RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 21, 2014

TODAY: Security concerns continue to dominate Sochi news; three more banks stripped of licenses, investors uneasy over Russia prospects; E.U. moves closer to South Stream completion; Moscow march honours Baburova and Markelov. 

As the Olympics facilities in Sochi near completion, this piece reports on residents who still lack running water and proper sewage.  U.S. Congress members are voicing concerns over the safety of athletes attending next month’s Sochi Olympics, as suicide bomber threats in the region continue to hit the media.  The U.S. says it will make its air and naval assets available to Russia in the event of a terrorist attack during the Games; in contrast, China says it has ‘complete faith’ in Russia’s Olympic security measures (40,000 troops thus far deployed) and confirmed that President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony.  President Vladimir Putin’s electoral rating seems to have recovered, according to Levada Center poll figures from last month.  A gathering of several hundred protesters (400 by police estimates) met for an anti-fascist march in central Moscow on Sunday to mark the memory of journalist Anastasia Baburova and lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who were murdered but ultra-right nationalists in 2009.

A 10% drop is anticipated for the ruble this year, but nothing so drastic as to call for the re-emergence of conditional currency units, says the Moscow Times.  The Central Bank has stripped three more banks of their licenses.  James Beadle says Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s business-boosting release was a good start, but that ‘investors will take a long time to forgive, forget and trust once more’.  According to a new Bloomberg poll, 27% of investors questioned counted Russia as holding the world’s least attractive investment opportunities this year.  Vladimir Putin wants borrowing costs for ‘productive’ companies to be reduced.  The European Commission is dropping previous demands to review agreements with Russia concerning the South Stream pipeline, bringing the project closer to reality.

Kyrgyzstan has far fewer options than Ukraine in deciding whether or not to join Russia’s Eurasian Customs Union, says the BBC.

PHOTO: Protesters gather for an anti-fascist march in Moscow on January 19, 2014. (Pascal Dumont / for the Moscow Times)