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Russia bars 25 Britons from entering country in retaliation for UK government sanctions

Russia has barred 25 British citizens from entering the country in a tit-for-tat move after London sanctioned 25 Russians, including a close ally of Vladimir Putin.

A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman accused the UK of interfering in Russia’s internal affairs by issuing the July sanctions against individuals thought to be involved in the mistreatment and death of a Russian lawyer called Sergei Magnitsky.

“In response to the unfriendly actions of the British authorities and on the basis of the principle of reciprocity, the Russian side made a decision to impose personal sanctions against 25 British representatives who are barred from entering the Russian Federation,” Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

“We once again call on the British leadership to abandon an unfounded confrontational line with regard to our country.

“Any unfriendly steps will not be left without an inevitable proportionate response.”

The statement did not reveal the identities of the 25 Britons.

In July, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, announced a total of 47 people, including the 25 Russians, had been included on a UK sanctions list.

This group were the first to have been designated for sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes.

Mr Raab said at the time: “Those with blood on their hands, the thugs of despots, the henchman of dictators, will not be free to waltz into this country to buy up property on the King’s Road, to do their Christmas shopping in Knightsbridge or frankly to siphon dirty money through British banks or other financial institutions.”

He also warned that organised criminals will “not be able to launder your blood money in this country”.

The biggest Russian name on the list is Alexander Bastrykin, whose Investigative Committee reports directly to Mr Putin.

He has already been blacklisted by the United States and Canada over the death of Mr Magnitsky, who uncovered large-scale tax fraud in Russia but died in prison in 2009 after giving evidence against corrupt officials.

He lends his name to the US “Magnitsky Act”, which imposes sanctions on human rights abusers.

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Vladimir Putin hit by coughing fit during Covid speech as he struggles to speak

The Kremlin was forced to deny Vladimir Putin has health problems as he repeatedly coughed during a televised online conference on Covid-19.

His coughing fit was later edited to not seem so acute in a version posted by his office.

The Russian president, 68, was warning of “acute financial problems” in regions due to Covid-19 when he suddenly struggled to keep speaking.

He was addressing his finance minister Anton Siluanov and other senior officials when the coughing fit started.

Putin uttered "excuse me" and repeatedly raised his right hand to his mouth as he struggled to go on.

The version of the president’s remarks later posted on the Kremlin website edited the worst of his coughing.

The scare came on Wednesday, November 18, as Russia announced a record daily coronavirus death toll of 456.

State news agency TASS asked the Kremlin about Putin’s health and was told he was “absolutely normal”.

“The president apologised and continued the meeting almost without pausing", it reported.

Radio Mayak, which had broadcast an original stream, reported: “Putin’s vocal cords gave in as he was setting his government to fight Covid-19.”

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Unlike other world leaders and many Russian officials, Putin is believed so far to have avoided Covid-19.

Despite Russia having two vaccines available – one tested by his daughter Katerina, 34 – he had not been injected, it is understood.

He has remained largely isolated in recent months after a scare in April when he came into contact with infected doctors at a Moscow clinic.

Putin told the one and a half-hour meeting that the situation with coronavirus remains “critical” in many regions and he called on his finance minister to provide help.

Earlier he said: “The number of new cases is rising…and what's most alarming – the death rate is increasing”.

There are fears that Russia has downplayed the true toll, and that the real infection and death figures are significantly higher.

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Call for arrests as road ‘made of skulls and bones’ is discovered in Siberia

A macabre “road of bones” has been discovered in Siberia.

Officials have opened an inquiry into how a skull and other human remains ended up being used to resurface a frozen highway near Irkutsk.

The bones, which are thought to be at least a century old, were buried in sand that had spread to improve traction on an icy road.

Speaking on a Russian state TV news broadcast, a local government official from the nearby town of Kirensk said that the bones of at least three individuals have been identified.

He added that the bones they may date back to the bloody civil war between the Bolsheviks and White Russian forces that took place immediately after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

The stretch of road where the bones were found is named Timofei Alymov, a Bolshevik leader who fought during the conflict.

Alymov, who was in change of guarding the gold bullion seized by Lenin’s Bolshevik forces, was killed by the forces of Admiral Alexander Kolchak, leader of the Whites, in Kirensk.

Nikolay Trufanov, a local legislator for the ruling United Russia party, wrote on Facebook: “Sand with skulls and bones has been spread on the roads in Kirensk.”

He added: “According to preliminary information, utility workers took sand from territory near a cemetery. I can’t even describe how monstrous it is.”

He said he hoped whoever was responsible would be punished.

The grisly discovery has been likened to the notorious Kolyma highway. That road, which connects Magadan and Yakutsk, was built on Stalin’s orders between 1932 and 1953.

It’s said that the road cost one death for every yard built.

It was built by slave labourers in temperatures as low as -70ºC, and workers who were thought not to be working hard enough were shot by their guards.

An estimated 250,000 lives were lost building the road, which is still regarded as one of the most dangerous highways on Earth.

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Body of missing woman ‘buried alive with head above ground’ found by police

A woman who was declared missing was found buried alive in a Russian with only her head above ground.

The victim, a woman, disappeared over a week before she was found dead in a forest between St Petersburg and Yuntolovo, a Russian suburb.

She has not been identified but is understood to have been around 40 and wearing a tracksuit at the time of her disappearance.

A 36-year-old man alerted police to her remains after he discovered her head in the first as he walked through the forest.

Police have said the woman was buried a week before she was discovered and is likely to have been alive at the time she was put into the ground.

Detectives told Fontanka Media the woman had been buried alive, with only her head above ground, and noted several small wounds on her head.

She was found wearing a tracksuit with only a gold chain in her pocket, it has been reported.

Law enforcement said the woman was unable to free herself and her corpse has since been sent away for an autopsy.

The forest is near Yuntolovo, a suburb in Russia home to more than 10,000 people.

Her body was found just 500 metres from a highway linking St Petersburg and Yuntolovo.

Earlier this month, in an unrelated incident, a woman was reported to have dug herself out of her own grave after she was allegedly beaten and buried alive by drunk neighbours.

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Nina Rudchenko, 57, was left with horrific injuries after her ordeal, including a broken jaw and nose, and claims two drunk people broke into her house and tortured her until she passed out.

The pair then dragged her motionless body to the local cemetery and started pouring water on her face, forcing her to dig her own grave when she regained consciousness.

She was then ordered to lie in it and the brothers began to bury her, and she covered her hands with her face, trying to reserve some air.

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Economy

UPDATE 2-Rouble hits one-week low vs dollar on COVID-19 fears, oil price

(Adds Rosneft shares, updates prices)

MOSCOW, Nov 13 (Reuters) – The Russian rouble slipped to a one-week low against the dollar on Friday as the global rise in coronavirus cases weighed on risk assets, oil prices fell and the positive impact of hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine wore off.

The rouble has had a volatile few weeks, plunging to its lowest versus the euro since late 2014 on the eve of the U.S. election and then posting its biggest one-day gain against the dollar in four years the day after the vote.

By 1402 GMT, the rouble was 0.3% weaker at 77.57 versus the dollar, after briefly touching 77.7075, its weakest since Nov. 6.

Versus the euro, the rouble fell by 0.5% to 91.67 , far from levels of around 70 seen in early 2020 before oil prices crashed and the COVID-19 pandemic spread.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was down 0.7% at $43.24 a barrel.

The rouble started falling again, coinciding with a decline in oil prices and the weakening of emerging markets currencies, Sberbank CIB analysts wrote.

The rouble showed little reaction to Russia’s decision to tap the global market for the first time in 2020, raising 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) in Eurobonds.

Russia reported a record 21,983 new coronavirus infections on Friday as Moscow prepared to close restaurants and bars overnight in an effort to contain the pandemic.

Pfizer’s announcement this week of positive trial results from a COVID-19 vaccine it has developed with Germany’s BioNTech had a brief positive impact on markets, but they generally dismissed news about the effectiveness of Russia’s vaccine.

On the stock market, the dollar-denominated RTS index was down 1% to 1,226.7 points. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 0.2% lower at 3,019.3 points.

Shares in oil giant Rosneft pared losses to climb after the company said it planned to extend a share buyback programme.

Shares in business conglomerate Sistema rose around 1.7%, outperforming the market on reports its online retailer Ozon planned to raise about $750 million in a U.S. initial public offering.

For Russian equities guide see

For Russian treasury bonds see

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Russian Covid-19 vaccine approved despite doctors falling ill after injection

Russia is still resisting a full national lockdown in the hope of preserving the national economy, and leader Vladimir Putin in pinning all his hopes on the "world-beating" Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

But there have been questions raised after three doctors involved in an early rollout of Sputnik V reportedly contracted Covid-19 after receiving the vaccine.

Sputnik V is a two-stage vaccine, with two injections administered three weeks apart.

A statement from the Ministry of Health in Russia’s Altai Territory, where the vaccinations took place, says that 42 frontline medical staff had been vaccinated and the three who caught the virus must have done so in the period between the injections before immunity had time to develop.

Altai region’s chief infection doctor Irina Pereladova explained: "No single vaccine guarantees that a person will not get infected, as they might be in the incubation period."

Justifying the early rollout of the vaccine, despite the fact that clinical trials are not 100% complete, she added: "This was our own decision to run the tests on our Altai doctors prior to vaccination. This was in fact a pure experiment."

A number of leading doctors, writing in the medical journal The Lancet, expressed concern at the speed with which the Russian jab was being rushed into production.

The Kremlin describes the rate of infection in Russia as "worrying". Over 20,000 new cases were announced by Russian health chiefs on Tuesday – and hospitals are struggling to manage the caseload in many regions.

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Andrei Shkoda, chief physician at Moscow Municipal Clinical Hospital No 67, told the BBC that the patients he is seeing in this new spike of infections tend to be younger… and sicker.

He explained: "In spring, everyone was afraid, so they came for help sooner. This new wave is probably because many people stopped taking precautions."

According to Russian researchers, the vaccine is 92% effective – well above the 50% threshold set by the US Food and Drug Administration.

"We are showing, based on the data, that we have a very effective vaccine," said Kirill Dmitriev, head of the Russian Direct Investment Fund which is backing the jab and in charge of marketing it globally.

Dmitriev added that it was the sort of news that the vaccine’s developers would talk about one day with their grandchildren.

There are currently more than 100 Covid-19 vaccine candidates under development, according to the World Health Organisation [WHO], with a large number of these in the human trial phase.

The WHO has set up a special operation called COVAX which is tasked with worldwide distribution of effective vaccines, with a special priority of protecting those who have underlying health conditions that put them most at risk.

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Russia rejects claims Vladimir Putin has Parkinson’s as ‘absolute nonsense’

The Kremlin have rejected claims Russian President, Vladimir Putin, 68, may have Parkinson’s disease and will soon give up his position.

Authorities in Russia have dismissed suggestions Mr Putin has Parkinson’s as “absolute nonsense” and assured media “everything is fine” with the President.

Kremlin spokesman Dimtry Peskov, said the report, which was picked up by UK tabloids was false.

He said: "It's absolute nonsense.

"Everything is fine with the president."

Mr Peskov was also asked about rumours Mr Putin was planning step down from his presidency in the near future, to which Peskov said: “No.”

The Sun had cited Professor Valery Solovei, a Russian political pundit, who told a Moscow radio station Putin was in poor health.

Mr Solovei also claimed he faced calls from his own party members to step down due to fears over his poor health.

Despite Mr Peskov’s assertions, president Putin has recently cancelled a number of scheduled events in recent weeks.

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A bill was recently published to the government website that would allow Mr Putin to run again when his term ends in 2024.

Sparking further speculation about his absence as the Russian government moved to extend immunity from criminal prosecution to any offences committed in their lifetime last week.

Former presidents already have lifetime immunity for crimes committed in office under legislation adopted after Mr Putin first came to power.

The new bill would also make it harder to revoke ex-presidents' expanded immunity.

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Russian police raid Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation in Moscow

FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny delivers a speech during a rally to demand the release of jailed protesters, who were detained during opposition demonstrations for fair elections, in Moscow, Russia September 29, 2019/File Photo/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian police raided the Moscow offices of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation on Thursday and state bailiffs said a criminal investigation had been opened against the group’s director.

Navalny, who is convalescing in Germany after his alleged poisoning with a novichok nerve agent in Russia, posted images on social media of law enforcement officers at his group’s offices in a business centre in Moscow.

The RIA news agency cited bailiffs as saying the raid was linked to a criminal case against Ivan Zhdanov, director of Navalny’s group, for failing to implement a court order, an apparent reference to a lawsuit payout.

A court in Moscow ordered Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation and Navalny supporter Lyubov Sobol last month each to pay 29 million roubles ($374,483) for libelling the Moscow Schoolchild catering company.

The Kremlin’s critics have cast those lawsuits, as well as a series of mass police raids, as part of a coordinated campaign aimed at crippling their activities. Russian authorities deny that.

($1 = 77.44 roubles)

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Economy

UPDATE 4-Russian rouble tumbles on eve of U.S. election

* Uncertainty before Tuesday’s U.S. vote batters rouble

* Rouble reaches 80.9525 vs dollar, weakest since March 23

* Falls to 94.1425 vs euro, a more than six-year low

* Kremlin says Russia preserving macroeconomic stability (Updates prices, adds chart)

MOSCOW, Nov 2 (Reuters) – The Russian rouble plunged to a near six-year low against the euro on Monday, plagued by falling oil prices, the persistent rise in COVID-19 cases at home and abroad, and increased uncertainty before Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election.

The Kremlin played down the crash in the rouble, saying Russia has been reducing its dependence on imports and preserving macroeconomic stability, while the central bank was helping to limit volatility.

The rouble has lost around 23% so far this year, becoming one of the worst-performing currencies against the dollar. It has shed almost 26% versus the euro.

By 1435 GMT, the rouble had lost 1.1% to trade at 93.65 versus the euro, earlier hitting 94.1425, its weakest since December 2014.

It was 1.2% weaker against the dollar at 80.49 , reaching levels not seen since March 23, a more than seven-month low, as investors preferred safe-haven assets ahead of the U.S. vote.

“Markets are gearing exclusively to the outcome of the U.S. elections, which is fraught with risk,” BCS Global Markets said in a note.

Russian markets also see downside pressure from expectations that Democratic candidate Joe Biden could win the election, which may result in new sanctions against Russia.

Markets were waiting for volatility to subside after the U.S. vote. A Reuters poll forecast the rouble would regain ground over the next year.

Any bets against the rouble are a high-risk trade because the currency is strongly over-sold, said Otkritie Broker analyst Andrei Kochetkov.

“Any outcome of the U.S. election will be positive for emerging markets,” Sberbank Asset Management said.

COVID IMPACT

Russia recorded more than 18,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday and 238 deaths, but authorities have so far played down the need for a return to heavy restrictions as the pandemic has already hit its economy.

Rising case numbers elsewhere and tighter restrictions, such as the promise of a new lockdown in the United Kingdom, added to pressure on riskier assets.

“Soaring COVID-19 infection rates, with Europe and the U.S. continuing to set record highs, raise concerns over the global growth outlook, and crude prices are tumbling this morning on worries over demand,” Alfa Bank said in a note.

Brent crude oil, a global benchmark for Russia’s main export, was up 0.5% at $38.15 a barrel, helping Russian stock indexes to pare losses and climb away from multi-month lows.

The dollar-denominated RTS index was up 0.5% to 1,073.3 points, earlier touching a more than six-month low. The rouble-based MOEX Russian index was 1.8% up at 2,738.9 points.

($1 = 80.3825 roubles)

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Grave robber lived with mummified corpses of 29 girls – and refuses to apologise

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A historian who robbed the graves of 29 children and lived with their mummified corpses, applying lipstick and make-up to their faces, has refused to apologise.

Bodysnatcher Anatoly Moskvin, 59, robbed the graves of 29 children and lived with their corpses in a flat he shared with his parents in Russia.

He is understood to have applied lipstick and make-up to the faces of the deceased, and wedged music boxes in their chests.

Appearing at a custody hearing, Moskvin refused to apologise for taking the bodies of the kids and said their parents rights over them "ended" when they buried their daughters.

Moskvin, who hoped to be released from a psychiatric hospital to care for his elderly mother, claimed his schizophrenia had been treated, but refused to show remorse.

He said: "These girls are girls. There are no parents in my view.

"I don’t know any of them. Besides, they buried their daughters, and this is where I believe their rights over them finished…

"So no, I would not apologise."

Moskvin was detained in 2011 for the crime, and confessed to 44 counts of abusing graves of girls aged three to 12.

He previously told the parents of the children they had "abandoned" their "girls in the cold" and said he had "brought them home and warmed them up."

One of the corpses was murder victim Olga Chardymova, who was just 10-years-old when she died.

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Her mother, Natalia Chardymova, 46, did not realise that on her regular visits to her daughter’s graveside, the coffin was empty.

Natalia has opposed Moskvin's release, claiming "this creature brought fear, terror and panic into my life" with his "grotesque" abuse of the dead children.

She said: "I would be happy to know he will spend his life in the hospital.

"He is a sick person. From one side, it's not good to be happy about this.

"But I will give me the chance to put a gravestone on the plot of my daughter. She was buried unnamed to prevent him finding her grave again if he is released."

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Moskvin's mother, Elvira, 77, said she had seen the "dolls" but "did not suspect there were dead bodies inside."

She said: "We saw these dolls but we did not suspect there were dead bodies inside. We thought it was his hobby to make such big dolls and did not see anything wrong with it."

Elvira claimed the court was biased against her son who was "not able to be in society, work, or get married."

A judge last week renewed Moskvin's detention in a psychiatric hospital for another six months.

  • Crime
  • Russia

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