JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin the Great; Russia’s Imperial Impostor” – Foreign Affairs/ Susan B. Glasser

File Photo of Vladimir Putin Sitting at Desk

“… Putin did not want to be compared with … Brezhnev … [who] ruled the Soviet Union … 1964 to 1982 … leader of Putin’s gritty youth … the long stagnation that preceded the empire’s collapse. By the end … butt of a million jokes … doddering grandfather of a doddering state ….  ‘Stalin proved that just one person could […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Relentless rise of consumer debt in Russia fuels bubble fears for some” – Reuters/ Darya Korsunskaya, Elena Fabrichnaya, Tatiana Voronova

Hands Opening Envelope Containing Cash

“… After five years of shrinking real incomes, many Russians are borrowing to make ends meet or even just to pay off their creditors – and the issue is climbing up the political agenda. … Some 2.5 million people earning up to 20,000 roubles ($303.09) a month … less than half the average wage, spend more than half of that […]

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Impact of Sanctions on Russia’s GDP Less Severe Than Low Oil Prices – IMF

Oil Well file photo

The fall in oil prices cost the country on average $48.75 billion in lost economic growth per year. (Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – August 6, 2019) Sanctions have had a less severe impact on Russia’s GDP growth than low oil prices, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its latest report on the country. Between 2014 and 2018, sanctions slowed […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russians feel the pain of Vladimir Putin’s regime; The police’s violent response to protesters’ demands in Moscow has intensified anger over a flatlining economy” – Financial Times/ Henry Foy, Max Seddon

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“… Not since 2012, when thousands of Muscovites took to the streets to protest against … Putin’s return to the presidency, has Russia’s capital seen such a brutal crackdown on demonstrations …. Police trucks packed with young Russians and rows of baton-wielding troops have shown the brute force available to …Putin and his willingness to use it. But the continued […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “The Best Way to Deal With Russia: Wait for It to Implode” – Politico/ Peter Eltsov

Russia Regions Map

“… Putin has moved to annex former Soviet territories, orchestrated cyberattacks on foreign infrastructure and rolled back domestic democratic protections …. [I]n reality, Russia today is much weaker than either the Romanov Empire, which lasted from 1613 to 1917, or the Soviet Union. Russia’s biggest problem is internal: … fail[ing] to produce a national identity … encompass[ing] its entire population. […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russian Media Muffle Protest Images, Broadcast Beef Kebabs; President Putin is trying to stop demonstrations without stoking further discontent over a poor economy, a pension revamp and endemic corruption” – Wall Street Journal/ Thomas Grove

Satellite Dishes

“As Russian riot police violently suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations across Moscow, detaining around 1,000 people … pro-Kremlin state news channels featured a different top news item: a city-sponsored barbecue festival on the leafy banks of the Moscow River. Russian state media’s studious dismissal of the nascent protest movement has helped the Kremlin keep its attempts to quash the protests off-screen, avoiding […]

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For Russian Economy, August Not April is the Cruelest Month

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(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, August 3, 2019) August has begun with yet another decline in the value of the ruble, continuing the trend this summer month set in 1998 with default and continued last year with a decline of eight percent in the ruble’s exchange rate against Western currencies. And the rest of this month this […]

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RUSSIALINK: “1 in 4 Russians Are Seeing Their Wallets Shrink – Poll” – Moscow Times

Hands Opening Envelope Containing Cash

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 31, 2019) Almost a quarter of Russians say they have felt their finances dwindle in recent months, according to a survey by the state-run Foundation of Public Opinion (FOM) pollster. Real incomes have declined in the past five years in Russia against the backdrop of Western sanctions and falling oil prices. As he took […]

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Russians Living on Loans Face Credit Crunch This Fall, Financial Analyst Says

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 28, 2019) The economic situation of the large number of Russians who have sought to maintain their earlier standard of living by taking out loans is about to get much worse, financial analyst Igor Nikolayev says, because in the coming months, the government plans to make it more difficult for them […]

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Russians Finally Finding Out Just How Poorly Paid They Are, Shelin Says

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(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, July 24, 2019) Russians have long been accustomed to hearing that the average wage in Russia is 47,700 rubles (800 US dollars) a month, Sergey Shelin says; but now they are learning that the median wage – the one where half receive more and half less – is only 34,300 rubles (560 […]

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RUSSIALINK: “21M Russians Live in Poverty, Official Data Says” – Moscow Times

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – July 29, 2019) The number of Russians living below the poverty line has grown by half a million since early 2018, according to official data. Western sanctions and falling oil prices over the past five years have led to a decline in real incomes and a rise in consumer prices. President Vladimir Putin is pursuing […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “IMF Cuts Forecast for Russian 2019 GDP Growth to 1.2%, Calls for Reforms” – Reuters

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

“The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for Russian economic growth in 2019 to 1.2% from 1.4% after a weak first quarter, saying broader reforms would be needed for stronger growth. Without deeper structural reforms, long-term growth is projected to settle around 1.8%, the IMF said …. Priority should be given to creating a more vibrant private sector and reducing […]

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Economic Decline Won’t Spark a Revolution and Kremlin Sees No Need for Change, Inozemtsev Says

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(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, June 27, 2019) Many suggest that the continuing economic decline of Russia will prompt people to go into the streets and demand change, Vladislav Inozemtsev says; but “nowhere on post-Soviet space have we see mass protests arise as a result of economic issues.” The Russian people will come to terms with their […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russia’s Middle Class Is Shrinking – Bank Report” – Moscow Times

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – June 25, 2019) Russia’s middle class has fallen by nearly one-fifth since the start of the country’s economic crisis in 2014, an analysis by the Moscow-based Alfa Bank has said. Low oil prices and Western sanctions have reduced Russians’ real incomes for five years in a row. Economists forecast that the population’s purchasing power will […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin’s 2019 ‘Direct Line,’ in a nutshell; Russia’s president spoke on national TV for four hours, but you can read this summary in five minutes” – Meduza/ Summary by Mikhail Zelensky, Translation by Kevin Rothrock

File Photo of Putin Sitting at Desk, Looking Down, Writing, During Call-In Show, adapted from screenshot of video at kremlin.ru

“National projects: The country needs to revitalize the economy, but first we need to figure out where to find the money for this development work. That’s why we raised the VAT [value added tax), and as expected it increased inflation, but only temporarily. The cabinet ministers are personally responsible for seeing their work through. Income and wages …. Healthcare …. […]

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Putin’s Annual Marathon Phone-In Will Focus His Attention Homeward; Protests, pensions and poverty will overshadow geopolitics during Putin’s annual live call-in show Thursday.

File Photo of Putin Sitting at Desk, Looking Down, Writing, During Call-In Show, adapted from screenshot of video at kremlin.ru

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Pjotr Sauer – June 19, 2019) Civil unrest and falling living standards are likely to dominate Vladimir Putin’s annual televised national phone-in on Thursday, depriving the Russian president of the opportunity to concentrate on foreign policy and forcing him to confront domestic problems. In the past few months, Russia has seen mass protests over the […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin touts Russia as a great power. But he’s made it a weak one.” – Washington Post/ Timothy Frye

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Podium with United Russia Logo, Gesturing

“… Moscow is playing an assertive role [globally] … despite … weakness. … If anyone has made Russia’s hand weak, it’s [Putin, in power for two decades with a] … failure to create a more dynamic economy …. Thanks to high energy prices and fiscal caution … [there are] large reserve funds, but the economy has stagnated …. in 2012, […]

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Russia’s National Projects: Economic Reboot or Mucky Bog?

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – Ben Aris – May 30, 2019) Ben Aris is editor in chief of bne Intellinews. He has been covering Russia as a journalist since 1993. While Moscow has been aggressively advancing its interests on the international stage, Russia’s stagnating economy means the country risks gradually falling behind the rest of the world and possibly facing […]

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Nearly Half Of Russian Families Can Afford Only Food, Clothing

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – May 29, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/nearly-half-of-russian-families-can-afford-only-food-clothing/29970069.html) Nearly half of all Russian families say that they only have enough money for food and clothing and cannot buy items of longer-term use such as furniture and appliances, media reports cite data from the state statistics agency […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Economists Forecast 6th Year of Falling Incomes for Russians” – Moscow Times

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 29, 2019) Russians’ incomes will fall for a sixth consecutive year in 2019, experts from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE) and Russia’s Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) said. Russia’s Economic Development Ministry has projected real incomes to reverse the five-year slump and grow by 1 percent in 2019, based on […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russian Economy Gives Putin Reasons Not to Extend OPEC+ Deal” – Bloomberg/ Olga Tanas

Oil Well file photo

“The OPEC+ pact is hurting the Russian economy, potentially giving … Putin a reason not to agree on an extension …. While higher crude prices can bring … additional revenue, production cuts are weighing on one of the country’s biggest industries. … [Putin] may have to weigh his desire for faster economic growth against the benefits of his alliance with […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Foreign Direct Investment Into Russia Is Falling; Russia is at the bottom of the Institute of International Finance’s list of emerging markets.” – Moscow Times

Men Sitting Around Long Oval Boardroom Table, File Photo of FIFA Officials Meeting with Vladmir Putin

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – May 22, 2019) Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Russia accounted for only 0.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 2015-2018, putting it at the bottom of the list of emerging markets, the RBC news website reported, citing the Institute of International Finance (IIF). The IIF figures exclude reinvested earnings to focus on “real” GDP. […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia’s GDP growth slows in 1Q19, challenging the policy framework” – bne Intellinews/ Dmitri Dolgin (Russia ING)

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“Russian GDP growth slowed from 2.7% year on year in 4Q18 to just 0.5% y/y in 1Q19, well below expectations. Unlike most commentators, we attribute this slowdown to a pause in the state CAPEX rather than to the VAT hike. We also believe a policy response is more likely to come from the Finance Ministry rather than the Central Bank […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Banking on Politics: How Russia’s Banking Sector Clean-Up Affects Regime Stability” – PONARS Eurasia/ David Szakonyi

Elvira Nabiullina file photo

“Banking has increasingly become nationalized in Russia, raising concerns that all private banks may be forced from the market within 10 or 15 years. In the short run, this consolidation enables the government to continue funding its numerous and expensive commitments and thereby maintain social and political stability. David Szakonyi discusses the political consequences of this creeping nationalization of the […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia; Assessing the Impact of Cost-Imposing Options” – RAND

Mercator Projection Satellite Image of Earth

“This brief summarizes a report that comprehensively examines nonviolent, cost-imposing options that the United States and its allies could pursue across economic, political, and military areas to stress – overextend and unbalance – Russia’s economy and armed forces and the regime’s political standing at home and abroad. …”

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Can Russia halve its poverty level?” – bne Intellinews/ Ben Aris in Berlin

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“… Among … ambitious … – some say unattainable [-] goals [Putin] called for a drastic reduction in poverty between now and 2024, when he is slated to step down …. Can Russia really halve its poverty rate to 6.6% in six years[?] … [F]ast [economic] growth is unlikely. Even the government’s own estimate predicts lacklustre growth of about 1.3% […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “How the US could push Russia’s defense spending to the brink” – Stars and Stripes/ William Howard

Russian Jet Buzzing U.S. Navy Destroyer, adapted from U.S. Navy photo

“The United States should … drive Russia to spend money in a tit-for-tat power game that its smaller economy can’t support [a RAND study] said …. The West can exploit factors … making Russia more vulnerable, such as economic sanctions, fuel prices falling below peak levels, an aging population and increasing authoritarianism under … Putin … [but the study] also […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia is no place for young people” – Deutsche Welle

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

It’s almost impossible to find a decent salary and comfortable living conditions in Russia. For many young people, the only options are to build a life in Moscow or leave the country, says Anastasia Arinushkina. “… half of Russia’s citizens are unhappy with the size of their salaries and struggle to pay for health care and education, according to recent […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Richest 3% Russians Hold 90% of Country’s Financial Assets – Study” – Moscow Times

Hand Pulling Cash from Envelope

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – April 12, 2019) The wealthiest 3 percent of Russians owned 89 percent of all financial assets in 2018, according to joint research by the Higher School of Economics and the state-run VEB Bank. This is the first time a comprehensive study of wealth inequality has been attempted in Russia, the Kommersant business daily reported on […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “All About the U.S. Sanctions Aimed at Putin’s Russia” – Bloomberg/ Henry Meyer, Laurence Arnold, Olga Tanas, Tony Halpin

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

“… Since 2014, the U.S. has imposed travel bans, asset freezes and finance and trade restrictions against hundreds of Russian individuals and companies … a multinational effort …. 1. What U.S. sanctions are in place against Russia? More than 700 Russian people and companies have been targeted …. 2. Why were the sanctions imposed? … starting in 2014 after Russia […]

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Gallup Poll Shows One In Five Russians Would Migrate West If Possible

Satellite Image of Earth in Style of Mercator Map, adapted from image at nasa.gov

(Article text ©2019 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – April 4, 2019 – article text also appeared at rferl.org/a/russian-migrate-west-gallup-poll-one-in-five/29861985.html) One in five Russians say they would leave their country if they could, according to a new poll by Gallup. The Washington-based pollster said on April 4 that since 2014, the percentage of working-age Russians who say they […]

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Protesters in Russia Today Younger, Poorer and Further Left than a Decade Ago, Sociologists Say

Moscow Protest File Photo

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, March 24, 2019) Sociologists like Oleg Zhuravlyev of Tyumen University say that there has been a major shift in the composition and attitudes of Russian protesters over the last decade. Compared to 2011-2013, protesters are significantly younger, from poorer groups, and further to the left. Those taking part in the earlier demonstrations […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russians in Heartland Sour on Vladimir Putin Over Money Woes; Stagnant wages, rising costs fuel grumbling among working-class residents who once lauded president” – Wall Street Journal/ Thomas Grove

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Podium with United Russia Logo, Gesturing

“… Working-class Russians … have increasingly shouldered the burden of an economy beset by Western sanctions and a government more committed to military spending than overhauling the civilian economy. … after years of paying for Moscow’s military adventures abroad, the economic malaise in Nizhniy Tagil, once considered a bastion of Kremlin loyalty, highlights growing discontent and an erosion of support […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia Ditches Real Income Data That Has Slumped for Five Years” – Bloomberg

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“Russia will stop publishing monthly data that’s shown a slump in disposable incomes for five straight years after the indicator was criticized for using methodology that’s decades out of date. The Federal Statistics Service will start releasing quarterly income data starting next month and historical numbers will be recalculated going back to 2013 …. The new methodology will include data […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Putin needs more than spending to lift ratings; Five years after Crimea was annexed, Russian discontent is rumbling” – Financial Times Editorial

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

“… exactly five years after … annexing Crimea, trust in the [Russian] president has dropped to a 13-year low. The economy is stagnating. While his state of the nation address this week ended with habitual nuclear sabre-rattling, much was devoted to spending pledges aimed at burnishing his image. It is far from clear that such social bribery will work. … […]

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In Search of Better Quality of Life, Russians Lean on Credit

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Evan Gershkovich – February 16, 2019 – themoscowtimes.com/2019/02/16/in-search-of-better-quality-of-life-russians-lean-on-credit) Voronezh wasn’t cutting it. Artyom had been out of college for four years, and job openings in the southern Russian city were sparse. Last fall, in search of better employment opportunities, he headed north to St. Petersburg. But the journey wasn’t cheap. “I needed money for the […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Stroppy in Strunino; The lessons from protests in small-town Russia; The government is getting less and less popular” – The Economist

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

“… in this sleepy town some 120km north-east of Moscow … when local activists organised a march … against planned cuts to medical services, more than 100 people took to the streets. …. an example of shifts in public opinion … reshaping the country’s political landscape. … The rapture [over Ukraine] began to fade … when the government announced plans […]

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Nearly 40 Percent of Russians Subsist on Less than 10 US Dollars a Day, Official Figures Show

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, February 10, 2019) Thirty-seven percent of Russians life on 19,000 rubles or less a month, Rosstat says, a figure that works out to a subsistence of ten US dollars or a less a day, 23.2 percent live on less than 15,000 rubles a month (under seven dollars a day); and 12 percent […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Officials get somber on GDP growth” – BMB Russia/ Bear Market Brief

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“… Oreshkin cited … one-off factors such as an increase in oil production and a dangerous boom in consumer borrowing as unsustainable sources of 2018 growth. … tr[ying] to refocus the discussion on structural reforms …. [and] a massive investment drive via national projects in infrastructure, demography, health, education, and exports …. Nevertheless, to the extent that the high 2018 […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “More controversy as Rosstat upgrades Russian GDP growth to a six-year high” – bne Intellinews/Ben Aris

Cash, Calculator, Pen

“More questions were raised over the veracity of the Russian State Statistical Service’s (Rosstat’s) results after it upgraded its estimates of growth in the construction sector that led to a revision of 2018 growth from 1.6% to 2.3% – the best result in six years …. Russia is emerging from a ‘silent crisis’ … caused by the collapse of oil […]

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At Least Twice as Many Russians Now Living in Poverty than Moscow Suggests, Gontmakher Says

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(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, February 5, 2019 – ) In May 2018, Vladimir Putin said his goal was to reduce the number of people living in poverty by 2024, a worthy goal to be sure but one almost impossible to achieve because of the difficulties of providing everyone with a decent income and because the state […]

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As Russia’s Food Prices Soar, Bakers Are Feeling the Squeeze; The costs of key ingredients like sugar and eggs have risen sharply in recent months.

File Photo of Wheat Field in Kenya, adapted from image at usda.gov

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Evan Gershkovich – Jan. 22, 2019) [themoscowtimes.com/articles/as-russias-food-prices-soar-bakers-are-feeling-the-squeeze-64225] Vladimir Anshakov hadn’t planned on becoming a baker. But when the law school graduate was between jobs several years ago, he was spending more time at home with his teething toddler who had a penchant for gnawing on bread crusts. After the new father checked the ingredients, his […]

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Diminishing Returns: How Effective Are Sanctions Against Russia?

(PONARS Eurasia – Stacy Closson – January 2019 – ponarseurasia.org/memo/diminishing-returns-how-effective-are-sanctions-against-russia) Stacy Closson is a Global Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute and a Senior Adjunct Professional Lecturer at American University’s School of International Service. (PONARS Policy Memo) In November 2018, the Trump administration announced another set of sanctions on Russian individuals and entities for supporting Russia’s economic integration […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russians are ashamed of the ‘eternal poverty’ of their country” – bne Intellinews

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

“… The collapse of the Soviet Union and the loss of superpower status was … humiliating … Putin has played on [that] with actions like the annexation of Crimea and the war in Syria, to restore some sense of national pride. However, a … Levada Center [poll] this month found that Russians continue to be ashamed of their ‘eternal poverty’ […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Why Russia’s Economy Is Headed for Trouble; A lack of real reforms and a hyper-dependence on oil has prevented the emergence of a healthy, diverse economy” – The National Interest/ Michael Rubin/ American Enterprise Institute.

File Photo of Vladimir Putin at Podium with United Russia Logo, Gesturing

“… Putin’s lasting legacy … will not be his wars in Georgia or Ukraine nor the new submarines, fighter jets, nuclear weapons, or hypersonic missiles whose manufacture and unveilings he has overseen. Rather, Putin’s historic legacy will likely be inheriting a country with great economic potential and leaving it an empty husk.  After so many years in power, Putin has […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russians spent more in 2018, set to cut expenses – poll” – Interfax/ Romir Research Holding

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

MOSCOW. Jan 16 (Interfax) – A quarter of Russians are not planning big purchases within the next six months, according to a report of the Romir Research Holding. Russians are planning to significantly cut expenses on clothes, healthcare, vacations, and smartphones, Romir said. “Certain types of expenses are hard to plan and carry out precisely. These include healthcare, car repairs, […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russian inflation, growth to remain low in 2019 says World Bank” – bne Intellinews

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

“Russian inflation is in focus for 2019 as prices began to rise at the end of 2018 and ended the year slightly above the Central Bank of Russia (CBR) target rate of 4%. … the World Bank says that inflation will remain low this year and growth will be 1.5%, the same as in 2018 …. The U.S. government has […]

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One Russian in Four Lacks an Indoor Toilet, One of Many Signs There are Now ‘Four Distinct Russias’

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

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, January 7, 2019) According to a new report by Russia’s state statistical agency, Rosstat, 35 million Russians live in houses or apartments without indoor toilets, 47 million do not have hot water, 29 million don’t have any running water inside their residences, and 22 million do not have central heating (ehorussia.com/new/node/17679). In […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Real Incomes ‘Barely Budged’ in 2018, Chief Auditor Says” – Moscow Times

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – January 3, 2019) Russians saw virtually no change in their purchasing power as prices outpaced growth estimates in 2018, the country’s chief auditor has said. Economists say 2018 was the fifth consecutive year of falling real disposable personal incomes in Russia. They are set to drop again this year. “Citizens’ real incomes increased by decimal […]

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Is Russia Prosperous? Depends Whom You Ask

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(Voice of America – voanews.com – Pete Cobus – MOSCOW – December 29, 2018) [Text with video voanews.com/a/russias-prosperity-depends-on-whom-you-ask/4719526.html] During the past four years, Russia’s $1.7 trillion economy has been plagued by under-investment, broadening state ownership of enterprise and Western sanctions over Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Kremlin economic ministers have even warned of unexpectedly high inflation, but you wouldn’t know […]

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