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: “Influential economist says sanctions-hit Russian firms must not be compensated” – Interfax

Alexei Kudrin file photo

(Interfax – April 21, 2018) Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has said the Russian government should not compensate Russian companies which have been hit by US sanctions. “Companies should be helped so that they don’t stop, but you don’t have to…[ellipses in original] compensate billionaires for the loss in their value,” Interfax news agency quoted Kudrin as saying on 21 […]

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NEWSWATCH: “How to Stop Vladimir Putin’s Mafia; The real enemy is a group of about 100 beneficiaries of the regime and several thousand accomplices” – Wall Street Journal/Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky file photo

“… The West’s real enemy – and the enemy of the Russian people too – is a group of about 100 key beneficiaries of the Putin regime, and several thousand of their accomplices, many of whom hold posts in the Federal Security Service and the presidential administration.  Most of these people began their careers in the criminal underworld of St. […]

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NEWSLINK: “Nobody is safe from Russia’s colossal hacking operation; Russia hackers have targetted ‘millions’ of connected devices in the UK and US. It’s all part of Putin’s grand plan to disrupt the west” – Wired (UK)/Nicole Kobie

File Image of Stylized Eye Surrounded by Binary Code

“… this week U.S. and U.K. authorities teamed up to issue a joint warning about communications infrastructure, including home-office routers. The rare joint alert noted that routers, switches, firewalls and network intrusion detection systems at government and businesses were the main targets of Russian hackers, but it added that even “small-office/home-office customers” should take more protective action, as should Internet […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Shvydkoi upset that Bolshoi actors fail to get U.S. visas, sees explanations as ‘weak'” – Interfax

Bolshoi Theater file photo

MOSCOW. April 23 (Interfax) – Russian Special Presidential Representative on International and Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoi said he was disappointed to learn that a number of Bolshoi Theater performers were unable to receive visas for a United States tour. “I was upset to learn that Bolshoi Theater actors did not receive visas for a U.S. tour,” Shvydkoi told Interfax. “The […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Frustrated at visa holdup, Russians give up on American vacations” – Washington Post/Amie Ferris-Rotman

File Photo of Airplane Approaching Runway About to Land

“… Escalating tensions between Moscow and Washington are putting a damper on Russians’ vacation plans, catching ordinary people in a diplomatic crossfire …. A year ago, obtaining a U.S. tourist visa could take less than a week. Now, it comes with an eight-month delay. * * * The Kremlin may be delighted that fewer of its citizens are being exposed to […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Is Russia Sponsoring Terrorism?” – New York Times/Senator Cory Gardner

American Flag and Partial View of U.S. Capitol Dome, adapted from image at aoc.gov

“… The State Department should consider adding [Russia] to its list of state sponsors of terrorism, alongside its close allies Iran and Syria. … Russia has invaded … Georgia and Ukraine … supports the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and our enemies in Afghanistan … is engaged in active information warfare against Western democracies, including meddling in the 2016 United […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Political Tensions Could Rob the U.S. of the Russian Rocket Engine It Desperately Needs; The United States has become increasingly reliant on the RD-180” – Popular Mechanics/David Grossman

File Photo of Atlas Rocket on Launch Pad

“The burgeoning private space industry might find itself caught in the middle of geopolitical tensions …. Russian lawmakers have drafted a law that would ban cooperation … on building rocket engines, including … the crucial RD-180. … [that] powers the Atlas V, the launch system maintained by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint company owned by both Lockheed Martin and […]

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NEWSLINK: “Permanent Stagnation: Putin’s Invisible Fourth-Term Agenda; The symbolic and real dimensions of Russian politics are in radical contradiction of each other” – Carnegie Moscow/Andrei Kolesnikov

Putin Descending a Staircase

“… Putin’s hopes for a brief honeymoon after Russia’s utterly predictable and boring presidential election were quickly dispelled. While Western observers are captivated by the fallout from the lurid poisoning of a former Russian double agent in the UK, a sweeping wave of new U.S. sanctions, and the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people, Russians have […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia is opposed to ‘sanction-swapping’ with the U.S. – but is prepared to defend itself, finance minister says” – CNBC

Anton Siluanov file photo

“Russia stands ready to retaliate against the latest round of U.S. sanctions … Finance Minister Anton Siluanov [said] …. The U.S. slapped sanctions on several Russian oligarchs, businesses and agencies thought to have ties to … Putin …. prompt[ing] a dramatic market sell-off in Moscow …. Siluanov told CNBC: ‘We are not in favor of sanction-swapping. Nevertheless, our MPs (members […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Where STEM girls at: Russian women in STEM” – Bear Market Brief/Kasey Stricklin

File Photo of Test Tubes with Algae Displaying Different Colors, Part of U.S. Energy-Related Research; from nrel.gov

“Women in Russia are entering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields at a higher rate than many of their Western counterparts, but there are still far less Russian women that men in the majority of these fields. … While interest in STEM drops precipitously at an early age in most other countries, often due to gender stereotypes, Russian girls […]

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NEWSLINK: Doctors ordered at gunpoint to deny Syria chemical attack or else their children will be killed; ‘Unless you give a testimony, doctor, that there wasn’t a gas attack, we’ll be killing your children'” – The Mirror (UK)/Andrew Gregory

Syria Map

“Unless you give a testimony, doctor, that there wasn’t a gas attack, we’ll be killing your children”

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NEWSLINK: “When did Trump and Putin talk about ‘hookers’?” – Washington Post/Philip Bump

James Comey file photo, adapted from image at fbi.gov

“By the top of the second page of the first memo former FBI director James B. Comey wrote to memorialize his conversations with President Trump, prostitutes are mentioned. Sex workers are a running theme in the seven memos released on Thursday evening, a function of their prominent role in the dossier of unproven allegations involving the president’s 2016 campaign and […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Silicon Valley Giants Face a Test in Russia; Russian censors are going after Telegram, but the pressure is on Amazon, Google and Facebook too” – Bloomberg/Leonid Bershidsky

Montage of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook Logos, adapted from image at nps.gov

“The Russian authorities’ first experiment with blocking a popular messenger application — Telegram — is not working out so far. The web censorship agency, Roskomnadzor, has blocked millions of internet addresses to beat Telegram into submission, but it’s still widely available even without any bypass mechanisms, while numerous legitimate sites have experienced downtime. … Russian social networks have exploded with […]

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Moody’s says Russian economy resilient to latest U.S. sanctions

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 19, 2018) Rating agency Moody’s Investors Service said on Wednesday Russia’s strong public and external finances would shield its economy from the impact of the latest U.S. sanctions. However, the sanctions will be credit negative for some Russian debt issuers, especially Russian aluminum giant United Company Rusal Plc, Moody’s said in a report. The […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia wants U.S. military out of Syria. But it still needs U.S. to help bring peace.” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

Syria Map

“… Analysts say that Moscow was serious when it hinted that it would strike back against U.S. warships in the Mediterranean or other launch platforms if any Russian lives were endangered by U.S. missiles. But … they say that the exchange of explosive declarations last week turned out to be mostly theater. Kremlin-connected analysts say that US and Russian military […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin and Trump trying to walk back Syria strike and sanctions tensions” – bne Intellinews

Vladirmir Putin and Donald Trump Sitting in Chairs with Flags Behind, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

“The U.S. surprised (and relieved) the market by not following through on a threat to impose even more sanctions … the day after western allies carried out limited missile strikes on suspected chemical weapons industrial targets in Syria. The U.S. administration is split over how to react to Russia’s increasing aggression … both … Trump and … Putin were actively […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Acclaimed Russian ballerinas denied entry into U.S.” – Page Six/Oli Coleman

Bolshoi Theater file photo

“Amid roiling relations between the U.S. and Russia, two members of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet – including one of its prima ballerinas – have been refused visas to perform in New York City …. Organizers of a Lincoln Center gala where Olga Smirnova and Jacopo Tissi were due to dance on Monday believe the Department of Homeland Security’s decision may be […]

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British Media Regulator Probing RT’s Impartiality After Salisbury Poisoning

Artist Rendition of Barrel with Poison Symbol on It, Oozing Green Material

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – April 18, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/british-media-regulator-probing-rt-s-impartiality-after-salisbury-poisoning/29174828.html) Britain’s media watchdog has started probing whether Russian news channel RT broke impartiality rules in its programs after a former Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury last month. Media regulator Ofcom warned on […]

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Russia Tells Its Study-Abroad Students: It’s Time To Come Home

Bookcase file photo, adapted from image at nlm.nih.gov

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – April 17, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-tells-its-study-abroad-students-it-s-time-to-come-home/29173184.html) A Russian government agency is calling on Russians studying at universities abroad to come home to continue their studies, a campaign that appears tied to the sharp downward spiral in relations between Moscow and the West. Rossotrudnichestvo, which is tasked with overseeing […]

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Western Attack Hasn’t Changed Situation in Syria or Harmed Moscow Despite Russian Public Reaction, Akopov Says

Syria Map

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 15, 2018) The Western attack on Syria hasn’t changed the likely outcome of the conflict there, Bashar Asad’s alliances with Russia and Iran, or Vladimir Putin’s view of Donald Trump, Petr Akopov says; but it has already led to a transformation of Russian public opinion in adequate ways that could have […]

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RUSSIALINK: “State TV Still Biggest and Most Trusted News Source for Russians – Poll” – Moscow Times

Adapted File Photo of TV Set in Russia with Camera, Camerman, Woman on Set in Background

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 18, 2018) A new survey has shown that state-run television maintains its hold on the Russian public’s news consumption habits despite a trend in which young Russians are increasingly getting their news online. Among Russians polled by the independent Levada Center, 85 percent said they watch television for news about Russia and the world. […]

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RUSSIA & UKRAINE – Johnson’s Russia List table of contents :: JRL 2018-69 :: Wednesday, 18 April 2018

St. Basil's Domes

To inquire about a subscription to the full Johnson’s Russia List e-mail newsletter, e-mail David Johnson at davidjohnson@starpower.net [check back for updates, including more links; links also posted to facebook and twitter] Johnson’s Russia List :: JRL 2018-#69 Wednesday, 18 April 2018 A project sponsored through the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at The George Washington University’s […]

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Russia haunts the western imagination; The dividing line between authoritarian Russia and liberal democracies is growing ever thinner.

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

(opendemocracy.net – Ivan Krastev – April 16, 2018) Ivan Krastev is Visiting Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Programmes at The Graduate Institute and Geneva Permanent Fellow, Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Vienna. He is also Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, Sofia. He is author of After Europe (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017). If a Martian were sent to earth with […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In Syria and Beyond, a Dangerous New Era Dawns; The U.S. simultaneously confronts an aggrieved Russia and an aggressive rising power in China, a situation that calls for dexterous diplomacy” – Wall Street Journal/Gerald F. Seib

File Photo of F-22 Fighter and Ground Crew

“… John Sawers, a career British diplomat and former head of the MI6 intelligence service, delivered a sober warning: For the first time in living memory, there is a realistic prospect of a superpower conflict. … The U.S., a mature power, simultaneously confronts an aggrieved and newly assertive Russia as well as an aggressive rising power in China. … the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “U.S. postpones fresh sanctions on Russia, Kremlin retaliation options limited” – bne Intellinews/Ben Aris

Nikki Haley file photo, adapted from image at usembassy.gov

“The Trump administration postponed imposing yet another round of sanctions to the ‘near future’ in the wake of … airstrikes on Syria. … Nikki Haley said … the U.S. would impose fresh sanctions … that would primarily target Russia’s defence sector and single out companies … linked to chemical weapon production. Russia’s markets opened flat … the next day … […]

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NEWSLINK: “Autumn of the Oligarchs; Vladimir Putin’s Billionaire Buddies Are Getting Scared, and Not Just of Sanctions” – The Daily Beast/Amy Knight

Kremlin and River

“Some of the oligarchs now face major U.S. sanctions, while others are getting arrested on the Kremlin’s orders. Is Putin’s circle of the shameless rich beginning to crumble?”  

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NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s Frantic Parade of Lies” – Washington Post Editorial

Artist Rendition of Barrel with Poison Symbol on It, Oozing Green Material

“Russia longs to be taken seriously in matters of global affairs, but … Putin has demonstrated … disdain for the rules-based post-World War II order. What does Russia want instead? In two recent incidents involving the use of outlawed chemicals[, the assassination attempt on Skripal in Britain and a chemical weapons attack in Syria], Russia’s answer has been a frantic […]

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NEWSLINK: “Russia Trained ‘Special Units’ on Door Handle Poisonings, U.K. Says” – New York Times/Ellen Barry

Artist Rendition of Barrel with Poison Symbol on It, Oozing Green Material

“Russia has been researching the application of chemical agents to door handles as a way to assassinate its enemies, and has been training personnel ‘from special units’ to carry out such attacks, said Mark Sedwill, Britain’s national security adviser … in a letter to the secretary general of NATO. … Sedwill’s letter, the most detailed account of British intelligence on […]

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U.S. Sanctions aren’t Splitting Russian Elites or Dividing Elites and People, ‘Nezavisimaya’ Says

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, April 10, 2018) The expanded US sanctions regime is based on the same assumption that the West made after the beginning of the economic crisis in Russia four years ago, the editors of Nezavisimaya gazeta say, the belief that economic hardship will lead some in the elite to oppose Vladimir Putin and […]

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NEWSLINK: “The Arctic as the next battleground? Don’t count on it” – Asia Times/Richard A. Bitzinger

Arctic Map

“… as tensions between Russia and the West also grow, where might conflict between these two camps break out? … Global warming … raises the specter that the Arctic might become a new zone for conflict, as the polar icecap recedes and the area becomes more accessible. In the first place, competition for natural resources in the region is increasing. […]

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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

Cash, Calculator, Pen

“… 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

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“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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RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “[Medvedev:] Government report on its performance in 2012-2017” [Excerpt] – GovernmentRu

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

(Government.ru – March 11, 2018) [Full text government.ru/en/news/32246/] “The Government of the Russian Federation <…> shall submit to the State Duma annual reports on the Government’s performance, including on issues formulated by the State Duma.” (Constitution of the Russian Federation, Article 114, Clause 1, Subclause “a”). Excerpts from the transcript: Dmitry Medvedev: This year, the head of the country’s executive […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Why Expelling Russian Diplomats Isn’t Enough” – Atlantic Council/Jakub Janda

Stylized Artist's Depiction of Shadowy Figures in Dark Coats and Dark Hats, One Carrying a Briefcase

“So far, twenty-eight nations have sent home more than 140 Russian diplomats and spies in a coordinated response to the Russian nerve agent assassination attempt in Salisbury, England. Symbolically, this unprecedented expulsion of Russian officials constitutes an important show of unity, but its practical impact in terms of hindering Russian subversion operations is limited. With the exception of the United […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Medvedev threatens Russian counter-measures on U.S. goods” – Financial Times/Kathrin Hille

Dmitri Medvedev file photo

“Moscow has threatened to hit imports from the U.S. or even products made by American companies in Russia as a retaliation against the crippling sanctions imposed Washington last week that battered Russian markets and have pushed Russian aluminium company Rusal to the brink. … Medvedev … said … that the government would ‘look into’ the possibility of counter-measures on ‘a […]

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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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NEWSWATCH: “A few cruise missiles from Trump won’t stop Syria’s war crimes” – Washington Post Editorial

Syria Map

“Having declared that Syria will pay a ‘big price’ for its latest use of chemical weapons … Trump will deal another blow to U.S. global leadership if he does not follow through. But a few cruise missiles won’t change anything in Syria. What’s really needed is a concerted strategy …. the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Trump Says U.S. Could Help Russian Economy” – Reuters

Vladirmir Putin and Donald Trump Sitting in Chairs with Flags Behind, adapted from image at whitehouse.gov

“… Trump … said the U.S. could aid Russia’s economy and sought an end to what he called an ‘arms race,’ lamenting that relations with Moscow had reached an all-time low. …Trump … on Twitter warned Russia that missiles ‘will be coming’ in Syria following a suspected chemical attack and chided … Putin for being ‘partners’ with … Assad. … […]

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NEWSLINKS: “Kremlin backers warn of threat of war with U.S. as Syria tensions rise” – Washington Post/Anton Troianovski

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad and Sergei Lavrov

“… The United States is considering strikes on Russian ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria, prompting ominous speculation among people close to the Kremlin that such a move could touch off a wider conflict. One scholar who advises the Russian Defense Ministry even raised the specter of ‘World War III.’ … U.S. sanctions against top Russian business executives wiped billions of […]

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NEWSLINK: “In Syria, Trump Faces the Limits of Bluster” – New York Times Editorial

Syria Map

“A world grown numb to the slaughter of civilians in Syria has been roused in the last 48 hours by photographs on social media of lifeless men, women and children in the rebel-held town of Douma, many with white foam coming from their mouths and nostrils, victims of chemical weapons. Outraged Western nations blame President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and demand […]

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Ruble Falls Further, Russian Officials Seek To Calm Nerves

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – April 10, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/russia-ruble-continues-fall-officials-seek-to-calm-nerves/29156379.html) The Russian ruble is falling for a second straight day following the imposition of new U.S. sanctions, while the Central Bank chief and other officials are seeking to calm investors in the wake of a big sell-off in shares of Russian companies […]

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

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(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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Russia Faces ‘100 Years Of Solitude’ (Or More), Putin Aide Says

Vladislav Surkov file photo

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – April 10, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/putin-adviser-surkov-says-russia-abandoning-hopes-integrating-with-west-loneliness-isolation-/29155700.html) A veteran adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin says that Russia has abandoned its centuries-long hopes of integrating with the West and is bracing for a new era of geopolitical isolation. In an article for Russia In Global Affairs magazine released on […]

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NEWSLINK: “Taking on Russia’s ‘oligarchs’; Meduza looks at the businessmen, state officials, and companies targeted in the latest U.S. sanctions” – Meduza

“On Friday, the world got a look at the latest U.S. sanctions against Russia. The U.S. Treasury Department’s new “designations” target seven Russian ‘oligarchs’ and 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank. Washington says the measures are a response to “a range of […]

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