Russian Press Digest (19 August 2015)

(opendemocracy.net – EDITORS OF OPENDEMOCRACY RUSSIA)

This Wednesday, the Russian press focuses on the departure of Vladimir Yakunin, head of Russian Railways and a close ally of Vladimir Putin.

According to business daily Kommersant, Yakunin called his decision to leave ‘a personal one’ during a conversation with Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, Kaliningrad’s election commission is processing Yakunin’s candidacy to become the region’s senator.

Experts questioned by the newspapers state that the reason for Yakunin’s departure is still unclear, though there are rumours as to why Yakunin requires a senator’s seat. ‘For Yakunin, the Federation Council [Senate] is not a respectable pension, but rather a career change, a move to a new political level,’ says Grigory Dobromelov. ‘He’s losing influence in the apparat, and he needs a status position to continue his active political work and access to the president.’

As Kommersant reports, Russia’s drunk drivers are back in the news. Tasked by Dmitry Medvedev, the Ministry of Health has developed a draft bill which gives courts the right to send serial drunk drivers for diagnosis, treatment and medical rehabilitation at drug treatment centres. For serial offenders, if the course of treatment is not completed, they will lose their license. Experts consider the bill to be potentially harmful: people shouldn’t be sent for compulsory treatment without specialist confirmation of their diagnosis.

Kommersant continues to follow the investigation into the murder of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov. Shadid Gubashev, brother of Anzor Gubashev, has unexpectedly given testimony, telling the investigation about conversations he overhead while living with his brother. Moreover, Shadid Gubashev asserts that his brother, together with his accomplices, told him of their involvement in the killing immediately after Nemtsov’s body was found.

RBK reveals the misadventures of Vladimir Kekhman, the ‘Banana King’ recently appointed as head of the Novosibirsk Opera House following the Tannhauser scandal earlier this year. VTB has started to sell assets remaining with Kekhman’s JFC Group, at one time Russia’s largest importer of bananas.

RBK also reports on the rise of unpaid wages in the country following a release of information by Rosstat: in August, wage arrears rose by 6.2% to 3.5 billion roubles (£33m). The majority of unpaid wages are apparently due to companies lacking direct funds.

Last but not least: Vladimir Putin’s 83-metre descent to the bottom of the Black Sea during a visit to Crimea. This stunt took place as part of the Russian Geographical Society’s 170th anniversary.

Rossiiskaya gazeta, the government’s newspaper, focused on the descent itself, describing how Dmitry Medvedev called Putin during the dive. Medvedev apparently wished him a speedy return, and made a promise to reproduce the president’s exploits.

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