RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Jan 24, 2018

TODAY: VTB has its own rescue fund; Kostin says NATO and Russia in an arms race, warns of accidental conflict; Moldova says NATO membership means war; brain drain continues; Sweden confirms existence of Russian nuclear undersea drone; US losing out with its own sanctions in Russia; British comedy mocking Soviet era banned among outrage; Russia and Saudi Arabia to cooperate “for generations”; net neutrality at risk?

Andrei Kostin, the head of VTB bank, reveled that the bank has set aside $900 million as its own rescue fund, to cover the risks on certain loans, suggesting a more intense scrutiny by the Central Bank. Kostin spoke of a new arms race and a growing threat of military conflict in Europe due to poor relations between Russia and NATO. The build-up of arms in Europe, he says, creates the possibility of conflict due to an “accident”. Moldova says it would rather have Russia as an ally than join NATO and risk being drawn into conflict or caught in the middle of the NATO-Russia war of influence. “NATO means war.” Researchers at a Russian state university interviewed emigrants to find out why an increasing number of Russians are choosing to leave (with many citing economic and political reasons). Sweden has confirmed earlier reports of a Russian underwater drone capable of carrying 100-megatons of nuclear arms. The communications minister is warning that Microsoft will lose billions of dollars if it curbs Russia sales in response to US sanctions, but that Russia would have no problem finding alternatives. “[I]t’s the U.S. economy that is hit hardest by these politically-motivated sanctions,” he said.

Russia has canceled the planned release of British comedy film The Death of Stalin and barred it for distribution after authorities accused it of extremism, with one Duma culture minister saying she had “never seen anything so disgusting in my life”. Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky defended the decision not as censorship, but as a moral need to preserve the sanctity of Russian history. The film also apparently containsinformation that is banned from distribution by Russian law”. The Russian film Loveless, however, directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev, has been nominated for an Academy Award. The Sakhalin oil project will abandon plans to ramp up production following an order from the authorities. The head of Saudi Arabia says the country will cooperate with Russia on oil for “decades and generations”, acknowledging that the current OPEC-led agreement needs to be extended and that cooperation will ensure the long-term interests of all involved. Rosneft is planning to invest over $700 million in Germany over the next 5 years.

A regional centre in Kazan confiscated hundreds of leaflets distributed by Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation which call for a boycott of the March presidential elections. Preliminary discussions are underway at the Ministry of Media and Communications to abolish net neutrality in Russia. Rosatom is proposing to build a nuclear power station in Argentina.

PHOTO: A still from British comedy, The Death of Stalin, directed by Armando Iannucci.