RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – April 11, 2018

TODAY: UN meeting fails to win Syria resolution, US and Russia tensions still high; Merkel demands clarity for Ukraine on Nord Stream; Potanin says new sanctions like a trade war, Kremlin shrugs them off; Russians want nuclear power, survey says; Facebook in “arms war” with Russia, says Zuckerberg. 

At yesterday’s UN Security Council meeting, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have set up an examining body to investigate last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria; its own draft resolution on a report into the same also failed to get the necessary support. Reports claim that Russia is disrupting US military drones there, and analysts warn of the possibility of a military clash. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s latest position on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is that Russia will need to provide guarantees that it will not seek to bypass Ukraine as a gas transit route. Ukraine will earn around $3 billion this year in transit fees, according to an estimate by Naftogaz, but that could be reduced to a tenth if Gazprom head Alexei Miller’s estimates that flows through Ukraine to the EU could in future be as low as 10-15bcm annually are accurate.

Oligarch Vladimir Potanin says the latest round of US sanctions against Russia resemble a trade war, but the Kremlin said it would minimise the fallout, and said that short-term volatility is not a real cause for concern. The Economy Minister said the floating ruble would help offset the impact. The currency has made some slight gains after falling to its lowest levels in 2 years; retailers have been warned of a 5-10% rise in prices. Oleg Deripaska and his company Rusal are being targeted in the sanctions despite his lack of close ties to Vladimir Putin, says Leonid Bershidsky, because his business is unpopular with the Trump administration.

A Levada Centre poll found that 74% of Russians want the Kremlin to develop the nuclear industry, possibly reflecting “the degree to which the Kremlin has managed to politicize it as a reflection of its own grip power”. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the US Senate that the company is in a constantarms race” with Russia against its attempts to exploit it.

PHOTO:Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (C) chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council in Moscow, Russia April 6, 2018 (Sputnik Photo Agency)