Ukraine does not see any Russian gas purchases on the cards for the remainder of the year, and President Viktor Yanukovych is confident that his country can break dependence on Russia by unleashing its shale gas deposits. Whether or not he is right in the short-term, something else is bound to come along eventually, says Yulia Latynina. In a piece from today’s Moscow Times, Latynina chastises the Russian government for failing to anticipate this, suggesting that the Kremlin made a power-drunk overestimation of how far its plentiful reserves could go.
The Kremlin’s euphoria over gas began in 2005, the year after Russia signed an agreement with Germany for the construction of the Nord Stream pipeline. At the time, Berlin must have thought, Read More
TODAY: Ukraine halts Russian gas imports; Rosneft signs China agreement with Kazakhstan; Putin visits Vietnam; Greenpeace detainees moved; Pavlensky will not be charged; Sergei Polonsky; Norilsk Nickel to double domestic spending; Google appeases Federation Council.
Ukraine’s Naftogaz halted gas imports and new gas purchases from Russia last week, the latest move in a long-standing pricing dispute, coming just weeks ahead of its planned free trade agreement with Europe. The news caused an immediate slump in Gazprom and MICEX shares, and analysts suggest that an already strapped Gazprom ‘can ill afford a long rupture in sales to Ukraine.’ Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said his country will ‘never allow’ confrontation with Russia over its imminent EU partnership. Rosneft signed a preliminary agreement to transport oil to China via Kazakhstan. President Vladimir Putin is in Vietnam’s capital for an official visit to discuss trade and economic cooperation, in what some see as a challenge to U.S. ambitions in the Asia-Pacific.
The following article was originally published on RealClearWorld.
The arrest, trial and continued imprisonment in Russia of the female punk rock band Pussy Riot has captured the attention of international media over the past year, but the story seems in recent days to have taken a dramatic turn.
Although it seemed as if not much more could happen to Nadia Tolokonnikova after she and her bandmates were convicted on charges of hooliganism last year, the Russian government’s repression has been extended. Almost three weeks ago, Tolokonnikova “disappeared” into the penal system – in transit, it is believed, to the ИК-50 prison colony in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, deep in gulag archipelago – with no information provided to her family or legal team until she eventually resurfaced.
Her unexplained transfer to some of the worst prison conditions imaginable, thousands of miles away from her family, was prompted by a 9-day hunger strike and publication of an open letter in which she blew the whistle on inhumane prison conditions, including 17-hour work days, beatings and attempted suicides by desperate inmates.
TODAY: Dutch royal family visit with Putin after Foreign Ministry slams the Netherlands; Putin offers condolences after Philippines storm; nationalist extradited from Serbia over murder gang; nationalism on the rise; performance artist makes graphic piece in Red Square; Olympic torch space walk; Miss Universe.
Amid soured relations over the Greenpeace detentions and a clash of opinion over gay rights, the Dutch king and queen arrived in Moscow for a state visit over the weekend. Just hours before, the Foreign Ministry had blamed the Netherlands for failing to prevent the Greenpeace protest that led to 30 detentions in September, citing the state’s ‘inaction’. But ‘it’s in both countries’ interests to keep things rosy,’ says the BBC. Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans agrees. Timmermans appeared to backtrack on earlier comments about gay rights and asylum, saying that gay people are not being prosecuted in Russia, and thus would have no grounds to ask the Netherlands for asylum. Two activists from the National Bolshevik party were arrested for throwing tomatoes at the Dutch royal family as they traveled through Moscow. President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to the Philippine President Benigno Aquino following the typhoon Haiyan, which has killed at least 10,000 people; Russia will send a team of 200 rescuers to the Philippines if a formal request is made.
TODAY: Putin warns against spending ‘security cushion’ after slumping economic forecasts revealed; nationalism increasingly oppositionist; Tolokonnikova appeals to Supreme Court; Khodorkovsky, Politkovskaya, Greenpeace; mandatory Glonass.
Following the release of dire economic forecasts for the next two decades, President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia should not spend all of its fiscal reserves, calling the $89 billion fund ‘a security cushion for the economy’. The outlook for the economy ‘set[s] the stage for an era of stagnation that could threaten President Putin’s grip on power,’ says Reuters. Russia’s forecast for oil prices in the coming decades are ‘more bullish’ than the more widespread, independent expectations of a decline, leading some to suggest that the economic forecast, based on the more optimistic prices, may be overshooting the likely real outcome. Business community members have asked Putin to re-evaluate his amendments to the Criminal Code, in a bid to reverse the decision that would allow investigators to open tax cases at their own discretion. Putin is calling for a new law that would increase the use of the national anthem and flag to boost patriotism, whilst criticising professionals for using ‘foreign words’. Nationalism is a monster that the Kremlin helped create, and the increasingly oppositionist character of nationalist marches means there is a good chance that it will turn on its creator, says Brian Whitmore. Moscow City Hall appears to have been spying on its opposition deputies. Read More
TODAY: Moscow apologises to Norwegian reporters; Greenpeace activists detained in Moscow river protest; Bolotnaya supporters held in demonstration. Colombia rattled by Russia jets; property magnate Sergei Polonsky readies for Russian return; long-term economic forecasts gloomy; food prices soar; meteorite report.
The Russian government has apologised to two Norwegian journalists who complained of harassment by police whilst reporting on developments in the Olympic town of Sochi. The plight of Greenpeace’s Arctic 30 will be heard by an international maritime court; proceedings have begun following a complaint from the Netherlands over Moscow’s incarceration of the activists. Moscow transport police have detained four people on motorboats who are suspected of participating in a Greenpeace protest for their jailed comrades on the Moskva river. The city authorities have also held at least 14 people from a group of 100 who gathered in an unsanctioned demonstration in support of the Bolotnaya Square protestors, one of whom, Sergei Krivov, is now on the 49th day of a hunger strike to protest against what he says are violations of his right to a fair trial. Colombia wants to know why two Russian Tupolev Tu-160 strategic bombers bombers allegedly violated the country’s airspace last week. Russia is apparently disconcerted by NATO’s plans to hold its biggest military exercise in seven years this week in the Baltic states and Poland. Read More
TODAY: Dutch say ‘homosexual propaganda’ law is grounds for asylum as relations worsen on various fronts; HRW wants IOC to investigate journalists’ treatment in Sochi; Syria peace talks stall; Tolokonnikova moved to Siberia; ‘new nationalism’; Kasparov wants Latvian passport; Baumgertner wanted; Ukraine gas deals completed.
The Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, says Russia’s new laws against ‘homosexual propaganda’ may be grounds for asylum in his country: ‘The anti-homosexuality propaganda law has a stigmatising and discriminatory affect and contributes to a climate of homophobia.’ The Netherlands’ legal case against Russia, a bid to secure the release of the 30 people detained during a Greenpeace protest in the Arctic, begins today - although Russia has already said that it will not participate in the proceedings. So much for this year being ‘Netherlands-Russia year’; the Guardian recounts a year of bad blood. Russian police allegedly repeatedly detained and harassed two journalists from a Norwegian television station who were reporting in Sochi; Human Rights Watch is calling on the International Olympic Committee to demand a full explanation. Not content with merely shooting the Sochi Winter Olympics torch into space, the Kremlin is sending it ‘on a spacewalk’. Russian officials say that an international peace conference for Syria cannot go ahead as planned, due to all sides failing to agree on a basis for the talks. ‘The conference will not be held before December.’
TODAY: Kirill awards Putin for powerful Russia as thousands join nationalist Unity Day marches and two young LGBT people are beaten; Sobyanin fires officials over Biryulyovo; Medvedev backtracks on Ukraine; Vasilyeva says charges are political; Lebedev sells Aeroflot stake.
Thousands of Russians participated in Unity Day marches in dozens of towns across the country yesterday, chanting nationalist slogans and urging violence against minorities. (The holiday was, ironically, created as a celebration of diversity.) A reported 30 people, a small fraction of the initial 20,000 that allegedly turned up, were detained for misdemeanours such as using Nazi slogans. Some 54,000 people also joined a religious procession in St. Petersburg. Patriarch Kirill awarded President Vladimir Putin with a prize – newly established this year – to honor his efforts to turn Russia into ‘a powerful and strong country’. Amnesty International is calling on the St. Petersburg authorities to prosecute those involved in a homophobic attack on a gay rights NGO that left two people injured (one of them partially blinded). ‘If nothing is done to combat the hate, the ground is fertile for further violence,’ said Amnesty’s statement. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin fired two of his officials in connection with last month’s anti-migrant riots in Biryulyovo.
TODAY: Pussy Riot prisoner disappeared? Greenpeace activists share tales of harsh conditions; Navalny backs nationalist march; diplomatic relations with the former Soviet Union, Japan; Snowden not at Vkontakte; Putin toughens anti-terror measures; potash demand to increase thanks to low prices.
Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, says his wife has effectively disappeared, as he has not heard any news of her condition or location since she left her penal colony in Mordovia two weeks ago. The prison service says she has simply been sent to a different penal colony, and that her family will be notified. One of the jailed Greenpeace activists, currently being held in Murmansk, has spoken out about the miseries of prison life, saying there would be outrage in his home country if prisoners were kept in similar conditions. The 30 total Greenpeace activists are expected to be moved to St. Petersburg. Who would be a protester, asks The Guardian. The Financial Times reports on the worrying trend towards nationalism and xenophobia in Russia – phenomena which are becoming ‘not the preserve of a few extremists but are turning rapidly into a leading mainstream concern’. The Times says that former backers of opposition leader Alexei Navalny are ‘reassessing their support’ after he publicly backed the Unity Day march which is to be held today, expressing a wish to make nationalism ‘more respectable and mainstream’. The FT’s angle is that Navalny’s endorsement of the Unity Day march was more of a preventative tactic – ‘in order not to leave it to the radicals’.
TODAY: News agency shut down over profanity; Ukraine’s shale gas plan may pollute Russian water; new Foreign Ministry row with U.S.; Greenpeace denies Sechin’s allegation; Rosneft in Arctic deal with PetroVietnam; Snowden finds job; Sochi price tag draws attention; Kudrin returns to inner sanctum.
A court in Moscow has shut down the 13-year-old online news agency Rosbalt for posting videos containing profane language – including a Pussy Riot clip – under the new law that bans profanity in the media. The European Union is in talks to team up with the International Monetary Fund to provide standby financing for Ukraine in the event of economic sanctions or pressure from Russia. Ukraine’s plan to drill for shale gas – part of a plan to reduce dependence on Russian supplies – may pollute downstream water on its neighbour’s territory, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. The Foreign Ministry is demanding an explanation from the U.S. after it blacklisted popular Russian singer and decorated Kremlin supporter, Grigory Lepsveridze (aka “Grigory Lips”). The U.S. says Lepsveridze works as a money courier for a crime syndicate known as the Brothers’ Circle. Greenpeace has denied Igor Sechin’s accusation that the protest that led to 30 arrests in September was sponsored by a competitor. Rosneft will jointly develop offshore gas reserves in the Arctic with PetroVietnam. Novatek and Gazprom Neft are fighting Rosneft for Italian gas assets. Read More