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

TODAY: Debt to foreign lenders will be ten times bigger by 2018; Nabiullina defends floating ruble; Airbnb growing on economic uncertainty; Guriev appointed head of EBRD; Kashin turns down meet with Turchak; Putin’s popularity due to media control; Oxford University receiving donations from oligarchs.

Russian companies owe foreign lenders a manageable $3 billion this year, but the total debt will be more than ten times that amount by 2018.  Russia’s ongoing embargo on certain imported foodstuffs may cause a deficit of meat and dairy products next year.  Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina defended Russia’s floating exchange rate, and warned that capping currency gains would bring ‘negative consequences’.  Airbnb has seen rapid growth in Russia since the beginning of the recession, as people seek to supplement their incomes to cope with economic hardships, such as the 8.8% fall in real wages.  Businessman Alexander Grigoryev has been detained on suspicion of heading a $46 billion fraud scheme as part of an extensive organised crime operation.  Russian oil production is at another post-Soviet record.  Sergei Guriev, the self-exiled former Kremlin adviser who left Russia in 2013 fearing prosecution, has been appointed chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, starting next summer.  Guriev has made no comment, other than to say he is ‘delighted’.

Journalist Oleg Kashin has turned down an invitation to meet face to face with Andrei Turchak, the Pskov Governor who, according to Kashin, ordered the attack that almost killed him.  How does Vladimir Putin manage to keep his approval rating so high? Media control, says the Huffington Post.  The U.S. State Department considers its efforts to counter Kremlin propaganda to be part of a long-term, ongoing project: ‘The free flow of reliable information is our best defence.’  Russia is planning to host another round of talks with Syrian officials and opposition leaders next week.  Demographer Nicholas Eberstadt describes Russia asa demography disaster’ due to its low life expectancy for males.

The Secretary of the Civic Chamber says criticism of non-governmental organisations being labeled as ‘foreign agents’ is ‘not a relevant topic’, and that legislation regarding the foreign funding of NGOs has been ‘too liberal’.  The Guardian draws attention to the donations that Oxford University has received from Russian oligarchs in recent years, and calls on the university to ‘stop selling its reputation and prestige to Putin’s associates’.

PHOTO: A man lights a candle in memory of the plane crash victims at Dvortsovaya (Palace) Square in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)