RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Feb 4, 2015

TODAY: Putin calls for Ukraine to repay $3bn loan to fund economic crisis; Nabiullina says oil at $45 means annual loss of $160bn; U.N. to proceed with conflict zone airline warnings despite Russia protests; Svetlana Davydova released; Navalny brothers appeal hearing date set; youth group defends Kremlin.

The Wall Street Journal points out that Russia’s current economic situation, in which 110 people control 35% of the country’s wealth, may soon lead Russians ‘to see that the Ukrainian model of a peaceful and spontaneous rebellion against a corrupt regime can have relevance for them’.  The problem, says the Washington Post, is that ‘Russia doesn’t have an economy so much as an oil exporting business that subsidizes everything else’.  Latest fundraising ventures include a call by Vladimir Putin for Ukraine to repay a $3 billion loan so that Russia will have the funds needed to fight the economic crisis, and a Duma lawmaker’s bid to make Germany pay trillions of Euros worth of reparations for World War II.  The Times says that arming Ukraine is crucial if the West wants to provide a ‘real deterrent to Putin taking what he wants’.  The FT disagrees, arguing that more weapons can only mean more casualties.  The current oil price of $45, if it perpetuates, would see Russia losing around $160 billion a year, according to Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina.  Russia is the world’s second biggest gold producer, after China, and its miners now have the lowest costs in the world thanks to the weak ruble.

The United Nations will proceed with its plans to establish a warning system for airlines on conflict zone risks, despite Russian reservations.  Svetlana Davydova, the mother of seven accused of spying for Ukraine, has been released from custody in Russia following a public outcry.  The new date set for hearings into the appeal by the Navalny brothers against their theft convictions is February 17; Alexei Navalny will challenge the ruling blocking access to his blog on February 12.

Pro-Kremlin youth group Set, a newer incarnation of the now defunct Nashi, has made a video defending Russia and its role in the Ukraine conflict. The video is a response to university students in Kiev who urged Russia’s political youth to question Kremlin propaganda.

PHOTO: Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits a pharmacy in Ufa, February 3, 2015. REUTERS/Ekaterina Shtukina/RIA Novosti/Pool