Ahead of elections, St. Petersburg officials withdraw protest permit issued to opponents of Russian pension reform

City officials in St. Petersburg have withdrawn a permit issued for a September 9 protest against the Russian government’s plan to raise the country’s retirement age. The mayor’s office says a nearby water main burst, flooding a roadway that leads into Lenin Square, where the demonstration is scheduled to take place. The authorities say organizers can hold their rally at Udelny Park (about five miles farther from the city’s center), but any attempt to stage the event at Lenin Square will be treated as an illegal public assembly.

The Kremlin paid two million rubles for this rap video

The Kremlin’s domestic policy machinations often lead the Putin administration down some strange PR roads. For example, Meduza has written before about the authorities’ hopes to recruit Elizaveta Gyrdymova — aka “Monetochka” (Lil’ Coin) — as the country’s next pop star. That initiative hit a bump in the road earlier this summer when Gyrdymova bowed out of a concert linked to the Defense Ministry, but the Kremlin’s efforts to build inroads with popular musicians aren’t limited to one talent.

United Russia’s new initiative to allocate seized assets to the Pension Fund would prolong the country’s retirement system by a whopping 15 minutes

On September 6, United Russia introduced federal legislation that would allocate money seized in corruption cases to the country’s Pension Fund. According to Andrey Turchak, the acting secretary of the party’s General Council, the scheme could raise more than 1.2 billion rubles ($17.3 million) over the next six years, if state confiscations since 2012 are any indication.

The Real Russia. Today. A Moscow spokesperson endorses a foolish conspiracy theory about the Salisbury suspects, Russia pension politics get real, and Navalny drops another report from jail

Following the British government’s announcement on Wednesday that it has identified two Russian suspects in the attack on Sergey Skripal, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova went on state television and ridiculed the published evidence, calling it “God-level trolling.”

Please love us again? United Russia and Putin ramp up efforts to win back voters with pension-reform amendments, ahead of September 9 regional elections

In what appears to be timed to win back voters ahead of Sunday’s regional elections, United Russia unveiled two populist initiatives on September 6 that seek to mitigate some of the damage done to the party’s reputation by unpopular draft legislation that will raise the country’s retirement age. Andrey Turchak, the acting secretary of the party’s General Council, proposed allocating money seized in corruption prosecutions to Russia’s Pension Fund, claiming that officials have confiscated more than 1.2 billion rubles ($17.3 million) in such cases over the past six years.

The Russian Orthodox Church wants to build an ‘Orthodox Vatican’ outside Moscow

The Russian Orthodox Church hopes to erect an “Orthodox Vatican” in Sergiyev Posad, just outside Moscow, that would require the demolition of several downtown buildings, according to the BBC Russian Service. Journalists learned about plans for an “open-air temple” at the walls of the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius with a platform stage that would allow the church to hold outdoor mass.