JRL NEWSWATCH: “IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with the Russian Federation”

File Photo of IMF Acronym on Wall Below Row of Circular Lights, adapted from image at state.gov by Steven C. Welsh :: www.stevencwelsh.com :: www.stevencwelsh.info

(International Monetary Fund (IMF) – Sept. 12, 2018) IMF Executive Board Concludes 2018 Article IV Consultation with the Russian Federation [Full staff report: imf.org/en/Publications/CR/Issues/2018/09/12/Russian-Federation-2018-Article-IV-Consultation-Press-Release-Staff-Report-46226] [Vedomosti: IMF supports Russia’s pension reforms. МВФ поддержал повышение пенсионного возраста в России vedomosti.ru/economics/news/2018/09/13/780763-mvf ] “… parametric pension reform, including raising the statutory retirement age and limiting early retirement, remains critical for intergenerational equity …. While […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Why Putin Is Losing Popular Support” – Carnegie Moscow/ Denis Volkov/ Levada Center

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

“The approval ratings of Russia’s leaders and its institutions have been declining for more than three years. The erosion of popular support has been accelerated, rather than caused, by the unveiling of the government’s pension reform plan, and Russians are increasingly concerned by the state of not only their pensions but also their country’s foreign policy and its economy. …”

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Levada poll: Russians’ worries close to home” – Bear Market Brief/BMD Russia

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“… [poll numbers indicate that] Russians are concerned about rising prices (72%), poverty (52%), and unemployment (48%). … the highest August figures since 2013. … a Bank of Russia survey finds … ordinary Russians are expecting higher inflation …. lean years have rendered adventures abroad relatively less important to Russians. … inflationary expectations raise the specter of a key rate […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Wages in Russia’s regions are well behind the national average” – bne Intellinews/Ben Aris

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“Wages are starting to grow again …. However … the recovery is clearly very mixed.  … mega-cities … Moscow and St Petersburg … had incomes … 51% and 117% more than the average national wage of RUB42,640 ($625) per month … according to Rosstat … [but] two-thirds of Russian regions have incomes well below that level. In general the poorest […]

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Russian Power Under Putin: Up and Down and Flatline

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

(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – Andrew Kuchins – August 22, 2018 – russiamatters.org/analysis/russian-power-under-putin-and-down-and-flatline) Andrew Kuchins is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies, Georgetown University. This op-ed is part of a new debate from Russia Matters and is written in response to “Measuring National Power: Is Vladimir Putin’s Russia in Decline?” by Simon Saradzhyan and Nabi Abdullaev. […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s financial authorities are putting the economy on an ‘economic war’ footing as sanctions bite” – bne Intellinews/Vadim Dumes/Ben Aris

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“The sanctions[-]based assault on Russia by the U.S. and its expanding sanctions regime is starting to take its toll as the Russian government and financial authorities [are scrambling] to manage the damage … affecting everything from corporate profits to foreign currency reserves. Earlier this month … The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) said it will stop its regular foreign currency purchases […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Achilles heel: Putin still falling short on master plan for aging oil economy” CNBC/Ashleigh Garrison, Kelly Song

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has displayed geopolitical intelligence and military strength, but he falls short when it comes to mastering the Russian economy. The Russian market is still largely dependent on rising oil prices and the lack of innovation is a major economic weakness. GDP is growing, but slowly, and critical foreign investment remains low due to Putin’s provocations and […]

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Working-Age Russians Now More Pessimistic about Future than Pensioners, Levada Poll Finds

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(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 17, 2018) The continuing stagnation or worse of the Russian economy has “upended the pyramid of social optimism” in Russia, Mikhail Sergeyev says. Instead of older people being the most pessimistic about the future of their country as is typically the case, now working age Russians are. This finding of the […]

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Pension Fight Highlights Russia’s Fundamental Problem – Its Government, Gontmakher Says

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(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 10, 2018) The fight over Moscow’s proposal to raise the pension age highlights the fact that Russia’s “main problem is a state [which] doesn’t fulfill its functions of serving” the people. Instead, it acts like an enormous corporation that collects rents and doesn’t distribute them in an effective way, economist Yevgeny […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin sees ‘positive trends’ in Russian economy” – AFP

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“… Wages in Russia have fallen for four consecutive years as the Russian economy reeled from a crash in oil prices in 2014, along with international sanctions imposed over … Ukraine.  Putin’s approval ratings slumped by a record 14 percentage points according to a state pollster following a government proposal to raise the state pension age to 65 for men […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “In World Cup’s Shadow, Layoffs and Anger at Russian Factory” – AP/New York Times

Large Mother Russia Statue Near Volgograd

“[At] Volgograd’s … Red October steelworks … many … were temporarily laid off because of the World Cup. … aggravat[ing] troubles at the struggling factory, prompting angry workers to plan a protest timed for the … World Cup …. Authorities are apparently trying to head off trouble through pressure and promises of cash. Welcome to the daily realities of … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Authorities begin process of raising retirement age” – Bear Market Brief E-Mail Newsletter

File Photo of Elders Walking in Russia

“… the [Russian] government may submit a draft bill to the Duma to raise the retirement age. … suggest[ing] the strictest variant: 65 years for men, 63 years for women. … likely follow[ing] MinFin’s proposal of increasing the retirement age by one year annually. …  Several key decisions … What to do with those who qualify for early retirement … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin says he’s making Russia great again. In reality, it’s crumbling; The country has been bolstered by European disunity but that obscures a multitude of ills” – The Spectator (UK)/Owen Matthews

Kremlin and River

“[Despite the World Cup and] … patriotic hype over grand multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects like a new bridge to Crimea and shiny stadiums, Russia is crumbling. … [Russia’s own statistics indicate] 68,100 schools in 2000; 41,100 now. … 10,700 hospitals [when Putin took power, now reduced to] 5,400. … living space declared unfit for habitation has more than doubled … […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “CCW Russia Brief Issue 2: Playing it Safe: Continuity Through the ‘New’ May Decrees and ‘New’ Government” – Oxford University/Changing Character of War Centre (CCW)/Richard Connolly

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“Russia’s recovery from the recession of 2015-16 suffered an unexpected setback at the end of 2017. After registering modest but uninterrupted growth from the end of 2016 to the middle of last year, and despite rising oil prices, seasonally adjusted GDP fell in the final quarter of 2017, according to Rosstat data, due to an unexpected decline in fixed investment […]

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Putin vs. Pensions: Will His Reelection Finally Free Him To Tackle Looming Crisis?

File Photo of Elders Walking in Russia

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Mike Eckel – May 16, 2018 – article also appeared at rferl.org/a/putin-vs-pensions-will-his-reelection-finally-free-him-to-tackle-looming-crisis-/29229857.html) It’s been the third rail of Russian politics for years, if not decades, but now an increasingly fragile economy appears to have forced the Kremlin to finally reckon with the country’s pension crisis. Russia’s pension system — […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Most Russians Say They Are Unaffected and ‘Unworried’ by Western Sanctions – Poll” – Moscow Times

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 14, 2018) The majority of Russians surveyed by the independent Levada Center say they have not been negatively affected by Western sanctions, despite feeling increasingly isolated from the international community. Russia has been targeted by several waves of political and economic sanctions following its 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and support […]

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Russians Are Most Unhappy With Putin Over Wealth Inequality – Poll

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 7, 2018) Russians are most unhappy with President Vladimir Putin over the unequal distribution of wealth in the country, according to the latest independent Levada Center poll. Putin, 65, officially assumes office for his fourth term Monday and reportedly plans to kick-start economic growth with a $162 billion increase in spending on healthcare, education […]

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Russians Not Turning on Kremlin Even as Latest US Sanctions Bite

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(Voice of America – voanews.com – Jamie Dettmer – April 30, 2018) The latest U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia earlier this month targeting two dozen Kremlin insiders and oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin and their companies are proving more painful than had been expected, say analysts. But they’re doing nothing at this stage in turning ordinary Russians against the Kremlin […]

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RUSSIALINK TRANCRIPT: “Excerpts from Dmitry Medvedev’s interview with the Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) programme” – GovernmentRu

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

(Government.ru – April 28, 2018) The Prime Minister answered the questions of Sergei Brilyov, the programme’s host. Dmitry Medvedev: In the past six years, the Government has worked in unprecedented conditions, which include unfavourable changes in the global economy and on the hydrocarbons market, as well as sanctions, starting with those imposed on Russia in 2014. All of this taken […]

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NEWSWATCH: “The Russian pension system’s 2018 deficit will be twice as big as predicted” – Meduza

File Photo of Elders Walking in Russia

“Russia’s Labor Ministry has amended the Pension Fund’s 2018 budget to reflect a deficit that’s more than twice as high as predicted, rising from 106.6 billion rubles ($1.7 billion) to 256.8 billion rubles ($4.1 billion). The Pension Fund is expected to earn just 66.7 billion rubles ($1.1 billion), while spending 83.5 billion rubles ($1.3 billion). Spokespeople for the Pension Fund […]

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Kudrin sees budget maneuver adding 0.5%-1% to Russian GDP growth

Alexei Kudrin file photo

MOSCOW. April 24 (Interfax) – The so-called budget maneuver, which the Center for Strategic Research (CSR) sees as one of the main conditions for achieving sustainable economic growth and a tangible improvement in Russians’ living standards, will make it possible to achieve additional annual economic growth of 0.5% to 1%, CSR chairman and former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said in […]

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Russians Primarily Concerned With Rising Prices – Poll

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 24, 2018) Rising prices remain the primary concern among Russians polled by the independent Levada Center, followed by poverty and unemployment. While Russia’s economy grew 1.5 percent last year after two years of recession, it fell short of a government target of 2 percent. In March, one month before U.S. sanctions were imposed, real […]

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Ten Signs Putin and His Russia have Serious Problems

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 21, 2018) Vladimir Putin and his country are in far deeper trouble than the Moscow media he controls or than the Western media which all too often relies on what the Putin outlets say and views his standing and that of his country almost exclusively as a derivative of what the […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Can Russia Afford Its Save-a-Billionaire Relief Program? Russia’s poorest will end up footing the bill” – Moscow Times/ Vedomosti/ Pavel Aptekar, Vladimir Ruvinsky

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“… new sanctions … the West imposed against companies and businesspeople with close Kremlin ties pose a new challenge for the Russian government and economy. Like in 2014, the authorities have already promised support to those targeted …. ‘Supporting those who support you’ might make sense politically, but how much of this … can the Russian economy bear? * * […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Trade With the West Surges Even as Sanctions Mount; Last year’s increase, three years after penalties tied to annexation of Crimea, shows limits of curbs in longer term” – Wall Street Journal/Andrea Thomas, James Marson, Stefan Lange

File Photo of G7 Leaders and other Officials Around Round Table at the Hague, with Flags

” …. The U.S. and Europe’s largest nations, including France and Germany, saw exports to and imports from Russia skyrocket in 2017 after three years of decline. … at their highest levels since 2014, the year Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea …. The turnaround could be short-lived. … [After] Washington … unveiled fresh sanctions … in the latest U.S. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “‘Market Fundamentalism’ Tested as New Economic Storm Hits Russia” – Bloomberg

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“Russia is gambling that a policy mix born amid its confrontation with the West four years ago is good enough to carry it through an even worse standoff …. allowing its ruble to trade freely  …. that flexible currency provides support for the Russian economy as … Putin faces the fallout of the most punitive U.S. penalties yet and … […]

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NEWSWATCH: “No longer safe assets: Invest in Russia at your own risk after U.S. sanctions, strategist says” – CNBC/Natasha Turak

File Photo of Outdoor Electronic Sign with Russian Exchange Data

“Russian assets, in recovery mode following a deep recession after the global oil price collapse in 2015, have been ravaged since Friday over fears of U.S. sanctions.  Popular among many emerging market investors for the past year, this progress now appears on the brink of becoming undone as market analysts call for a re-evaluation of Russia’s risk pricing. * * […]

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‘No Doubt’ Russia Can Weather U.S. Sanctions, Economic Development Minister Says

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 10, 2018) Russia’s Economic Development Minister has promised that the country will be able to withstand losses suffered since the latest round of U.S. sanctions triggered sell-offs. The ruble sank to its lowest exchange rate against the U.S. dollar and euro since December 2016 on the second day of losses. Stocks in major Russian […]

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Interfax: Kudrin notes stability of Russian financial market Tuesday after Monday’s crash

Alexei Kudrin file photo

MOSCOW. April 10 (Interfax) – The head of the Center for Strategic Research (CSR), former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the situation on the Moscow Exchange after Monday’s crash is stable. “Today’s opening of the exchange, if nothing has changed in the last few minutes, shows that the exchange is stable. Stock market indexes are stable so far,” Kudrin said […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How Russia’s Economic Recession Benefits Moscow Politically in its ‘Near Abroad’ [Excerpt]” – PONARS Eurasia/Mariya Omelicheva

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

Mariya Y. Omelicheva is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas. “Over the short run, Russia’s acrimonious relations with the West are serving the Kremlin’s broader effort of heightening its influence in its ‘near abroad.’ In 2014, Russia was hit by a triple whammy of low oil prices, Western sanctions, and Moscow’s counter-sanctions. During the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian Voters Left Guessing at Putin’s Economic Plan” – Reuters

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“… Putin will enter Sunday’s election with little agreement among his top policymakers on an economic strategy for his next term …. Many Russians … prospered … [when] high oil prices contribut[ed] to bumper growth rates before … 2008 …. But the economy sank into recession after Western … sanctions … [over] Ukraine. A collapse in oil prices and the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia explained in 10 charts” – BBC/ Alex Murray, Tom Housden, Anastasia Napalkova, Sandra Rodriguez Chillida, Joy Roxas, Zoe Bartholomew

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

“1. Fewer people are poor … 2. But wage growth has stalled recently … 3. More people have a car, and there are more microwaves than households … 4. Russians fell in love with Ikea … 5. And champagne … There’s some dispute over how much Russians drink. … 6. … the internet took off … 7. But circuses are […]

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NEWSWATCH: “What Another Six Years of Putin Spells for Russia’s Economy; No level of debt-fueled spending can overcome the stagnation caused by the state’s continued domination of the economy” – Eurasianet/David Szakonyi

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“… Officials are taking no chances to ensure turnout isn’t embarrassingly low, however, mobilizing students and workers, plastering the regions with pro-Putin materials, and seemingly handpicking the other candidates allowed to run. There are many consequences to holding stage-managed elections. Clearly they are a violation of basic political rights. … [and] the Russian presidential campaign offers nearly zero discussions of […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How realistic are Putin’s promises to massively increase social spending?” – bne Intellinews/Vadim Dumesh, Ben Aris

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“The militarism of … Putin’s … state of the nation speech on March 1 has overshadowed the economic part … set[ting] out the Kremlin’s development strategy … remain[ing] merely declarative and if anything show[ing] the lack of consensus between the Kremlin, government and policy advisers … [with]the Kremlin … attempting to fudge policy to keep all the various factions – […]

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Interfax: Putin: import substitution in Russia is temporary phenomenon

File Photo of U.S. Dairy Cows

SAMARA. March 7 (Interfax) – Import substitution in Russia is a temporary phenomenon; a temporary tool to balance out the current situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “The idea of import substitution is not, in and of itself, universal and is not what we should be aiming for in the long run; import substitution mustn’t disrupt competition. This is an […]

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Russia Lacks Basic Preconditions for Democracy, Inozemtsev Says

File Photo of Kremlin Aerial View, adapted from .gov source

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, February 27, 2018) This week, as Russia enters yet another pseudo-electoral campaign, two Moscow newspapers, Yezhednevny zhurnal and Novyye izvestiya have taken the highly unusual step of publishing an October 2015 address by Vladislav Inozemtsev on why Russia has never been, is not and won’t likely ever become a democracy. The speech, […]

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January data a ‘pleasant surprise’, Russian seasonally adjusted GDP up 0.6% – VEB

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MOSCOW. Jan 28 (Interfax) – January was an unexpectedly successful month for the Russian economy, which slackened at the end of 2017, and the year got off to a “very good start” even despite the compensatory nature of the uptick and non-representative character of January as a month with fewer working days, Vnesheconombank (VEB) said in a report. According to […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia stuck in a groove as Putin faces existential quandary” – Asia Times/Sergey Aleksashenko

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Sitting at Desk

“Vladimir Putin will be elected to another six-year term on March 18 – and his country’s economic and political environment will continue to deteriorate. What remains to be seen is whether he will change the constitution to stay in power beyond 2024 …”

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Interfax: Russia could have budget surplus of 1.2% of GDP, NWF could grow 3.5 trillion rubles in 2018 – Econ Ministry

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MOSCOW. Feb 13 (Interfax) – Russia could have a budget surplus of 1.2% of GDP in 2018 if current oil prices persist, the Russian Economic Development Ministry said in its latest monthly monitoring report. The National Welfare Fund (NWF) could in that case grow by 3.5 trillion rubles or around $60 billion at the current rate, it said. The NWF […]

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NEWSLINK: “The Low Energy Superpower: Russia’s Dim Growth Prospects” – Bear Market Blog/Joseph Webster

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“Few Russians are nostalgic for the nightmarish 1990s, a time when GDP fell by approximately 40%, inflation skyrocketed, and life expectancies tumbled. While history doesn’t repeat itself, it often rhymes: Russia won’t relive the nightmarish 1990s, but the pattern of declining living standards in contemporary Russia increasingly resembles the last decade of the 20th century. Russia will likely suffer a […]

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Interfax: Sovereign debt sanctions may cause brief volatility, no real effect on economy, financial stability – Nabiullina

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

ROSTOV-ON-DON. Feb 1 (Interfax) – U.S. sanctions targeting Russian sovereign debt, if introduced, might lead to short-term volatility on the sovereign debt market, but would not have a substantial effect on the economy or financial stability, Central Bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina said. “We saw this risk previously, we see it now. We evaluated it, evaluated the effect of two possible […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin Won’t Tell Voters How He’ll Pay for Domestic Spending” – Bloomberg/ Evgenia Pismennaya, Andrey Biryukov, Ilya Arkhipov

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“… offering Russians the biggest increase in domestic spending in years … what [Putin] won’t be talking much about is the package of tax hikes, benefit cuts and other changes … to help pay for [it] … possible increases to the pension age and the income tax … cuts in tax breaks for staples like food … [and] co-pays for […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia faces 6 more years of stagnation under Putin” – CNN/ Alanna Petroff

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“Russian President Vladimir Putin looks set to win re-election in March, extending his stay in the Kremlin to 2024. For Russia’s economy, that likely means six more years of anemic growth. …”

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NEWSWATCH: “Russian economy suddenly shrinks in November” – Reuters

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“Russia’s economy unexpectedly contracted in November, hit by a drop in industrial production, the economy ministry said …. Gross domestic product shrank 0.3 percent year on year in November, the economy ministry said, contrasting with analysts’ consensus call for a 1.5 percent growth. Russia’s oil-dependent economy was on the mend in 2017 after two years of recession, triggered by a […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia’s Break From a Recession Was Fleeting” – Bloomberg/ Anna Andrianova

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“After suffering its longest economic contraction this century, Russia may just have had the shortest recovery. JPMorgan Chase & Co. says the world’s biggest energy exporter probably capped last year with two consecutive quarters of contraction — or a technical recession — a surprise cooldown that ranged from struggling consumer spending to a flop in industrial output. …”

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NEWSLINK: “Russia Outlook 2018” – Intellinews/ Ben Aris

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“Russia needs a new economic model and 2018 is the year that one will be chosen – or not. First the country needs to get through a presidential election in March (that will almost certainly be won by president Vladimir Putin). After that the Kremlin will turn to making reforms, but the effects of any reforms that do happen are […]

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The Worse Russians Live, The Happier They Are, VTsIOM Poll Suggests

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(Paul Goble – Staunton, December 23, 2017) According to a poll conducted by the VTsIOM agency, Russians now have begun to feel even happier than they did before the onset of the crisis as measured by the different between those who tell sociologists that they are happy and those who say they are not. Valery Fedorov, the head of VTsIOM, […]

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NEWSLINK: “Putinomics Loses Its Power in Russia” – Bloomberg/ Anna Andrianova, Evgenia Pismennaya

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“Russia’s traditionally boom-and-bust economy risks something it hasn’t yet endured during President Vladimir Putin’s rule — stagnation. The economy of the world’s biggest energy exporter is stalling without enough investment after draining Putin’s old growth model, based on channeling income from sales of oil and gas into domestic demand and riding a consumption boom that followed. After almost two decades […]

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Debt and poverty: the thriving business of high-risk moneylenders in Russia; In Russia, loansharks and payday lenders masquerade as “microfinance” organisations to attract clients. But for many people, short-term loans are a way of life.

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(opendemocracy.net – Ewa Dabrowska – December 12, 2017) Ewa Dąbrowska is PhD researcher at the University of Amsterdam. She focuses on the Russian financial system and microfinance in the post-Soviet space. “Avoid multiple loans. With several loans you are at greater risk of over-indebtedness,” warns the Warsaw-based Microfinance Center in a recent education campaign directed at users of microcredits in […]

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Recession Recoveries In Russia, Brazil Help Lift World Growth To Six-Year High

File Photo of UN Building with Flags

(Article ©2017 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – December 12, 2017 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/recession-recoveries-russia-brazil-help-lift-world-growth-six-year-high-3-percent-2011/28911154.html) World economic growth rose this year to 3 percent, the strongest rate since 2011, aided by recoveries from recession in Russia, Brazil, Argentina, and NIgeria, the United Nations has estimated. In its annual report on global growth on December 11, the UN […]

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