RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – October 3, 2016

TODAY: Russia continues to bomb Aleppo whilst warning US to stay out, increases airforce presence in Syria; children’s cot designed to look like a missile; FAS concludes that Russia is a capitalism of state monopolies; Kremlin announces U-turn on Bashneft privatisation ahead of new budget; why does Putin lie?

Russia and Syrian forces bombed Aleppo heavily throughout the weekend (including another hospital), prompting Russia to warn that any attempts by the US to temper its actions would lead to ‘frightening tectonic shifts in the Middle East’.  The argument from the Foreign Ministry is that regime change would leave a void for ‘terrorists of all stripes’ to fill.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his US counterpart John Kerry discussed the situation by telephone, again.  Russia is in fact sending more warplanes to Syria now, and says that there is currently no time frame in place for its military operations there.  60-70 ceasefire violations are being reported every 24 hours in various Syrian provinces. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the UK has evidence that Russia is committing war crimes there by using a ‘double tap’ procedure that targets civilians and aid workers at once.  Children can start dreaming of a future career in the military early on in life with the help of a St Petersburg-made cot which is shaped like a Buk missile launcher.  The Academy of Education is considering dropping Leo Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ from the Russian school curriculum.

The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has concluded that Russia’s economy can be characterised as a capitalism of state monopolies, and that the state has rapidly increased its presence in the economy.  Ahead of the new budget for 2017-2019, the Kremlin has revealed that it is resuming the privatisation of state oil firm Bashneft that it shelved indefinitely in August. ‘Money is needed urgently,’ and Rosneft will now be permitted to take part (sale of a stake in Rosneft itself is also being planned). Reuters has compiled a table of proposals for the budget, which will be submitted next week.  Russia’s oil output hit a new record for September, jumping almost 4% from the previous month, and showing no signs of letting up.  Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina says current low unemployment rates are due to poor productivity at work, rather than an efficient economy.  Russia’s 19-kilometer bridge to Crimea, which is due to be finished in 2019, is drawing attention due to its impressive budget of $3.5 billion.

Mikhail Zygar’s book ‘All the Kremlin’s Men’ (reviewed by the WSJ) alleges that no decisions are made by the President until he is persuaded of their validity by his inner sanctum of aides – including the decisions to host the Sochi Olympics and to annex Crimea.  Why does Vladimir Putin lie so much?  A Democrat senator wants US President Obama to publicly blame Moscow for trying to undermine confidence in next month’s presidential elections by hacking state election systems.

PHOTO: Vladimir Putin at a summit of former Soviet republics at Kyrgyzstan’s international Manas airport outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on September 17, 2016. (KREMLIN/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/REUTERS)