TODAY: Russia’s rich leave the country rather than disclose offshore assets; Duma expecting US interference in Russian presidential elections; Lavrov says NATO membership forced on Montenegro; Central Bank thinks weather will affect inflation; Russian hacking scandal is a personal vendetta for Putin? Russia planted Qatar story, says US; Putin documentary with Oliver Stone draws attention.
Some of Russia’s richest citizens have left the country in order to escape the 2014 law requiring them to disclose offshore assets, with Reuters speculating that this could keep billions of dollars away from Moscow tax authorities. The Finance Ministry may refrain from privatising VTB bank because it is now under Western sanctions. A Duma lawmaker says there is no doubt that NATO and the US will interfere in next year’s Russian presidential election. Russia’s Federation Council is even considering the creation of a new parliamentary commission to monitor foreign organisations and prevent them from influencing the results. VKontakte has opened its advertising space to political candidates in the run-up to the elections, but only for registered candidates. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claims that Montenegro’s NATO association is a geopolitical project forced on the country as a result of its support for anti-Russian sanctions. The Central Bank is anticipating that inflation will rise in the second half of this year due to colder than usual summer temperatures.
The Washington Post is suggesting that the Russian hacking scandal may have originated in the 2016 publication of the Panama Papers, in which secret bank account information of Vladimir Putin’s friends and associates was published. “It was a personal attack. You cannot write about Putin’s family or personal friends.” Investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov speculates that the Russian leader “wanted to do something about it, to teach a lesson.” The Kremlin continues to deny allegations of its interference. US intelligence officials believe that Russian hackers planted the story that prompted Saudi Arabia and others to sever relations with Qatar. Putin told the Qatari emir that the crisis must be resolved “in dialogue”.
PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with journalist Megyn Kelly during an interview on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on 3 June, 2017. Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin/Reuters