RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 19, 2015

TODAY: Record capital flight last year, Putin amnesty on its return could make Russia target of money laundering watchdog; ruble devaluation threatens migrant worker economies; analysts anticipate chaos; Poroshenko pink-slips Putin’s proposed peace plan, says Peskov; LUKoil under investigation for alleged financing of eastern Ukraine terror; former Cultural Ministry official sees cultural isolationism.

A record $150 billion left Russia in capital flight last year – tripling on 2013’s numbers to their highest recorded level.  But Vladimir Putin’s amnesty on capital that returns could put Russia on the blacklist of a global anti-money laundering watchdog and further isolate Russia from the world’s financial markets, says Vedomosti.  The 50% drop in the ruble’s value is threatening nine countries along its southern border by discouraging their migrant workers, amounting to a collective $10 billion loss.  A panel of political analysts at last week’s Gaidar Forum, moderated by Leonid Gozman, anticipated that, without fundamental change, Russia imminently will descend into ‘revolutionary chaos.  Sberbank head German Gref made some bleak predictions about the Russian banking sector this year, anticipating a ‘massive’ banking crisis and an entirely state-run economy;  LUKoil CEO Vagit Alekperov is speculating that the price of oil could drop to $25 per barrel this year, though only temporarily.  Rocket maker Energia signed a $1 billion deal with U.S. space firm Orbital Sciences to deliver rocket engines, ‘cementing Russia’s place’ in the U.S. space industry.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov alleges that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko rejected a peace plan proposed by Vladimir Putinas an intermediary’ last week.  Peskov also stated that Russia is concerned about the escalation of violence in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks.  Four Buddhist monks were detained for praying outside the Ukrainian Embassy in Moscow.  LUKoil is under investigation by Ukraine’s Security Service for allegedly financing terrorism in eastern Ukraine. Yevgeny Savostyanov, who quit the Culture Ministry last week, sees Russia heading towards an era of cultural isolationism with its ‘shameful’ policies towards anti-Kremlin art.  Lawmaker Vitaly Milonov (infamous for his anti-gay legislation) is calling for the makers of the movie Leviathan to return their government grant.

An elderly activist faces fines and five years in prison after being the first person in Russia to be charged with repeatedly breaking the law against unsanctioned protests.

PHOTO: People attend an Orthodox religious service during a water blessing ceremony on Epiphany Day in the village of Velikoye, Yaroslavl region, January 18, 2015. Orthodox believers mark Epiphany on January 19 by immersing themselves in icy waters regardless of the weather. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)