RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 18, 2015

TODAY: Putin gives annual news conference, comments on economy, Ukraine, Trump, Nemtsov, and other issues; France rejects Russia’s Yukos appeal; Khodorkovsky explains new murder charges; Navalny lawsuit thrown out; special report on Putin’s daughter’s husband.

President Vladimir Putin gave his annual three-hour news conference yesterday to 1,400 journalists, giving his opinion on a number of key issues. The economy ‘has overcome the peak of the crisis’, he says, which is at least an advance from his previous position which was that there was no crisis; next year’s budget was calculated with $50 oil in mind, which is now looking difficult and may require some re-jigging; and current military operations in Syria are a great ‘training drill’.  Putin finally admitted that Russia had people in Ukraineworking on certain issues, including in the military sphere’, though said that this should be differentiated from having ‘regular Russian forces there’.  The President pledged that the killing of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov would be fully ‘investigated and punished’, saying that Nemtsov did not deserve to be killed for his style of ‘political fighting’.  Putin also expressed his support and admiration for US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump, calling him ‘very talented’, and welcoming his words about creating deeper relations with Russia.  The Guardian suggests that Putin ‘was not quite on the sparkling form that he sometimes shows at these events’.  The Moscow Times live-blogged the event.

A French appeal court turned down Russia’s request to suspend the seizure of its French assets by former Yukos shareholders.  Mikhail Khodorkovsky understands the new murder charges against him as ‘triggered by Putin’s instruction to provide countermeasures to attempts to win claims via court orders and my financing the opposition’.  A Moscow court has rejected a slander lawsuit against Alexei Navalny, filed by the former wife of one of Prosecutor General Yury Chaika’s deputies.  Thanks to sanctions, various levies and taxes, and the import bans on Western produce, Russia’s entrepreneurs are fed up.  Reuters has a special report on Kirill Shamalov, the man who married Putin’s daughter Katerina and then promptly became a billionaire.

An intimate look at Moscow’s metro.

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual end of year news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)