TODAY: Putin emphasises domestic growth and friendliness towards the West in his annual speech, sends officials to sleep; no pause in fighting in Aleppo but Russia considers humanitarian corridors; Moscow accused of interference in Montenegro and Hungary; VTB says no privatisation whilst sanctions are in place, which, says EU, they will be for some time; Nemtsov received numerous death threats, court hears.
Noteworthy moments from President Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation speech yesterday included his ‘unusually conciliatory tone’ regarding cooperation with the West and in particular with Donald Trump’s presidential administration in the US; and his insistence that Russia has ‘never’ sought confrontation, but is looking to make friends, not enemies. Putin vowed to boost economic development and stimulate lending, outlining some ambitious goals for future growth, and blaming the current recession on internal problems, rather than on sanctions. One blogger noted that this year’s speech garnered the least amount of clapping since 2005; Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev apparently dozed off at one point. The New Yorker takes on the question of fake news and Russia’s alleged involvement in the US presidential election result.
Russia declined a UN request to pause fighting in Aleppo to allow the evacuation of 400 urgently sick and wounded people, but it is thinking about possibly setting up humanitarian corridors. Some citizens in Baltic states are training in extreme survival skills in anticipation of an invasion by Russia. Despite Putin’s insistence on Russia’s friendliness, Moscow is accused of plotting a violent coup in Montenegro, and Russian agents are apparently training with neo-Nazi militia in Hungary. The head of VTB says there is no sense in privatising the Kremlin’s stake in the bank until Western sanctions have been lifted. The European Union does not see that happening in the near future.
A Moscow court heard from close associates of murdered opposition politician Boris Nemtsov that Nemtsov had been constantly receiving threats on his life, none of which he took seriously. Greenpeace is concerned that a new oil depot slated for construction in Siberia could lead to an anthrax outbreak. Russia’s athletics ban continues.
PHOTO: Kremlin Press Service