A Corruption Trial Splits the Kremlin; The former economy minister got caught in a sting, and no one knows where Putin stands.

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Evgenia Pismennaya, Ilya Arkhipov, Henry Meyer, Irina Reznik – October 11, 2017) The first prosecution of a minister for graft under Russian President Vladimir Putin contains the kind of details you’d expect in a spy novel, from hidden microphones and coded hand signals to homemade sausages and a bag stuffed with cash. The case against former […]

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Is This The Geopolitical Shift Of The Century?

Middle East Map

(Oilprice.com – Cyril Widdershoven – October 7, 2017) Dr. Cyril Widdershoven is a long-time observer of the global energy market. Presently, he holds several advisory positions with international think tanks in the Middle East and energy sectors in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The geopolitical reality in the Middle East is changing dramatically. The impact of […]

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NEWSWATCH: “OPEC Pushes Russia to Continue Helping on Oil Prices” – Wall Street Journal/ Benoit Faucon, Summer Said, Nathan Hodge

File Photo of King Salman of Saudi Arabia Seated Next to Saudi Flag and Gesturing, adapted from image at defense.gov

As King Salman becomes the first Saudi Monarch to visit Moscow, The Wall Street Journal reports on efforts by OPEC to keep Russia in an ad hoc coalition to suppress global oil production. “Saudi Arabia and OPEC are lobbying Russia to stay on board with their efforts to raise oil prices, amid signals that Moscow wants to end its participation in costly […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Oil prices rise to highest level in two years” – Intellinews/ Ben Aris

Oil Wells File Photo

“Trouble between Turkey and the Kurds led oil prices to rise to $59 per barrel on September 26, their highest level in more than two years. Kurds held a referendum in … Iraq calling for … an independent Kurdish homeland for the ethnic group, who spill over the borders of neighbouring Turkey, Iran and Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan […]

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NEWSLINK: “Greasing the public’s hands: how oil and gas taxes financed the Kremlin’s social contract” – Bear Market Blog/ Miranda Lupion

Gas Flame file photo

“This past month, Russian news outlet RBC published a detailed report breaking down the revenue sources that funded the Kremlin’s 2016 federal budget. While the headline, “50 Companies Furnished Half of the Russian Budget’s Tax Revenue,” may come as no surprise to those familiar with the country’s business landscape, the fine print is worth a double take. In 2016, revenue […]

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NEWSLINK: “Little cash for Russia’s new Arctic development program; Ambitions are sky-high, but much hinges on private investments” – The Independent Barents Observer/ Atle Staalesen

Arctic Map

“… The new Russian Arctic program has undergone major revision since the Ministry of Economic Development was commissioned to make a draft. The Ministry first proposed to allocated 209 billion rubles (€3.1 billion) of state cash to program implementation. Later, the sum was reduced to only 12 billion rubles (€177 million). Originally, the program was to cover the period until […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Despite New U.S. Sanctions, Russian Oil Traders Say It’s Business as Usual” – Reuters

Oil Well file photo

“Russian oil companies will quickly find ways to work around tighter restrictions imposed this month by the United States on the foreign finance they can use, multiple Russian oil industry sources told Reuters. … new restrictions cut the period that U.S.-based entities can provide finance to Russian energy firms from 90 to 60 days … part of a fresh package of U.S. […]

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NEWSLINK: “The Russian-Saudi rapprochement and Iran. Would Russia draw closer to Saudi Arabia and risk losing Iran?” – Al Jazeera/ Leonid Issaev

Middle East Map

“… A number of developments in recent months have signalled a possible rapprochement between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The two countries have made a joint effort to push for further cutting of oil production to help bring up prices. Since the beginning of this year, Russian Minister of Energy Alexander Novak and his Saudi counterpart Khalid al-Falih have been seeking to conclude […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Corruption Case Puts Sechin in the Spotlight” – Carnegie Moscow Center/ Konstantin Gaaze

Igor Sechin file photo

“The high-profile trial of former Russian economy minister Alexei Ulyukayev is not playing out according to the script that most analysts had expected. The prosecution’s case increasingly relies on the testimony of one man, state oil chief Igor Sechin, making this master of Kremlin intrigue potentially politically vulnerable. The powerful reputation of the official said to be Russia’s second most […]

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The Stunning Story of Russian Minister Ulyukayev’s Arrest for Bribery, Explained

Alexei Ulyukayev file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – August 8, 2017) Alexei Ulyukayev, the first serving Russian minister to be arrested since the fall of the Soviet Union, will appear in court on Tuesday, after being accused of soliciting a bribe from the country’s largest oil company. The former Economic Development Minister has been under house arrest since his detention in the dead […]

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Russia Braces for Permanent Sanctions From the U.S.; Moscow was hopeful Trump would loosen sanctions. Instead, he made them permanent.

Portion of U.S. Treasury Department Building Facade, North Side, with Sculpture of Alexander Hamilton

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Henry Meyer, Anna Andrianova – August 8, 2017) Andrey Kostin, a former Soviet diplomat in London who runs Russia’s second-largest bank, was jubilant when Donald Trump was elected last year. “We may soon see U.S. financial sanctions eased or even lifted,” he said at the time. Now, he’s changed his tune as his state-run VTB Group, […]

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Russia Sticks to Conservative $40 Oil Forecast for 2018 Budget

Oil Well file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Olga Tanas – June 29, 2017) The Russian government is sticking to its conservative assumptions for oil prices as it drafts the budget for the next three years, relying mainly on domestic borrowing to finance the deficit in order to preserve its rainy-day funds. Oil prices are running above the government’s $40-a-barrel forecast, but growing supply […]

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Kennan Cable No.24: Russian Foreign Policy in the Arctic: Balancing Cooperation and Competition

Arctic Map

(Kennan Institute – wilsoncenter.org/program/kennan-institute – Stacy R. Closson, Assistant Professor, Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, University of Kentucky – June 26, 2017) Introduction The Arctic region presents a particularly interesting case study of Russian foreign policy. In a time when Russia is showing renewed aggression on three fronts – the Baltic Sea region, Syria, and Ukraine – and meddling in […]

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Are Russia And The Saudis Planning A Natural Gas Cartel?

Gas Flame file photo

(Oilprice.com – Cyril Widdershoven – June 18, 2017) The fledgling production cut strategy of OPEC (Saudi Arabia) and non-OPEC (Russia and the FSU) shows that a new strategy is needed to counter the ongoing doubts in the markets. At the same time, Russia and Saudi continue to give indications of a possible OPEC 2.0 scenario, in which a possible Russian […]

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NEWSLINK: “Rosneft chief Sechin looks beyond Russia sanctions. Putin ally wants stronger ties between oil heavyweights Russia, Saudi Arabia and US.” – Financial Times

File Photo of Rosneft and Russian Flags Next to Rosneft Banner

“… while sanctions may mean Mr Sechin, Rosneft and Russia currently have a strained relationship with the US energy industry, the resolute former deputy chief of staff to Mr Putin has ambitions for a grand coalition between oil’s superpowers: Russia, Saudi Arabia and the US. … reflecting on President Donald Trump’s campaign stance on developing better relations with Russia — which has since […]

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VIDEO NEWSWATCH: “U.S. shale, trade and sanctions worry Russian Finance minister as economy gets back on track” – CNBC/ Geoff Cutmore, Alexandra Gibbs

Anton Siluanov file photo

[Scroll down for embedded video] “… Following last week’s decision by oil producers to extend output cuts by nine months to March 2018, Siluanov told CNBC that OPEC’s decisions would give opportunity [sic] for prices to stay at present levels, but that both producers and the ministry had to be on alert for any market changes. …” ‘On the one […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Rallies: 1.3% GDP Growth, $55 Oil, World Bank Says; The Russian ruble is strengthening today on solid economic growth targets from the World Bank” – Barrons/ Dimitra DeFotis

World Bank Building

“Russia’s economy can expand at a 1.3% pace in 2017 and by 1.4% in 2018 and 2019, the World Bank said …. The ruble is strengthening … up 0.7% against the U.S. dollar, and Russian equities are rallying in Moscow. The VanEck Vectors Russia exchange-traded fund (RSX) is higher by 0.5% … as are the U.S.-traded shares of Sberbank Rossia (SBRCY). Moody’s […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s economy is recovering well” – CNN

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“[Russia] is recovering nicely from a recession and should see economic growth of 1.4% this year, according to [the IMF] … Russia is heavily dependent on oil exports and was hit hard when crude prices started to crash in 2014. Economic sanctions imposed by Western governments as punishment for Russia taking control of Ukraine’s Crimea region dealt the economy another blow. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia Says Key Goal Is to Bring Global Oil Stocks Down to Five-Year Average” – Reuters

Oil Well file photo

“The main goal of [a] proposed extension of [an] oil output cuts deal is to bring the global commercial oil inventories down to 5-year average and stabilise the market, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday. … Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top two oil producers, agreed on Monday on the need to extend output cuts for a […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Despite Sanctions, Russia’s Oil Industry Powers On” – Wall Street Journal/ Bradley Olson, Jay Solomon

Oil Well file photo

“Exxon Mobil … is suffering from sanctions on Russia. The same can’t be said for other big Western energy companies, or for Russia’s oil production. … sanctions, put in place by the U.S. and European Union in 2014 after Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine, were meant to limit Russia’s pursuit of new technology for extracting more crude oil […]

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Pavel Koshkin: “Why the revival of the commodity market is not good for the Kremlin”

Oil Well file photo

Subject: Why the revival of the commodity market is not good for the Kremlin Date: Tue, 2 May 2017 From: Pavel Koshkin <pkoshkin.russia.direct@gmail.com> Title: Why the revival of the commodity market is not good for the #Kremlin Pavel Koshkin is a contributor for Forbes-#Russia magazine and the deputy editor of International Desk at RBC Daily, a Russian independent newspaper. He […]

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CALL FOR PROPOSALS: Aleksanteri Conference 2017 “Russia’s Choices for 2030”, University of Helsinki, Finland, 25-27 October 2017

File Photo of the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, adapted from an image at the Wikimedia Creative Commons, attributed to John Welsh/Welshentag, with conditions on reuse, declaring "This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. You are free: to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work to remix – to adapt the work Under the following conditions: attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). share alike – If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one."

From: Korteniemi, Eeva L [eeva.korteniemi@helsinki.fi] Sent: Friday, April 28, 2017 Subject: Call for proposals: Aleksanteri Conference2017 “Russia’s Choices for 2030”, University of Helsinki, Finland, 25-27 October 2017 Call for paper, panel, and roundtable proposals 17th Annual Aleksanteri Conference RUSSIA’S CHOICES FOR 2030 Time and venue: 25-27 October 2017, University of Helsinki, Finland Organiser: Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki and Finnish […]

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NEWSLINK: “ExxonMobil Just Challenged Trump to Get Serious With Russia Policy” – Fortune/ Richard Nephew, Colin Rowat

Portion of U.S. Treasury Department Building Facade, North Side, with Sculpture of Alexander Hamilton

“Earlier this month, news leaked that ExxonMobil was pushing the Treasury Department to grant it a sanctions waiver, which would allow the company to resume its joint venture Black Sea drilling operations with Russian oil giant Rosneft. The Treasury Department has since denied the waiver application, as waivers are granted for humanitarian and policy reasons, not for business reasons—which was […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia and the “Resource Curse”: When the Kremlin’s Policy is Counterproductive for the Economy” – Carnegie Moscow Center/Forbes.ru/ ANDREY MOVCHAN, PAVEL KOSHKIN)

Oil Well file photo

“How can Russia overcome the “resource curse”? What countries should be an example for Moscow? What consequences can the Russian flawed economic policy lead to? Why could the authorities’ attempts to save their power by any means be dangerous for economic growth? Andrey Movchan, the director of the Economic Policy Pogram at the Carnegie Moscow Center, sheds light on these […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia and the “Resource Curse”: When the Kremlin’s Policy is Counterproductive for the Economy” – Carnegie Moscow Center/ Forbes.ru/ ANDREY MOVCHAN, PAVEL KOSHKIN)

Oil Well file photo

“How can Russia overcome the ‘resource curse’? What countries should be an example for Moscow? What consequences can the Russian flawed economic policy lead to? Why could the authorities’ attempts to save their power by any means be dangerous for economic growth? Andrey Movchan, the director of the Economic Policy Pogram at the Carnegie Moscow Center, sheds light on these […]

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Putin’s Arms Bazaar Is in a Serious Sales Slump

File Photo of Buk-1 SAM

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Tobin Harshaw – April 25, 2017) Tobin Harshaw writes editorials on national security, education and food for Bloomberg View. He was an editor with the op-ed page of the New York Times and the paper’s letters editor. Russian President Vladimir #Putin is mighty proud of his #military’s performance in #Syria. And, as I have written, it’s […]

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RUSSIALINK RBTH: “Why does ExxonMobil need Russia’s Arctic region? Even though the price of extracting oil in the Arctic is very expensive, ExxonMobil still wants to strengthen its position in the Russian market.”

Arctic Map

“The U.S. Government will not give the green light to oil major ExxonMobil Corporation and other American companies that seek to drill in areas covered by U.S. sanctions against Russia, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on April 21. …”

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NEWSLINK: “Kremlin Stringing Kadyrov Along on Oil” – Russian and Eurasian Politics/Gordon Hahn

Ramzan Kadyrov file photo

“Chechen President and strongman Ramzan Kadyrov recently may have finally won long-sought concessions from Moscow in oil related industries, something he has been fighting to attain from RosNeft since he came to power in the once war-torn North Caucasus republic in early 2008. In November 2009, Kadyrov and Sergei Bogdanchikov, then head of RosNeft, Russia’s state oil giant, wrested from oligarch […]

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In Annual Report, Medvedev Says Russian Economy Avoided Catastrophe

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – April 19, 2017) Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has promised not to raise taxes in 2017 and vowed to consider indexing retirement payments for working pensioners, delivering a moderately upbeat annual report on the troubled economy. Addressing the lower house of parliament on April 19, Medvedev said the Russian economy had avoided “catastrophe” despite low world […]

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Fiscal rule already essentially in effect, might be formally introduced in 2018 – Belousov

Oil Well file photo

MOSCOW. April 17 (Interfax) – The new fiscal rule that restricts Russian budget spending of additional oil and gas revenue is essentially already in effect, and it might be formally introduced in 2018, Kremlin aide Andrei Belousov said. “The fiscal rule comes down to cutting off the level of spending at an oil price of $40 per barrel. We negotiated […]

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Russia Can Wait for $70 Oil Before Re-Entering Arctic Waters

Arctic Map

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Elena Mazneva, Dina Khrennikova – March 29, 2017) Russia can wait for a sustained recovery in oil prices before drilling again in Arctic waters, relying for now on less costly regions even as rival producer Norway accelerates development of its northerly fields. “We estimate production costs for the Russian Arctic offshore in the range of $70 […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin] Meeting on Arctic region’s comprehensive development

Map of Arctic Highlighting Permafrost, adapted from image at nasa.gov

(Kremlin.ru – March 29, 2017) In the course of his trip to Alexandra Land in the Franz Josef Archipelago Vladimir Putin held a meeting on the comprehensive development of the Arctic region. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Sergei Donskoy, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Special Presidential Representative for Nature Protection, the Environment, and Transport […]

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NEWSLINK: “Are Russia’s oil wells truly in danger of drying up?” – Russia Beyond the Headlines/Vzglyad/OLGA SAMOFALOVA

Oil Well file photo

“Russia’s economy is heavily dependent on the energy sector. Oil and gas alone are estimated to account for 16 percent of GDP, 52 percent of the federal government’s revenue, and 70 percent of the country’s exports. Russia’s future without oil is inconceivable, and would debilitate the country tremendously. Therefore, investments in the exploration of new oil reserves are imperative, but […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Oil is the cause of Russia’s outsized corruption problem” – bne Intellinews/Ben Aris

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

“#Russia was wracked by protests over the weekend when an estimated 60,000 people took to the street in more than 80 cities large and small to decry rampant corruption. Russia does have an outsized corruption problem and its #oil wealth is to blame.  … the Russian government has identified corruption as probably the biggest drag on growth and has launched a […]

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Why the Comey Hearing Was Frightening to a Russian

Gas Facility file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Leonid Bershidsky – March 21, 2017) Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. Monday’s hearing on Russia’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election and the alleged contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin yielded inspiring news for […]

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RUSSIALINK RBTH: “Why Russia does not want to join OPEC; Russia sees oil club as a competitor, though they share tactical interests”

Oil Well file photo

(Russia Beyond the Headlines – rbth.ru – MARIA KUTUZOVA, SPECIAL TO RBTH) Russia is not considering joining OPEC, Russia’s Energy Minister Alexander Novak has told a U.S. conference. Speaking during the CERAWeek Oil Conference in Houston, Texas early March Novak added: “But our cooperation with the oil exporting countries has proven to be necessary and useful.” He has often spoken […]

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Russia Is Running on More Than Just the Black Stuff; The world’s largest energy producer is out of its longest recession in two decades

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Anna Andrianova- March 7, 2017) [Charts here bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-07/russia-is-running-on-more-than-just-the-black-stuff] Russia has exited recession, with a little help from the boys in uniform, a major statistical revision – and the global oil price. And not just any recession, but its longest in two decades. So what happened? 1. Is the economy really out of the woods? Actually, the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The fate of Russian stocks hinges on politics and oil” – CNBC/Rebecca Ungarino

File Photo of Outdoor Electronic Sign with Russian Exchange Data

“… The Moscow composite index is down nearly 8 percent year to date, underperforming the U.S. by nearly 15 percent as optimism around the possibility of the removal of trade sanctions against Russia fades. And crude oil, which weighs heavily on the Russian economy, has traded in a narrow range so far this year, offering no help to Russian stocks. […]

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Moscow Court Overturns Fine for Independent Russian News Outlet RBC

Igor Sechin file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – March 1, 2017) A Moscow court has overturned the decision to fine independent Russian news outlet RBC for libelling oligarch and Putin ally Igor Sechin. An RBC report published in April 2016 claimed that Sechin, the CEO of Russian oil giant Rosneft, had asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to block the company’s minority stakeholder from […]

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Russia Overtakes Saudi Arabia as World’s Top Crude Oil Producer

Oil Well file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Claudia Carpenter – February 20, 2017) Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest crude producer in December, when both countries started restricting supplies ahead of agreed cuts with other global producers to curb the worst glut in decades. Russia pumped 10.49 million barrels a day in December, down 29,000 barrels a day from November, while […]

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Russia’s Largest Oilfield May Be About to Gush Cash Once Again

Oil Well file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Stephen Bierman, Andrey Biryukov – February 15, 2017) #Russia’s largest #oil field, so far past its prime that it now pumps almost 20 times more water than crude, could be on the verge of gushing profits again for #Rosneft PJSC. Samotlor, the 25 billion-barrel giant that bankrolled the Soviet Union for decades, would be the biggest […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s economy grows at $40 per barrel oil; Russia’s Central Bank last week said appetite was low for an increase in lending rates” – UPI/Daniel J. Graeber

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

The Russian economy will be on the positive side of growth even if the price of crude oil falls to $40 per barrel … [Central Bank Gov. Elvira Nabiullina] said. … The number of economic sectors expected to expand this year is not much greater than those in contraction, but losers are outnumbered. Much … depends on the price of […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Men, Alexander Novak, Nikolai Nikiforov, Vitaly Mutko at] Meeting with Government members

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(kremlin.ru – February 1, 2017) Vladimir Putin met with Government members to discuss possibilities for further developing treasury monitoring of budget spending, the situation with co-funded housing development, and a number of other current issues. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon colleagues. Today, we will discuss the results of work and further development for treasury monitoring of budget spending. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Rouble’s revival gives Russia an unexpected headache” – AFP

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

It was a step that seemed unimaginable a year ago: the Russian authorities stepping in to stop the country’s currency from getting too strong. … The finance ministry said Putin himself had decided that the surplus oil revenue would not be used for ‘additional spending’ but would go towards buying foreign currencies to bolster the country’s depleted reserve funds. … […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia Survived Sanctions, And BlackRock Goes Overweight” – Forbes.com/Kenneth Rapoza

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“… Russian oil and gas companies, along with its biggest banks, were sanctioned in the summer of 2014 following the March annexation of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula in southeastern Ukraine. Tension between the West and Russia increased that year as a new, U.S. backed government led by Arsesniy Yatsenyuk took hold in Kiev, sending Moscow into panic mode. Russia […]

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How Tillerson Could Fuel A Russian Arctic Drilling Boom

Rex Tillerson file photo, adapted from image at readyagain.gov

(Oilprice.com – Robert Berke – January 23, 2017) Robert Berke is an energy financial analyst with experience as a government consultant to the State of Alaska. It’s now clear to nearly everyone that U.S. President Trump intends to seek warmer U.S. relations with Russia, while putting China and Iran relations in the deep freezer. Trump has made no secret of […]

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Russia Locks In on What’s Wrong With Ruble During Oil Frenzy

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Anna Andrianova – January 23, 2017) Untethering the #ruble helped #Russia ride out the biggest #oil downturn in a generation. But it’s left the world’s biggest energy exporter vulnerable to greater volatility in crude prices as #OPEC pushes output cuts. To address that, the Bank of Russia is preparing to wade back into the currency market […]

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