RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 30, 2015

TODAY: Kudrin in talks to return to finance role; Putin gets low assessment for economic crisis from Bloomberg as Russians struggle to afford New Year’s celebrations; real wages declining, high expectations for arms exports; Russia seeks Assad re-election in 2017, US concerned by Syrian civilian deaths; Nemtsov supporters allege cover-up; athletics team will not make it to next year’s Olympics.

Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin is in talks with top Kremlin officials – reportedly the most advanced since his stepping down in 2011 – about returning to a senior post to deal with the economic crisis, a move which would be welcomed by investors.  A Bloomberg survey asking economists about Putin’s management of the crisis awarded him the lowest possible score.  The traditional Russian New Year dish will cost 35% more to prepare this year than last, forcing many to curb their celebrations and highlighting the grassroots effects of the country’s economic troubles.  This has been the most economically challenging year for Russians since President Vladimir Putin came to power, with 2015 exhibiting the first decline in real wages of his rule.  Russia is planning to export at least $15 billion worth of arms next year.

Russia is taking steps to secure Bashar al-Assad’s eligibility for re-election in the 2017 Syrian Presidential elections, prompting criticism from Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan.  The US State Department says recent reports of the civilians killed in Syria by Russian operations are ‘extremely disturbing’, but cannot confirm the use of cluster munitions.  This Sputnik piece applauds Russia, and says that even the US must admit that Moscow is achieving its goals, echoing the Foreign Ministry’s assessment of its own actions. 

Supporters of murdered opposition politician Boris Nemtsov say the man named yesterday as the alleged mastermind of his killing was only a low-level figure, and are accusing authorities of a cover-up.  Russia’s Athletics team is not expected to return to international competition in time for next year’s Olympic Games.

PHOTO: In this Dec. 21, 2011 file photo, Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader, speaks to The Associated Press Television News in Moscow, Russia. Nemtsov, a top opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shot late at night on Feb. 27, 2015, as he was walking just outside the Kremlin. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)