RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – May 21, 2015

TODAY: Putin criticises new Ukrainian law on debt repayments, threatens to take defaults to international court; Ukraine wants nuclear missile shield; Lavrov says Russia ready to cooperate with U.S.; Eastern Partnership summit concept in turmoil; Siluanov says Russia will need to curb spending; Sonin to emigrate.

Vladimir Putin says a new Ukrainian law giving Kiev the right to miss payments to its international creditors is ‘strange’, and Russia is demanding that Ukraine make its debt repayments on time (a $3 billion Eurobond is due in full by the end of 2015), or default and face international courts.  Ukraine says it wants a nuclear missile shield to defend against Russian aggression, but such a thing ‘would almost certainly provoke an aggressive response’, says the Washington Post.  Russian citizens’ ‘cavalierism’ towards Ukraine is less to do with growing nationalism and more to do with ‘a stunningly widespread Russian view that Ukraine as it has existed since 1991 is simply not legitimate as a state’.  Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is ready to develop cooperation with the West, and said U.S. attempts to ‘support antigovernment forces in Russia’ are destroying bilateral relations.  Russia’s E.U. representative says the European Union’s position on whether or not to lift anti-Russia sanctions is ambiguous.

Is the Latvian region of Latgale, a potential breakaway region, under threat from Russian nationalists?  The E.U. meets with the six former Soviet countries at a summit in Riga, Latvia this week, but is unlikely to sway them away from Russian influence, argues the FT.  The entire Eastern Partnership concept, initially devised to curb Russia’s territorial ambitions, is in turmoil, says the Guardian, as two of the six countries are already members of the Kremlin’s Eurasian Economic Union.  The U.S. is weighing its options for responding to Russia’s violations of their nuclear treaty, which could involve deploying new U.S. weapons to Eastern Europe, although a White House official says the ideal solution would be for Russia to get back into compliance.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov says Russia will have to curb spending to keep its head above water: ‘There’s no question, we cannot pretend that nothing is going on.’  Russia’s import substitution program will cost at least $50 billion.  Economist Konstantin Sonin is leaving Russia to teach at the University of Chicago, and described the move as ‘linked with the political events of recent years’.

PHOTO: People take part in a rally and a concert by the Kremlin Wall in central Moscow on March 18, 2015, to mark one year since Russia’s President Vladimir Putin signed off on the annexation of Crimea (AFP Photo/Alexander Utkin)