TODAY: Russia accuses West of seeking regime change through sanctions; ‘Day of Silence’ in Ukraine in attempt to rebuild ceasefire; Mistrals or money says Kremlin; military spending splurge. Ruble falling with oil prices; investor jitters widespread. Gas flow to Ukraine resumes; TV channel Rain seeking home once more.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has told the state duma that the goal of Western sanctions ‘is to create social and economic conditions to carry out a change of power in Russia‘. Ukraine is planning a ‘Day of Silence’ today in an attempt to restore the truce with pro-Russian separatists, though a Ukrainian military spokesman asserted that ‘if separatists attack, we will fire in response.’ Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is aware that a deescalation of tensions will require long-term efforts. Is a frozen conflict the preferable outcome for Russia? The weekend’s impromptu mediation by French President Francois Hollande has been seen as a way of ‘preventing Russia-EU relations from going to the dogs‘, now that Germany has lost patience with Moscow. The Kremlin says if France refuses to sell its promised Mistral warships, it will simply demand a refund. Despite tales of financial woe, Russia will increase military spending by 30% next year to a record post-Soviet high of $62 billion. NATO jets intercepted 28 Russian military planes over the Baltic Sea yesterday, more than in past weeks combined.
With oil prices falling to a five year low, the ruble and Russian shares have also plummeted. Investors are apparently worried about capital controls being implemented to slow the fall of the ruble. Newly-released sales figures for Avtovaz reflect the gloomy economic climate, as does the story of airline UTair’s bankruptcy lawsuit. Ukraine’s gas transport monopoly Ukrtransgaz says Russia has, following a six-month hiatus, resumed gas flows to Ukraine. The Ukrainian government will also permit state energy company Ukrinterenergo to import electricity from Russia to cover current power shortages caused by a lack of coal. Estonia has imported its first natural gas from Lithuania, via Latvia, in a move to reduce its energy dependence on Russia.
Could Russia’s Justice Ministry be on the point of loosening restrictions on so-called ‘foreign agents’ (NGOs)? Liberal TV channel Dozhd has been ousted from its premises, again.
PHOTO: Pedestrians passing a launcher truck Monday, December 8, 2014. Air-defense systems are on display in Moscow to celebrate the Russian air defense forces’ anniversary. (Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters)