newspaper, the 37-year-old filed a complaint with the police in the Odintsovsky District after his wife disagreed with his views on the “special military operation.” The man accused his wife of “expressing anti-Russian sentiment and turning their shared child against the government.”
☠️ Russian authorities warn that white paper is too bright: Russia’s Trade Ministry has reported that white copy paper, which is rapidly becoming more expensive in Russia, presents health risks and should be avoided. “We have learned that this kind of gleaming, white office paper is harmful to human health. It turns out that paper with a rougher texture is better for your eyes,” said Deputy Trade Minister Oleg Bocharov.
Due to Western sanctions, Russian paper manufacturers have run out of paper-whitening chemicals, which they used to import from Finland.
📺 New charges against Marina Ovsyannikova: The Russian authorities have brought administrative charges against former Russian state television employee Marina Ovsyannikova for “discrediting the army.” SOTA learned about the charges from Ovsyannikova herself outside of Moscow’s Basmanny Court.
On March 14, Ovsyannikova ran in front of cameras during a live broadcast, unfurled an antiwar sign, and began shouting antiwar slogans. Though she was later fined for a prerecorded video statement that circulated on social media, she was never charged for the on-air protest itself. After being fired by the TV network, Channel One, Ovsyannikova was hired as a freelance correspondent by the German newspaper Die Welt, but after three months, she left the outlet and returned to Moscow. It’s unclear whether Ovsyannikova’s March protest is what spurred the current charges.
🇰🇵 DNR gets North Korea’s stamp of approval: North Korea has officially recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” according to DNR head Denis Pushilin. Interfax reported that the North Korean Embassy in Moscow has confirmed the recognition. The DNR's independence was previously only recognized by Russia and Syria, as well as by the unrecognized breakaway states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
🚓 Bystanders arrested outside of Ilya Yashin’s hearing: Police have begun arresting people outside of Moscow’s Basmanny Court, where opposition politician Ilya Yashin’s arraignment hearing is being held, according to Mediazona. Those arrested reportedly include Yabloko party member Nikolai Kavkazsky and a passerby with a skateboard. “The people in custody were not shouting slogans or holding signs. It’s unclear what they were arrested for doing,” Mediazona reported.
On Tuesday, the authorities brought criminal charges against Ilya Yashin for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
⚖️ Prigozhin seeks criminal case against Meduza journalists: Kremlin-linked oligarch Evgeny Prigozhin has asked Russia’s top investigative body to launch a criminal case against Meduza editorial director Tatiana Ershova and special correspondent Liliya Yapparova on charges of spreading “false information” about the Russian army and treason. Prigozhin filed the complaint after Meduza sent him a request for comment on the involvement of the Wagner private military company in Russia’s war against Ukraine.
🔭 Europe and Russia end Mars partnership: The European Space Agency (ESA) is ending its partnership with Roscosmos on the ExoMars program, Director General Josef Aschbacher announced on Tuesday.
According to Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, there was no love lost between the two agencies anyway: “How can you talk about Mars with the Europeans, or Venus with the Americans, when their governments are doing all they can to kill as many Russians and Ukrainians as possible by arming a junta in Kyiv with deadly weapons?”
The ESA ended its partnership with Russia on a lunar exploration project back in April.
⛑️ Body count rises in Russian attack on Chasiv Yar: Rescue workers in Chasiv Yar (in Ukraine’s Donetsk region) have retrieved at least 45 bodies, including one dead child, from the wreckage of an apartment building destroyed in a Russian airstrike. According to the State Emergency Service, first responders have also found nine survivors.
📃 No more barriers to capital punishment in DNR: Denis Pushilin, head of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic,” has signed an order amending his Russian-backed administration’s criminal code to officially remove its moratorium on the death penalty, TASS reported. The decision to lift the ban was made by the DNR’s “People’s Council” after DNR forces captured three foreign soldiers who fought alongside Ukraine in June and sentenced them to death.
⚖️ Felony charges brought against Ilya Yashin: The Russian authorities have brought criminal charges against opposition politician Ilya Yashin for allegedly spreading “disinformation” about the Russian military, lawyer Vadim Prokhorov reported on Tuesday. According to Prokhorov, the Russian Investigative Committee initiated the case and law enforcement have begun raiding Yashin’s home.
Ilya Yashin is one of the few opposition figures still in Russia and he has openly condemned the war against Ukraine. At the end of June, a Moscow court jailed Yashin for 15 days on charges of disobeying a police officer. Yashin said that he believes he was arrested for “political reasons.” He is supposed to be released on the night of July 13.
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