NEWSWATCH: “China Goes Food Shopping-to Russia; ‘Everything that can be consumed by a human being in China is something they’re interested in,’ Russian official says” – Wall Street Journal/AMIE FERRIS-ROTMAN/Liyan Qi

Asia Map

China bought more than $1 billion in food products from Russia last year, replacing Turkey as the top importer of Russian foodstuffs. … central to Russia’s economic and political pivot toward Asia, as the Russian economy continues to suffer under Western sanctions and the low price of oil, and U.S.-Russian relations deteriorate …. Russia and China … describe current relations […]

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Russian business ombudsman to attend Trump inauguration ceremony

Boris Titov file photo

MOSCOW. Jan 16 (Interfax) – Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov has gone to Washington to attend the inauguration ceremony of U.S. President Donald Trump on January 20, the ombudsman’s office told Interfax. “Yes. Titov has left for Washington. He is expected to attend the Trump inauguration. The business ombudsman is also scheduled to have a number of meetings in the […]

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Another Fatal Flaw in Russia’s Company Towns: Business More Powerful than the State

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, January 14, 2016) Russia’s 300-plus urban centers known as “monogorods” or “company towns” where the vast majority of the population have been the subject of episodic discussions typically triggered when the chief firm closes down, the population is impoverished, and protests arise. Then, these places where more than ten percent of the […]

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NEWSWATCH: “General Frost to the Rescue: cold helps Russia comply with OPEC deal” – Reuters

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

“… Russia … in the past … accused of dragging its feet in implementing oil production and exports deals, reduced production by 100,000 barrels a day in the first few days of January … a third of the way towards the total cut Russia promised to deliver by mid-2017. … [at least partly] the result [of]  …unusually cold temperatures in […]

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Prosecutors should continue paying more attention to protecting fair business from pressure, unjustified checks – Putin

File Photo of Cash Register with Drawer Open and Hands of Cashier

MOSCOW. Jan 11 (Interfax) – Fair business must be reliably protected by the state, including from unjustified checks, prosecutors must continue work in this direction, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “Fair, honest, transparent business must be reliably protected by the state, including from unjustified checks and other pressure,” he said at a meeting on the occasion of the 295th anniversary […]

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Econ Ministry to prepare measures in Feb to improve Russia’s Doing Business rating

Empty Boardroom

MOSCOW. Jan 11 (Interfax) – The Economic Development Ministry plans to prepare a list of measures in February to further improve Russia’s Doing Business rating. “The need to further improve the business climate has been spoken of. Here standard work for moving further ahead is underway. Russia made a very big step in the Doing Business rating, for instance, over […]

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World Bank Sees 1.5 Percent GDP Growth In Russia For 2017

World Bank Building

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – January 11, 2017) The World Bank is predicting 1.5 percent growth in Russia’s gross domestic product in 2017 and sees a gain of 1.7 percent in 2018 and 1.8 percent the following year, helped by increases in commodity prices. Russia’s projected GDP growth follows an estimated 0.6 percent contraction in 2016 and a 3.7 percent contraction […]

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Russia may take asymmetric measures against U.S. in response to ‘Magnitsky list’ expansion – Russian MP Slutsky

Memorial Flowers and Photo of Sergei Magnitsky

MOSCOW. Jan 10 (Interfax) – Moscow may asymmetrically react to Washington’s decision to expand the ‘Magnitsky list’ – similarly to Russia’s response to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States, Russian State Duma International Affairs Committee Chairman Leonid Slutsky said. “I would like to remind you that Russia has a law on measures of response to the Magnitsky […]

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Lift Russian Sanctions for ‘Positive Developments’ in Ukraine – OSCE Chair

Map of Ukraine, Including Crimea, and Neighbors, Including Russia

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 9, 2017) Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz has called on European leaders to begin lifting sanctions against Russia in exchange for “any positive development” in the Ukrainian crisis. Kurz, a politician for the Austrian People’s Party, claimed that the change in policy would “send a clear signal to Russia.” “My concept is clear. I […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting with Higher School of Economics Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Kremlin.ru – January 9, 2017) Yaroslav Kuzminov updated the President on the implementation of the Academic Excellence Project 5-100. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Kuzminov, the Higher School of Economics will mark its 25th anniversary this year. How will you celebrate this notable event? Rector of the Higher School of Economics Yaroslav Kuzminov: We will celebrate it with new […]

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Russian Central Bank Chief Nabiullina Named European Banker of the Year

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 4, 2017) The British finance journal The Banker has named Russian Central Bank Head Elvira Nabiullina as the European Central Bank Chairman of the year. The journal highlighted Nabiullina’s success in controlling Russia’s inflation rate. “The efforts of the Central Bank head has led to the fact that the rate of inflation by the […]

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Dollar Falls to Under 60 Rubles for the First Time Since July 2015

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 5, 2017) As most Russians enjoy a week-long holiday vacation, the country’s ailing currency is also having a happy new year. Today, during trading on the Moscow Stock Exchange, the U.S. Dollar’s value fell to less than 60 rubles for the first time since 2015, the RBC newspaper reported. At 2:19 p.m. Moscow time, […]

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Rosneft Privatization Deal Closed As Italian Financing Comes Through

File Photo of Rosneft and Russian Flags Next to Rosneft Banner

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 4, 2017) The tumultuous privatization saga of Russia’s largest oil company appears to be drawing to a close. Swiss-British commodities trading firm Glencore and the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund have closed a deal to purchase 19.5 percent of state-controlled Rosneft, according to a statement on Glencore’s website. The news was followed by an announcement […]

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Russian Ruble Ended 2016 As Second Best Emerging Market Performer

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – January 4, 2017) The Russian ruble continued to make gains against the euro and U.S. dollar in the first two days of trading in 2017 after ending last year as the second-best performer among emerging market currencies. The ruble ended trading in Moscow at 60.51 to the dollar and 62.76 to the euro on January 3. […]

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Russia Sets Oil Production Record in 2016

Oil Well file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 2, 2017) Russia set a record for annual oil extraction in 2016 amid some of the lowest oil prices in recent history. In 2016, Russia extracted 527,499 million tons of oil and gas condensate, a 2.5 percent increase from 2015. The figure represents a previously unseen high, according to data from Russia’s Fuel and […]

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RUSSIALINK RBTH: “Why has a Moscow restaurant been named after Stalin’s secret service?”

Moscow Night Lights Satellite Image

“In December 2016, a restaurant in central Moscow changed its name to NKVD, an abbreviation closely associated with the bloody period of Stalin’s Terror of the 1930s. Human rights activists are outraged, Stalin supporters are rejoicing, while experts point out that the proprietors have just come up with a cynical way of making money through provocation.”

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NEWSWATCH: “Despite political clout, Russian seniors find later life options limited; Though their numbers are increasing and their voting bloc powerful, elderly Russians generally lack either the savings or sufficient government pension to finance a comfortable retirement” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

“… Tradition remains strong here, and huge numbers of pensioners still live with their families. Millions more take refuge in state-run old age homes, which are of varying quality. Due to the unusual political strength of pensioners and war veterans in Soviet and now Russian society, publicly-run facilities for the elderly have always been relatively well-resourced and are currently under […]

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Trump Has Tough Choice After Obama Sanctions on Russia Hack

Putin and Obama with U.S. and Russian Flags

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Nick Wadhams, Justin Sink – December 30, 2016) President Barack Obama is forcing his successor, Donald Trump, into a difficult choice: reverse the sanctions the departing president just imposed on Russia for hacking e-mails in the U.S. election or put at risk his campaign vow to improve relations with Vladimir Putin. Hours after Obama imposed penalties […]

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Russian Banking System Safe From Cyber-Threats — Central Bank Head

Central Bank of Russia file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 28, 2016) Russian Central Bank Head Elvira Nabiullina said that Russia’s banking system is protected against cyber-threats in an interview with the Rossiya 24 television channel. “I should say that our banking system currently has an adequate level of protection against cyber threats,” she said. Nabiullina also said the Central Bank has created a […]

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Putin’s War At Home

Russia Regions Map

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – Brian Whitmore – December 28, 2016) As Vladimir Putin basks in his victories abroad, problems are piling up at home. Rustam Minnikhanov, the leader of oil-rich Tatarstan, has denounced a recent Kremlin decision to take more of his republic’s tax revenues, calling it “stupidity” and comparing it to Josef Stalin’s liquidation of the kulaks. Minnikhanov’s broadside […]

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Putin Bans Officials From Owning Foreign Assets Via Third Parties

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 29, 2016) Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning state officials from owning “foreign financial instruments” through third parties. The text of the new law – which applies to members of parliament, government officials, and law enforcement officers – was published on an official government legal website. The document defines foreign financial […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In 2017, Putin faces his toughest challenge: Russian pessimism; After several years of economic hardship and international pressure over its annexation of Crimea, Russia may see its lot improve next year. But most are skeptical of the possibility of lasting change” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

Putin at Desk

… Most adult Russians have seen roller-coaster ups and downs in the past 25 years, from the harrowing collapse of the superstate of their birth, the USSR; to a decade of economic despair and social decay; to several years of revival under Putin that came to a screeching halt amid economic crisis and global condemnation following Russia’s annexation of Crimea […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Putin focuses on domestic issues in his annual press conference marathon; International relations and the showdown with the West in Ukraine and Syria got little attention this year” – bne Intellinews

Aerial View of Kremlin and Environs

… Putin … [began] his annual marathon press conference … with a run down of the latest macroeconomic results. In the last two events he spent more time on international relations and the showdown with the West in Ukraine and Syria, which got little attention this year. * * * Putin indirectly dismissed … speculation … Russia hacked the US […]

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TRANSCRIPT: Vladimir Putin’s annual news conference

Kremlin and River

(Kremlin.ru – December 23, 2016) [Video with English translation http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/53573] The President’s news conference was broadcast live by Rossiya 1, Rossiya 24 and Channel One, as well as Mayak, Vesti FM and Radio Rossii radio stations. Television channel Public Television of Russia (OTR) and its site (otr-online.ru/online/) provided live sign language interpretation of the news conference. President of Russia Vladimir […]

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Russian Families Spend 80% of Income on Essentials

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Moscow Times – moscowtimes.com – December 21, 2016) Families in Russia are spending between 70-80 percent of their household income on essentials, according to a report cited by the RBC newspaper. According to a Center for Economic and Political Reform report, the average Russian family consisting of two working parents and one child spends between 53-143 percent of their income […]

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin] Meeting with Government members

Kremlin and River

(Kremlin.ru – December 19, 2016) Vladimir Putin held his final regular meeting with Government members for 2016 and congratulated them on the upcoming New Year holiday. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. Keeping with tradition, I want to congratulate you on the upcoming New Year holiday and say a few words about our work over this past year. […]

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NEWSWATCH: “In Moscow, Trump’s tapping of Tillerson lifts hope of U.S. rapprochement; Russian experts know ExxonMobil CEO and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson well, and see Trump’s selection of him as a signal that genuine detente is a possibility.” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

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

“It’s a rarity for Moscow to be enthusiastic over a US president’s choice for secretary of State. It certainly wasn’t the case for either of the past two secretaries, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. … Trump’s decision … to nominate ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is proving to be a pleasant surprise to Russia. … the nomination … seems evidence to […]

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Tillerson Rise Aided by Savvy Negotiating in Putin’s Russia

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

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Joe Carroll – December 12, 2016) For Rex Tillerson, Russia was the proving ground that helped vault him to leadership of a company whose annual sales dwarf the economic output of most nations. Tillerson, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s chairman and chief executive officer since 2006, has emerged as President-elect Donald Trump’s favorite for secretary of state despite, […]

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Russia’s New Economic Development Minister is the Status Quo Candidate; Don’t expect former Finance Ministry official Maxim Oreshkin to rock the boat

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Matthew Kupfer – December 10, 2016) It took two weeks for President Vladimir Putin to find a replacement for Alexei Ulyukayev, the economic development minister sacked in a corruption scandal. His final choice of Maxim Oreshkin, a largely unknown 34-yearold deputy finance minister, raised a few eyebrows. “Maxim, you are a fairly young man, but […]

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In Russia, the Refrigerator is Finally Defeating the TV but Not Having the Political Impact Many Expected

File Photo of Older Russian Woman Shopping in Grocery Store

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, December 12, 2016) For months, Moscow commentators have suggested that Russians are caught between what the Kremlin shows them on television and what they see in their increasingly empty refrigerators and predicted that eventually the refrigerator would defeat the TV and that this would have immediate political consequences. The findings of two […]

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Russian Energy Minister Says Oil Cuts to Start in January

Oil Well file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Elena Mazneva, Annmarie Hordern – December 11, 2016) Russia’s oil producers have started preparations to meet the nation’s pledge to curb output as part of the “historic” pact between OPEC and 11 producers outside the group, Energy Minister Alexander Novak said. “The first stage of the cut we will see as soon as early January,” Novak […]

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Poll: Fewer Russians Believe in Russia’s ‘Special Path’

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

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – December 12, 2016) Fewer Russians believe their country has a unique, “special path” to development, a poll by the independent Levada Center has found. Only 16 percent of Russians said that Russia should have a special path and a special state apparatus for developing the country, down from 24 percent the previous year. One in […]

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Putin Caps a Turnaround Year as Rosneft Deal Beats Sanctions

File Photo of Rosneft and Russian Flags Next to Rosneft Banner

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Jake Rudnitsky, Ilya Arkhipov – December 8, 2016) As the U.S. and #Europe try to isolate #Russia with #sanctions, Vladimir #Putin just managed to oversee one of the biggest investments in the global #energy industry this year. The surprise $11 billion sale of shares in oil giant #Rosneft PJSC to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and Glencore […]

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Sanctions, economic pressure are increasingly used for political pressure – Putin

Truck at Russian Border Crossing

MOSCOW. Dec 7 (Interfax) – Russia should take into account the increase in the use of methods of economic and sanction pressure when working on its long-term economic strategy, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “Economic restrictions, pressure, and sanctions are being increasingly used for political purposes, under the guise of political purposes, often in competition. We should take these tendencies […]

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TRANSCRIPT: Vladimir Putin made a working trip to Chelyabinsk Region

File Photo of Russian MI-26 Helicopter in Afghanistan with MI-17 Helicopter In Background

(Kremlin.ru – December 5, 2016) The President toured the Makeyev State Rocket Centre in Miass, where he held a meeting on the centre’s activity. Vladimir Putin took part in the launch of a new production line at the Eterno Plant in Chelyabinsk, which produces advanced components for pipe systems using nanotechnology. The Eterno Plant is a joint project of the […]

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How Russia Outsmarted OPEC

Oil Well file photo

(Oilprice.com – Irina Slav – December 5, 2016) #OPEC’s historical deal to cut production has been sealed, and #oil prices have jumped as a result, comfortably above the $50 per barrel mark. According to #Lukoil’s vice president, Leonid Fedun, the average price of crude in 2017 could reach US$60 a barrel, thanks in no small part to that agreement. According […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Continue the Unfinished Business of Integrating Russia into the Global Economy. Renewed economic interaction would increase the West’s influence, not lessen it” – The National Interest/Carnegie Corporation/J. Andrew Spindler

File Photo of White House with South Lawn and Fountain

“… Trump has an unusual opportunity … to improve the tone of U.S.-Russian relations, currently at one of their lowest ebbs …. The positive possibilities in the short run are substantial …. the potential for a U.S.-Russian collaboration in the Middle East, particularly with regard to defeating ISIS and developing a peace plan for Syria. … there are many other […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Ahead of promised cut, Russia’s oil output hits record high” – Reuters

Oil Well file photo

Russia plans to use its November oil production … its highest in almost 30 years, as its baseline when it cuts output under [a] deal with OPEC …. Russia … promised to gradually cut output by up to 300,000 … bpd … aimed at supporting oil prices. Its daily oil production rose to an average of 11.21 million bpd in […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Vladimir Putin gives a Soviet-style state of the union, and some #Russian eyes glazed over” – Washington Post/David Filipov/Andrew Roth

Kremlin and River

… Putin called for better ties with the United States in his annual address … while brushing away … concerns about Kremlin interference in other countries. But the moment that went ­viral … was … Medvedev, eyes turned down, appearing to doze off. Whether the premier was napping or … checking his notes …. In a businesslike tone that recalled a Soviet […]

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NEWSWATCH: “Last chance? Putin vows – again – to bring economic reform to Russia. In his state of the union speech Thursday, Putin said he would wean Russia from its oil dependency, revive its flagging economic dynamism, and restore its global reputation. But his window may be closing.” – Christian Science Monitor/Fred Weir

Vladimir Putin file photo with VOA logo; screen shot from video still

… pledging … deep domestic reforms to wean Russia from its oil dependency, revive its flagging economic dynamism, and restore the country’s global reputation … Putin may be putting [his] powers to the test. … analysts say this may be the last chance to start delivering. … Putin … clearly realizes that … approval ratings depend heavily on … public […]

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RUSSIALINK Russia Direct: “Does Putin really intend to restore the Soviet Union? RD Interview: Professor Richard Sakwa from the University of Kent talks about Russia’s foreign policy and explains why Russia is creating alternative regional institutions such as the Eurasian Economic Union.”

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

“Despite the deteriorating state of relations between Russia and the West, experts and politicians continue to search for ways out of the crisis. Many blame Russia and President Vladimir Putin for the desire to restore the Soviet Union and pursue an authoritarian path of development. However, as other experts argue, such perceptions stem from a misunderstanding of Russia’s interests, goals […]

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IMF: Russian Economy Will Contract 0.6 Percent in 2016, Recover In 2017

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(RFE/RL – rferl.org – November 30, 2016) The International Monetary Fund said the Russian economy should continue to contract this year, with gross domestic product dropping 0.6 percent, but says it will begin recovering in 2017. The projections from the Washington-based IMF, issued November 29 after a team visited Moscow earlier this month, were roughly in line with other Russian […]

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Russians Toast Recession as Pubgoers Drink ‘Less But Better’

Man in Silhoette with Bottle of Alcohol and Head in Hand

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Ilya Khrennikov, Andrey Lemeshko – November 30, 2016) A staple drink of Russia’s recession comes in different flavors but it’s best consumed standing up. Food is optional. Not a beer country until the arrival a decade ago of a central European tradition of sit-down bars that married brews with hearty meals, Russia is now reveling in […]

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Russia’s Central Bank Wants You to Believe; Governor Elvira Nabiullina has introduced her own version of forward guidance. The results are mixed.

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Anna Andrianova – November 29, 2016) [Charts here bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-29/russia-s-central-bank-wants-you-to-believe] When central bankers start making predictions about what they’re going to do in the future, reality often has other plans. Just ask Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, or Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Recent attempts at so-called “forward guidance” — telling the public how interest rates […]

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NEWSLINK CNN: “Dining under Putin: How sanctions are fueling a Russian food revolution”

Truck at Russian Border Crossing

“Import bans have failed to put the kibosh on Russia’s culinary inventiveness. Restaurants are returning to what Russia does best, such as traditional dishes made with root vegetables such as beetroot.”

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TRANSCRIPT: [Putin at] Meeting of Council for Strategic Development and Priority Projects

Siberian River, Forest, Mountain

(Kremlin.ru – November 25, 2016) Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting of the Council for Strategic Development and Priority Projects to discuss support for non-resource exports and environmental development. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues. Today we will look into measures to support non-resource exports and to improve the environmental situation in the country. We need to form a […]

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Russia Is Finally Making Headway In Its Pivot East

Asia Map

(Oilprice.com – Colin Chilcoat – November 22, 2016) Russia’s long planned pivot east found itself unexpectedly wrong-footed in early 2014, following the Crimean referendum and subsequent western rebuke. The global collapse of oil prices – and that of the ruble – later that same year further eroded Russia’s leverage in Asia. Fast forward to the present and we’ve seen substantially […]

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Big Western Companies Are Pumping Cash Into Russia

File Photo of Ikea Store with Russian Language Facade and Shopping Carts

(Bloomberg – bloomberg.com – Ilya Khrennikov – November 22, 2016) [Charts here bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-23/bouncing-back-putin-s-shrunken-economy-lures-foreign-investors] Even before the U.S. presidential election raised hopes of warmer ties with the Kremlin, some big Western companies were betting Russia’s economy will soon come out of the deep freeze. Big retailers like Sweden’s Ikea Group and France’s Leroy Merlin SA have begun pumping billions of dollars […]

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RUSSIALINK TASS: “Russia’s economic line after minister’s dismissal to remain unchanged – view” [Andrei Kostin]

Alexei Ulyukayev file photo

“The dismissal of Alexei Ulyukayev from position of the economic development minister would not affect the country’s economic line, VTB’s CEO Andrei Kostin said ….”

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NEWSLINK bne Intellinews: “Russia’s Watcom shopping index back at 2015 levels as consumption recovers”

File Photo of Older Russian Woman Shopping in Grocery Store

“… The Russian shopping footfall index accelerated once again in the 44th week of the year as consumer confidence gathers momentum and the hoi polloi go shopping thanks to a slew of improving (but still far from ideal) macroeconomic indicators, according to the Watcom Shopping index. …”

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