LIVE UPDATES: President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met today in St. Petersburg, the first time since the Turkish downing of the Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
Recent Analysis and Translations:
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– Russian Elections Round-Up: Parnas List Accepted; Party of Pensioners Forced to Remove Candidates
– âWhat Would Boris Do?â Opposition Struggles with In-Fighting on Eve of September Elections
– NATO Got Nothing From Conceding To Russia In the Past, Why Should It Cave To The Kremlin Now?
Translation: Rally against “Yarovaya Package” begins in Moscow.
Signs: [Clockwise] Repression is Fear of Your Own People!; Don’t Blab! [Parody of Soviet Poster]; Guarantor of the Constitution, Leave Us At Least Some Rights!; No to Suffocation of Freedom by Yarovaya Package!; Yarovaya Package/Freedom/Corruption: Stop the Machine!
Translation: Rally against “Yarovaya Package” in Moscow. Photo report.
Nikolai Lyaskin, a candidate in the parliamentary elections, spoke at the rally.
Translation: I came to support Nikolai Lyaskin at his cube.
Large transparent cubes with campaign posters placed on the street are one of the ways in which candidates advertise themselves.
In this photo by Ekho Moskvy, a demonstrator with a cell phone in his hand on a chain carries a paper bag with the sign “No to the Yarovaya Package”. The word for legislative package (paket) is the same as the word for paper bag in Russian(paket).
The organizers of the rally had encouraged people who play Pokemon Go to come to the rally, as the gamer clubs’ interests overlapped with the opposition — some Russian politicians have talked about banning Pokemon Go, saying it captures users’ data.
This proved an opportunity for Konstantin Rykov, a popular Kremlin propagandist to ridicule the opposition:
Translation: Yarovaya has driven the kreakly mad…Oh…
Writing on the plastic bag: My country has turned into the Gulag.
Kreakly is a term for the “creative intelligentsia” sometimes used pejoratively.
A Meduza journalist also snapped a photo:
Translation: Pokemons against Yarovaya.
The government has also been finding popular ways to promote the legislation.
The rally, in Sokolniki Park some distance from the center of Moscow, is just getting started now.
While permission was granted for the protest, there have still been a number of dirty tricks on the eve of the demonstration.
Hackers published phone conversations between businessman and former political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Leonid Volkov, a staff member of the Anti-Corruption Fund headed by Alexey Navalny, who has organized the rally in Moscow.
Translation: Conversations between Khodorkovsky and Volkov have landed in the public domain.
Pashkov is a popular pro-Kremlin IT specialist and blogger.
Last night unknown persons sprayed industrial foam around the door of Aleksandr Zheltukhin, the organizer of a similar rally in Voronezh, Kasparov.ru reported. The foam glued the door shut.
Translation: At night, the door of the organizer of the rally against the #YarovayaPackage was foamed.
The legislation, signed into law by President Vladimir Putin last month, is called “the Yarovaya Package” because it was sponsored in the State Duma by conservative Duma deputy Irina Yarovaya. It has drawn protest not only from the opposition and bloggers but IT specialists and organizations who have complained about the expensive involved in increasing storage and monitoring of people’s communications.
ROI is the Russian Civic Initiative site which is something like WhiteHouse.gov/petition or change.org. When the petitions reach 100,000, the Russian government is supposed to respond. Currently, only the petition needs only 1,125 more signatures.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
Today, August 9, for the first time since Turkish jet downed a Russian fighter plane near the Syrian border on November 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in St. Petersburg.
Putin says he is ready to restore economic relations with Turkey which involved significant gain for both sides, following Erdogan’s personal apology for the downing of the plane.
The downing of the plane — which Turkey says was flying over the Turkish border with Syria, a claim which has been disputed by Russia — caused a cascade of events which significantly deteriorated relations between the two countries. More recently, however, relations have warmed.
Putin has supported Erdogan and his massive crackdown following the failed coup against him July 15, which Erdogan says involved, among others, the pilot who shot down the Russian plane.
The downing of the plane exposed other major differences regarding the war in Syria. Russia accuses Turkey of backing Islamist anti-Assad groups, calling them “terrorists,” and claims they buy black-market oil from the terrorist group Islamic State. Meanwhile Turkey accuses Russia of arming the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and its allies in Syria, the YPG.
Turkey has been critical of the mistreatment of the Crimean Tatars following Russia’s annexation of Crimea; the Crimean Tatars are a Turkic people.
But all of these factors hadn’t prevented Turkey and Russia from increasing their cooperation in the years before the downing of the plane.
Putin brought with him to the meeting a key Turkic Muslim ally — Mintomir Shamir, leader of Tatarstan, Russia’s largest Muslim republic.
Before last fall’s incident with the plane, Turkey and Russia had two major projects in the works; Russia was building a nuclear power station, and the two countries were going to cooperate on TurkStream, a pipeline devised after Europe dropped SouthStream in the wake of sanctions against Russia over Ukraine.
Translation: The private meeting will start in two hours, the expanded meeting has started: [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov, [Energy Minister Aleksandr] Novak, [Transportation Minister Maksim] Sokolov, Gerasimov, chief of staff, and [Gazprom CEO Alexey] Miller.
The inclusion of those figures indicates the talks are on TurkStream.
With the West unable to embrace Erdogan with the brutality of his post-coup crackdown, Putin is seizing the moment, despite their differences.
The ruble is trading at 65.03 to the dollar and 72.05 to the euro. Brent crude is selling for $45.22 per barrel.
The following headlines are taken from Novaya Gazeta, Gazeta, RBC, Vesti, Bloomberg, LA Times, USA Today.
– Catherine A. Fitzpatrick