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

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(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

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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

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“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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How Well Are Russia Sanctions Working?

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

(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – Nick Butler – December 21, 2018) Nick Butler is an energy commentator for the Financial Times and a visiting professor and chair of the Kings Policy Institute at Kings College London. He spent 29 years with BP, including five years as group vice president for policy and strategy development. [russiamatters.org/analysis/how-well-are-russia-sanctions-working] Tracking sanctions against Russia has […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russians’ Real Incomes Set to Fall Again in 2019” – Moscow Times

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Dec. 27, 2018) Real incomes are set to drop once more next year, dragged by slower growth in real wages and higher spending, according to the latest forecast from Moscow’s Higher School of Economics (HSE). Russia is on track to see off 2018 as the fifth consecutive year of falling real disposable personal incomes. A […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russians spend a third of their income on food” – bne Intellinews

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“Russian spend a third of their income (31.2%) on food, according to RIA Rating … [compared with] two years ago where the share of spending of food crept up to 55% according to VTB Capital (VTBC) …. While incomes have fallen dramatically in dollar terms so have prices … with heavy investment into domestic food and food processing industries in […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Half of Russians now say Vladimir Putin is responsible for the country’s problems, according to new poll” – Meduza/ Levada Center

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

“… more than half the country … holds [Putin] responsible for Russia’s problems and the rising cost of living, according to a new poll by the Levada Center. Late last month, 55 percent of the country said Putin is to blame …. Ironically, the same number … credit Putin with … economic success and rising prosperity …. Nearly two thirds […]

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Isolation and Reconquista: Russia’s Toolkit as a Constrained Great Power

Russian Soldiers Marching

(Russia Matters – russiamatters.org – Marlene Laruelle – December 12, 2018) Marlene Laruelle is a research professor, associate director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, director of the Central Asia Program and co-director of PONARS Eurasia at The George Washington University. [russiamatters.org/analysis/isolation-and-reconquista-russias-toolkit-constrained-great-power] In 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s famous Munich speech took stock of what Russia considered the failure of the […]

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World Bank: Russia Can Withstand Oil Price Volatility In 2019

World Bank Building

(Oilprice.com – Julianne Geiger – December 4, 2018) Russia is well-positioned to withstand external shocks, The World Bank said today in its most recent version of Russia Economic Report, cited by TASS. Oil prices are expected to average $71 per barrel over the next three years, the report also said, with the caveat that there is still “considerable uncertainty” to […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Every fifth Russian worker earns less than $250 per month” – bne Intellinews

Cash, Calculator, Pen

“Every fifth Russian worker earns less than RUB15,000 ($250) per month, according to … a study by the RIA Rating agency [cited by] … RIA Novosti …. Over 33% of people living in 22 regions earn less than this amount, according to the survey. [The worst were] Dagestan … (46%) … [and the] Karachay-Cherkess Republic (44%). In six regions, two […]

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RUSSIALINK: “PMI in Russian manufacturing climbs to 52.6 in Nov, highest since July 2017 – IHS Markit” – Interfax

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MOSCOW. Dec 3 (Interfax) – The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for Russia’s manufacturing sector rose to 52.6 points in November from 51.3 points in October, IHS Markit research shows. The November PMI points to the biggest improvement in the business situation in Russia’s manufacturing sector since July 2017. Index readings above 50.0 points indicate growth in business activity, while those […]

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RUSSIALINK TRANSCRIPT: “Russia Calling! Investment Forum (excerpt/with Q&A)” – KremlinRu

Kremlin and Saint Basil's File Photo

(Kremlin.ru – November 28, 2018) [Full text en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/59216] Vladimir Putin took part in the annual Russia Calling! Investment Forum hosted by VTB Capital. The plenary session is entitled “Building Partnerships. Bridging Differences.” Russia Calling! Forum is a leading platform for drawing capital to the Russian economy, improving the investment climate and promoting the country’s international economic and business ties. President […]

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Nearly Two-Thirds of Russians Say Putin Responsible for Problems in Their Country, Levada Center Poll Says

Putin Descending a Staircase

(Paul Goble – Window on Eurasia – Staunton, November 22, 2018) Sixty-one percent of Russians polled by the Levada Center say that Vladimir Putin is responsible for the problems Russia now faces, up from 55 percent a year ago and the highest figure since such questions began to be asked a decade ago in the wake of the 2008 economic […]

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One-Fifth Of Russians Live In Poverty, 36 Percent In ‘Risk Zone,’ Study Finds

Diverse Paper Currency, Coins, Line Graph

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Nov. 21, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/study-22-percent-of-russians-live-in-poverty-36-percent-in-risk-zone-/29613059.html) More than one-fifth of the Russian population now lives in poverty, according to a new study by a research institute with ties to the Kremlin. The November 21 report by the Russian Presidential Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration says […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “The tenth city: Rostov-on-Don; We move to Russia in our series on Europe’s second-tier cities; Ancient trading traditions have survived Bolshevism and war” – The Economist

Map of Commonwealth of Independent States, European Portion

“… [Rostov-on-Don has] roots as a trading hub …. Russia’s gdp growth is slow at around 1.5% … [yet] the Rostov region is … at twice that … powered by booming farming, retooled manufacturing and an active citizenry. … [G]eography, tradition and mild weather make[] Rostov among Russia’s most entrepreneurial cities. … [where] 44% of the workforce is employed in […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Russia, wary of U.S. sanctions, puts saving before growth” – Reuters/Darya Korsunskaya

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“Russia’s drive to fill state coffers to give itself a $200 billion buffer against threats like new U.S. sanctions … will come at the expense of economic growth. … With oil prices high, Russia has been steadily siphoning revenues from its major export into the National Wealth Fund (NWF). It has also raised oil industry taxes, hiked value-added tax and […]

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Let Them East Cheese: Russian Plant Thrives Amid Sanctions

Russia Map

(Article ©2018 RFE/RL, Inc., Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – rferl.org – Dmitry Lyubimov, Tony Wesolowsky – Oct. 22, 2018 – also appeared at rferl.org/a/let-them-east-cheese-russian-plant-thrives-amid-sanctions-/29557433.html) Sergei Chernych proudly points to the gleaming Western-made stainless-steel machinery at his cheese factory in Mari El, a small republic in Russia’s Volga region. Production at the plant in Sernur, some 90 kilometers east of the […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Putin Won’t Have to Look Far for Darkest View of Russian Economy, Kudrin Says” – Moscow Times

Alexei Kudrin file photo

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – October 24, 2018) From his new perch atop a government agency that monitors the budget, one of the few people President Vladimir Putin has publicly called a friend has some blunt words about what’s in store for Russia’s economy. Alexei Kudrin, the head of the Audit Chamber since May, warned in an interview that a […]

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JRL NEWSWATCH: “Inflation Stalking Russia Adds to ‘Hopelessness’ Among Consumers” – Bloomberg/ Anna Andrianova, Evgenia Pismennaya, Zoya Shilova

Cash, Calculator, Pen

“The mood among Russian consumers is souring just as inflation increasingly eats into their purchasing power. Faster price growth and an unsteady ruble are hurting household finances, contributing last quarter to the biggest plunge in consumer confidence since 2015. … mirror[ing] a broader loss of momentum in the economy … slow to rebound despite higher oil prices. … Fed up […]

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RUSSIALINK: “Russia Climbs in Global Competitiveness Index” – Moscow Times

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(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – October 17, 2018) The Russian economy has climbed two spots in an annual rating of the world’s most competitive economies published by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Russia returned to a growth rate of 1.5 percent in 2017 after two years of decline and is projected to grow a further 1.7 percent this year and […]

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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

Cash, Calculator, Pen

“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

Cash, Calculator, Pen

(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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